The magic number 90
*This is an article I wrote years ago for the local GO magazine and while most of you see workouts like this on a regular basis I just wanted to remind you WHY they are on your schedule.
My training philosophy has always been quality workouts over quantity. Every workout you set out to do should have a specific purpose and you should be able to clearly identify it before you ever leave your driveway. The Upstate is an area that lends itself to training in the mountains or at least on some good hills. If you are an athlete living here you have every reason to embrace the hills and arrive at your next race more prepared and stronger than ever.
The hill repeat is my favorite workout to help athletes build strength both mentally and physically. The perfect hill is not a short steep hill but rather a longer and more gradual slope. You should be able to maintain a good leg turnover. To get the most out of your hill repeats use a cadence sensor.
Depending on your level, you will want to do anywhere from 2 minute repeats to 8 minute repeats. This sounds simple, right? In order to make this a much higher quality workout you are going to micromanage your effort by focusing on your cadence. For 40 seconds you can let your cadence dip as low as 75-80 but then for 20 seconds see if you can get it to 90 or above. You continue this pattern until you have reached the end of your allotted time or the top of your climb. You will be surprised at how quickly the workout passes because you are focused on the short, quick efforts rather than the daunting effort of a long climb.
When you are finished with your hill repeats and are heading home, focus on keeping your cadence at 90 or above. After having done it on the hill it should feel relatively easy now.
You might be wondering why this cadence of 90 keeps coming up in conversations with triathletes. 90 has turned into the "Magic number" for many reasons, but mainly because in triathlon if you can keep your legs turning over at 90 revolutions per minute on the bicycle the idea is that it will be easier to follow that through with a running cadence of 90.
Although it seems to surprise a lot of long time runners, cadence in running is just as important as in cycling. Next time you go out for a run count your right foot strike for 30 seconds. If your number is 42, then multiply it by 2 and there you have a cadence of 84. Continue to try this at least 5 more times and see if you can get your cadence up to 90. Chances are you end up working a lot harder. The idea is to take shorter, quicker steps which can feel very strange at first, but with some practice, can be a viable way to increase your foot cadence and increase your speed. I like to call it "free speed".
The moral of the story is that you need to focus on your cadence on the bike as well as the run. You need to do workouts that specifically focus on increasing your cadence and your strength on the bike, like hill repeats. For running you need to take some time during every workout to count your cadence in order to give yourself some immediate feedback. Once you have done the proper workouts you can start to marry the two in the famous brick workout where it becomes even more important that you hit that "magic number" of 90.