Wednesday Workout: Over-Under Intensity with Brian Gregg

Austin CobbSeptember 9, 2015
rian Gregg rollerskiing through Tyrol during a 15 k over-under intensity session. (Photo: Josh Dobert)
rian Gregg rollerskiing through Tyrol during a 15 k over-under intensity session. (Photo: Josh Dobert)

Brian and Caitlin Gregg have long been known for their superb climbing abilities. Anytime a course features a lot of uphills or there is a hill-climb event, the Gregg name is one to look out for. This is hardly surprising, considering the duo has been hammering out intervals on the biggest hills around Minneapolis, Minn., for years. However, the Team Gregg athletes recently realized they were losing more time in races on flats and transitions, and have adopted a new intensity workout that they do every couple of months to improve that aspect of their skiing.

The first thing they needed for this workout they adopted from a Scott Johnston track exercise was a good loop. It had to be around a kilometer long and also incorporate good, undulating terrain.

“In this loop we have two 180s as part of the loop, one is across a crack, the other is a manhole cover, and then its got some good turns, some technical skiing. So it’s really fun to work on our weaknesses there, and I feel like it’s made a really big improvement,” Brian Gregg said of their 1 k loop.

In order to prepare for the workout, Gregg and his wife, Caitlin, do a 10 k time trial on the loop. During the time trial, they focus on pacing and try to have consistent lap times. After the effort, the Greggs note their average lap time, an important factor for the over under intensity workout.

A few days later, Team Gregg will go back to the same loop with their race pace lap time in mind as well as a threshold pace lap time, which is calculated by adding an extra 10 percent onto the race pace lap time. These two times, which for this example we will say are 2:45 and three minutes, are the lap time goals for the workout.

Brian Gregg with some fellow rollerskiers after their workout. (photo: Josh Dobert)
Brian Gregg (middle in green helmet) with some fellow rollerskiers after their workout. (Photo: Josh Dobert)

During the over-under-intensity workout, the objective is to ski about 15 kilometers, alternating between threshold lap times (3:00) and race pace lap times (2:45). So for example, Brian Gregg will ski one lap aiming for a three minute lap time, and then on his next lap, he will aim for 2:45.

After that lap he will once again aim for three minutes, going at a threshold pace in order to recover from the race pace lap. The idea is to alternate between slightly over threshold effort and just about threshold effort to increase the body’s ability to recover while still skiing at a relatively high pace.

“The goal is to hit that 2:45 time. So essentially you have a time you are looking to hit, and your goal is to have the heart rate as low as possible during that [loop]. I think it’s really good because all of a sudden the focus isn’t on trying to get the heart rate up, it’s on, ‘How can I hit this time with as little energy as possible?’ ” Gregg explained.

So the workout is not only great for working on transition skiing and increasing the body’s ability to recover at threshold, but also for pacing and having a good feeling for how hard one can push the body without going over the edge.

The over under workout is great for any discipline, and also for larger groups. Team Gregg will invite others to participate in the workout with them, and it often works out that people’s lap times meet up. Somebody’s threshold pace might equal another’s race pace, so skiers get an opportunity to follow and learn from each other.

One thing to keep in mind, the 15 kilometers total is just a goal. If the laps are getting slower or recovering adequately on the threshold pace laps is no longer possible, cutting the intensity session short is the right thing to do. The main goal is to ski well throughout the workout, so pushing too hard can be counterproductive. Even Brian has had to cut the number of laps before.

“When you get to the point where you’re not recovering on your recovery lap, that’s sort of when the workout ends. And so it’s a little bit based on feel trying to find that point. You sort of are looking for the duration of the workout to be the taxation in that over-under situation,” Gregg explained.

For Gregg, this over-under-workout is one of many steps toward his greater goal of the year, to get onto the World Cup by being the Super Tour leader after Period I. “I’d like to see my wife a little bit, and the best way to do that is to get on the World Cup,” he said.


– Find a nice 500 meter to 2 kilometer loop with varied terrain, corners, and transitions.

– Warm up and do a 10 kilometer time trial on the loop. Try to have as consistent of lap times as possible.

– After the time trial, use the average lap time as the race pace lap time for the workout and 10 percent more than the average lap time as the threshold lap time for the workout.

The Workout:

– Warm up for 20 to 30 minutes

– Begin with a threshold lap. Try and hit the exact threshold lap time with as little effort as possible.

– On the next lap, up the pace to try and hit the race pace lap time, also with as little effort as possible.

– Continue alternating between threshold laps and race pace laps for 14 total laps of the course or until the threshold lap pace is too fast to adequately recover or the lap times increase dramatically, whichever happens first.

– Warm down for 15 to 30 minutes to finish up the workout.

Austin Cobb

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