Intervals, the Lap Button & Lap Functions

by | Jul 9, 2023 | Training

Using Lap Functions to optimize your cycling training

Using the lap-timer and lap average fields (e.g. lap power) help you complete the workout (e.g. ride 2 hours at 200 watts, or do 3 x 10 minutes at 300 watts). 

Important Note: If you use ‘structured downloads’ or ‘download the workout’ to your garmin or programs like zwift the devices will automatically show you lap times and start/stop laps. You do not need to press the lap button to start a lap in zwift or while following a workout download, this will actually skip the lap in some cases!

On Your Marks … 

A race always starts with a go-signal … the starter’s gun, a horn, a traffic light or just a simple “GO!!!” In training, we use laps to start our effort and stop our effort. While some athletes try to ‘do the math’ using a elapsed workout timer, this typically results in missed repetitions, shortened efforts, and no idea about ‘how they did’. 

If you are reading this you likely use a watch or ‘computer’ to record heart rate, pace, speed, distance, time, and perhaps power. Recording this data can let you know key information during a workout or race. You might track distance for a race or power in an interval. Knowing how much you have left in a 20-minute threshold interval is pretty handy!


Cycling on Scenic Caves using Lap button to time repetitions

Cycling on Scenic Caves using the Lap timer to time repetitions


Use the “GO SIGNAL” in Training

Most stopwatches, GPS watches, Heart Rate Monitors, and Power Meters will have a lap or interval mode and associated settings. When you train it is important to have a similar pattern of pressing a ‘go button’ to track your intervals. This might be to divide your warm-up and cool-down from a long endurance ride. It also might be to divide a work interval from a recovery interval during a specific workout or ‘drill’. For many people this lack of ‘where are you in the workout’ and ‘how are you doing is a large barrier to completing better workouts. Without a ‘GO’ and a “STOP’ and the interval time/power etc., it is hard to focus for the time you intended to focus. 

how to use the lap button in training cycling


The lap function is not [just] for your coach – it is important for YOU!

1)You can see easily see how long the interval is. Trying to do mental math to figure out where you are in a workout based on the total ride duration is not a great idea generally. Focus on the interval work!

2) You can see ‘How You Did’ Instantly and during the interval – Seeing your lap power, lap heart rate, lap Speed, lap distance, or other metrics that are relevant to the workout help you pace the effort and associate ‘threshold’ with a feeling. If you focus for your intervals you begin to refine your pacing and your ‘feel’ *hint if you struggle with RPE and feeling it may be related to not using the ‘lap button / lap timer’ 

3) Motivate hard reps – If you know you are 1 watt off the last repetition you will fight in those last reps or last minutes of the workout. If you don’t know how you are doing you will back off when it hurts. The Lap timer and lap ‘fields’ can give you a target to shoot for.

4) Be Familiar with START-LINE – each rep is a ‘GO!’. If you are used to pressing the lap-Button, you are used to starting. Practice your ‘pre-race routine’ and you may even have some nerves/excitement!

5) You do the work – If you do not use the lap button it is very easy to not do the workout that is assigned. This is very common, if the lap button/lap field are not used then the workout gets lost and done poorly. I think much of this is in the mental/physical aspect of saying ‘GO’ and less about any perfect intervals. It’s just easy to ‘just ride’ if you don’t divide the ride into intervals/laps. Do the work! 

If you need help with your devices or understanding the importance of intervals and the lap button please feel free to reach out and book a call or to use the contact page


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