CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
Metabolic adaptations facilitate aerobic energy production (from glucose and glycogen) as well as improving lactic acid removal from the muscle cell. These changes lead to performance at a higher level % VO2max for longer periods of time. In addition an increase in lipid metabolism at any level of exertion results in extra energy Calories from fat to supplement those from glycogen and glucose metabolism for any specified level of activity (%VO2max). The net result of these changes? An increase in your maximal performance - as well as endurance (the ability to maintain that high level of performance for a longer time interval).
Training also improves the physical structure of the muscle which can then better withstand the stresses of prolonged exertion. These include strengthening of the connective tissue between muscle fibers which in turn minimizes the microtrauma (and post exercise discomfort) that often occur with further training.
Not every training session needs to stress the cardiovascular system. In fact a successful program needs a balance of aerobic stress and rest to allow mental and physical recovery minimizing the risk of overtraining and burnout. It has also been demonstrated that a focused rest in the week prior to competition improves performance.
Before we get into the the details of training, let's remember the first rule of a successful program - starting from with a good training base. If it is early in the riding season, or you have just decided to get back into riding after a period off the bike, the key to minimizing injury while preparing to get the most out of the training tips that follow, is a good mileage base. You may be fortunate enough to live in warmer, dryer climes, or been able to drag yourself to a spin class all winter, but if not, the first step in your training program is to log unstressed (no intervals, no sprinting up hills) miles on your bike (and body). It's not that intervals or hills are forbidden - but not too hard or too often. Remember, you're banking foundation miles for the season. The best strategy early in the training year is to let the terrain and how you feel (perceived exertion) dictate when to add additional effort. If, at the end of the long ride, you feel you could go out and put in a few more miles - you are probably doing it just right. A good target is a base of ~500 miles - and as a rule of thumb, don't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% (over the prior week) as you get there.
There are 3 levels of intensity to consider.
Does 30 minutes of 80% MHR equate to 40 minutes at 70% i.e. increase the intensity to compensate for decreasing the duration? For endurance training perhaps, but not for improving your VO2max.
As proof of an upper limit for the benefits of aerobic training, a group of swimmers training 1.5 hours per day was compared to a group training with two equivalent 1.5 hour sessions. There was no difference in the final performance, power, or endurance between the two groups. For endurance aerobic training (continuous, not intervals) at less than 90% maximum heart rate it makes the most sense to look at the duration of the planned event, and train:
DO SIX 1/2 HOUR RIDES = ONE 3 HOUR TRAINING RIDE?
Q. As I have a rather flexible schedule I was wondering which would be most advantageous to build my endurance and fitness during the winter months of shorter daylight hours.. 5 days a week of 2 - 3 hour rides or 2 days 4 - 5 hour rides and recovery rides in between?
A second part is that I have had beginning riders ask a more extreme version: "What if I rode once a week for 2 hours vs four 1/2 hour rides, which would be best."
A. It all comes down to the purpose of your riding/training.
If you are training for endurance (length of time you will be sitting on the seat of the bike) you need to work up to riding at least one longer ride (near that time duration of that planned ride) a week. Thus if you are training for 3 hour ride, you need to work towards riding a single 3 hour training ride. 6 one half hour rides will not get your body (muscles, shoulders, butt) use to 3 straight hours on the bike like a single 3 hour ride will.
If you want to ride faster, then 2 one half hour rides at 80 - 90% VO2max may be almost as good a single one 1 hour ride (at the same clip).
Studies indicate that maximum aerobic conditioning (measured as an increase in
VO2max) occurs with 3 workout days per week. So unless you are trying to burn
Calories to lose weight, or are working to get the musculoskeletal system (back,
shoulders) in shape for a long endurance event by increasing mileage on the
bike, it is better to take 2 to 3 days per week off the bike to allow for muscle
and ligament repair and decrease the risk of cumulative stress resulting in an
increase in training injuries. Interestingly, it appears that the 3 days per week
will maximize aerobic conditioning equally in any combination - i.e.
3 days in a row with 4 off, alternating days of exercise/rest, etc.
Q. I was reading the other day in Joe Friels Cyclists Training Bible that he feels training twice a day is better because you release a second dose of growth hormone during the day. I haven't found any literature behind his comment. Have you got in more info about training twice a day compared to once? - J.
A.I am not aware of any literature supporting twice a day training other than as a "work around" for a training schedule limitations (such as work commitments). In fact I would suspect that if there is any effect it would more likely be a negative rather compared to a single longer session.
Although resistance and aerobic training impact the muscle cells unique and different ways, scientific studies suggest that there is little difference ..."within muscles whether the men performed both aerobic and resistance training or aerobic training alone." And it apparently made no difference as to the order i.e. if one does their aerobic workout first that day - or the resistance training.
For those of you, especially triathletes, who have complex training schedules, this removes one additional worry factor about the interference of different training modalities and should make your planning easier.
Aerobic training (important for cycling and other sporting events lasting more than 60 seconds) provides its major benefits through improvement of the cardiovascular and oxygen delivery systems to the muscle cell. These include improvements in both cardiac output (amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute) and changes at the muscle fiber level that increase the removal or extraction of oxygen from the blood cells in the capillaries. In addition, there is an improvement in the efficiency of the cellular metabolic pathways which convert glucose into ATP in the presence of oxygen.
There is always a combination of ongoing anaerobic and aerobic metabolism in the muscle cell. As the level of exertion (measured by %VO2max) increases, there is a transition within the muscle cell from this balance of an almost entirely aerobic metabolism (and minimal anaerobic metabolism) towards an energy production process with a more anaerobic component. There are always areas of relatively lower perfusion within a muscle - and these areas are thus more likely to be functioning anaerobically. So even at 50 to 60% VO2max some anaerobic conditioning is occurring. But at 85% VO2max (the "anaerobic threshold" for most individuals) there is an abrupt increase in anaerobic metabolism throughout the entire muscle. Even though some cross training of the anaerobic systems takes place during exercise at 60 to 80% VO2max, a training program for sprint performance needs to include several exercise sessions per week above 85% VO2max. Long slow distance may be good training for aerobic, endurance events, but it will not improve your sprint performance.
A good training program will be designed to include both aerobic and anaerobic exercise sessions. It is the art of finding the balance of the types of exercise (aerobic vs anaerobic; interval training, continuous training, and fartlek training) in your overall program which will determine its effectiveness for the competitive event for which you are training.
If one is training for sprints of up to 20 seconds in duration (which do not involve significant lactic acid buildup and basically are training the ATP and CP energy systems), it is recommended that the duration of the training interval be 1 to 5 seconds over the usual best time for the sprint distance (with exercise intensity or maximum effort being that of the event for which you are training. For example, if one is training for a 100 yard dash, and has a personal best of 12 seconds, the training interval should be a 13 or 14 seconds sprint at the same pace (ignoring the total distance being covered in the 13 or 14 seconds) with a rest (lower intensity activity) period 3 times longer than the training interval recommended for recovery - 42 seconds in this example.
Using intervals to train for longer sprints (up to several minutes) produces significant lactic acid buildup in the muscles along with stressing the anaerobic metabolic pathways. To train for these longer distances (several minutes of maximum output), it is suggested that the distance for which you are training be subdivided, and the training interval effort focused on that shorter distance. For example, if one is training for a personal best in a mile ride on the bike, and the best time for the entire mile is 3 minutes on the bike (with the best 1/4 mile segment being 30 seconds and the best 1/2 mile segment being 80 seconds) the training interval could be set at either 1/4 or 1/2 mile and the time for this training interval set at your personal best minus 3 to 5 seconds. In this example the training interval might be chosen as 1/4 mile with a goal of a 25 second time. And the rest interval should be 2 times the training interval (as lactic acid clearance does not require the same recovery time as recharging the intracellular metabolic machinery).
A risk to be considered is that training program drop out rates can double when intervals are used, so they should be used judiciously. Don't use intervals all year round, limit them to twice a week during your peak season, and separate each session by at least 48 hours to allow adequate recovery. If your long ride is on the weekend, Tuesday and Thursday make the most sense for your interval training. The goal should be at least 10 to 20 minutes of hard pedaling per training interval session, not counting warm up, recovery, or cool down. A good place to start is with 5 minutes of peak effort per daily interval session.
Another approach is to use one day a week for short intervals (i.e. five - 60 second and five - 90 second intervals) and a second for longer intervals (two - 3 minute and two - 5 minute intervals). Allow 3 to 5 minutes for recovery between intervals and don't forget a 20 to 30 minute warm up and a 15 minute cool down. It has been shown that as few as a half dozen 5 minute intervals (separated by one minute recoveries) during a 300 km training week will improve both time trial and peak performance.
If you have a heart rate monitor, an alternative is to key intervals to your maximum heart rate. Ride your intervals at 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate and spin easily until your heart rate drops to 60 to 65% of maximum.
This level of exertion can be maintained for hours at slightly less intensity than you may have used in personal competitive events in the past, and is particularly suited for endurance event training. It is thought to have a preferential benefit for the slow twitch muscle fibers (as opposed to the fast twitch fibers used in sprint interval training). It is suggested that a distance of 2 to 5 times the actual competitive event be chosen for this daily segment of a weekly training program.
SPRINTS OR DISTANCE?
People usually are changing their training program for one of two reasons -
they want to ride further or they want to ride faster.
If you are training for the goal of riding a long event, and your speed is just fine, it is important to make sure you are putting in the weekly miles (at any intensity). No intervals needed. It is about getting your body use to sitting on the bike for longer periods of time.
If you want to increase your top speed (MPH), which means you need to increase your VO2max, you will want to train your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) with at least 2 days of intervals a week, with the intervals increasing your heart rate to at least 90% of your max heart rate).
If you want to improve both you need a combination of intervals and longer rides in your weekly program. Doing more than 2 days of intervals a week increases the rate of training burnout and injury - so I suggest limiting interval (>90% VO2max) training to 2 days a week.
Based on the above principles, the following outlines the design of an ideal weekly training program with the 7 days including:
Aim for a total time commitment per week of 10 hours. It's interesting that two of America's all-time great road riders, Greg LeMond and Connie Carpenter, both recommend the same total weekly training time -- 10 hours -- for fast recreational riders. They say if you devote that much to a mix to distance, speed, climbing and easy rides for recovery, you're likely to come close to your potential. And time on the bike seems to be the key, not the miles ridden. LeMond's Law is occasionally referred to in bike magazines. To paraphrase: when you record your daily workout, make your key entry the time you rode not how far you rode. The reason, says Greg, "twenty miles into a headwind is a lot different than 20 miles with a tailwind". The same holds for a ride in the hills vs. a ride on flat ground.
For most recreational roadies, 7-10 hours of riding per week is plenty for steady improvement if you have an intelligent training program. Wouldn't more be better? If you do try to add in extra hours, you risk bothy overtraining as well as the extra stress produced by more time on the bike. Both physical stress on your body and the pressure it puts on responsibilities to family, friends, and profession.
Q.I am taking part in a 24 hour mountain bike event in July. There will be 5 of us in a team, so we will be taking it in turns on a course that takes approximately 40 minutes. That means we will have roughly 240 minute breaks between rides. The question is how do you train for that?
My main concern is the disjointed nature of the event. I have an idea what to do to train for a 6 hour event or a 40 minute event, but as we will be racing hard for 40 minutes, 8 or 9 times in 24 hours do I:
A. I would plan your weekly training program as if this was to be a 40 minute, high intensity event, with the additional focus being on what you need to do to maximize your recovery in the 4 hour break between "events".
I'd estimate the total mileage you think you would be riding in the 24 hours - and then be sure your baseline mileage (weekly) supports this distance. Train with your emphasis on intervals to improve performance for these 40 minute segments, and be sure you have one long ride a week at lower intensity equal to the total miles of the event + 10 - 15%.
Be sure you have maximized your glycogen reserves to start - and replace your expended Calories after each event using a liquid replacement as much as possible to minimize delays in gastric emptying and absorption. And be sure you replace sweat loses - dehydration over the 24 hours is probably the biggest risk to your performance. ( nutrition for performance, the interval ride section).
A. I think you are describing the warm up period that many riders experience - the first 5 miles, or 15 minutes, of a ride when the body cardiovascular and musculo skeletal systems are getting up to speed. It gets more noticeable with age and some riders are more bothered by it than others. I'm not aware of any shortcuts to avoid it - just listen to your body and don;t push too hard or your injury rate will go up