Why Base Training is so Important for Long Distance Rides
If you're thinking of signing up for a Charity, Gran Fondo, Century Ride or other endurance event and then wondered how you're going fit in all the training in, no doubt you have heard of the benefits of high-intensity interval training - more speed, more fitness in half the time ...
Hang on, slow down, because if you don’t keep your training within certain heart rates zones, then your progress could come to a dead stop. It's imperative you employ base training, the process of gradually developing a platform for your fitness.
Base training is the foundation upon which everything else rests. Riders who go straight into speed work can get fast on the bike, but they won’t necessarily have aerobic endurance, so their fitness lasts just a few weeks before they could start to slow down.
When you ride for two or more hours at a steady pace (a typical base endurance ride for regular rider, less for a novice) your body responds with changes that allow you to use more oxygen and burn more fat as fuel. These rides build more capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. Your mitochondria, the parts of your cells that produce energy, multiply and enlarge. And your body churns out more enzymes that helps you turn stored fuel into energy. The result is you can ride faster and longer.
More importantly, base-building rides tend to be the most social and fun, so you can just enjoy being on your bike, hanging out with friends, and recharging your batteries without worrying about going hard or being dropped.
Too many riders are in a hurry to get right to the high-intensity work and can burn out before the season really gets into full swing in April/May.
Time crunched, high intensity workouts have their place, allowing you improve or maintain your fitness. However without the base endurance, you could struggle when increasing your ride distances, which isn't ideal when your focusing on a Gran Fondo, Century Ride or longer distance Charity Ride.
Building your Base
Building a solid base will lay the foundations upon which you can build intensity later on. The goal of base training is to gradually build up your aerobic fitness and muscular strength to the point where your foundations are strong enough and prepared for more difficult, race-oriented training. In this phase, spend more time on lower training zones developing endurance, strength and losing weight, through long rides and fasted rides.
The Duration of base depends on your particular goals and your current state of fitness, but typically lasts around 2 months.
Base will require that you work on key fundamentals, here are some of the examples of types of training:
Endurance & Sweet Spot
Long endurance rides at lower training zones developing basic endurance and promote weight loss. Typically a 4-6 hour ride. Additionally, aim to spend about 1-2 hours a week at a zone below your threshold (88-92% of your FTP), ideally on long climbs.
Developing muscular strength on the flat and on climbs. On climbs, stay at 40-45 rpm at 88-92% of your FTP for 4 minutes and repeat several times. On flats you can do 8 minutes effort at 55-60rpm.
Ride once or twice a week without breakfast at endurance pace. This will teach your body to be more effective in using energy from food and you’ll also get better at burning fat.
For a few minutes around twice a week, pedal with only leg, at a time on the flat. This will help you to improve your pedaling efficiency. You’ll learn how to pedal all the way round.
Once a week, practice high cadence (105-115 rpm) workouts on the flat and on climbs. Duration varies, but anywhere from 4 mins to 8 mins, and repeat several times. You can also do short 30 second accelerations on the flat with super high cadence +130rpm.