Three Training Rides Cyclists Need Every Week
If your goals are to ride faster, increase your aerobic endurance, be more comfortable in the group ride, or to start competing, there are three types of rides you need to complete each week: Aerobic Endurance, Intervals, and Recovery
Athletes and coaches often mistake complexity for sophistication, leading to the belief that a complex training plan or intricate workouts must certainly be more effective. There is absolutely a time and place for complicated periodization models and advanced interval setups, but it’s important to realize those things are only necessary once you have maxed out the gains you can achieve through the simple stuff. And the good news is, the vast majority of high-performance fitness comes from consistently doing the simple stuff over a long period of time.
Simple doesn’t mean easy. To achieve high performance you have to work hard, you just don’t have to make the workouts difficult to understand or execute. If your goals are to ride faster, increase your aerobic endurance, be more comfortable in the group ride, or to start competing, there are three types of rides you need to complete each week: Aerobic Endurance, Intervals, and Recovery.
These moderate-intensity rides form the foundation the rest of your fitness is built upon. At CTS we refer to them as FoundationMiles, and they are also referred to as Zone 2 or base-building rides. The intensity should be 55-75% of lactate threshold power, 69 to 83 of lactate threshold heart rate, or a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) of about 5 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being an all-out effort. A slightly more challenging version of this is EnduranceMiles (63-87% of LT power, 69-94% of LT heart rate, and perceived exertion of 5-6). The difference between them is essentially that EnduranceMiles is meant to be your normal “go for a ride” intensity that allows for greater variability. With FoundationMiles, the point is to really focus on staying at a steady aerobic pace even with hills, etc. Depending on your level of fitness, aerobic endurance rides should be 1-3 hours, and for advanced riders they can extend to several hours.
Consistency and pacing are the keys to making aerobic endurance rides effective. Because the intensity for these rides is relatively low, more time-at-intensity is required to stimulate positive adaptations or maintain your current level of performance. You can achieve this through longer individual rides, but frequency plays a role here, too. You could ride 8 hours a week by spreading the time over 4 rides or doing two long endurance rides on the weekends. Fitness decays if there’s too much time between training stimuli, and no riding for five days between your weekend blocks is generally too long for subsequent weekend blocks to keep your fitness moving forward. Staving off that decay is also why you don’t want to miss or skip too many rides. It doesn’t take much intensity to maintain the fitness you already have, so riding easy or even a shorter ride than you planned is better than missing a ride entirely.
One of the biggest mistakes cyclists make is going too hard during aerobic endurance rides. We reserve the more challenging aerobic intensities for long intervals like Tempo and Sweet Spot Tempo workouts, and use shorter intervals to concentrate workload at intensities at and above lactate threshold. Your aerobic endurance rides should be just that: aerobic. endurance. It’s tempting to push the pace because the intensity feels easy and if you’re time-crunched you feel pressure to get as much work done as possible in your limited training time, but separation of intensity is important. To have more effective interval days, respect the moderate intensity of endurance days.
This is a very broad category of workouts, in that intervals can range from 30 seconds to 60 minutes or more and incorporate intensities from moderately challenging to cross-eyed difficult. The type, duration, and intensity of intervals you would include in a given week will depend on your current fitness level, training goals, and phase of training. The point is, though, intervals – or repeated periods of time focused on a particular intensity level or technique, separated by periods of rest – are a fundamental necessity for improving endurance performance. At a certain point, your speed, power, and endurance will stop improving from just unstructured cycling.
A mistake many cyclists make is to say, “Well, I’m not training for a specific event, so I don’t need structured training.” There are certainly times when a break from structured training is good for you, but interval workouts shouldn’t only be associated with event-specific training. Intervals are the only way for a moderately-trained cyclist to generate enough workload within their available training hours to continue achieving positive adaptations and get faster/stronger.
The above is a short excerpt from the full CTS TrainRight article, to read the full article, please visit: https://trainright.com/three-training-rides-cyclists-need-every-week
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