Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Training for Endurance

Thomson Bike Tours published the following article on training for endurance to prepare for a European tour in the mountains. Good advice if you want to enjoy yourself and not suffer so much.

Training for Endurance:

Pick a target event. Let's assume for the sake of discussion your trip is in mid-July. You'll want to begin doing weekly long rides (50-60 miles or so) sometime round about mid-April. If you already have a good base (i.e., you put in a lot of endurance mileage the previous year but have been off the bike all winter), then you can start with some confidence that your base mileage will come easily and with little risk of injury. If, however, your fairly new to longer rides over challenging terrain, then you'll want to start with somewhat shorter rides, so that come May through June you'll be ready to increase the distance and time on the bike.

A caveat: be patient with building the base, lest you incur injury or mental fatigue by doing too much too soon. 60 miles should be a good starting point (50 perhaps if you're a little behind the curve due to harsh winter conditions or a heavy work schedule). Increase your ride time/distance by 10-15% each week. By June you should be fairly "comfortable" doing 90 plus miles (I say comfortable, but what I really mean is that you shouldn't feel excessively challenged by the effort).

In early to mid-June you should implement some back-to-back long rides (2 x 90 + miles). This should prepare you well for the effort of multiple day endurance efforts. If time allows you can even do three rides in a row (e.g. 90, 90, and 75+) in the final three weeks before your event/trip, though you'll want to be sure to allow a week or so for some recovery from your endurance workouts in the 7-10 days before Day 1 of your trip.

Remember, recovery from endurance workouts takes a bit longer than it does when training more specifically for speed, strength or power, so you'll want to keep this in mind as your event approaches. Since we're speaking of training for endurance and not for "speed", your most important ride will be your week long ride(s). It is important not to mix your weekly endurance ride(s) with speed, strength and power workouts. Avoid the local group ride on these days.

Find a friend who likes to ride slowly (i.e., conversationally — yes, even uphill and on your favorite town-line sprints! ), and avoid those friends who insist on half-wheeling you). Here the idea is to train not only your muscles and your cardiovascular system (both of which likewise receive benefits from strength, speed and power workouts), but also to train your digestive system and your ability to use energy efficiently.

One can be the fastest cyclist in town for 50 miles, but if one's muscles can't make efficient use of efficient fuels (which is to say, fat), then one is likely to run out of gas before then end of the ride. This is doubly true for two day endurance efforts, and triply true for three day efforts, etc. By preparing your plan of attack systematically, you will not only increase your chances for success physiologically, but psychologically as well.

The key is to build up the miles slowly and consistently!

Photo: Col du Tourmalet to be used in the 2010 Tour de France in the last week

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