You never know what a bike ride is going to throw at you. You might roll out the door with the best intentions to use the ride as an opportunity to recover. But, along the way, you encounter a group of riders, leach a wheel and soon discover yourself in the red.
Plans to maintain a specific workout agenda can quickly change as each ride is unpredictable. Winds, detours or other cyclists on the road can change the intensity or distance of any given ride. Endurance training is not just an ability to sustain a prolonged activity by maintaining regulated aerobic efforts, it is an ability to sustain prolonged activity regardless of what’s thrown at you. Do you give up because you inadvertently hit your max during a sprint climb? Do you call the sag wagon because the winds shifted and are blowing against you at 20mph? Do you abandon a century ride because the paceline you were trying to hang onto put you into the red? I hope the answers to these are all no.
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Endurance training requires an ability to manage several facets of your conditioning:
- Heart Endurance – your heart is an extremely efficient pump moving blood an oxygen to your muscles at very high speeds. As your efforts increase, your heart must beat faster to continue supplying nutrients to your muscles. Training your heart is essential to any sustained activity. The results of healthy hearts include:
- Bradycardia – Low resting pulse rate of under 50 bpm
- ECG shows ventricular hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle wall)
- X-ray reveals an enlarged heart
- Blood tests shows raised muscle enzymes
- Aerobic endurance – riding in the aerobic zone (60-75% of max) will provide the most efficient means to cover the greatest distance in a given day of riding. An athlete can ride pretty much all day in this zone as long as they stay hydrated and fueled. Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’. During aerobic work, the body is working at a level whereby the demands for oxygen and fuel can be meet by the body’s intake.
- Anaerobic Endurance– covering a sprint climb, or a fast break and managing to keep on going requires a development of an athletes’ anaerobic threshold (vo2max ~ 80% of max and above). The ability to raise efforts and then relax over and over, requires a huge demand on a body. Hence, training this aspect is crucial to meet the demands of an unpredictable ride. Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’. During anaerobic work, involving maximum effort, the body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and the muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. The muscles, being starved of oxygen, take the body into a state known as oxygen debt. The body’s stored fuel soon runs out and activity ceases – painfully. This point is often measured as the lactic threshold or anaerobic threshold or onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA). Activity will not be resumed until the lactic acid is removed and the oxygen debt repaid.
- Speed Endurance– is used to develop the co-ordination of muscle contraction. Repetition methods are used with a high number of sets, low number of repetitions per set and intensity greater than 85% with distances covered from 60% to 120% of racing distance. Competition and time trials can be used in the development of speed endurance. To go fast, an athlete must be able to endure higher heart rates for a sustained time (red zone, ~90% and up). Additionally, fast twitch muscle fibers come into play. An ability to maintain higher cadences (100rpm and up) need to be developed as well as sprint cadences above 120 rpm
- Strength Endurance – Muscular strength provides a positive force to accelerate a bike. Force, in terms of power is usually expressed as watts. The stronger the muscles, the greater power can be exerted. A higher power to weight ratio improves acceleration. Strength endurance is used to develop the athlete’s capacity to maintain the quality of their muscles’ contractile force.
- Pain Threshold Endurance – An athletes’ ability to manage pain improves over time and is actually sought after given repeated opportunities to train harder and in that zone. Both psychology and physiology play a role in managing pain. Sustaining a powerful and positive approach to managing pain improves physiological performance.
The endurance category of videos can be found here.
These videos are designed to focus on the elements of training described above. These are tough, painful workouts that will push you a little harder and a little further to help prepare you for the onslaught of physical exertions required to accomplish the unpredictable!