How to Increase Your Cycling Endurance To Improve Aerobic Capacity, Strength, and Speed
One of the biggest debates among cycling coaches is how to increase cycling endurance.
If you are not a pro, or not someone who can dedicate more than 10-12 hours a week to training, time is an issue.
And for those of us with a minimal amount of time, is it better to do more intensity or more endurance?
Tempo, Sweet Spot, and Threshold intervals work to develop fitness.
That’s clearly backed by the research.
However, the challenge in doing the hard intervals is the toll those workouts take on your body.
They require more recovery than endurance miles, precisely because of the intensity.
It’s easy to cook yourself and over reach with your training.
How to increase cycling endurance? Use a polarized training model.
Even with limited time, you are able to combine endurance miles with intensity for the perfect blend of training stimulus without building too much fatigue.
Polarized training can provide best of both worlds
With the polarized training, the model that Simple Endurance Coaching uses, cyclists spend roughly 90 percent of training time in the endurance zone. The other 10 percent is intensity that’s done really intensely.
We can put endurance days back to back to back without building too much fatigue.
Then, when we do intensity, we are able to do more intensity at a higher output, which is more effective in building fitness.
A cycling endurance training plan brings big benefits down the road
Endurance riding is not recovery or coffee shop rides.
An endurance ride means you’re able to talk with a friend, but probably not about religion or politics. (That means you can talk but not yell or speak loudly!)
A greater base of endurance means an increase in
- the capacity to ride further and faster.
- the aerobic engine to do longer and harder intensity work, especially during racing.
- FTP or lactate threshold levels
- consistent and consecutive training without building too much fatigue.
- the accumulated levels of adaptation.
Mitochondria are the fuel of endurance
The increased aerobic capacity comes from increased mitochondria density as well as an increase in capillary production and other physical/ biological markers.
Very simply put, the more endurance miles we ride, the more mitochondria, fuel cells for the muscles, we build in our muscle.
The more we have, the more fuel we can send to the muscles, enabling them to work more efficiently and for longer periods.
And these endurance rides also allow us to go faster and harder when the time comes.
Plus the more time we spend at an endurance pace, the more we use fat as fuel!
A cycling endurance training plan improves the quality and quantity of mitochondria, which creates more endurance capacity, strength, and speed.
This is how to increase cycling endurance.
Here’s some background information on the discovery of how more exercise meant more mitochondria, which, in turn, meant more speed and endurance.
Not just miles but lifting heavy things and intervals
Recent research is suggesting that in addition to putting the time in on the bike, lifting heavy things and doing intervals also builds endurance.
Building strength by lifting heavy things also increases the muscle’s capacity to do more by creating more mitochondria AND making them more efficient at producing energy.
And HIIT sessions kicks up the endurance adaption to exercise even more.
The downside of both strength training and HIIT is that you can’t do them every day. Your body can’t recover.
You can, though, do low-intensity miles nearly every day, if you plan your recovery right.
Lots of endurance miles, HIIT sessions, strength training, and recovery are the key elements of polarized training at Simple Endurance.
Only recovery makes the adaptations possible
There is an adage for training: gains are made when you sleep.
Recovery days, yoga, proper and adequate fueling , and hydration are all key elements to rebuild our muscles and make them stronger that before.
Start off slowly and build your mileage up gradually.
Imagine that your body is a house, and training and other stressors are the weather and elements. You begin with a house made of straw, and your first bout of training is like a gust of wind. It knocks out a few walls and so you build them back up. If you have the means, you’ll probably build the new walls from brick. When the next bout of exercise comes along, your walls are more resilient, and this time nothing crumbles. You keep training, and as you do, you increase your training load, or stress, by lifting more weights, running more miles, or throwing more pitches.Christie Aschwander, Good to Go
How do I create a cycling endurance training plan?
Sometimes you need to go slow to get fast.
A good training plan includes at least one long slow day, one or two interval days, some strength training, yoga and/or mobility work, and recovery/ rest.
How that kind of schedule works together to build up to your target event or adventure goal is what I do.
I build your program focused on the goals, building your fitness so that you’re ready to go by event day.
Do you have questions? Want to talk more about how a program might look for you? Fill out the form below and let’s talk!