I’ve had several excellent follow-up questions on my column on 8 Tips for Endurance Training This Winter.
Running For Endurance
Leigh wrote, “What would you consider an endurance run in place of a ride. We get a lot of ice in Toronto and simply can’t get onto the roads because they’re too busy with cars even if you have spiked tires. I don’t mind riding in chilly conditions, but would rather run 3-4 days a week and then spend a couple days a week on the trainer doing tempo intervals for an hour and change. I usually run between 10-15k, is this sufficient for endurance runs or should I am to run longer (50 minutes to 1:20).”
This is an excellent question. I live in Colorado and although I could ride outdoors I prefer to XC ski in cold conditions. My wife and I did a 12K recently and the temperature was in the single digits when we started. In my column on 10 Ways to Cross Train for Cyclists I included both jogging and running. As a general rule of thumb anything that lasts an hour or more at a conversational pace is good cross-training. Running three days and two days of intensity on the trainer or running four days and one intensity day on the trainer are both good combinations – be sure to give yourself a couple of days off.
High Heart Rate
Jack wrote, “The topography of this area is rolling farmland and many of the roads were laid out in the 1700’s along then existing property lines for horses and carts. We do have hills, not very long but with grades often in double digits. But most of the rest are short rollers with grades <5%. On my ride yesterday somewhere around 25 miles, I was sufficiently tired that those little rollers would cause my heart rate to head up to my lactate threshold unless I went really slow at eight mph. I had to say goodbye to my friends at that point so they could enjoy the rest of their ride.”
You may have been experiencing cardiac drift. As you get tired your heart also fatigues. Because it is fatiguing it pumps less blood per beat so it has to beat faster to deliver the same amount of blood to your working muscles, which causes the higher heart rate. On the other hand as the heart fatigues a rider may not be able to get the heart rate up as high as earlier in the ride. These phenomena are both examples of why training by heart rate may be inaccurate and perceived exertion provides better feedback. As long as you can still talk comfortably in complete sentences when you’re riding I’m not concerned that your heart rate may be a little high.
Stopping For A Meal
Joe wrote, “When I ride with my friends, they are social rides and we usually stop for something to eat at some point during the ride. Sometimes it is just coffee and a sports bar and often it is a full meal. As soon as I throw my leg over the top tube after eating my heart rate goes up to zone 2 (cruising pace). That happened yesterday. Do these lunch breaks interfere with the endurance nature of the ride?
After a meal much of your blood flow is through your digestive system. To also supply blood to your muscles your heart rate has to go higher. It’s fine to stop with friends for coffee and a snack or a meal. My riding buddy and I have two rules on our weekly endurance rides:
- We never pass anyone, which keeps us riding at an endurance pace.
- We always stop for breakfast or lunch.
After a meal ride at a digestion pace for at least half an hour, significantly slower than you normally ride on an endurance ride.
Good Pacing Pays Off
I strongly encourage my clients always to ride at a conversational pace on endurance rides. If a roadie goes harder earlier in a ride the rider inevitably has to slow down later.
Dan wrote, “I’ve felt progressively stronger as I have been completing Audax rides (200K and longer rides). Riding conversationally and always below my lactate threshold has been really successful. Although on Audax rides I have been left behind on hills sticking to this regimen, I have caught up and often finished well in front of those who overtook me early on. I had a really good 250K ride. I rode a 200km Audax with my son, his friend and his friend’s Dad (much younger and in the past fitter than I). They had to slow for me on hills as I was sticking to a max heart rate below my LT but by the final quarter I was sharing riding at the front with the two younger men and we kept losing the other dad. When we finished they were wrecked (their words) and I rode the 25K home feeling quite good!”
Why Endurance Training Is Important
In my column on 8 Tips for Endurance Training This Winter I describe the ways base endurance training improves:
- The endurance of the cycling muscles by increasing the number of mitochondria where energy is produced in the cells.
- The respiratory system, providing more oxygen to the blood supply.
- The efficiency of the heart so it can pump more blood to the muscles.
- The capacity of the liver and muscles to store carbohydrates.
- The neuromuscular efficiency of pedaling.
- The capacity to burn fat during long rides.
- The thermoregulatory system by increasing the blood flow to the skin.
These improvements don’t take place if you ride harder than at an endurance pace! The pros spend 70 – 80% of their training time at a conversational endurance pace.
My three-article bundle Endurance Training and Riding explains in detail how to train and what to eat to achieve the above benefits. I originally wrote the articles to help riders doing 100K, 200K and longer rides; however, all of the principles and training programs also work for roadies doing shorter rides.
- Beyond the Century describes training principles and different training intensities and how to integrate these into a season-long program of endurance rides.
- Nutrition for 100K and Beyond provides you with the information you need to fuel your engine before, during and after endurance rides.
- Mastering the Long Ride gives you the skills you need to finish your endurance rides.
My Endurance Training and Riding bundle totaling 50 pages is just $13:50, a 10% savings off the full price of all three eArticles. (Only $11.48 for our Premium Members with your 15% discount, a 25% total savings off the full price.)
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.