Breaking out of your routine by varying the intensity is the fastest way to improve your cycling. Whether you’re riding for fitness, doing group or club rides on weekends, training for a century, racing or just riding casually, adding intensity will overload your body in beneficial ways — if you include recovery days and weeks to let yourself grow stronger.
Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity explains what happens to your body as you age, and the physiological benefits of riding with intensity. Doing some hard riding slows the aging process and delivers an array of benefits at any age:
More efficient training. By riding at different intensities, you improve your fitness faster than by just doing the same kind of riding every time you go out.
Stronger heart. The heart is a muscle, and like any muscle it responds to overload by getting stronger, and the more overload (up to a limit) the stronger it gets. As you age the amount of blood pumped per beat declines and the walls of the heart stiffen unless you make it work harder.
Greater lung capacity. The lungs also stiffen so you don’t get as full a breath unless you force them to expand more fully by exercising hard.
More powerful muscles. The muscles in your legs atrophy, particularly the muscle fibers that you activate when you need more strength and power, unless you use those muscle fibers exercising hard.
In addition to these bedrock benefits of intensity, hard riding carries numerous other advantages for road cyclists, who all too often ride at the same, steady pace on nearly every ride.
Greater choices of rides. Hard riding improves your power. Even if you ride just for good health, more power increases the choices of routes for your rides. You can add longer, hillier, harder routes and rides to your repertoire.
More pedaling economy. Hard riding improves your economy, how fast you can go at a given heart rate. This allows you to do longer and/or harder recreational rides.
More speed. Because hard riding improves your power, it also improves your speed so that you can keep up with — and maybe even drop — younger riders on club and group rides. Or just increase your cruising speed so you can cover more distance in the same amount of time.
More fun. Remember what it was like as a kid to just hop on your bike and ride for the fun of it? By riding differently from day to day, using intensity to vary your riding, you’ll enjoy cycling more than just doing the same routes, at the same pace. Make a game of it, if that’s what works for you.
This doesn’t mean that you need to suffer like the pros, just that you should ride a little harder than you are used to riding. This eArticle tells you how. At 27 pages, it describes five progressively harder levels of training and gives 3 to 5 examples each of structured and unstructured workouts for each level of training, a total of almost 40 workouts.
All three titles in the series are available in one cost-saving Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond Bundle.
Note: this is an eArticle. Your purchase will be stored as a PDF file in your customer account on the website for downloading and printing.