Question: I’m 43, in decent shape, and would like to improve. I ride about 100 miles a week, an hour at a time, and my heart rate averages about 145 beats per minute. I tend to really push hills, up to 175 bpm. Should I decrease intensity, or increase it? — David A.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: There’s no question that intensity is the most potent producer of fitness. A few hard rides each week are far better than more miles at a slow pace.
If you have only an hour a day to ride, you’ll improve if you push hard on the hills (like you’re doing now) three times a week. The other rides should be done at a lower intensity for recovery. A heart rate of 65 to 80 percent of max works fine for recovery rides.
To improve the most, however, vary your training by adding one longer ride each week. Do this one at the moderate 65 to 80 percent level. I know that it’s often hard to find time to ride longer. Maybe you can give up one or two short weekday rides in exchange for more time on the weekend.
Let’s suppose you can do only four rides each week:
Tuesday and Thursday you could push hard for an hour on your hilly loop.
Wednesday would be a moderately paced recovery ride for an hour.
Then one day on the weekend you could do 3 hours at 65 to 80 percent max. I think you’d find your fitness increasing noticeably compared to five or six identical one-hour rides.
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Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred's full bio.