If there’s one trait that distinguishes pros from recreational riders, it’s how they pace their training.
Professional riders can go fast because when they train hard (or race), they go like lightning. But when they train slowly, they go very, very slowly.
Conversely, most recreational riders train at a moderate pace — fast enough to feel like they’re accomplishing something but not so hard that they’re suffering unduly.
You’ll hear some coaches refer to this pace — about 80 percent of max heart rate — as “no-man’s land.” Like the shell-pocked wasteland between dug-in armies during World War I, you don’t want to be there very often.
Why? Because no-man’s land delivers a double whammy. It compromises recovery and improvement.
At a moderately brisk pace of around 80 percent of max heart rate, you’re not going slowly enough to recover. You need a pace around 65 percent of max heart rate to pump nutrient-rich blood to your leg muscles without stressing them further.
Unfortunately, you’re also not going fast enough to improve. That takes an intensity of about 90 percent of max.
Remember, when every ride is done at a medium pace, your results are bound to be mediocre.