What is the best approach to build up my endurance rides?

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We are regularly asked how you can best build up the length of your long rides. Fortunately you have your coach for that at Cyclinglab or your training plan in Join, but still let’s explain a little background.

The purpose of endurance training

Long training rides are also called endurance training. The purpose of endurance training is mainly to cope well with the duration or distance. So it’s not about riding up a mountain faster, but mainly to keep it up for a long time. To be able to keep it up for a long time you especially need a well-developed fat burning system. At low intensity your body is able to burn fat in the presence of sufficient oxygen. When the intensity increases, you will burn more carbohydrates. In itself not a problem, but the supply of carbohydrates is limited and so is the uptake capacity per hour. So if you want to keep going for a long time, you need to train the fat burning system.

The aerobic threshold

You can do this by making endurance training sessions progressively longer and by training the intensity up to the aerobic threshold. The aerobic threshold is the point at which fat burning has reached the maximum share in the energy supply. If the intensity is above the aerobic threshold, you will mainly burn more carbohydrates and the total amount of fat that you use will even decrease. The aerobic threshold lies below the threshold heart rate or FTP and usually lies between 75 and 90 percent of your threshold. The better your endurance capabilities are, the higher this threshold will be.

First the duration and then increase the intensity

But how do you build up these endurance rides? It starts with looking at what duration you can currently handle well. To be able to cope well means that you can maintain the same low intensity pace over the entire effort while the heart rate does not increase or it does not feel heavier. If that is currently 3 hours then we start there. Depending on the length of the goal we build this duration, where it is important to keep checking if it is still doable. As a rule of thumb, building up with 15 minutes per week is a good measure to keep in mind. In addition, it is wise to add so-called tempo blocks at an intensity around the aerobic threshold. In this way, the maximum fat burning is trained and the speed also increases. The aim is to first increase the duration at low intensity and then to add tempo blocks before increasing the duration again.

Do not train too long!

It is sensible to do long endurance rides at least once a week. But how long is long enough? That depends, of course, on your goal. If your goal is no longer than 4 to 5 hours, then you can train for 6 hours once, but actually it is sufficient to do a long ride of 4 hours every week. Even if you have a goal that is much longer, it is still not wise to make your weekly longer ride too long. This is because the problem with this is that the recovery takes so long that the other workouts for that week are compromised. In other words, the fatigue is then so great that the total training load for that week actually becomes too low. To make sure that the material holds up, as mental training or to test your nutrition strategy, you can ride the length of your goal once, but don’t do it too often. With a really long goal it’s best to choose to train really long once a month, somewhere between 5 to 6 hours, and then every week a long endurance ride of 4 to 4.5 hours.
With this approach, you should be all set for the length of your goal. But if you really want to get it right, check out our training guidance or JOIN’s training plans.