We are frequently asked how you can best build up the length of your long cycling rides. Fortunately you have your Join endurance training plan to show you how, but let us provide some background here.
The purpose of endurance training
Long training rides are also called endurance training rides. 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 about being able to keep riding for longer. To be able to do that, you need a well-developed fat burning system. At low intensity your body is able to burn fat as long as there is enough oxygen. When the intensity increases, you will start burning more carbohydrates. That in itself is not a problem, however the supply of carbohydrates stored in your body is limited and so is the uptake capacity per hour through nutrition. So if you want to keep going for a long time, you need to train the fat burning system as the supply of body fat is far bigger than that of carbohydrates. Even people considered skinny have a fat supply that lasts for days.
The aerobic threshold
You can do this by making endurance training sessions progressively longer and by training with an intensity up to the aerobic threshold. The aerobic threshold is the point at which fat burning has reached its maximum share in the energy supply. If the intensity rises 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 at between 75 and 90 percent of your threshold. The better your endurance capabilities are, the more this percentage moves towards the upper bound.
First increase the duration and then the intensity
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 by 15 minutes per week is a good measure to start off with. In addition, it is advisable to add so-called tempo blocks at an intensity around the aerobic threshold to your training. This trains the maximum fat burning while 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 for too long!
It is sensible to do a long endurance ride at least once a week. But how long is long enough? That depends, of course, on the goal ride that you are training for. If your goal event is not longer than 4-5 hours, then you can train for 6 hours for sure, but it would actually be sufficient to do a long ride of 4 hours every week. But even if you have a goal event planned that is much longer, it is still not advisable to make your weekly longer ride too long. Because the recovery from those really long rides takes so long that the next workouts in the following week are compromised. In other words, the fatigue is so high that the total training load in the next week falls too much. To test your gear, as a mental training or to test your nutrition strategy, you can ride the length of your goal race once, but don’t do it too often. If you are training for something really long, we advise to train quite long once a month, somewhere between 5 to 6 hours and do an endurance ride of not more than 4 to 4.5 hours in the other weeks. Using this approach, you should be well prepared for the length of your goal ride.