The 3 key rides to get in each and every week include:
- Shorter, intense intervals (VO2 Max level or higher)
- Longer, threshold level intervals.
- At least ONE long aerobic ride.
We cyclists rarely have trouble putting in the hard intervals. However, the long endurance level ride continues to be the most important ride, week in and week out. Cycling is an endurance sport, so failure to ride a minimum of 1 long ride each week will limit your ability to improve to your genetic capabiliy.
For those of us in the northern tier of the country, it’s really, really tough to put in a truly long ride on the weekend. Since we’re mainly riding indoors, a ride of several hours long requires more patience and mental toughness than many riders are able to deal with. And I can’t blame anyone for not being able to sit in one spot and look at the same wall, window or TV for hours.
Everybody has a tolerance for riding a trainer indoors, and each rider should work to improve the ability to ride longer by simply doing so. Even if it’s only 15 minutes more, that’s a step in the right direction.
The other challenge on a long indoor ride is to nail the intensity. Remember that in the off season the goal is to improve our metabolic systems. The purpose the long ride is to improve your aerobic system. Period. So most of your time should be spent solidly in zone 2 or 3 (endurance/tempo). And while this level feels “easy” at the beginning, you’ll be surprised how fatigued you are at the end of your long ride at this level.
Continuing to increase your ride length at this intensity level every week will definitely put you at a higher level when the spring season rolls around.
I ride with a power meter, so it’s very easy to stick in the proper training zone. I typically ride intervals that gradually move me up higher into my endurance zone then into my tempo zone. Then I’ll back off and do another series. To see a good example of a long aerobic ride, right-click on this link and open in a different tab or window. It will take you to the chart of my ride yesterday:
My endurance zone is 147 – 198 watts. Tempo is 199 – 239 and my threshold zone is 239 – 277. My goal for the 4 hour ride was to spend nearly all of it in endurance and tempo zones, with a bit of threshold time thrown in. Here’s how it broke down:
- Recovery zone: 10 minutes
- Endurance zone: 67 minutes
- Tempo zone: 130 minutes
- Threshold zone: 30 minutes
So I really hammered out some significant and quality aerobic saddle time. You can look at the graph to see the step-up sequence I used to change my power and intensity level. Contact me if you’re having trouble reading it or if you have any other questions.
Your long endurance level ride is the most valuable ride of your week, so plan the rest of your training week around it. Let me know how I can help you, then GET OUT AND RIDE!