Building cycling stamina is no easier than any other type of endurance, but the payoffs of a successful training routine are enormous. Whether you need that extra edge to sustain your next racing breakaway, or you’re working up to your first century, developing muscular and cardiovascular endurance is among the most important parts of a cyclist’s training. These workouts are classic techniques designed to target different areas of fitness. They are not easy exercises, and you should have some fitness reserve before attempting them. If you have never used interval training before, try simple steady-state intervals before moving on to these more intense workouts.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Things You’ll Need:
- Stopwatch Cycling computer (optional) Heart rate monitor (optional)
- Cycling computer (optional)
- Heart rate monitor (optional)
Determine your specific training needs and set goals accordingly. What type of stamina do you need to build? Do you frequently ride hills, or do you hammer away on long flats? Are you building up to a century or multiday tour, or do you just need that extra burst of power during a sprint? Use the answers to these questions to help you focus on the following workouts and fit them seamlessly into a bigger training schedule.
Build a tough cardiovascular engine with short, rapid-fire sprint intervals. Sometimes called over-under workouts, these intervals raise your heart rate without breaking down your leg muscles with lactic acid buildup. Start with an easy spin, sprint for 20 seconds, then spin for 10 seconds. Repeat the 20-10 series for five minutes to start, working up to 10. Remember to allow time for an easy warm-up and cool-down.
Put your cardio system to work near acid threshold with tempo workouts. This exercise requires a steady, moderately hard effort to build your top-end endurance. Although this exercise is best performed with a heart rate monitor or power meter, you can achieve good results using perceived effort. After warming up, accelerate to just below your lactic threshold, or about a seven on an effort scale of one to 10 (10 being an all-out push). Hold this pace constant for 35-40 minutes, working up to 60 minutes. Remember to cool down with some easy spinning.
Increase your maximum sustainable power output with power intervals. These all-out efforts are not for the timid and will require some serious commitment, but they yield great results when mixed into a workout program. After your warm-up, accelerate to an all-out push, holding for two minutes. Rest with an easy spin for four minutes, or until your heart rate has dropped well below lactate threshold. Then sprint again for two minutes. Repeat the interval two times, working up to six repetitions. Don’t push yourself too fast, though. If two-minute intervals are too tough (if you can’t hold out on the second or third interval), shorten the interval or lengthen your rest time, or both. You can also lengthen interval times as you progress, but also lengthen your rest times to at least twice the length of your intervals.
Go for one or two long rides on the weekends. A moderately paced, three-hour (or longer, if you want) ride will build the endurance you’ll need to tackle centuries and multiday tours. Don’t worry about pushing yourself too hard on these rides, but don’t drop out of the pack, either.
Get plenty of rest. Your body gets stronger during rest, not training. Allow at least two days off the bike per week, and in between, get a steady amount of sleep. Allow a day of easy spinning or complete rest after each day you perform interval training. You don’t have to perform all of these exercises every week. Try to focus instead on developing one weak area before moving on to the next.
Tips & Warnings
- Block your training into monthlong segments. Work on one area of endurance (cardio, tempo, power, distance) each month, and allow a week of easy workouts between segments to allow the body to recover
- These workouts, particularly power intervals, can raise your heart rate significantly higher than other exercises. Ask a doctor before performing these workouts if you have a heart condition or any doubts as to your ability to safely perform the training. A heart rate monitor, in addition to being a useful workout tool, is a good way to ensure safety during intense workouts.