If you’re a cyclist looking for a big endurance goal to work towards, then a long-distance bike ride might be just the thing. A whole host of companies exist who are willing to take you on a range of charity bike rides – providing you with a testing few days out, and an opportunity to raise money for your good cause of choice. Charity events like this provide you with a target, which will provide you with exactly the motivation required to saddle up and get peddling.
But if you’re to build your fitness to the required level, it’s vital that you do so in a structured, focussed way – otherwise you’ll simply be wasting time. In this article, we’ll provide some tips to ensure that your training is as effective as possible.
Set the right intensity
It’s useful to keep careful watch of your heartrate while training. This will allow you to see just how hard you’re pushing your most vital muscle. Cyclists divide heart-rate intensities into ‘zones’, which are in turn divided by two ‘thresholds’.
The first of these thresholds is the ‘aerobic’ threshold. This is the most you can push yourself without the levels of lactate in your blood rising. The second is the ‘anaerobic’ threshold – which is the maximum intensity you can sustain for an hour. During this time, the lactate in your blood will be high, but it won’t be so high that it’s unsustainable. Push much further than that, however, and you’ll quickly collapse into a heap of quivering muscle.
These thresholds will vary from person to person, so it’s useful to get some idea of where yours lie before you devise an exercise regime. Generally speaking, you should be able to calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 – but this formula, while simple, is not always a reliable one, and so you should treat its results with a grain of scepticism.
For most of your training, you’ll be looking to build up your endurance. A great way to do this is to go for around eighty-percent of your maximum heart rate. This is the ‘intense’ zone, where you should be able to go for an hour at a time. By doing this regularly, you’ll steadily build on your fitness, and gradually it will take more effort to reach your target rate.
The great thing about this programme is that you aren’t required to keep track of your improvements and reach for a new target – provided that you’re reaching the required heart-rate, you’ll be making gains. That said, it’s still useful to keep a record of how much further and faster you’re riding. This will provide you with some encouragement, and give you the impetus to jump back into the saddle for the next session!
In order to challenge your musculature and nervous system, and thereby encourage it to grow, you’ll need to occasionally present it with new stressors. This will help to prevent stagnation, and produce a sharp increase in power.
There are a few different ways in which you might do this. You might have short bursts of high-intensity followed by short rests, or you might try for longer bursts at high intensity followed by longer rests. On popular drill is known as ’20-40s’, where the cyclist will put their maximum effort in for twenty seconds before resting for forty. This will produce rapid improvements in fitness, if done properly. Intersperse them into your weekly workout routine.
Work with a partner
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get back into the saddle for training, then it can be useful to have the expectations of a training partner to encourage you. By forming a healthy rivalry with someone who’s at roughly the same level as you, you’ll be able to push yourself that little bit further at every session. When it comes to the day of the cycle itself, you’ll be grateful that you had someone there to help you.
You’ll also need to work as a team when it comes to the day of the race itself. If you’re riding in the slipstream of a team-mate, you’ll benefit enormously from your improved aerodynamics. While the improvement might seem like a modest one at first, over the course of many hundreds of miles it will make an enormous difference to your chances of success.
With the right training and the right team-mates by your side, you’ll be able to conquer even the most gruelling of charity events!