Let’s take a look through some of the key training strategies you can use to efficiently increase your cycling endurance performance.
Right off the bat, it’s important to understand that your endurance capabilities and a large volume of foundational training underpin all of your advanced-level fitness, including your threshold power, VO2max etc.
Without a solid foundation of both aerobic and muscular endurance, you’ll find that your higher intensity training will only yield limited improvements and it’ll be like trying to drive with the handbrake on.
What’s more, even if you have a huge anaerobic capacity or powerful sprint, it’ll be hard to use it to any great effect if you can’t hold out until the end of a ride or race.
So, let’s start get started…
As mentioned above, pure endurance training relies on riding for a relatively long durations at a low intensity level in order to improve aerobic efficiency, mainly through the stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis. These kinds of positive changes are known as “central” adaptations.
One of the other components that makes up your entire endurance capability is muscular endurance, where changes in the muscle due to training are referred to as “peripheral” adaptations.
Muscles “move things” and even if you have a strong engine (your cardiovascular system) behind the scenes, it’s your muscles that generate the repetitive force that keeps the cranks spinning.
A strategy that has worked well for both myself and the riders I work with when it comes to stimulating both central and peripheral adaptations are training sessions that I like to call “Fatigue-resistance” workouts.
Let’s break that down…
These workouts are largely made up of a standard LSD session, with a sustained period of endurance-focused riding.
However, in order to add both a level of specificity and to build muscular, these workouts also feature a series of intervals with are strategically placed within the otherwise steady-state ride.
Usually, these will come at the end of a ride, after fatigue has been built up centrally from the multiple hours of low intensity training.
The intervals involve a series of 3-5 short (1-2mins) repetitions slightly above threshold (e.g. 105-108% FTP) and done at a relatively low cadence whilst standing on the pedals to concentrate the load on the key muscle groups.
However, these intervals can also be spread throughout the workout in order to challenge the muscular system continuously, or at the start of the ride, the latter training you to be able to maintain a steady effort even after the muscles have been exposed to fatigue-producing high intensity.
Where you choose to put these intervals within an otherwise steady-state long ride will depend on your preference (so that you’re more likely to get this training done on a consistent basis) as well as the demands of what you’re preparing for (e.g. for races with fast starts that eventually settle down, adding these intervals at the start of a long ride would be most specific).