Starting a journey to improve your cycling endurance can be both challenging and exciting. With dedication, proper planning, and an understanding of the physiological adaptations involved, you can build up your cardiovascular capacity and muscular endurance. With the right approach, any cyclist can make incredible improvements in their long-distance cycling and reach new heights.
This article will provide guidance on organizing endurance training, optimizing workouts, using technology to your advantage, nutritional considerations for performance, and mental preparation for long rides. Read on to learn how to train smarter and achieve your cycling goals!
1. Assessing Your Fitness and Setting Benchmarks
Before you start an endurance training program, it’s important to know how fit you are now. You can do this by measuring your lactate threshold heart rate, VO2 max, and Functional Threshold Power (FTP). FTP is the highest power you can ride at for one hour, and it’s a good measure of your aerobic endurance.
The most accurate way to measure your fitness is to get tested in a lab, but there are also field tests that can give you useful information. By getting tested, you’ll learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and where you’re starting from. You can use this information to create a training plan that’s right for you and track your progress.
Knowing your fitness level isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about understanding how your body feels and reacts to training. This will help you create a training program that works for you.
2. Using Electric Bikes
You can also use electric bikes to strategically supplement your workouts and improve your endurance. Electric bikes have features that make them especially useful for endurance training.
You can use the extra boost from the electric pedal assist to maintain your intensity when you would normally start to get tired. This can help you push through natural performance barriers and improve your fitness.
Another way to use electric bikes for endurance training is to use short intervals of electric assistance on long rides. This can provide a unique stimulus for your body to adapt to sustaining higher outputs than you could without assistance.
When used wisely in conjunction with traditional training methods, electric bikes can help you accumulate more time training at new and challenging intensity zones.
3. Incorporating Low-Intensity Long Rides
After testing, the next step is establishing an endurance base through long rides at relatively low intensities, usually between 55-75% FTP. Riding for hours at a steady pace not only boosts your stamina but also helps your muscles get more oxygen, strengthen supporting muscular structures, and create resistance to fatigue.
Long rides also mentally prepare riders for spending consecutive hours in the saddle while forcing the body to tap into fat stores for fuel. 2-5 hour rides should be incorporated 1-3 times weekly in an endurance block before introducing greater training stress.
4. Long Interval Training
Once you have a good base of fitness, you need to do workouts that include intervals at intensities above your FTP (functional threshold power) to maximize your lactate tolerance and power. Sustained hard intervals from 2 to 15 minutes at 80 to 120% FTP with short rest create a lot of stress on your body and force it to adapt. These high-intensity workouts target the development of VO2 max and anaerobic capacity, which are critical for high-level endurance.
VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. It is a key indicator of your cardiovascular fitness.
Two weekly microcycles (training cycles) with either one long interval workout or two to three shorter sessions are ideal for overloading your body while preventing overtraining through adequate recovery.
5. The Polarized Training Approach
A polarized approach structures training to minimize time spent at moderate intensities in favor of high and low efforts. Most training volume consists of long level 1-2 endurance workouts, keeping riders fresh and avoiding overtraining. It allows saving maximal effort for 1-2 focused high-intensity zone 5 sessions per week that drive progression.
Polarization enhances recovery between hard training days and teaches the body to conserve glycogen and burn fat during long, easy rides.
6. Strength Training Integration
Targeted strength training in an endurance program provides muscular balance, joint stability, and injury resilience. Cyclists overdevelop certain muscle groups while neglecting others, creating imbalances. Balancing your workout with core, upper body, and leg exercises—whether lifting weights, using bands, or just your body weight—helps keep everything in check. It can further build support around overused joints.
7. Prioritizing Nutrition and Hydration
What you eat and drink has a big impact on how well you can train and recover. Endurance cycling is hard on your body, so you need to fuel it properly before, during, and after workouts.
During long rides, eat carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar levels up. This will help you maintain your power output. After your ride, eat protein to help your muscles repair and grow.
It’s also important to stay hydrated. Dehydration can hurt your performance. Working with a dietitian can help you make sure you’re getting the right nutrients and fluids for your training needs.
8. Rest Days
Taking a day off from training is good for your body. It gives your muscles time to recover, your energy reserves time to rebuild, and minor injuries time to heal.
If you don’t rest enough, your performance will suffer, and you’re more likely to get sick or overtrained. Endurance cyclists need one to two full rest days per week to allow their bodies to adapt to training.
Light active recovery or complete rest will help your body rejuvenate, so you’re ready to go hard again on your next training day. Rest is when your body makes progress.
With motivation and a structured training plan, any cyclist can achieve ambitious endurance goals. To reach your full potential, assess your current fitness level, build a solid foundation by gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your rides, allow your body to rest properly, fuel it appropriately, and mentally prepare for long rides.