Christmas Training Tip 2017 on Why You Should Add Endurance Training Now
by Rob Crowe O.A.M. ‘The Wiser Rider’
There’s an old saying in my sport, that’s proven by personal experience plus a lot of other top riders over the years telling me it is so, and it’s fool-proof, so I live my cycling life by it. That is…
If you are ever in any doubt about your cycling condition, just get on the Blue Train* (a.k.a. add endurance base kilometers).
Now, if you have time over the upcoming Christmas Break, then add endurance, because it’s hard to get good quality endurance rides to fit in over the rest of the year. Endurance or base fitness training is longer, steadier, aerobic intensity (65-75% of Max HR effort, or approx 65% of your FTP output) kilometers but without lactic acid build-up or surges or heavy load on the muscles. Unless you’re clever or creative or know what its really doing to you, it can be a rather boring, monotonous or frustrating time-wasting exercise – or – it can be an enlightening, energising, health-building, meditative session that you look back at months from now and realise how well your motor now works because of it. Base training develops the body’s ability to process oxygen in a highly aerobic combusting environment adding lots of H2O as well, not too much strain but not too easy a challenge, and same same doing it for a decent period of time. That’s what riding on the ‘Blue Train’ is.
There’s no question that endurance is a time-consuming ordeal, as it requires at least 2 hours to create significant aerobic base improvement, but here’s an insight behind what’s going on…
What you are actually achieving during the longer endurance rides is equipping your body with a better functioning fundamental ability to recover well. This higher function stands you in good position for when the physiological challenges come later on (and they WILL come!) as in all of the other higher intensity riding that strains your engine in various ways. Examples? Fast rides, bunch rides, short sprints, hill-climbs, head-winds, surges, doing turns at the front, chasing, rushing late, racing friends, pacing someone else, Ridewiser Ergo sessions, and pretty much any other intensive cycling session!
The human body likes steady effort, it understands the demands and gets busy doing it really well (if the situation stays the same for a while!), and the body has time to figure out oxygen debts and muscle demands and so it works hard to become more efficient at it ASAP, if you keep at it. There are processes taking place inside the body while you ride the ‘Blue Train’ (as in stay at a steady-state low-level output) that are totally preoccupied with developing the physiological system to be more efficient at extracting the oxygen, sending it to the work sites, mixing O2 into muscle fuel, and driving the pedals around, for a longish time, until it does all of this with much less fatigue side-effects.
During the longer endurance training phases in my time with the Australian Olympic Team training camps in 1990-1992, we would be reaching 1250km per week for 2 full weeks at the peak of the program in January. We used to agree in the team that when the body’s endurance level was fit (scientific: a.k.a. E1 aerobic energy system), then instead of feeling exhausted at the end of rides, we’d feel energised. This was the result of massively increased efficiency in the body’s ability to work at that intensity level. Then we knew we were ready to start the next 4-week training phase, muscle-loaded strength intervals (see How to Train for a Gran Fondo… Step 2 scheduled for release in early Jan 2018)
But it’s the hidden benefit of all this Blue Train riding that makes endurance fitness actually interesting. What a lot of experienced cyclists and sport brains do not understand well is that the more important, longer lasting, and less obvious benefit of having a fitter E1 endurance energy system, is that a deeply invested infrastructural gain is now working for you in the background and will demonstrate an improved ability to recover faster overnight from much harder cycling sessions. See, when the big hard hilly rides come along, and you are truly buggered at the end of the training day, when the lights go out and the brain switches off for the night, the fitter ‘Blue Train’ endurance-conditioned motor keep working like a big fly-wheel as you sleep. The human recovery factory’s ‘conveyor belts’ keep running and the stronger heart muscle keeps pumping healing oxygen around while you sleep at lower metabolism, all through the night now, more efficiently and with less effort, churning through the work of fixing cells and rejuvenating fuel stores and tuning the engine back to ready. Then you’re much better prepared for the next heavy cycling training hour when it comes, to go harder, deeper, longer at higher pedaling pressure – because for the human physiology, adding any amount of Blue Train endurance fitness is like relaying some of the foundation under a house, so anything you then build on top will be sturdier for it.
And remember, if you’re ever in any doubt, or things just don’t feel right? Get on the Blue Train. Try it and feel the power come up.
Now THAT’s as good a reason as ever to go endurance riding this summer Xmas period, and you can bet I’ll be out there creating my good base fitness for 2018 over the coming weeks too.
Ridewiser Ergo offers ‘endurance training hours’ between 12-2pm Wednesdays at $22/visit for riders wanting to attend anytime between 12 and 2pm to develop their base and cycling health.
Stay Upright & Insight
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Rob @ Ridewiser
* Blue Train is a term probably drawn from the ‘going along steadily’ for a long time without interruption (like a train) and the associated low intensity of effort likened to large volumes of time spent over flatter terrain (like the ocean).