No matter why you want to build your cycling endurance, whether it’s to keep up with friends on weekend rides or compete in a triathlon, the path to get there is the same. In order to increase cycling endurance and stamina, you need to progressively increase the load on your cardiovascular system to help make it strong and last longer.
To help you achieve this goal, we’ve got some tips below to get you there.
One way to increase your stamina without having to spend extra hours on your bike each day is to do interval training. When doing interval training, you differ your pace between very intense and easier for recovery. Depending on the training program and your fitness level, the intense intervals can range from 30 seconds to five minutes and the recovery intervals are around the same. Start with three to six of these intensity intervals.
With this type of training, your body increases max oxygen, which is an important marker for aerobic endurance. Doing this can work better than doing slow and long rides or really intense workouts. As you start to gain more fitness, you should increase the number of reps you are doing and the intensity.
Still Work on Some Long Rides
Interval training is effective, but it shouldn’t be done for every workout, so you still need to incorporate some longer bike rides. Interval training should not be done more than two days a week and you don’t want to do it on consecutive days. On other days, you should incorporate some other rides of various lengths, depending on if you are training for anything.
If you are training for an endurance event, then add in a couple longer rides each week to help get your body used to being on the bike for these longer periods of time. If you aren’t training and just looking to maintain your fitness level, then you can have some rides that are less than an hour at a moderate speed.
The key to building endurance is to do it slowly, so that you don’t get injured. In the beginning, it can be a little overwhelming and you can bite off more than you can chew. Start with shorter interval workouts and shorter rides. Then set weekly and monthly goals for increasing your endurance. Each week, add some distance to the rides or up the intensity.
Some cyclists don’t think about lifting weights and think that some extra muscle mass can slow them down while riding. However, this isn’t true and resistance training is very effective. By doing resistance training, you can overload muscles and put stress on them, so they recover stronger than they were before. Strengthen the muscles that are used often in cycling, such as the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, to make them less fatigued so you have more endurance on the bike.
Don’t Forget Recovery
Overtraining can cause injuries and stall your progress, so rest is key. Have at least one recovery day every week. Don’t do consecutive hard workouts, unless it’s not done often and part of a specific type of training plan. Interval training can be stressful, especially if your pace is ambitious, so you don’t want to forget recovery. Without proper recovery, you could have high levels of stress hormones, which can led to inflammation and do damage over time. The key is to find a balance.
Not only is rest important, but so are stretching and mobility work to help aid in recovery. By properly stretching, you can improve movement and functionality, which can help improve endurance. After you do a warm up on the bike, get off and do some dynamic stretches, such as walking knee grabs and walking lunges.
Doing these movements will prepare the body for what is to come and help prevent injuries. After riding, static stretches that you hold for up to a minute are helpful. Stretch before and after your rides, and on off days do some mobility exercises. Mobility exercises will help increase your range of motion and help with tired muscles.
Diet and Sleep Are Important
If you are tired off the bike, you will likely be tired on the bike, so getting enough sleep is important to help improve endurance. If you aren’t eating the proper nutrients, you won’t have the fuel you need to keep going on the bike. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night and your diet should be rich in veggies and fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Fuel for Rides
Having a proper diet is important for overall fitness, but you also need to focus on fuel for you rides. You need to make the most of your internal reserves, which are the glycerin in the muscles, glucose in the blood stream, and fat stored in the muscles. What will keep you from riding is running out of muscle glycogen or low blood glucose levels. With low levels you can hit the wall or block that you hear cyclists talk about.
In order to ride longer, you need to increase your carbohydrate intake one or two days before your long ride. You can do this by eating carbohydrate foods every three hours and drinking plenty of water with each meal. You still need to ride easy on these days. If you carb load and then have short, sharp rides it will not maximize your glycogen stores. Even with glycogen stores stocked, you still need to eat a pre-ride breakfast in order to help maximize endurance.
About two hours before you head out, eat a breakfast that has carbs, protein, and fat. Don’t eat too close to going on your ride, since this will reduce endurance instead of improving it.
Have Fuel Throughout Your Ride
Just because you have prepared by eating the proper diet beforehand and fuel before you head out, it doesn’t mean you can skip out on fuel during your ride. You need to get some calories in either liquid or solid form every 20 minutes or else you will crash. For every hour of your ride, you should be aiming for 60 grams of carbs.
Research has shown those that consume 15g of honey every 10 miles have improved performance than with just water alone. If you have been fueling with just water alone, try to get in some fuel during your rides and see if that helps you ride longer. You may have to try a few different things in order to know what sets right in your stomach. Don’t try anything new the day of an event and try out fuel options throughout your long training rides.