Here is why you should include high intensity cycling training in your training plan.
Cycling is an endurance sport and certainly requires training your aerobic endurance in order for you to be able to ride your bike longer. Many cyclists spend a good deal of their training time riding at moderate paces in order to build this aerobic endurance. Unfortunately, this training quickly becomes ineffective at improving a cyclist’s ability to ride faster or harder. Once you are able to ride your bike consistently long enough to complete your goal event, it is important to incorporate frequent, consistent, high intensity cycling training to continue to improve and be able to ride faster.
For many years, the common wisdom was that it was beneficial for riders to ride lots of long slow to moderate miles in the early season to build an aerobic base fitness. This wisdom came from professional cycling, where riders could ride for hours in a row, day after day to build this endurance. Without this type of huge volume, riding at easy to moderate intensity does not cause enough stress on an athlete to continue to improve their cycling.
Additionally, after many years of consistent endurance training, most cyclists will have built a solid base fitness that is very resilient and does not fade away in the off-season. It does not take most experienced amateur cyclists months of endurance training to rebuild any endurance fitness that they may have lost in the off-season.
Instead of focusing on spending months trying to build better endurance, which will have limited benefits for most bike racers, you would be better served to work on improving your race fitness by incorporating high intensity cycling training into your training plan. These workouts can be varied, and may work different fitness systems, but will help you to reap greater benefits from your training time.
Keep in mind that in order to be prepared to perform these interval sessions, you will need to be adequately recovered. This doesn’t mean that you need to have completely fresh legs, but you will need to take your recovery days and rides seriously. Depending on your level of fitness and your ability to recover from the workouts, aim to include at least 2-3 high intensity interval workouts a week. If you find that you recover from these workouts quickly, you can work in an additional interval workout.
These intervals can range from threshold level, sustained high output intervals to short, all-out bursts of power. The key is to work on building the high level of fitness that will help you to race better.
While the high intensity cycling training can be a huge benefit to many cyclists, you don’t want to totally neglect endurance training. Continue to incorporate at least one long ride per week that will be at least or close to as long as your longest events. This will help you maintain the endurance that you have previously built up. These endurance rides should mostly be lower intensity rides unless you are combining some high intensity training into a longer training day. This is ok to do once in awhile or if you are experienced and have a high training volume and a deep base endurance fitness. If this is not the case, a long ride which is also intense can cause enough training stress that it will take you several days to be able to recover from this and get back to your high intensity interval workouts. Often, being overly ambitious in this regard can lead to lower overall training stress than if you follow a more conservative daily approach.
Regardless of your current level of training experience and fitness level, high intensity cycling training will likely help you to get faster and improve your bike racing results. Consider including these types of interval training workouts into your training plan even in the early season. Talk to your coach about incorporating regular intervals into your early season training to set you up for a great racing season or look for a training plan that includes regular high intensity training.
If you’re looking for a training plan or coaching that will help you implement this type of training, check out my training plans and coaching services.