There are many ways to build fitness for cycling longer distances. First and foremost, it is worth noting that in any sport, there are at least two general aspects of fitness – general fitness and sport-specific fitness. General fitness refers to basic fitness measures such as aerobic and anaerobic fitness, muscle endurance and so on. Sport-specific fitness refers to the specific fitness requirements of the sport you partake in. For a simpler example, a climb requires a cyclist to put in a certain wattage over a specific amount of time, which requires a certain form of muscle endurance versus a sprint, which requires a cyclist to cycle at a higher rpm over shorter durations. Likewise, a shorter distance race may require different types of fitness from an ultra-endurance cyclist. At a simpler level, base fitness for a cyclist would refer to his or her aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels but sport-specific fitness refers to power in a pedal stroke, cadence and endurance in sustaining a certain wattage and cadence.
As mentioned above, there are many ways to build base fitness for cycling further. Generally, when training for an endurance or ultra-endurance ride, we should aim to have a 12 to 16 week training period, setting weekly goals for distance. However, seeing as to most of us cyclists are also working professionals, it might be difficult for us to squeeze in 6 hour rides everyday.
Laura Scott, an ultra-endurance cyclist who completed the 2,200 Trans Am Bike Race, uses what she refers to as a polarised training model, which comprises of 80% moderate intensity rides and 20% high intensity rides. She divides her rides into 3 categories, each of different durations and intensities.
1) Threshold Training
She does two fasted threshold sessions a week, each spanning 1.5 hours. This trains her body to perform and ride in a fasted state, essentially training her body to use her fat stores more efficiently.
2) Interval Training
Laura does two interval sessions a week for about a bit more than an hour each time. This helps her improve her endurance, overall fitness and power. She also adds that she usually does her interval training sessions on a trainer as it allows her to do intervals without the disruption of traffic.
3) Aerobic Rides
Lastly, Laura recommends one or two long rides at a steady pace. She mentions that this helps her develop base fitness and endurance. Her goal during aerobic rides is to ride at the steadiest pace she can sustain for the whole duration. She does her aerobic rides with friends and her cycling club on the weekends.
Laura also mentions the importance of diet in improving fitness for ultra-endurance cycling. She mentions that she doesn’t skip breakfast during training days (aside from from fasted training) to avoid bonking. Breakfast includes a lot of carbohydrates and a bit of protein as refuelling after bonking makes it difficult for a cyclist to recover. She also mentions to eat frequently at regular intervals to avoid this. Post-ride nutrition is also important to Laura as she refuels with a drink or meal of 1 part protein to 4 parts carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing her ride. She mentions that carbohydrate uptake by the body is at its maximum when metabolism is still high. This will replenish glycogen stores and this window of metabolism ends after about an hour of rest post-ride. Laura also mentions experimenting with nutrition plans and style as each person is different.
Are you interested in doing your first round-island trip? Perhaps your first century? Try these tips out!