PT on the Net Research

Cycling – Endurance Training


Question:

My new client would like to prepare for a 31 day cycling trip that she will begin in eight weeks. Her group of three have planned to cycle approximately six to eight hours a day with one day of complete rest each week. Their goal is to average 120km each day. Do you have any suggestions for maximum preparation in the short time frame?

Answer:

This is a tough one since I do not know her current fitness level or cycling history. My recommendations will be general and not too specific because of this.

It is important to get some quality time and miles in the saddle in the next eight weeks. In addition, you should periodize a strength training program that focuses on sub maximal strength the first four to six weeks that highlight cycling specific primary (quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors) and secondary muscles (low back, triceps, neck, forearms) and focus more on an endurance program the lasts three to four weeks before the event.

Since her goal is to ride six days per week for four weeks for about 75 miles per day, it is important to periodize her cycling program. Since we know her longest day will be about 75 miles, you must ensure that that mileage is "easy" for her, since she will be doing it for six days in a row. Therefore, it would be wise to follow the rule of increasing her mileage by 10 to 20 percent per week, but you should use an undulating model of periodization (differing mileage and intensity each time she rides: one day is hills, another flat and sub lactate, another is rolling hills pushing the up hills standing with low RPMs, etc). I usually don't like to go higher than 10 percent, but if she is a well-conditioned cyclist, she can handle up to 20 percent without risk of overtraining. However, if she is relatively new to cycling, it would be wise to stick closer to 10 percent.

I would have her ride three to four times per week the first one to two weeks and then bump it up to four to five over the next one to two weeks, then to five to six times the next three to four weeks. Be sure to allow for recovery weeks of lesser volume but moderate to high intensity rides (like hills or sub lactate rides) every third or fourth week so her body improves. For example, if she rides 200 miles the first week, the next week should be 220 to 240 and so forth (except for the recovery weeks where you should decrease volume by 20 to 30 percent).

Without knowing her exact fitness level and cycling history, it is hard for me to provide a specific training program for her. Following the above guidelines will provide you a great start.

The key points to her training program are:

  1. Hydration and nutrition - she must practice what she will do during her 31 day event during training
  2. Comfortable clothing
  3. Proper bike fit
  4. Time/mileage in the saddle
  5. Proper periodization in the eight weeks (10 to 20 percent increase per week) to prevent overtraining before her epic event
  6. Proper strength training program to provide anatomical adaptation and functional strength for cycling and cycling posture

Good luck, and please let me know if I can be of further assistance.