Have you ever signed up for an event, be it an endurance race, charitable function or group ride with your mates and wondered what sort of training you should do to make sure you are in reasonable shape come race day?

High Intensity Training

Your event or race will only ever go as well as your training programme and despite popular belief, high intensity training is not always the best way to go about preparing for an endurance event. Whilst this form of training will help you to get fast on a bike, without a proper foundation of base training, you will fail to build aerobic endurance. This means that after a few weeks, you will start to slow down and come race day you will be cooked before you start!

The process of commencing a training routine and gradually adding layers to develop race ready fitness is affectionately known as Base Training and it is the platform on which everything else rests. As you build your endurance you can eventually get more out of a higher intensity programme and heavier training load. However, you should always start this process with a Base Training programme.

When you ride for two or more hours at a steady pace, your body responds by allowing you to burn more fat for fuel and use more oxygen. These rides build more capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen rich blood to your muscles. The part of your cells that produce energy, your mitochondria, will also multiply and enlarge, meaning you will churn more enzymes that help turn stored fuel into energy. The outcome of this will be that you can ride longer and faster.

Another important factor of course is that base building rides tend to be more social and fun, so you can just enjoy your bike, your riding company and regaining your energy after a long week without being worried about going too hard.

Strong base building starts with solid rest, everyone needs a period after a heavy programme, event or structured training to chill out, kick back and enjoy life. This rest period of inactivity is crucial to allow muscles to recover and grow. The rest period is wear a lot of gains are made in general health and fitness and will have you feeling fresh and ready to go, when you re-commence your programme. Building a solid also requires you to work on other areas such as strength and riding technique.

The following guidelines should be followed:

  • Pace Yourself

You may have heard of LSD (long, slow distance) rides, these rides should be conducted at around a Level 2 intensity. This is approximately 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. The key here is to keep the intensity consistent, avoid fluctuating between coasting and max effort. About 40% of your training during base building should be at a Level 2 intensity.

  • Work on Technique

Develop your pedalling technique to ensure you have consistent force all of the way through the power stroke. One way to develop this is through mountain bike riding as you must keep yourself balanced and strokes consistent to avoid skidding on loose terrain. If not, do 2 or 3 rides per week at a cadence of around 95 revolutions per minute.

  • Patience

Many believe that base training can only properly be achieved by low intensity workouts and that short, high intensity session will deplete your base training efforts. This simply is not true, and whilst high intensity training won’t build endurance, it won’t ruin your base either, so feel free to mix it up on occasions to stop your training from becoming monotonous.

  • Use Force

Riding for long periods of time requires strength and power. Designate one or two rides a week for seated hill climbing as this helps to build hip and knee strength needed for power improvement. If you are over 40, female or a skinny build you may need to increase your lower body muscle mass through gym work including squats, leg presses and step-ups.

  • Go Steady

Base building is not an exact science, there is no exact number for how long the base building period should last. Roughly 6-12 weeks is a ballpark figure. You should always use a heart rate monitor and power meter when training and you can then measure when you’ve built up your ‘base.’ You can monitor your efficiency factor by dividing your power number (in watts) by your average heart rate. There is no absolute or milestone figure but you should see a general increase as your training programme progresses.

High Intensity Training

Base Building Basics - The following is a sample training week, incorporating all the fundamental elements mentioned above. Try it for 4 to 6 weeks (or until you hit a plateau) increasing your duration by 15 minutes each week in the lead up to your event.

MON Easy Cross Training 0.5 – 1 hour Easy
TUES Hills/Strength Training 1 hour Moderate to Hard
WED Slow, long distance ride 1.5 – 2 hours Majority Easy
THUR Hills/Strength Training 1 hour Moderate to Hard
FRI Easy Cross Training 0.5 – 1 hour Easy
SAT Slow, long distance ride 1.5 – 2 hours Majority Easy
SUN Slow, long distance ride 1.5 – 2 hours Majority Easy

Effort Range EASY – You can talk in full sentences and are not breathless. MODERATE – Your breathing is heavier, but you can still hold some conversation. HARD – Not able to talk in any more than short sentences. And thats about it for this week. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below! If there is anything in particular you would to hear us cover, don't hesitate to let us know in the comments, or send me an email at geoff@bicyclestore.com.au. Thanks for reading, until next time, enjoy your ride! Geoff