Monday, 7 January 2013

Riding back to Fitness

Coming back to the bike after a long break is hard work.  Regular readers will know from my recent post about my year end mileage that I had a poor last quarter to 2012, covering only 143 miles, so it's back to the grindstone to re-build my fitness for the Spring.  

On the positive side, within the first week of 2013 I've already covered 133 miles, nearly what I covered in the last twelve weeks of 2012.  I wanted to come into the New Year, having cleared all my colds, with a good start and get straight back into a routine of at least 100 miles per week.

Building Your Base

The key to building a good base is not going straight out there and blasting it as fast as you can go.  With poor fitness, you won't go far and you'll end up breathing through your ears before long and blowing.

It's all about covering distances within heart rate zones 2-3, which are the basic endurance and aerobic endurance zones.  It's not about miles covered, or how fast you can ride, it's simply going out for two to three hours and controlling your heart rate through your gears and cadence to stay within certain parameters by wearing a heart rate monitor.

My maximum heart rate is 187 bpm, so I would ride for around three hours ensuring my heart rate is at least 75% of my maximum (140bpm for aerobic endurance) as I already have 3,000 miles of training from 2012.  If starting from zero, 65% of your maximum works on your basic endurance (120bpm or otherwise known as 'base miles).   

You end up pedalling super slow up inclines, super fast down descents and at a smooth, steady average on the flats.  You'll be pedalling below what you think is your ability, people will be passing you, but don't worry just stick with it.  

In the long term it's the best way to build a deep aerobic engine which will allow you to ride long distances in an aerobically efficient way.  Before long, you'll notice that even riding at the same heart rate, your average speed will increase, that's the sign you're getting stronger.

2% slower speed, 8% lower heart rate

To give you some idea, here's some comparable ride data from my last three rides. Ride one was my first one back after a long break, conditions were awful with gusting winds and I felt terrible.  You can see from my heart rate how hard the going was, 150bpm to achieve 13.4mph - possibly one of my worst rides ever!

Ride 2 was an aerobic endurance ride, so it's all about the heart rate during the three and a half hour outing on Saturday morning.  Without the wind, my speed was around 9% faster.  Ride 3, which I did the day after ride 2 I decided to slow the pace down in terms of my heart rate like a recovery ride, however you can see only 2% negative difference in my average speed but with a heart rate 8% lower than the day before.

Before you rush out and think you can achieve this within two rides, a word to the wise.  I've already built my underlying aerobic engine over three years, my rides are simply kicking it back into action.  What I want you to understand is the principle of effectively going slower, to go faster in the long term by controlling your heart rate and therefore your training outcome.

I'll be spending Jan-March riding in this way. to put at least 1000 miles on the clock in my zone 3 aerobic endurance zone, ready to step-up training between April-June prior to riding from London to Paris again.  Let's hope the weather keeps up!

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