Whether you’re just starting out or looking to level up your cycling, these essential cycling endurance tips will help you crush those miles. These are the same tips I give my coaching clients and I’ve seen firsthand the difference these nine simple things can make to your cycling performance.
Starting Strong: Building a Foundation
Let’s start with the basics. When it comes to endurance cycling, starting slow and steady is key. I can’t stress this enough – building a solid foundation is crucial for long-term success. I’ve seen too many cyclists burn out by pushing themselves too hard, too soon.
I found this out the hard way when I first started cycling longer distances. After a few weeks of overdoing it, I found myself completely exhausted and sore. It wasn’t until I slowed down and focused on gradually increasing my mileage that I started to see real progress. And it kept cycling fun since I wasn’t nearly as burnt out.
Training for Aerobic Endurance
Incorporating longer, easier rides into your training is key here. Aim for a pace where you can maintain a conversation but still feel challenged. This is also known as Zone 2 or LSD rides for Long, Slow, Distance. This is where the majority of your rides should be done.
Interval Training: Boosting Performance
Interval training is like turbocharging your cycling performance. By alternating between periods of high-intensity effort and recovery, you’ll not only improve your endurance but also boost your overall performance on the bike.
Start with shorter intervals and gradually increase the duration and intensity as you progress. I like to start with a 1:2 ratio eg. 1 minute at a hard effort followed by 1 minutes at a recovery effort. When those start to feel easy, you can increase the hard effort to 2 minutes with 1 minute for recovery. As you start to progress with intervals, you can play around with different time combos for the hard efforts and recovery to mix things up.
Interval training was a game-changer for me. It helped to increase my VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during intense exercise) which is beneficial when tackling tough climbs and technical, old school trails. While interval training helps improve your fitness overall, it’s also taxing on the body and takes more time to recover from. You’ll want to do these efforts less often. More is not better in this case!
Nutrition and Hydration: Fuelling Your Ride
You can’t drive a car on an empty tank and the same goes for cycling. Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for supporting your endurance efforts. Make sure to fuel up with a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. And don’t forget to stay hydrated before, during, and after your rides.
I learned the hard way that skipping meals before a long ride is a recipe for disaster. Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than hitting the wall mid-ride because you’re hangry and your snacks are in the car, which is miles away. Now, I always make sure to fuel up with a decent meal before hopping on my bike with some snacks on hand for the ride.
Rest and Recovery: The Unsung Heroes
Rest days are just as important as training days when it comes to building endurance. Your muscles need time to repair and adapt to the demands of cycling, so don’t skimp on rest. Not only do you need to incorporate rest days into your training schedule and you also need to prioritize quality sleep to optimize recovery.
As someone who used to underestimate the importance of rest, I cannot stress this enough. I noticed a significant improvement in my endurance and overall performance when I started prioritizing rest and recovery.
Strength Training: Off-Bike Benefits
Building strength off the bike can do wonders for your cycling performance. Incorporate strength training exercises targeting your legs, core, and upper body to enhance your overall strength and endurance. Trust me; those hills will feel a whole lot easier with a strong set of legs.
I used to dread hills but after incorporating strength training into my routine, I found myself powering up those climbs. And I’ll admit that it’s tempting to skip leg day, but just cycling isn’t enough. You need to ensure that you don’t end up with muscle imbalances and strength training will fix those.
Pacing Strategies: Mastering the Ride
Learning to pace yourself effectively is essential for long rides. Start conservatively and gradually increase your effort as you warm up. You want to avoid going out too hard and burning out early in the ride. Remember, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
Pacing is what gets me through my long rides. It’s tempting to start off hard but when you’re looking at a long day in the saddle, pacing will help prevent you from burning out mid-ride. I’ve been on other rides where people didn’t pace themselves and they just weren’t finding the ride fun anymore because they no longer had the energy. You really don’t want to be that person.
Bike Fit: Finding Your Perfect Match
Don’t overlook the importance of bike fit. Investing in a professional bike fit will ensure your bike is dialled in to your body’s unique proportions. A properly fitted bike can make all the difference in your comfort and efficiency on the road.
Once I had my bikes fitted professionally, rides were immediately more comfortable. Aches and pains that I thought were normal while cycling were actually due to things like my saddle angle or seat height. I honestly don’t know how I managed to ride my bikes without a proper fit done.
Mindset and Mental Toughness: Strengthening the Psyche
Endurance cycling isn’t just about physical strength – it’s also about mental toughness. Develop a positive mindset and focus on your goals during challenging rides. Breaking the ride into manageable segments and celebrating small victories along the way also help you to stay motivated and mentally strong.
There have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to give up mid-ride. But by staying focused on my goals and pushing through the tough moments, I’ve always come out stronger on the other side. And those tougher rides usually have the best stories!
Building cycling endurance takes time and dedication, but the payoff is well worth it! I hope you found these tips helpful. If you need help with your cycling endurance, contact me.