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Conditioning For Cyclists

Part 3 - -Conditioning using your bike 

In Conditioning for Cyclists Part 2, we suggested methods of strength training appropriate to cycling. In this section we will suggest an approach to conditioning that can be done on a stationary bike if you have one, or on the bike you ride outdoors. This method is suggested by Selene Yeager, a professional health and fitness author and USA cycling coach among other qualifications. Selene Yeager is the author of the book, “The Fit Chick”.

Selene suggests a “Goldilocks” approach to training where you aim to do 3 key rides per week; one high intensity interval ride (HIIT) sometimes referred to as “Oh, man, I’m dying!”; one Low intensity endurance ride ( LISS) or “Hey, this is too easy!”, and one in the middle of the two we will call “Just Right”. This approach taps into all the muscle fibers and energy systems one needs for endurance and speed. Warm up for 10-15 minutes then cool down afterwards. Here we go:


High Intensity Interval Training

For increased mitochondria, your energy building blocks; plus improved oxygen uptake ( VO2 max ) and lactate threshold. Push hard for the interval then go easy for a quick recovery, then repeat 8-10 times for one set of intervals. Rest for 5 minutes then do another set. Interval training is easier to do on a stationary bike, however intervals can also be done on a flat road if one chooses a lightly traveled area with good visibility all around and is extra cautious. Choose from the following:

  1. 1)  40 sec. on/ 20 sec. off

  2. 2)  30 sec. on/ 30 sec. off

  3. 3)  20 sec. on/ 10 sec. off

Do each “on” interval at 95-100 % of your Maximum Heart Rate ( MHR). You can find an approximation of your maximum heart rate by taking 220 minus your age. So, if you are 50, your maximum is about 170. Note that your maximum may be a little higher or lower than someone else the same age. If you have a heart rate monitor that you wear you will get more accurate results and instantaneous readings.

Those with a gym membership or the Silver Sneakers or other insurance based program can often use spin bikes at LA Fitness and a number of other gyms for FREE! Check with your insurance provider to find out what you have available for fitness training.


Low Intensity Steady State

Take a long, steady ride keeping your heart rate below labored breathing. Try to ride from 1-1/2 to 3 hours at 65 % to 74% of your MHR. This type of riding builds mitochondria and improves lactate clearance capacity.

Just Right

This is where you find your “comfortably hard” zone. This effort will boost your stamina. Aim to hit 80-85% of MHR.Start with 3 - 10 minute efforts with a 5 minute rest between each for recovery. As you get more stamina, try to do 2 - 20 minute efforts with a 5 minute rest between. This is a conditioning “Sweet Spot “.


Our Friends at Global Cycling Network have videos on strength, endurance and conditioning training as well as indoor and outdoor cycling workouts anyone can do to improve themselves. You can find their videos on Youtube at globalcyclingnetwork.com.

Conditioning your body is every bit as important in your enjoyment of cycling as is the condition of your bike. If you have made sure the tires have the right amount of air in them, the brakes work effectively, and there is nothing unsafe about your bike, then it is in condition to ride. If you do the same for yourself, you will become a better cyclist with greater strength to get up hills, and more endurance to go the distance you set as your goal!

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