Archive for March, 2022

Tips For Enhancing Cycling Performance

March 10th, 2022

As with any sport, cycling skill is determined by a combination of factors-physical conditioning, technique, and the quality and quantity of training ranking chief amongst them. But the most important determinant of one’s cycling skills, say experts, is the amount of time spent “in the saddle.” For if one rides often enough, far enough, and fast enough, all of the skills necessary to enhance cycling performance will develop naturally.

Riding to Victory

According to Peak Performance, professional cyclists ride between 20,000 and 40,000km per year. This translates into a 4 to 6 hour ride-per day-365 days of the year. They are not only professionals; they are experienced professionals who know the value of practicing their sport-often.

Most people certainly do not have the same amount of time to devote to riding as do these elite cyclists. However, there is no substitute for practice and, according to Peak Performance, “…there’s no shortcut…[y]ou can’t skirt around the need for time in the saddle and just hammer intervals three or four days a week…[t]here are no quick fixes, no shortcut secrets, no miracle riding intensities allowing you to get by with hardly any “in-the-saddle-hours’ being banked into your ‘riding fitness bank account’ – period.”

But just riding haphazardly is not enough. To be successful at perfecting technique, form, and physical conditioning (which will enhance cycling performance) one must utilize a focused training program that combines training intensity, training endurance, and training frequency with the goal of strengthening one’s aerobic capacity.

Value of Increased Aerobic Capacity

The intensity of a cyclist’s training sessions is important in increasing his/her aerobic capacity, which will ultimately increase the speed and endurance level of the athlete. When the heart muscle is regularly stressed by intense exercise, it becomes more efficient at pumping blood. Consequently, fewer heartbeats are required to perform the same activity. When an athlete achieves this “training effect,” the heartbeat will generally be lower as compared with an untrained individual, even though the physical activities may be the same.

The importance of strengthening aerobic capacity cannot be overemphasized. It is what provides an athlete with the speed and the endurance to successfully compete in a specific sport. As such, it is one of the most important factors necessary to enhance cycling performance.

Calculating your Maximum Heart Rate

The maximum heart rate (MHR) is considered to be the fastest rate that a particular individual’s hear can beat. In order to develop aerobic capacity, one must bring the heart rate into the “training zone” of approximately 80 to 90 percent of his or her MHR. (It is estimated that everyone starts out with a heartbeat of 220 beats per minute and that this heart rate decreases with every year of life. Therefore, the MHR is calculated by deducting current age from 220). While this measurement is an approximation, and a specialist’s evaluation is recommended for serious athletes or those who wish to achieve peak performance for their own personal goals, it is a useful approximation upon which to structure an effective training routine.

Achieving the “Training Effect”

Most athletes know that they must exercise within their “training zone” to increase their aerobic capacity, but many are unsure of what type of exercise intensity will bring them the desired results, and ultimately enhance cycling performance. Consequently, many have chosen interval training (whereby they increase the intensity of the exercise to near maximum heart rate several times during the workout) believing that these short-but very intense-bursts of energy will increase aerobic capacity. But does this really work better than-say-a steady (but substantial) rate of intensity for an extended period of time? Researchers in Denmark say “no,” and point to recent studies.

At Odense University, the researchers selected 16 cyclists to participate in their study. Eight of these research subjects were instructed to ride exercise bikes at an intensity level of 88 to 95 percent MHR for thirty minutes three times a week. The other eight cyclists were instructed to engage in interval training wherein they increased the intensity of their cycling to well above the training zone for 10 seconds and then rested for 50 seconds. In their sessions, they performed 20 intervals per session, 3 sessions per week.

After 5 weeks, the cyclists who had ridden within the training zone for 30 minutes showed a 6 percent increase in aerobic capacity. The cyclists who engaged in interval training, however, failed to increase aerobic capacity, even though their energy use was substantially greater than that of the control group. The results of this study prove that a workout of modest intensity can substantially increase aerobic capacity, albeit the study group was quite small and additional follow-up research is required.

But interval training is hardly worthless. (Indeed, the study focused only upon the effect of extremely short-10 second-intervals) Experts have found that there is a place for interval training-if done correctly.

Interval Training

An excellent way to raise aerobic capacity with interval training, say experts, is to choose the MHR zone that one could sustain for an entire 15-20 minutes of cycling. Then exercise at 5-minute intervals within that MHR zone.This technique has been proven to increase aerobic capacity which, in turn, increases one’s speed and endurance-and hence will enhance cycling performance.

A Training Program to Enhance Cycling Performance

Keeping the goal of increasing aerobic capacity always in mind, a number of experts recommend that recreational cyclists can enhance cycling performance by only spending a minimum of 10 hours per week actually riding a bike-if these 10 hours include a mixture of speed, distance, and endurance riding drills.

That said, a recommended weekly training program should include:

· Three days of high intensity cycling. Two of these days may include interval cycling workouts.

· One day that is considered a “training” ride, where one rides under the same type of conditions as the upcoming riding competition. (These training rides will frequently include all three elements of speed, distance, and endurance and should mimic the same duration and intensity of the competition).

· A one-day “recovery” ride. This ride should be long and slow, providing the body with an opportunity to relax in “the saddle” and unwind.

· The other two days of the week could be used as either a day for cross training or a day to simply rest and regenerate the body.

Although ten hours per week may not seem sufficient to reco