Working Your Limiters

Aerobic Capacity:  Aerobic capacity refers to the body’s ability to use oxygen to release energy in the muscles while riding.  When oxygen processing is your weak spot, you will tend to have that ’sucking wind’ feeling even when your muscles are still strong. 

Aerobic capacity is closely linked to training volume.  Adding even an hour or 2 riding per week will boost your aerobic fitness noticeable.  One manageable way to bump training volume is to go for an easy recovery ride of 30 to 90 minutes after a hard ride.  If you can’t fit an extra recovery ride into your schedule, try doubling or tripling the length of your cooldown at the end of a hard ride instead.

Endurance:  To ride long successfully, your body needs to develop the ability to store large amounts of glycogen or carbohydrate fuel in your legs to burn fat efficiently during cycling.  If you lack these adaptations, which accrue as a gradual result of depleting your muscle glycogen stores in longer-than-normal rides, no amount of drinking or eating will help.  You will experience either complete muscle exhaustion or debilitating leg cramps.

The obvious way to boost endurance is to a a weekly long ride, up to 4 hours. 

Lactate Threshold:  A simple definition of lactate threshold is the maximum power you can sustain for 1 hour.  This is roughly 85% of your max heart rate.  If this is your limiter, you notice you can’t ride at 85% of your max HR for an hour, and that your max sustainable speed/power is too low. 

Allen [Coach in Article] uses a workout called microbursts to efficiently raise an athletes lactate threshold.  After warming up, do 15 seconds ‘on’ at a near sprint, then do 15 seconds ‘off’ at an easy spin.  Continue 10 times.  Since this workout takes less than 10 minutes, Allen recommends the preceding under Maximum Power below.

Anaerobic Capacity:  In practical terms, anaerobic capacity refers to your ability to recover quickly from very hard efforts, those exceeding LT intensity, and to repeat such efforts multiple times. 

There’s no way around it:  To nudge your anaerobic capacity higher, you need to do short intervals at near max effort.  After a 15-minute warm up, do one of these workouts.  In each, ride the hard parts at the highest intensity you can sustain through the last interval without blowing up.  These are hard:  1.  Two to 4 sets of 3 to 5×30 seconds hard and 90 seconds easy spinning, with 5 to 10 minutes easy spinning between sets.  2.  Two sets of 5×1 minutes hard followed by 3 minutes of easy spinning with 5 to 10 minutes easy spinning between sets.  3.  Two sets of 5×2 minutes hard followed by 3 minutes of easy spinning with 5 to 10 minutes easy spinning between sets.

Maximum Power:  This is the ability to contract and relax the muscles very quickly.  Power is the ability to apply force quickly.  Cyclists typically train for power by emphasizing force (pushing big gears).  Allen’s high-rev sprints emphasize the speed aspect, which means high cadence and big power gains without big time commitment.  After a thorough warm up, start at a slow speed, only 5 to 8 MPH, and in your small chain ring, and middle gear on cassette.  Do a 10 second all out sprint with only 1 to 2 gear changes.  wind out the gear before shifting, like you do in a car, going up to 120 rpm before shifting.  Complete 6 to 8 sprints, recovery 2 minutes after each sprint.  Allen suggests doing these sprints, then moving on to microbursts.