Developing both aerobic capacity (endurance) and muscular power (strength) is key to creating the best fitness for Endurance Athletes.
For many cyclists, this means a steady diet of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). With interval sessions designed to grow “top-end” fitness at various durations and power-outputs to make the Athlete successful on event-day.
With that said, and although interval training is an effective means of developing both strength and endurance, there is more to training than just intensity work and recovery fractions.
Just as important is developing a robust “base” of endurance fitness that ensures an Athlete has developed what is referred to as ‘economy of effort’.
Economy of effort for an Athlete happens when both the muscular and aerobic systems become as efficient as possible.
So then, what type of training should an Athlete do?
Is the prescription primarily interval work?
Or is there an approach that develops both the power and endurance necessary to perform optimally?
Interval training is designed to prepare an Athlete for the high-intensity workload that is experienced in competition, but it's only one component of good fitness. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
A Recipe For Great Fitness: Interval Training + Endurance Work
One training methodology that maximizes an Athletes adaptation to training-stress is coupling interval training with endurance work, in the same workout.
Blending HIIT training with endurance work targets both of these critical elements of fitness that are required to be a successful cyclist.
While training, we suggest Athlete’s complete the bulk of their interval work early in a workout (unless prescribed otherwise) and then go on to finish their session with steady-paced endurance work.
This approach ensures that interval work is done powerfully, with ‘fresh’ legs to trigger maximum adaptation, while subsequent endurance-paced riding adds additional training-load without leaving lasting fatigue in the Athletes’ legs.
By structuring training in this way an Athlete receives the benefits of interval training while adding valuable T.S.S. points (Training Stress Score) to each workout.
This translates into a higher level of fitness that is punctuated by strong legs with repeatable efforts.
Endurance training is the 'bread and butter' of elite Athletes, and when coupled with proper HIIT training, this recipe can take your training to the next level! Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
Why Not Just Ride Hard All The Time?
Many Athletes can be forgiven for falling prey to the notion that, “if some intensity is good, more must be better”.
This concept of piling-on copious amounts of interval work, in each training session, is common for Athletes not following a structured training program.
Unfortunately this type of training ends up creating so much lactic acid in an Athletes’ legs that frequent rest days must be added to their training to allow for proper recovery.
This limits the depth of fitness an Athlete can achieve. In short, they will not be strong late in a ride or race.
For other Athletes not following a structured training program, a pitfall that is common is adding endless ‘grey-zone’ training to a workout.
This type of training generally leads to a ‘soft-strength’ where an Athlete can ride somewhat hard all the time.
Generally the Athlete will stunt their interval training, not riding hard enough, then ride too hard during the recommended endurance portion of the session.
This leads to a type of fitness well below an Athletes’ true potential.
It should be said that for most Endurance Athletes, just two or three intensity workouts a week is all the work their bodies can absorb and recover from.
Thus, adding more intensity or grey-zone training than can be recovered from is a recipe for over-training.
A well-prepared Athlete has both the power and endurance to achieve their athletic goals and highest potential. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
Adding Endurance Work To An Interval Training Session
Coupling steady-paced endurance work into any interval session is fairly easy, as all it requires is a little discipline and some open-roads.
Upon completing the prescribed interval work and subsequent recovery periods, settle into a steady endurance Heart Rate or power output, preferably with a quick cadence (85+rpm).
This output is akin to a standard endurance workout and is punctuated with an even-pace regardless of the terrain.
That means your pace will slow on climbs or rises, increase on ‘flats’, and otherwise vary to keep the power-output in the endurance-zone.
What is most important to achieving success when adding endurance work to a training session is riding by H.R. or power, not speed.
An Athlete should expect speed to vary, sometimes widely, based on the terrain and wind conditions during a given training session.
By adding steady-paced endurance work to the back-side of any interval training session an Athlete can increase their daily TSS-point accumulation and grow their fitness as rapidly as possible.
These additional daily and weekly fitness “bonus-points” will go a long way to ensuring an Athlete arrives in the best possible shape for their goal-event.
In closing, training for an endurance event on-road or off, requires developing both strength and endurance. And with limited training time it becomes exceedingly important to develop each element as much as possible.
By following a regular recipe of interval training plus endurance work you can be confident that your training as effectively as possible without risking over-training or having ‘flat’ legs.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching