Over 66 million people in the United States are cyclists and for good reason. Cycling is excellent exercise, providing numerous health benefits and a great cardio workout. While many cyclists use their bikes to commute, get around town, or for recreation, an increasing number are power users who enjoy long distance rides and competing in races.

If you’re one of them, you’re probably wondering how you can increase both your speed and endurance without wrecking your knees or hips, both of which are crucial to being able to ride properly and enjoyably. Traditionally cyclists were told to do slow, and low intensity rides up to 6 hours a day for 12-16 weeks to build endurance, but seriously, who has time for that? Here are some tips that can help you increase endurance and speed without having to spend hours a day doing it.

Polarized Training

Polarized training is based on the theory that we should train either easy or hard and avoid middle ground. In essence, sticking to the opposite “poles” of intensity.  While this means no threshold intervals, which many cyclists find to be little more than torture, or boring tempo sets, it also means the hard work is VERY hard and the easy part long.

A polarized training system should have three zones:

  • Zone 1-High volume, low intensity, achieving 80% of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 2– 80-88% maximum heart rate
  • Zone 3- High intensity, over 88% maximum heart rate.

Interval Training

Studies have shown that when cyclists did two interval training sessions per week for three to six weeks, they improved their endurance and aerobic power output by up to 4%. To do this, 80% of your rises should be in the zone 2 intensity, and 20% at a very high intensity (zone 3 and above). For optimal benefits, do hard intensity intervals between 30 seconds to 5 minutes to build both your aerobic system and your resistance to muscle fatigue. This should be done twice a week with at least a day of recovery in between.

The rest of the week do your rides at a moderate aerobic pace. Be sure to also get plenty of water and sleep, eat right and don’t skip those recovery days. You risk damage and inflammation if you do.

To increase your speed, find a quiet, flat road where you can ride without stopping. After your warm up, do the following intervals:

  • High intensity for 8 minutes
  • Recovery for 4 minutes but don’t stop riding
  • High intensity for 4 minutes
  • Recovery for 2 minutes
  • High intensity for 2 minutes
  • Recovery for 1 minute
  • High intensity for 1 minute
  • Repeat from 1 minute back up to 8

This workout can be done several times a week. In between do your regular moderate intensity rides.

Cycling is fun, healthy and challenging. If you’re into racing or just want to enjoy your long rides more, try our workouts. They will get you in top shape while increasing your speed and endurance, and you won’t have to give up your day job to do it.

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