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Thread: Getting Faster

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    Senior Member surgtech1956's Avatar
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    Getting Faster

    I'll be 56 the end of the month, about 20# overweight female. Last year I bought a new bike (Specialized Secteur Elite Comp) and averaging about 12 mph. I ride about 5-6 days a week. I guess I equate faster = fitter. Yes? No? Maybe? Is the best way to improve by riding more or incorporate some type of intervals? I work 4 - 10 hour days(my job involves standing 100%). My main goal for riding is fitness, weight loss, and maybe something like a 1/2 century/century. I joined a local bike club but all of their rides are over 15 mph. Any advice on training? How do you train? Thank you for any feedback

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    I have almost the same bike. Mine is the Secteur Triple and what I like best is that it is versatile. The bike will take 28mm tires and has mount points for a rear rack. In cool weather, Spring or Fall, The rear trunk will hold extra layers, a really warm fleece hat, gloves or whatever might be necessary for a change in weather.

    Anyway, your question was about training. There is a large amount of free info on the web from experienced trainers that can be easily googled. I prefer to curl up with a book. Denver Fox recommended "Cycling Past 50" by Joe Friel who is a well regarded trainer.

    Generally, training begins with a process called building a base in which your body undergoes changes to accept the physical load being imposed. Even long time cyclists, after a layoff, begin with building a base. At some point you begin to be somewhat stronger and a bit faster with not too much discomfort. This point, no doubt, will vary from person to person. In my case, I get a bit faster every year but as a 73 y.o. man I don't sweat it if I'm not the fastest wheel in the peloton. In fact, I'm close to the slowest rider on club rides but this is not a problem for me.

    This is early season so I'm in a base building phase. My rides so far this year have been from 20 to 50 miles. Last year the longest ride was 71 miles with 30 to 60 miles more typical. It is fun to go fast but as an asthmatic I don't have the lung power to sustain hard efforts. Still, every year so far I'm a bit faster and can ride longer. My mantra is to do as much as I can as long as I can. Enjoy the ride.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    If you are fitter, you'll be able to ride faster, yes. But terrain and weather conditions make a huge impact on how fast you can go. So where training is concernd it can be better to go on time, and how much effort you are making, than just assuming that fastest is best.

    You are riding 5-6 days per week. You don't say how long those rides are. If they average an hour or more, that's pretty good. Let's say you can spend seven hours a week on the bike. I'd suggest a couple of rides of two hours each at your 12mph average, or whatever speed you can readily maintain for that time. That leaves three hours, which I'd divide between three rides. One would be an hour at the fastest speed you can maintain - not a sprint, but definitely going harder than is entirely comfortable, so you feel at the end of the hour that you have done all you can. A constant, steady effort. Another ride would be an interval session with five or six two-minute periods where you go as hard as you can, taking two or three minutes between each to recover. The remainder of the ride is a warm-up for 15 minutes at the start, and a warm-down for 15 minutes at the finish. And one day a week I'd spend an hour on the bike at a very gentle pace, deliberately keeping your effort level low and just spinning along really easily.

    Take a couple of days off per week, especially since your job involves a lot of standing.

    If you do this I am confident that you will soon be able to hang with your club mates on a 15mph ride. And when you do, you will find that maintaining that speed in a bunch is much easier than doing it alone, because the rider in front of you pushes the air out of your way.

    Good luck. Let us know how you get on.

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    Senior Member BikeArkansas's Avatar
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    Most of the riders I know that have started where you are, like I did, started improving after going on some club rides. You will probably get dropped. Getting dropped means the other club riders will be riding too fast for you and you will be left behind.

    Getting dropped is not fun, but OK. Try each ride to stay with your group longer before getting dropped. Someday, you will be pulling the group (Pulling means you are the lead or front rider). Time and effort will prevail.
    I started riding my bike to get healthy. Now I try to stay healthy so I can ride my bike.

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    Ride in headwinds. Map courses with hills or pick a local hill if possible and do reps on it. Of course, that's just for in-betweeners of longer distance/saddle time.

    You'll get stronger, better and faster if you are working at it.
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    Watching and waiting. jethro56's Avatar
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    If your cadence is only 60 rpm which I've heard is average. Dropping a gear and spinning faster is one of the quickest fixes. 90-100 rpm is a good goal. That transfers more of the work to the cardio system which i think responds to training quicker than adding muscle mass. In my limited experience (second season) trying to add muscle mass while trying to lose weight is difficult in the extreme. Over the winter I cut way back on cardio work and concentrated on building strength. My hope this season is just to maintain that new strength. Any average speed increases will have to come from being able to maintain that effort for longer periods and getting more aero in my riding position( greater time in the drops, arms bent more, elbows back). But like I said I'm pretty new at this.

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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    averaging about 12 mph. I ride about 5-6 days a week. I guess I equate faster = fitter. Yes? No? Maybe? Yes.

    Is the best way to improve by riding more or incorporate some type of intervals? No, not at this stage.

    My main goal for riding is fitness, weight loss, and maybe something like a 1/2 century/century. I joined a local bike club but all of their rides are over 15 mph. Any advice on training? How do you train? - the club ride probably isn't helpful until you can keep up. or they have a social ride which is slower.

    My advice to improve is pretty simple, and you don't need any sort of training regimen. Ride every day, no excuses. Try to improve something every time out. Except, when your body objects (knees, sore legs, generally lower energy level etc), just make it a shorter, slower ride. You will improve, slowly but perceptibly, to whatever level you want depending on the effort you put into it.

    added:
    I work 4 - 10 hour days(my job involves standing 100%). The good news is that it doesn't impact cycling. It used to amaze me that even when I felt dead on my feet, after getting on the bike the feeling vanishes and I could still get a workout. We don't really use the same muscles that got fatigued by that.
    Last edited by wphamilton; 04-08-12 at 10:12 AM.

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    Senior Member teachme's Avatar
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    I ride a Specialized Sectuer triple also. I have been riding about a year and I was able to stay with a 15mph club ride almost from the first time I rode. My wife started riding about 6 months ago and she was in the 10 to 12 mph range. We are in a group and we would ride with the group who were going 15 to 16 mph. I stayed back with her when she started to get dropped by the group. We would catch up to the group at reststops and so forth. Recently my wife has gotten stonger and faster and is able to stay with the group at 15 to 18mph. See if there is someone in your group who will stay back with you until you can buile up strength and stamina to stay with the group. Our group has a "no-rider left behind" policy, so someone is always willing to stay back with a beginning rider. Good luck to you, an be assured that you can achieve your goal, my wife and I are both 54 yrs old and we did it.
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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jethro56 View Post
    In my limited experience (second season) trying to add muscle mass while trying to lose weight is difficult in the extreme. Over the winter I cut way back on cardio work and concentrated on building strength.
    Unless you are training to be a track sprinter I can't think of a good reason for a cyclist to focus on building muscle mass. Road cycling is overwhelmingly an aerobic activity, lack of muscle mass is almost never the limiting factor. Look at Bradley Wiggins.
    He is 6'3", he weighs 69kilos/150lbs, his legs are like matchsticks and he has a shot at winning the Tour de France this year. In order to turn himself into a contender he lost ten kilos, a d since he was already a gold medallist on the track I think we can be certain that not much of it was fat. Lighter and skinnier is faster.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Senior Member linear's Avatar
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    I joined a local bike club but all of their rides are over 15 mph. Any advice on training? How do you train? Thank you for any feedback
    Ride as much as you comfortable can. When on group rides, very short pulls or skip if the pace is too high. Ask people you ride with how they started out, people like to help out. You will find you can go quite a bit faster with a group. Learning to "ride a wheel" takes practice and requires a group. You will have to push yourself to go harder, you maybe suprised at how much you improve. If you could average 15mph you would be much to fast for a 15mph group IMO. Good luck

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    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    You are where I am (I am 57 and started riding a year ago) and I have not increased my speed all winter, despite riding close to 400 miles a month. Too bad you are not closer, we could ride together.

    This spring I am going to work on the speed some. My plan is similar to what chasm suggests. Ride some long rides at the usual pace. Ride short rides pushing it at a faster pace. I have mixed feelings on the intervals as I hate them so much. I am now in southern Iowa where it is somewhat hilly. Instead of intervals I am going to try to work the hills.

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    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    This is one of those things that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. But...if you use the early season to put easy miles in (building a base as has been said) you will strengthen your legs, lungs and heart and lose some weight. Then you will be ready to do some hills and I would recommend having one ride a week that you test yourself for speed. I use a 15 mi. route I call my time trial. The key is riding consistently during each week and having appropriate recovery days. I take one or two days a week to stay off the bike. By the end of the season you will have lost weight, gotten fitter and gotten faster. Be careful not to burn out and dread riding. Groups are always good for socializing and inducement to keep riding. I try to blend riding for goal achievement and riding for a laid back kind of pleasure. In the end the more you ride the better and easier it gets.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldfinch View Post
    I have mixed feelings on the intervals as I hate them so much. I am now in southern Iowa where it is somewhat hilly. Instead of intervals I am going to try to work the hills.
    LOL. Most people don't have "mixed feelings" about interval training. If you don't hate them you aren't trying hard enough.

    But hills is good. Going hard up some shortish hills and using the descents to recover is just interval training, really.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    I ride 3 or 4 times a week. Rest days are just as important. Sunday is the long ride of 40 miles + Then Tuesday do a 20 miler on a flat course just a bit faster than my Sunday time. Then Thursday it is hills with 2,400 to 3,000ft of climbing on a 20 mile route. May go out Saturday on a flattish route with just a few slopes in it for 20 miles to the LBS.

    When I am fit enough- I will go for a few extra miles on the Sunday ride- hoping to get to about 60 miles and on the hilly ride I will sprint the last 200yards of the slopes or hills and then recover before I attempt another sprint.

    You don't say what mileage you are doing but getting out for at least 1 hour and keeping the legs and lungs working firmly does improve fitness. Don't mean sprinting for all that time but getting so the legs are "Just" feeling the strain and the lungs are working hard is the only way to improve. You may not feel that you can do that at your current fitness but there is nothing to stop you pushing hard for 5 minutes at a time---And then recovering fully.
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    Senior Member surgtech1956's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the great advice. I usually ride between 45-60 minutes. I don't have any hills, but an overpass. I'm going to do some longer rides - 2 hours. I will try some short rides, faster than my average.

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    Quote Originally Posted by surgtech1956 View Post
    Thanks for all the great advice. I usually ride between 45-60 minutes. I don't have any hills, but an overpass. I'm going to do some longer rides - 2 hours. I will try some short rides, faster than my average.
    And look for a club that has a 12-14 mph social ride. Most decent size clubs will have a ride in this category. The ride will have regroups and often the "leader" will hang back with the caboose. It's motivating to ride with others of your same ability who are also trying to improve.
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    With your goals, I would first examine what you ride now. You ride 5-6 days a week which is great, but are all these rides short? Your schedule is very agreeable to getting in a couple longer rides a week. Work on extending your ride length first. Then on days you can only ride for an hour, ride harder. It doesn't have to be scientific at this point. Think of your effort as a curve. Longer rides require backing off on the effort while shorter rides you can push it. Soon enough you will build endurance on the longer rides and speed on the shorter rides. Those will eventually start to blend so that your longer rides get faster. Pay attention to how you feel, allow enough rest and record your rides so that you can chart your progress.
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    SurgTech1956,

    I turned 55 in December and have been riding for one year. I was a distance runner in high school, and I have found many of the same training concepts carry over to cycling.

    How should you train? It depends upon your goals. If you want to ride long distances, you should go on long training rides. If you want to improve your speed, you should get in some interval training. Intervals are short distance rides of high intensity, followed by a brief rest period. They are usually done in sets.

    I saw a huge increase in my cycling fitness over this past winter by riding indoors on a trainer. I typically rode four or five days a week on the trainer, and the other two days I did an exercise program (http://www.bicycling.com/training-nu.../core?page=0,1) to strengthen my core muscles.

    As several others have noted, it is important to take a rest day after a really hard training ride. You will experience greater gains than if you don't take rest days. I typically did my core exercise program the day after my hardest training ride.

    I intend to buy the book, Fitness Cycling (see the Amazon entry at
    http://tinyurl.com/6vyszeo ) for more information on this area of cycling fitness, which I find fascinating.

    Good luck and have fun!

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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Just in case the advice is getting drowned out in the technicalities here surgtech, let me just say this: 1) don't forget that getting to where you are now is a serious achievement and one you can build on, and 2) what you said, " I'm going to do some longer rides - 2 hours. I will try some short rides, faster than my average." is just about perfect and will work fine for you.

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    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Just in case the advice is getting drowned out in the technicalities here surgtech, let me just say this: 1) don't forget that getting to where you are now is a serious achievement and one you can build on, and 2) what you said, " I'm going to do some longer rides - 2 hours. I will try some short rides, faster than my average." is just about perfect and will work fine for you.
    Good advice. And do not ride every day. You also need recovery time.

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    Spin Meister icyclist's Avatar
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    My 2 cents: you won't be able to lose weight cycling. I know lots of people on BF have done just that. However, read through old posts and note that many of these people admit to totally changing their diet. In fact, they could have lost the weight with the diet change.

    Getting in shape has many benefits and you should certainly keep riding, OP. however, exercise will make you hungry. How hungry? Enough to put back the amount of energy you've expended on your last ride.
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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icyclist View Post
    My 2 cents: you won't be able to lose weight cycling. I know lots of people on BF have done just that. However, read through old posts and note that many of these people admit to totally changing their diet. In fact, they could have lost the weight with the diet change.

    Getting in shape has many benefits and you should certainly keep riding, OP. however, exercise will make you hungry. How hungry? Enough to put back the amount of energy you've expended on your last ride.
    This is not true, at least it is not true in my case. It depends on volume of exercise, and on your eating and drinking habits. When I returned to cycling after a ten-year gap, I made no changes to my diet (which, apart from a fondness for wine, was pretty good) and lost about 15 lbs over the course of six months or so.

    I commuted to work, a journey of about 16miles each way. So when one included weekend rides I was spending 12-15 hours per week on the bike. Still am. I assure you that riding at moderate intensity for that amount of time will have an impact on your weight. You can't out-exercise a poor diet, of course, but if you eat properly, enough exercise will shift weight.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Senior Member ftsoft's Avatar
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    At 56 it will probably take you a couple of years to approach the group ride speed. Hang in there and try to ride with them whenever you can. Don't feel bad about getting dropped. Once you can do 15 mph or so, then you might try 3x3 intervals at your LT once a week (3 minutes on 3 minutes off). If you can build up to 4 or 5 of these once a week, it will help your speed a lot.

    Frank

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    Senior Member BikeArkansas's Avatar
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    I wrote earlier in this thread about group rides, but I will expand just a little. My wife, now 64, decided two years ago she wanted to ride with me, some, which means a lot faster than she was riding. After rejecting group rides for a while, she finally attended a few. She was dropped right away on every ride.

    However, she kept going back and was soon hanging on. These group rides were 14-15 MPH. Last year she announced she was getting "bored" with the slow rides and has stepped up to a higher speed group. She even leads some rides now.

    My wife was never athletic before and questioned what I was doing out there on a bicycle. She now has two CF road bikes and a Surly Long Haul Trucker for our tour/camping rides.

    Yesterday she pulled up next to me on her road bike with about 1 1/2 miles to the end of the ride. She went ahead at 20-21 MPH for that last 1 1/2 miles as I stayed on her wheel.

    She attributes all her improvement to joining the group rides and not quitting when getting dropped time after time. She kept trying to catch up and kept trying to hang on. The speed improvement came with her desire to stay with the group.
    I started riding my bike to get healthy. Now I try to stay healthy so I can ride my bike.

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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeWNC View Post
    With your goals, I would first examine what you ride now. You ride 5-6 days a week which is great, but are all these rides short? Your schedule is very agreeable to getting in a couple longer rides a week. Work on extending your ride length first. Then on days you can only ride for an hour, ride harder. It doesn't have to be scientific at this point. Think of your effort as a curve. Longer rides require backing off on the effort while shorter rides you can push it. Soon enough you will build endurance on the longer rides and speed on the shorter rides. Those will eventually start to blend so that your longer rides get faster. Pay attention to how you feel, allow enough rest and record your rides so that you can chart your progress.
    This + Focus on weight loss and here is why. Women produce a lot less power than men. But lower weight and a smaller frontal area have the same impact from a power perspective. I understand you do not have hills but bear with me on the point. 20 pounds correlates to approximately 30 watts of power climbing an 8% grade. I suspect you make about 100 watts. 30 watts is a huge percentage of your power generating capability. Similarly, losing weight will slightly reduce your frontal area so that you can go faster with the same power. Losing weight increases your ability to reject heat and allows you to make more power at higher ambient temperatures. If your cycling remains the same and you lose weight, you will go faster and feel a lot better.

    In terms of degrees of difficulty in getting faster here is the Hermes rankings:

    Conformity = easy. The least difficult part of cycling is shaving ones legs. You probably already do that. Seriously, observe what better cyclists wear and how they behave and copy as appropriate.

    Weight loss = moderate. Pure discipline....stop eating as much and focus on higher quality food.

    Ride harder = difficult. Most would think that riding harder is easier than weight loss. Riding harder requires more rest, more chance of injury and takes a lot of discipline to keep improving. We are all oxygen limited and it takes a long time to improve oxygen intake, transport and utilization. Losing a few pounds can happen quickly and its impact is positive all the time even when it is difficult to ride because one is tired. And there is little chance of injury.
    Last edited by Hermes; 04-09-12 at 10:25 PM.
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