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Thread: Optimum cycling

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    Optimum cycling

    From a conditioning and weight reduction standpoint for non-competitve riders, what is optimum in your opinion as far as miles per week,exertion level and the number of times you ride per week ?

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Depends upon what you mean by "optimum". Conditioning benefits in terms of maximum fitness-improvement rate will not give the fastest weight reduction. Conversely, a programme that yields the fastest weight-reduction won't result in the quickest fitness & conditioning improvements either. Both of them however, will require about 20-30hrs 300-500miles per week for the fastest rates of either, just won't get both at the same time...

    Personally, I think working on improving fitness is better because you'll get both; the weight-loss is an automatic side-effect of getting fit and fast. However, if all you focus on is losing weight, you can still do that without getting fit. It's possible to end up being a 135 twig with 25% body-fat and double-chin. Your resting heart-rate will still be high, as is your blood-pressure and cholesterol levels.

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    I guess when I say optimum, I mean a sustainable amount that you can do year-round, without being sore all the time. For example, I feel much better when I don't ride long and hard two days in a row, but I'm coming off a long layoff, so I don't really know what is a reasonable expectation.

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    Senior Member phinney's Avatar
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    How much time do you have? IMHO over the long haul there is no replacement for long rides of moderate effort. You'll build a deep base of endurance leading to robust health and burn the most amount of calories.

    Cycling is ideal for this as walking isn't intense enough and running is too intense. On a bike it's easy to dial in just the right level of intensity.

    One tip if you're working on losing weight is to skip the powerbars and refueling during the ride (at least for rides not over three hours or so). You might get hungry and weak that last hour but the fat will be frying.

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    Except for some sporadic mountain biking, I haven't ridden much at all since 1987 up until two months ago when I bought a new road bike. Then I rode everyday for the next three weeks averaging 30 miles/day and lost 12 lbs that really needed to go. My quads were really sore, so I slacked off, riding 2-3 times per week averaging 20 miles. With this amount I am not sore but my fitness is not improving and my weight is stable. If you are returing to cycling at 50, is it a case of no pain-no gain ?

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    Except for some sporadic mountain biking, I haven't ridden much at all since 1987 up until two months ago when I bought a new road bike. Then I rode everyday for the next three weeks averaging 30 miles/day and lost 12 lbs that really needed to go. My quads were really sore, so I slacked off, riding 2-3 times per week averaging 20 miles. With this amount I am not sore but my fitness is not improving and my weight is stable. If you are returing to cycling at 50, is it a case of no pain-no gain ?
    50 and in what kind of shape? I mean, were you pretty sedentary before you started cycling, or coming off another training program?


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    With cycling it's never no-pain/no-gain. Pain will cost you a lot in terms of injury and time off the bike. I think the better term is suffering; you need to workout at a pace that pushes your limits.

    Looks like you're caught in no-mans-land of training. You're at the point where you're working out at the maximum amount possible in order to recover for the next. You're not going to be able to burn off any more calories/week or do any more miles per week without having to take an extra day off to recover, which will then cut back on the total miles & calories/week you can burn.

    There are so many kinds of workouts with a specific physiological purpose, that if you do two of the same rides in one week, you've cut out something beneficial that will be of benefit and will help you improve even faster. At this point, you need a more intentional and planned workout schedule with concrete long-term goals in order to get you out of this rut. Nothing's going to change in terms of results unless you change your path to get to new goals.

    You've covered the 1st stage of training called "base training" and as you've discovered, your improvement rates and measurable results have plateaued. Now you need to change your workouts and upgrade to the next stage in order to see continued increases in weight-loss and fitness-gain. What you need to from now on is more intensity and more mileage. Just not on the same day.

    You need to cut back one day to only 15 miles with 3-5 all out, 100% max-effort screaming sprints as hard as you can for as long as you can (35-40 seconds). Rest fully and do the next sprint. If you ride more than 15 miles on this day, you are sacrificing improvement-rate and/or one more sprint that you could've/should've done.

    On another day later in the week, add more miles to the 40-60 mile range to work on endurance and your energy system. This will make your body more efficient at burning fats and delivering energy to your muscles. Bring lots of water along and 2-3 energy bars. Ride much slower than you've been doing so you can complete the ride at an even steady pace.

    It's the calories/hour that you can burn that burns up fat and the more calories/hr you can burn, the faster you lose weight and get into shape. This is done through a combination of high intensity and high mileage. Also during all of this, you want to work on form and technique. Learn shifting so that you never exert too much force on the pedals, like your feet are always free-spinning and having to catch up to the pedals. This allows you to make more muscle-contractions per second, burn more energy, generate more power, ride faster and longer, and burn off more calories/hour. Also learn to spin smoothly in circles to generate power over a larger percentage of the 360-degree pedal revolution. Again, this uses more muscle-groups, more contractions per second, generates more power, burns more calories/hour, etc.

    Here's some threads that goes into more details on the specifics:
    Growing slow twitch muscle?
    How much training is enough to get lean fast
    How many years of training did it take you to be ready to race?

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    Senior Member phinney's Avatar
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    I think you started out doing too much and now are doing too little. Maybe try and do 20 miles five times a week. When you're comfortable with that start adding miles again.

    Watch what you eat!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    50 and in what kind of shape? I mean, were you pretty sedentary before you started cycling, or coming off another training program?
    I thought I was pretty active playing tennis 3-4 times per week, but I was actually in terrible shape.
    It's amazing how much my conditioning improved in the first three weeks, but I got a real wakeup call when I was repeatedly dropped by a guy who is 20 years older in week 4. Prior to riding with him, the concept of pushing hard all the time was foreign to me, but this guy goes full tilt all the time.

    Danno & Phinney-Thanks for the input.
    Last edited by 1-track-mind; 10-16-05 at 07:39 AM.

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    Exercise is just that. It's "controlled exertion".

    There is no particular volume that could apply to anyone, anytime.

    I think the current "standard" is at least 30 minutes a day, almost everyday at 70% of your max heart rate. If you train for longer periods, then you can workout every other day.

    If you really want to learn something, get an evaluation from a real coaching professional. Don't rely on the Internet for accurate answers.

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    Especially these forums......

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    I doubt that I will ever get a coaching evaluation, so this site will have to suffice even if there is some trial and error involved. To make this question more specific, what would be the optimum weekly distance if you were preparing for challenging mountain centuries in 2006 (Bridge to Bridge, Blood,Sweat and Gears...) and were shooting for a 14 mph average.

    I am also wondering what the optimum mileage/intensity is just for feeling your best. I find that 35-40 moderate mountain miles every other day seems best for me at the present time. This averages out to 131 miles per week. The question is,as I get in better shape, should I increase the intensity or the mileage or both.

    Don't know if I'll ever do a century, but I'd like to get in that kind of shape.
    Last edited by 1-track-mind; 10-16-05 at 08:53 AM.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    " The question is,as I get in better shape, should I increase the intensity or the mileage or both."
    Both... It's the intensity above your average-speed that raises your LT and average-speed (sprints & intervals). Distance trains your energy-system to be more efficient. Some people say your longest weekly ride should be at least the distance of the event you with to do in a single day. I prefer to make it at least 1.25-1.50 times just so that you can finish the event with a safety margin.

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    The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:

    ACSM GUIDELINES for healthy aerobic activity ...

    Exercise 3 to 5 days each week

    Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes
    before aerobic activity

    Maintain your exercise intensity
    for 30 to 45 minutes

    Gradually decrease the intensity of your
    workout, then stretch to cool down during the
    last 5 to 10 minutes

    If weight loss is major goal, participate in
    your aerobic activity at least 30 minutes
    for five days each week.
    .
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

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    Quote Originally Posted by NoRacer
    The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:



    .
    Thanks. Seems like alot of folks are exceeding the 45 minutes, myself included. The thing I'm wondering is if it is counter-productive to go beyond these levels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    Thanks. Seems like alot of folks are exceeding the 45 minutes, myself included. The thing I'm wondering is if it is counter-productive to go beyond these levels.
    I think it is not counter-productive. The ACSM guidelines are for a basic, healty lifestyle, not optimum conditioning or performance. While goals such as these were my target when returning to cycling at age 51, I have found that days which include their minimum recommendations are now extremely easy and not entirely satisfying.
    Just Peddlin' Around

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    lws
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    I think the optimum is cycle commuting. Two brief intense workouts, five days a week, and two days to recover. When I was cycle commuting, I rode 7 miles flat-out in the morning, and 10 miles flat-out (including a long, tough hill) in the evening. For short, intense workouts you don't have to worry about eating on the bike and replenishing your glycogen, so I lost thirty pounds in two months. After cycle-commuting for nine months, I rode a century in five hours, fifty minutes, including breaks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    I think the optimum is cycle commuting... After cycle-commuting for nine months, I rode a century in five hours, fifty minutes, including breaks.
    Dang ! Nothing else on the weekends ?

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    Typically, in events that last "all day" - like Centuries, etc... the easiest method of attaining sufficient fitness is to simply "ride as much as you can" with little respect to intensity.

    In most cases this IS the best approach. However, as you have remarked, these rides have significant climbing, so it IS important to stress the muscles you use while climibing.

    There's no way to find the "optimum volume" of exercise what you need to do from the little information you supply. However, I can offer a guess about what I would call evidence of being able to finish the rides without "heartbreak".

    Try to train up to the level where you can ride 70 miles on hilly terrain that match those rides you want to complete. When you can complete (two) 70 mile hilly rides in the same week without [too much] strain, you'll be more than ready for the "big one"s .......

    Otherwise, you need over 200 mile per week for six weeks in a row.

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    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    Ultimately you will have to work these things out for yourself. I started [more] seriously road-biking a couple years ago - this was my first "full" season (BTW, I'm 54). I've been reading about training (including Danno's excellent posts), although my regimen has really been to get as much time in as I can. I bought an HRM and have been getting familiar with that measure. Did a couple centuries and several metric centuries (this was my main goal for this year, but I realize that I "want more" now).

    I was really happy during mid Summer when I could ride 5 days a week, but that's nearly impossible now with the lack of daylight (plus the impending winter here in the northeast). I felt very steady progress when I was doing 100-200 miles a week. But I also felt on the verge of injuries at times, so it is a delicate balance. I will say what seemed like a "long ride" last year seems fairly unsatisfying now, and last year's "killer hills" aren't very intimidating now. My friends who are serious cyclists say it takes about 5 years to really become "seasoned". I think they really mean to say that it's tough to get in the upper ranks overnight; experience is important.

    My point is that as a beginning "serious" (i.e., non-casual) rider, you will progress if you just ride as much as you can. If you are intent on racing (or more dramatic weight loss) and want to accelerate that pace, then you need to follow a structured program such as those that Danno suggests. I'd suggest "The Cyclists Training Bible" (Friel) as a very well written explanation of how a training program works, how to measure your progress, etc. In the book he notes that for the first three years, you should just ride as much as you can, but it depends on your goals, how much time and effort you can devote, etc.

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    The concept of becoming 'seasoned' over several years is something I don't quite comprehend. Is that due to building up to a certain level then going backwards over the winter ?

    BTW, I am just as interested in what you think is optimum for you as advice on what is best for me. I've already learned quite a bit and have made some real progress during the last week or so. Thanks for the input !

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    The concept of becoming 'seasoned' over several years is something I don't quite comprehend. Is that due to building up to a certain level then going backwards over the winter ?

    BTW, I am just as interested in what you think is optimum for you as advice on what is best for me. I've already learned quite a bit and have made some real progress during the last week or so. Thanks for the input !
    The cyclical nature of training has to do with the weather and improvement-rate you're aiming for. If you're going for a gradual rate of improvement along with steady weight-loss, you'll have even progress year-round with not so much of seasonal variations. You can ride the same moderate ride day after day, week after week and do it year after year and see fairly linear gains in 5-10 years.

    However, if you're after maximum fitness-improvement and weight-loss rates, you'll maximize your workout intensities and distances. You'll reach your within 90-95% of your genetic potential within 2-years. This requires the concept of periodization with variations in daily workouts. You simply can't do sprints everyday, and intervals everyday, and hillclimbs and 150-mile rides every day, so you spread them out over the course of a week (a microcycle). You'll also group weeks into macrocycles of a month or two to develop endurance, aerobic capacity, strength&speed specifically. Most of those doing this kind of training is also involved in racing. By adding a racing schedule along with the training, you end up with a condition where your strength actually decreases as the season progresses. Muscle fibres get worn out, they get taken apart for energy, etc. So by the end of the year, a racer will actually be slower than he was at the beginning.

    So you take some time off to rebuild. In a lot of climates, people have take time off in the winter due to the weather. You do strength-training and weight-workouts in the gym to rebuild those muscles back up. You'll do some aerobic workouts on trainers and rollers to keep your heart & lungs developed. Since you're not gonna be able to do 4-5 hour workouts indoors on a trainer without going crazy, endurance drops in the winter. So when the snow melts, you start out doing long-distance rides to build up the endurance again. Then transition into hillclimbs, intervals and sprints to develop the speed after that. Then you're ready for the racing season again...

    In the end, there's vastly different training programmes out there and it's based upon your immediate and long-term goals, and the available time you have to train.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzy_cyclist
    Did a couple centuries and several metric centuries (this was my main goal for this year, but I realize that I "want more" now).
    I will say what seemed like a "long ride" last year seems fairly unsatisfying now,
    It ain't jazz, but the question that begs to be asked is whether the Rolling Stones are road cyclists.
    I can't get no...
    This is starting to sound like an escalating addiction.
    Last edited by 1-track-mind; 10-21-05 at 05:59 AM.

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