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Old 06-22-09, 12:09 PM   #1
Psyclismo
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Making no progress whatsoever. Help!

I've been cycling avidly for going on 4 years now. When I first began, I made huge strides in fitness and endurance in very short order. However, over the past two years I feel like I haven't made any noticable improvement in fitness, endurance, strength, or any other marker that I can think of.

Some background. I'm 37, 5'10", 163lbs. Approx 15% bodyfat. Resting heart rate approx 60bpm. I ride 4-5 days a week. Some days I'll ride alone at my own pace, generally riding distances in the mid 20's, average MPH generally hovers around 16mph. Several nights a week I hook up with local group rides, and I *try* to keep up with the fast group. I'll be able to hang on for a few miles, but I eventually get spit out the back. I do this with the hope that stressing my body will allow me to hang with them for progressively longer periods of time. But try as I might, I just don't seem to be making progress. I burn out waaay too quickly, and can never hang with them more than 5 or so miles of the 20+ mile routes they take.

Also, I would think that by now my heart rate during exercise would be lower on average than it was three years ago. It isn't. Any effort on the bike ramps my BPM to 150-160, a moderate effort kicks it into the high 160's thru mid 170's, and anything strenuous pushes it to the 180+ mark. This is no different than it was 3 years ago. This would lead me to believe that my cardio fitness isn't improving, and it's both frustrating and a cause for concern. My recovery rate however has improved somewhat. If I stop and rest after a 180+ bpm effort, by heart rate will drop into the 140s/150s in approximately one minute.

Any suggestions on what I can do to force my body to improve? It's humbling to get my ***** handed to me by retirees, and I'd like to stop the humiliation
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Old 06-22-09, 12:40 PM   #2
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Also, I would think that by now my heart rate during exercise would be lower on average than it was three years ago. It isn't. Any effort on the bike ramps my BPM to 150-160, a moderate effort kicks it into the high 160's thru mid 170's, and anything strenuous pushes it to the 180+ mark. This is no different than it was 3 years ago. This would lead me to believe that my cardio fitness isn't improving, and it's both frustrating and a cause for concern.
If you want to go faster you shouldn't expect your HR to go down but you should be able to improve your power output at a given HR.

A good start would be to read Friel's "The Cyclist's Training Bible". It sounds like you are riding at the same pace 5-6 days a week. You likley need to mix in some harder (intervals) and some easier (recovery) efforts.
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Old 06-22-09, 12:54 PM   #3
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A cycling zen koan: to ride fast you must ride fast.

The best way to do this is to ride with riders who are faster than you. Such as riding with a fast group, which it seems you already are. My advice is to keep showing up, but without your HRM. (Or if you can't live without it, at least stick it in your back pocket so you can see it later, but not during the ride.) During the ride, you should just focus on staying in the middle (not the back) as long as you can. Stay out of the wind and hang as long as possible. If you get spit out the back, come back next week and try to stay on a little bit longer.
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Old 06-22-09, 01:07 PM   #4
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You likley need to mix in some harder (intervals) and some easier (recovery) efforts.
Yep, this is what I think too. Shock the body with hard/easy. The Friel book is a good idea, but it is kind of dense.

Some other questions. Are they loosing you on hills, corners, flats? What about your bike, your fit and riding form? Are you getting dropped early in the ride, later in the ride? Are they doping, maybe your brake is rubbing Just kidding. Friel says to isolate your weak spots and work on them. It could be something simple.

I can relate, every time I think I'm fast, someone blasts by me. Very frustrating.

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Old 06-22-09, 01:21 PM   #5
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A cycling zen koan: to ride fast you must ride fast.

The best way to do this is to ride with riders who are faster than you. Such as riding with a fast group, which it seems you already are. My advice is to keep showing up, but without your HRM. (Or if you can't live without it, at least stick it in your back pocket so you can see it later, but not during the ride.) During the ride, you should just focus on staying in the middle (not the back) as long as you can. Stay out of the wind and hang as long as possible. If you get spit out the back, come back next week and try to stay on a little bit longer.
That's exactly why I ride with the fast group 2-3 times a week. I don't pay attention to my HRM during the rides, only after the ride when I download my Garmin data into SportTracks. However, I can tell, within a beat or two, how fast my heart is pumping by just how my body feels. Out of breath, significantly burning legs = 180 bpm. Light burning in the legs without any real sense of needing to slow down = 171 bpm, which is what I've been using as my cap just before I hit my LT. Totally easy conversational pace, no shortness of breath, can ride all day = 160bpm.

I'm going to go buy that book tonight. Already have it reserved at Borders

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Old 06-22-09, 01:58 PM   #6
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Out of breath, significantly burning legs = 180 bmp. Light burning in the legs without any real sense of needing to slow down = 171 bpm, which is what I've been using as my cap just before I hit my LT. Totally easy conversational pace, no shortness of breath, can ride all day = 160bpm.
What's your HR when you are riding by yourself at your own pace? It sounds like you need to increase your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) which you can do by spending a significant portion of your ride at 90-100% of your LTHR. Google SST (sweet spot training) for some more suggestions.
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Old 06-22-09, 02:08 PM   #7
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I'm going to go buy that book tonight. Already have it reserved at Borders
This book is great, but there is a lot of information, and for me, much of it is way over my head. What I have found to be useful is to treat it like a textbook. Meaning, read parts that you want to focus on rather than cover to cover. The information builds upon earlier chapters, but there is stuff that can be omitted at first.
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Old 06-22-09, 03:15 PM   #8
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What's your HR when you are riding by yourself at your own pace? It sounds like you need to increase your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) which you can do by spending a significant portion of your ride at 90-100% of your LTHR. Google SST (sweet spot training) for some more suggestions.
At a comfortable pace, I tend to hover right around 161bpm, up to around 167 before I let up on the throttle. However, here in NE Kansas, we have a lot of rolling 4-5 degree hills and a never ending brutal wind that makes it nearly impossible to not struggle at fairly regular intervals. Easy recovery rides are hardly possible outdoors in the spring/summer months.

I go to the group rides with the expectation that I'll spend a majority of the ride redlining in the mid-170's to low 180's. Any higher than that and I can't sustain effort for more than a few minutes before my tank is totally empty. It's hard to stay in a paceline for a significant period when my HR is cranking at ~180. I crap out in short order and by then I'm so drained there's no way I'm going to catch back up. The people I'm trying to keep up with can ride 20mph into a 15-20mph headwind. By myself, I'd be lucky to maintain 14-15mph into the same headwind.
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Old 06-22-09, 04:53 PM   #9
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From the info you provide, 40bpm recovery in one minute from 180-140 is not very good. You also cannot sustain 180+bpm for long, which means this is probably above your LT. This means you are not very fit (duh).

You are missing a key component in your development, and that is the distance workout. I would ride slower once a week, even slower than 140ish bpm that you're riding on your own right now. I'd drop that to low 130's and increase the time spent in that zone. Start with around 2hrs and then slowly increase it to 4hrs or so.
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Old 06-22-09, 05:36 PM   #10
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Are you trying to draft as much as possible? You say the winds are "brutal." A lot of times I see a new person show up for a ride and they at the front or near the front for the 5-6 miles. Sounds like you. They are working too hard. Really work on drafting see how little you can work. Wheel suck. Find the strong guys. The ones you know will not get dropped and follow them. Do not pull. Also, be warmed up before the ride. You may for redlining because you are not fully warmed up. Start riding smarter till you can ride harder.
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Old 06-22-09, 06:15 PM   #11
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I've been cycling avidly for going on 4 years now. When I first began, I made huge strides in fitness and endurance in very short order. However, over the past two years I feel like I haven't made any noticable improvement in fitness, endurance, strength, or any other marker that I can think of.

Some background. I'm 37, 5'10", 163lbs. Approx 15% bodyfat. Resting heart rate approx 60bpm. I ride 4-5 days a week. Some days I'll ride alone at my own pace, generally riding distances in the mid 20's, average MPH generally hovers around 16mph. Several nights a week I hook up with local group rides, and I *try* to keep up with the fast group. I'll be able to hang on for a few miles, but I eventually get spit out the back. I do this with the hope that stressing my body will allow me to hang with them for progressively longer periods of time. But try as I might, I just don't seem to be making progress. I burn out waaay too quickly, and can never hang with them more than 5 or so miles of the 20+ mile routes they take.

Also, I would think that by now my heart rate during exercise would be lower on average than it was three years ago. It isn't. Any effort on the bike ramps my BPM to 150-160, a moderate effort kicks it into the high 160's thru mid 170's, and anything strenuous pushes it to the 180+ mark. This is no different than it was 3 years ago. This would lead me to believe that my cardio fitness isn't improving, and it's both frustrating and a cause for concern. My recovery rate however has improved somewhat. If I stop and rest after a 180+ bpm effort, by heart rate will drop into the 140s/150s in approximately one minute.

Any suggestions on what I can do to force my body to improve? It's humbling to get my ***** handed to me by retirees, and I'd like to stop the humiliation
Yes, stop doing what you're doing.

On those group rides, the guys that you are riding with are in good enough shape that they're spending most of their time in their aerobic zones. They have better base fitness than you, so they rarely go into the anaerobic zone and have the ability to recover quickly when they do.

Since you lack base fitness, you're in anaerobic zone for a lot of time, but that's not stressing your aerobic system, so you aren't seeing improvement.

My advice is to do more longer rides at a comfortable pace, to give you a better base and to do a small amount of LT training to help push your LT threshold up.

But note that really improving your base fitness takes months if not years, and these guys may be riding a bunch more than you are.
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