I'm trying to find an answer to my present riding constraints. I have about 60 - 90 minutes to ride in the morning, and I'd like to know HOW to ride to maximize my cardiovascular condition. The terrain around my house is fairly flat. I ride a 16 mile route regularly that has about 400' of total climb with 90% of that in 3 hills. The rest are rolling hills that often don't even show up on the altimeter.
Anyway, I have a heart rate monitor, and a bicycle computer with speed, cadence, and everything else a person would want to know. So what criteria do I use to maximize my training efforts? Heart rate zones? Cadence? Speed?
My goal is just to increase my overall fitness. I doubt I'll ever race or ride any centuries. A long ride for me is 30 miles. At this point I don't have the time or interest in riding much further than that in a day.
FWIW I'm 37 years old, 6', 220#. I'm a relatively large framed guy who is carrying about 20# of extra baggage that I'm hoping to lose in the coming months.
I would say that if you are looking to improve overall fitness, without any particular discipline in mind, then just keep doing what you are doing.
You could certainly target different goals, such as climbing performance, or average speed, or weight loss, and for the most part, the effect on overall fitness will be much the same.
Realistically, I would say time in the saddle will improve your overall fitness just fine, especially with the hills mixed in. Wouldn't hurt to vary your rides from time to time, maybe concentrating on the hills.
Maximizing cardio conditioning in limited time is spelled I-N-T-E-R-V-A-L-S. But you actually have lots of time, so don't worry about it. If you ride 5-10 hours/week, that's plenty. Enjoy life.
All that said, and being who I am, I'd want to maximize it. So keep your cadence around 90 on the flat, 75-85 climbing. You can do high cadence drills once a week on the flat where you pedal 115 cadence or better for as long as you can stand it, in a very low gear so your heart rate doesn't get very high. Or just try to do that until you can.
You can go hard on your loop at least once a week. Ride the whole thing as hard as you can. Once a week ride it so slowly you hardly break a sweat. You can do your high cadence drill that day. Otherwise, ride at a pace that has you just breathing nice and deeply and steadily. Comfortably. Except on an occasional little hill, give it some gas, then back off again. Not on every hill, just when you feel rested. Try that. Don't forget to smile.
There are many other interesting drills and stuff. If and when you get bored doing what you're doing, look around for more training info.
Is there a published resource on intervals that anyone would recommend? I'm interested in exploring them a bit more, but all the information I've read is from other riders who seem to customize something to fit their own need. Has anyone actually worked with a cycling coach? I'd like to consult with one to learn or relearn the basics. Being a competitive person, I can't help trying to get faster and stronger. Thanks for the suggestions! Rick
Oh, and I should have also said . . .
Max benefit comes from riding year-round. That's really the key. If weather in winter there is not so good, you'll have to devise work-arounds. I find it impossible with limited time to ride in the rain every day. Too much time spent on cleaning, maintenance, and laundry. So you might want to buy a set of rollers, join a gym, spin class, whatever you need to do, and only go out a couple times a week. Most people cut back in the winter, but try not to cut back so much that you really lose fitness.
Winter here starts in November and doesn't break until March. I've pretty much decided that there is a new trainer in my future. I'm trying to decide between the Tacx VR or the CompuTrainer. I'm leaning toward the Tacx right now due to the steerable frame and the graphics and video. I have a couple months to do some more research though.
I've also been doing some more research on intervals. I just wish I could find a bit more information on them. Although I did order the Training Bible on Amazon today.
I found a reference to HIIT (high intensity interval training) and a quote from that article follows:
"On a final note, I must enforce that this type of training is not for everyone. Since it is so high in intensity, many people find that they simply cannot work out at this level and end up bypassing their workout altogether. If this happens, you are much better off performing a more moderately paced endurance-type cardio workout."
That about sums it up for me. High intensity intervals are not that comfortable to do. If you are not really working toward a specific goal like participating in a race or doing a Century or the like, you have the luxury of tailoring the interval training to what you can do without undue risk to your health. If you've ever worked out on an elliptical unit and tried its interval setting, you have seen what it really boils down to that is hard / easy / hard / easy repeated at 2 minute intervals, about 5 to 8 times. Your heart rate monitor will show the variations graphically like a sine wave. The pulse limits will likely drop some with persistence of training when your cardiovascular system adapts.
Since your route is a long loop, to show your fitness progress you could mark every 2 miles or so on your HR monitor as a "lap". You would end up with 8 laps and could compare your times, heart rate, and cadences for every given segment of the ride. By planning ahead you could do some of the laps at a slow recovery speed, some at a faster speed, etc. Of course, if you are on public roads and have to make frequent stops, all bets are off.
If you want a very regimented interval workout you might have to find a closed track or use a stationary bicycle so that you have complete control over your ride, like a spinning class. MP3 recordings which simulate a spinning class can be used to standardize the workout. Good luck.