Building Cycling Endurance
Unless you’ve been actively involved in cycling since a young age, you’re likely going to encounter the problem of having to build your endurance up when picking up the sport. Even if you’re already in phenomenal shape, there will be a period of time when your expectations won’t match your actual output when you go push yourself hard.
There is always a little bit of an adjustment period as out bodies pick up new sports and activities, the time it takes our bodies to recognize the movements required and become efficient. Efficiency is going to improve endurance, because your body will be versed in the movements, and your muscles will respond better.
For cycling, there are a few ways to build up endurance quickly, by training your body to perform the movements that riding demands.
Riding downhill is the least-demanding type of cycling, because gravity is doing much of the work. If you’re planning your first long ride, choosing a spot that’s going to be predominantly downhill will make life much easier. If you’re already physically fit, your lungs won’t have a difficult time supplying the required oxygen for your muscles to operate at max capacity, even though they won’t be.
This is going to let your mind focus primarily on the new movements without much resistance, and it’s a great way to bring your leg muscles into the loop without taxing other parts of your body.
Short Uphill Rides
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet with an easy downhill ride, making shorter, but more difficult, uphill trips is going to help build leg muscles that are optimized for cycling specifically. These are very physically taxing rides, but focusing only on going uphill, preferably over and over again, is going to get your body used to the specific muscle contractions that put a lot of force behind the movements. Your lungs are going to be stressed more here than during the downhill rides, because your muscles are going to be demanding more oxygen to produce the energy needed to move you and the bike uphill, but they won’t be pushing their limits from long distances either.
Long Flat Rides
After you’ve gotten your legs used to hauling the rest of your body up a hill, you’re ready for a long and steady flat ride. This is going to merge the two previous exercises into one, where gravity is doing less of the work for you, but it won’t be so strenuous that your body can’t handle longer distances. This should be a fairly flat 15-20 mile ride.
At this point, if you can handle 20 miles of flat terrain, you’re ready for a legitimate ride, with hills and long distances to cover. The hills are going to be the hardest part for your body to adapt to, but thanks to your training you’ll be able to survive the hills and recover heading down them, even entering a little bit of a zone on the flat stretches, where your body is able to go into autopilot, preparing for the next big climb. Covering 50 miles shouldn’t be a problem, and soon you’ll be going even farther.
Even if you’re in perfect shape, you shouldn’t expect to be able to hop on a bike and take off for 50 miles, especially in hilly terrain. You need to train for cycling just like professional athletes train their bodies to perform the functions their sports demand. Once you do, however, you’ll be able to get out and get on with the best of them.