Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard
- Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year
Q: “In the spring, how many base miles do I need to put in on the bike outside before starting harder training, such as interval training”?
A: Depending on where you live, spring can come as early as March or as late as April. If you’re lucky enough to get outside and be on your bike in March you can jump-start your outdoor season. If you’ve been consistent with your indoor training, and you’re starting the outdoor season in reasonable fitness and with adequate bike mileage, resuming a good base level of outdoor mileage will come easier and faster.
The five components of training, in the order in which you train, are as follows:
1. Base mileage – aerobic endurance: zone 2 riding intensity
2. Strength mileage – muscular strength: zone 3 riding intensity
3. Anaerobic threshold training: borders between zone 3 and zone 4
4. Interval training: zone 4
5. Power training: zone 4 and zone 5
Think of the body as a series of hierarchical systems, with the system on the bottom (1) feeding the one above, then that system feeding the one above it, etc., until you reach the system at the top (5), which is the hardest and smallest system to train.
In this bike-training hierarchical system the bottom is the largest system and is called the aerobic system. The primary reason for beginning your outdoor riding season doing base mileage is to train this system, so you can build a sound aerobic base. That base allows the body to improve its energy and oxygen delivery systems to the heart and muscles. Riding at a moderate to easy pace (training zone 2) improves the muscles’ blood capillary density and number and efficiency of energy cells (the mitochondria). Their purpose is to move the oxygen around the body at a cellular level.
Transporting oxygen around the body allows a rider to cycle for sustained periods of time without fatigue. The adaptation period to develop this oxygen energy transportation system depends on both the level of rider and how many years the rider has been cycling. A seasoned cyclist can spend as little as four weeks adapting to the base mileage system, whereas a new or not as seasoned cyclist could spend up to eight to ten weeks before attaining a strong aerobic base of fitness.
During the base mileage training I also work in small amounts of muscular strength training (zone 3 intensity) as well as interval intensity training. In this phase, strength training makes up approximately 10 to 20%, and interval training time as little as 5% of the total riding time. Adding in small amounts of higher intensities of training allows the body to adapt more quickly once the rider is ready to increase training in these zones.
So when spring comes to your area, get out there and begin building your base aerobic system so you’ll be fit and ready to tackle the season.
Diane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations
Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.