Whether you’re a recreational cyclist or training for your first race, your endurance plays a key role in your performance. That’s obvious, but what’s not obvious is how do you break through your current performance plateaus.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re out of breath and your legs just can’t keep pushing anymore at the same mileage as last week – or the weeks before, you probably need to change your training routine or even tweak your pre-workout meal.
If you’ve been scratching your head and vent out of frustration, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. This article covers some of the best tips you can do to break through those plateaus and take you a step (or pedal) closer to your goals! But before we begin, be sure you’re updated with road cycling safety tips and regulations found in this guide.
If you’re going for the extra mile, you need to be sure that you’ve got enough fuel in the tank, and it must be the right kind of fuel. According to a study by Jeukendrup in 2004, muscle glycogen depletion and reduced blood glucose concentrations are the primary reasons why you’re fatigued during prolonged exercise.
If you’re unaware, glycogen is the primary energy storage in muscles, and glucose is the source of energy. So, you will need to ensure that you’ve consumed enough carbohydrates before your training.
You can start topping up your carbohydrates 1-2 days before you cycle. And your pre-workout meal should be consumed 3-4 hours before. Rather than grabbing a quick sandwich just before you gear up. A smart cyclist knows that not all carbs are made equal and is diligent about what he chooses to eat and when.
A report found that sports nutritionist favour lower glycemic index (GI) carbs for pre-workout because they appear slowly in the bloodstream after digestion. These carbs will make sure you have a steady supply of glucose during training. Examples would be grains, pasta, grainy bread and porridge.
Once you’re done with training, be sure to pack up on carbs with high GI such as rice. White bread and potatoes to restore the lost glycogen storage quickly. Experts suggest consuming about 0.5-0.6 g/kg of high GI carbohydrates every 30 minutes for 2-4 hours or until your next full meal to sustain high glycogen synthesis rates.
That means if you’re 160lbs., consume something equivalent to a medium potato or a cup of white rice every 30 minutes for 2-4 hours after your workout or until you have your lunch or dinner.
Traditionally, we were told to work our endurance up by spending up to 16 weeks riding long, low-intensity miles at a steady pace. Unfortunately, that isn’t feasible for most people with regular jobs. Interval training is a great way to increase your endurance while saving your precious hours.
Work on intervals between 30 seconds to 5 minutes at the highest intensity. An example would be to cycle as hard as you can for 40 seconds, recover for 20 seconds. Repeat these 10 times, and that’s considered a set.
Do four to five of these sets with 5 minutes of rest in between. Be sure to warm up for 15 minutes before you start this intense workout and cool down for 10 minutes once you’re done. Add this up to your ride up to twice a week.
According to exercise physiologist Paul Laursen, this high-intensity training is what makes your mitochondria more powerful. The regular low-intensity exercise only increases the number of mitochondria in your cells.
Another benefit to interval training is that your fast-twitch sprint muscle fibres are also being recruited, which makes these powerful fibres resistant to fatigue. It’s similar to doing box jumps, jumps squats and kettlebell swings in the gym.
When it comes to pushing ourselves to reach our goals, we usually overlook the importance of proper recovery. During recovery, our body replenishes muscle glycogen that has been used up during our training. It also provides the time for your body tissue to repair.
Just because your workout ended doesn’t mean you can indulge in a Big Mac. Feed your body nutritious meals that aid in the recovery process. This includes food rich in antioxidants, carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats.
I can’t stress this enough but get enough sleep! Athletes that are sleep deprived show an increase in cortisol (a stress hormone). Which in turn will suppress the human growth hormone that is needed for tissue repair. Lack of sleep also brings another concern: safety.
Research has found that sleep loss results in impaired motor and cognitive function including slower reaction times. On the exercise bike, this wouldn’t be an issue. But if you’re cycling on the road in bustling traffic, delayed reaction times could be the difference between getting hit by a car or making a last-ditch save.