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How Do I Get My Bike Miles Up?

Jul 28, 2007 |

Janet Wilson wrote an article about getting your bike miles up:

I got a question this week from a triathlete struggling to build up mileage on his triathlon bike. This is a common challenge for triathletes. The trick here is to build mileage slowly and consistently. Here are some tips:

Remember to consult your physician before starting any fitness program.

1. Build up mileage slowly. Most triathletes are competitive by nature and they tend to push themselves to the limit. Out of frustration they might try to do a 4-hour bike ride when their longest ride before that is only a couple of hours. This is very risky and counterproductive.

If you overtrain like this you are likely to injure yourself, which can take you out of the game for weeks. Even if you manage to finish it without injury, your body will take a long time to recover from the workout and you may lose a lot of the benefit you might have gained from the long ride. Instead you want to build up slowly over time, adding maybe 25 to 50 percent to your base long ride (based on time in the saddle not mileage) every couple of weeks (see my sample plan to do this below).

2. Take time to recover and adapt. The goal is to slowly build up the length of your longest training ride while building in time to recover. Get to a plateau, ride there for a week and then try to extend it (see the sample program below).

3. A beginner can build effectively riding just 2 to 3 times per week. You don’t have to build your endurance by riding 3 or 4 hours every time you get on your bike. Instead focus on one long ride each week (time not miles). Your ultimate goal should be to ride for as long as you think your complete race will take you to finish. Your other rides during the week don’t need to be as long, but you might want to add some strength or technique training to these rides (like hills or cadence work).

4. Sample triathlon training plan Let’s say that your goal is to finish an olympic distance triathlon in around 3 hours. “Leg time” for this race is 2.5 hrs or more. Building your bike to 2.5 to 3 hours will help build the endurance needed for this event. Let’s make your goal to do a long ride of around 3 hours about a month before your race. Today you can easily do two one hour rides per week. How do you get to your goal?

By the way, you don’t have to be able to do a 3 hour ride to finish your first olympic distance race, but it is a good goal. As you advance you might try to increase the number of miles you finish during your long ride (see tip 6 for more on this). Here is an example of a basic plan to get you to your goal:

Building Bike – Time goals for your one long ride per week. Other workouts for the week would be based on your personal level of fitness.

a. Week One: Ride = 1.5 Hours
b. Week Two: Ride = 1 Hour
c. Week Three: Ride = 2 Hours

At this point you’ve doubled your long ride. Do you need more time to recover? If so then start over at Week Two and then do Week Three again. If you recover better then move on to Week Four. Do the same thing after each week that you build mileage – if it takes more than a couple of days to recover go back to the next lowest recovery week and start from there.

d. Week Four: Ride = 1.5 Hours
e. Week Five: Ride = 2 Hours
f. Week Six: Ride = 1.5 Hours
g. Week Seven: Ride = 2.5 Hours
h. Week Eight: Ride = 2 Hours
i. Week Nine: Ride = 3 Hours

Note: All rides should be ridden fresh with no hard workouts at least the day before and the day after. The pace should be in a comfortable easy pace (you should be able to talk or have a conversation while you are riding during the majority of your ride). Learn to “spin” or use your easier gears to prolong your muscle endurance.

You did it! At this point your long ride is now 3 hours and you have made a great improvement in your endurance. Next you will want to start working on other things like speed, terrain, etc.

5. Make sure that you are eating and drinking during these rides. If you are hungry or thirsty you waited to long to eat or drink. Right now you are asking your body to do things it hasn’t done before, you will need the calories. Eventually you will get more efficient and may not need to eat as much.

6. Time, Mileage or Heart-rate? Eventually all three of these measures will be important. When I start training someone we focus first on time at a comfortable pace. Next we add a heart-rate monitor to the mix and shoot for time within heart-rate zones. Finally we start working on the number of miles covered, heart-rate, and time. I suggest you start the same way.

If this sounds too over-planned, simplify it. Last winter I started training for a spring Century ride and my workout plan was just to add an hour to my long ride every 3 weeks until I got to 6 hours (although remember that I was starting from a pretty strong base and I didn’t train much in the other disciplines, I did hit the weight room 1 time per week, and the Yoga mat a couple times a week). The key is to do what works for you. Use this plan to adapt something for yourself or for you to present to your coach.

Triathlon Coach Janet Wilson is a USAT certified triathlon coach and ACE certified personal trainer. Janet is an accomplished and nationally-ranked amateur triathlete and she coaches triathletes of all skill levels, from a triathlon beginner to Hawaii Ironman qualifiers. To learn more about triathlon training plans, triathlon bike tips, coaching programs or just great tips on how to stay in shape visit her website at http://www.coach-janet.com

Posted in: Triathlon Cycling

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