I just don't seem to progress in my endurance

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by laszlobiro, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. laszlobiro

    laszlobiro New Member

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    Hello all, a Belgian newbie here and this year I've really upped my cycling kilometers because I want to get out of my (almost) non-existing stamina / endurance. And also because cycling is the best sport. Ever.

    A few facts before my questions:
    did an ECG+lactate test in february, in which the results stated that my overall stamina was bad. Lactate treshold was at 157 bpm and from there I got my zones calculated (they upped them a bit so I didn't have to go that slow for my first zone).
    Recovery <120 / LD1: 121-135 / LD2 (2-3 mmol): 136-150 / LD3: 151-165 / ext. interval: 165-175 / intensive interval: 175+

    Since then I spent more than 80% of my training time between 130-140 bpm (very sustainable for a commute), and have been riding 4000 km, mostly all commutes. I'm riding a maximum of 3 commutes per week, with a distance of 40 km per ride (so per commute day I do about 80 kms).

    After a 2 months (April+May) I haven't seen any noticeable endurance progression anymore. My legs still toughen up and go stronger, but my heart rates haven't changed a lot. I always ride between 24 and 25 km/h and in the morning commute my heart rate is always 5bpm (sometimes 10 bpm) higher than on the way back 8 hours later, but the speed does not change.

    I also have the weird fact that I can ride a bike race for 1.5 hours above 175 bpm, whilst on a normal day this would kill me after 4 minutes. I did the Ventoux from Malaucene at 175 bpm average, for 2 hours, whilst talking with another rider. From the sportslab where I was tested they said me that I can endure more lactate (up to 6 mmol) before I find it uneasy, and that I need to keep my training zones and to focus on long slow distances to let my endurace capacities grow.

    Am I doing something wrong? Commuting too much or resting too little? Maybe I'm training too slow, or do I need to go even slower? I've always found it very hard for myself to build endurance. I've never done any type of sports until 3 years ago. Then I did 2 winters of running 2/3 times a week and also noticed the legs were getting better and more muscular, but the heart rate progression was so slow that I couldn't motivate myself anymore to do it slowly.

    Any advice or guidelines? In 2 hours I'm heading home for my 4th 40k this week, but I just don't know if I have to take it slowly (under 130 bpm) or just do normal with some intervals above my lactate treshold.

    Greetings!

    Nico
     
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  2. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    Three days a week is barely enough to see any progress beyond a certain point, at least for aerobic fitness. Three days a week of weight training for strength or to build mass would be fine, but not to get really strong aerobically on the bike. Your split workout is probably better than just 3 single rides through the week, but as you've seen you are reaching (or have reached) a plateau.

    Some studies indicate a 50% improvement in cardiovascular fitness moving from 3 days to 4 days, and while not as big a jump, even more improvement is seen increasing to 5 days a week. When I was racing lower amateur level last few seasons I was on the bike 5 days a week, with one or two of those days high intensity days and the remainder at "endurance" pace, with one 3-4 hour ride here and there. If I rode 4 days a week I could maintain my fitness, but if drop to 3 days I start to get slower no question about it, and while I would be fitter than most weekend warriors I am certainly not able to hang with the fast guys in my local park.

    Three days a week is exercise, five days a week is training ;)

    PS the slower you ride, the more miles you will need. Most plans to improve fitness built around "long slow distance" miles are 12-15 hours/week. Most of us don't have that kind of time. Since you seem to have hit some low level plateau I would recommend increasing to 4 or 5 days a week with 3 of those days doing an hour or so at "sweet spot" (SST - sweet spot training), in HR terms that's about 75-80%maxHR. That hour could be split into 2 intervals with 10 minutes of easier riding between, or if you are feeling brave, in one shot. That's just one of dozens of different approaches, but if you read one of the larger threads on this forum "it's killing me...", that approach seems to have worked for many.

    Whatever approach you take, consistency is the most important element to improving.

    Good luck!
     
  3. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    You are relying too much on heart rate. HR might get you in the ballpark in terms of relative intensity, but a 140 bpm intensity today may be at a lot higher workload than a 140 bpm intensity from a few months back.

    If you are spending money on ECG and Lactate tests and such, shell out a bit more and get a power meter. A meter will eliminate the guesswork from your workouts and keep you honest.

    To get faster you have to go faster. Break out of your comfort zone and bring the hurt at least once a week. Intervals are key.
     
  4. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Ride more often, ride more different stuff (not the same stale commute route/miles every time), ride different intensities, ride varying distances. But mostly ride more!

    And get a powermeter if you are serious about improving. Ebay in the UK has old powertap hubs built into decent rims going secondhand for £350. Cheap these days, and that's all you need at the moment to start tracking improvement and getting better.

    I didn't start to improve as a cyclist til I was doing over 8000km a year (I was a triathlete, so my aerobic fitness was helped by running and swimming too). Once I switched to cycling, it was more like 12,000km a year and even then that's not loads, only 250km a week. That's about 8-10hrs on the bike, depending how flat/hilly -- more in summer, less in winter. So really you just need to ride more and ride different stuff to keep your body having to improve rather than settle into a plateau. Nobody gets better doing the same thing all the time.
     
  5. laszlobiro

    laszlobiro New Member

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    Thanks for the advice, but the power meter is not an option. The ECG and lactate test weren't expensive, and a power meter costs almost three times the price of the tests.

    After my post, the ride home went remarkably well, with an average HR of 128, whilst it was a lot higher in the morning. This week I went to work 2 times by bike, and both of them were upwind in the morning with an average HR of more than 142 (after 10 secs it was actually immediately in the 140's whilst this is usually not the fact). In the evening rides I pushed a bit more to get out of the comfort zone, and tried some blocks of sweetspot training.

    I'll try to mix up the intensity of the workouts, but I always have to keep in mind that I only have 8 hours of recovery between arrival in the morning and departure in the evening, so the morning-commutes have to be of lesser intensity.
     
  6. laszlobiro

    laszlobiro New Member

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    A little update after a few weeks...

    Since my post, performance has gone downhill. I've done some harder rides, mostly returning home. Sometimes I did a bunch of 30sec sprints, or soms sweetspot for 30 minutes and so on... I also had a complete off-bike week, not doing any sports because I wondered if I was doing too much in too little time.

    The result is: I've gotten worse, on short notice. There is a decline in my stamina, and I can't really adress it to something. I was amazingly good the week after a criterium race around the 25th of september (doing 25km/h at 137 avg bpm), and since then it got backwards on me. Speed has gone down, heart rates not. So now I'm riding a mere 23.5 km/h with heart rates around 140 (in the morning). On normaI days I used to do this whilst being at least 0.5km/h quicker.

    Resting heart rates have gone from 55-56 to 58-59, so maybe it's a cold? Or am I undertraining? Or have I overtrained because of the intervals?

    Another thing: I'm slow at building stamina, I know. This is now the third winter that I'm trying to come out better of these colder months, and never have I been successful. I've tried running for two winters, and it never got me to where I wanted to be. My main question stays: am I recovered enough / shoud I hit the gas more?

    I hope that somebody recognises this, and can help me.

    Greetings!
     
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