In writing Novemberʼs article on endurance tips, it was hard to narrow down to just a
couple of items that would be the most bang for the buck, so to speak. Therefore, I
decided to continue last monthʼs theme and expound upon a few more components for
great endurance.

 

Interval Training- The main focus I highlighted last month was the importance and end results of good interval training. This month, I wanted to continue with a more detailed approach to setting up an interval workout. Like opinions, for everyone you ask, you can get a different perspective. So it is with interval training. However, I want to draw out a specific example for you.

 

Ready?

 

First, I suggest you find a hill that will take you a minimum of three minutes to climb,
preferably four minutes. Itʼs best if the hill has a sustained assent the entire way but if
there are a few flat spots, that is not a deal breaker.

 

Second, you want to identify a starting point for the climb, as this waypoint is important
going forward. Also, you need to identify the same ending point, as well. Once you
have these two spots identified, then you are ready for the next step.

 

Third, begin your climb and start your stopwatch at the point that you cross your starting
point for the climb. The KEY to your first climb is to establish a time that it takes you to
climb from starting point to end point. But, make sure you climb at a pace that you can
repeat, because you have four more repeats to complete. For example, if your first
climb took 3 minutes and 45 seconds, then this now becomes your target time for the
remaining four climbs. In other words, you want to finish your four climbs at or before
this target time. Therefore, it is important NOT to go ballistic on your initial climb
because you probably will not be able to repeat four more climbs. Make sense?

 

 

Forth, comes your rest or recovery time in between each climb. Going off your
established 3:45 time, this also becomes your total recovery time, too. Here is how this
component works. As soon as you reach the end point of your climb (hopefully you
finished within your 3:45 time), you now have the same amount of time to descend the
climb, recover and be ready to start your next repeat. Yes, your descent time is
included. As soon as that 3:45 time has expired, you start your next repeat.
At a minimum, you want to do four climbs but an additional climb is best. Obviously, the
last two repeats will be your toughest and will cause you to push yourself to get to the
top within your 3:45 timeframe. This interval, or hill repeat, training is all about a
continual effort of exertion, so be careful with your initial approach. The more interval
sessions you do, the more you build up your overall strength, that will in turn help your
overall endurance.

 

Breathing

 

Wow, now this topic is a biggie. The vast majority of cyclists breathe from the top of their lungs, without ever engaging their diaphragm. This incorrect breathing will dramatically impair how fast you can recover. Statistics show that if you breathe with your diaphragm first, you actually breathe in 80% more oxygen compared to breathing with your lungs first; thatʼs HUGE.

 

Why?

 

If you have more oxygen that is getting into
your bloodstream, that same oxygen will eventually reach your muscle fiber. This
interaction is the trigger to recovery. The more oxygen, the faster recovery.
Ever wonder why professional singers are able to hold a note so long? This is why.
They are using their diaphragm first, then their lungs when they inhale. I call this
“compartmental breathing”. The goal is to inhale with your diaphragm first, then fill up
your lungs; not the other way around. However, you exhale the exact opposite. But,
this is only half of the equation. The other half is getting all the air out when you exhale.
In other words, if you only exhale 80%, then how much can you inhale? Eighty percent.
This step requires you to use and flex your ab muscles to force everything out. With
your ab muscles flexed, as soon as you release them, oxygen is rushed in much faster.
This seemingly minor component creates major results for your recovery. And, recovery
directly affects your endurance.

 

Of all the things I have taught my clients in the last six years, this effective breathing has
been the hardest for them to implement. Think about it. Have you ever consciously
thought about how you breathe? Most have not; it is just something that our bodies
naturally do. Breathing is probably one of the most unconscious things we do and to
actually begin to start thinking about it is certainly not natural. The way I have coached
my clients to help attack this very unnatural component is to take small steps and then
constantly build upon it over time. For example, every hour on the hour, take one
minute and consciously think...and control...your breathing by inhaling with your
diaphragm only; forget about your lungs for this drill. Once you get this first step under
your belt, then do the same thing but now do this drill every half hour for the same
minute time-frame. If you can maintain this pace, then you would want to extend that
minute time-frame to five minutes; first on the hour and then moving to every half hour.
Your ultimate goal is to get to five minutes of conscious breathing at every fifteen minute
intervals. Oh, this sounds like a cake walk but I assure you it is not. Master this
compartmental breathing and watch your recovery times decrease and your endurance
increase.

 

These two aspects of interval training and compartmental breathing are certainly not
impossible to tackle but they do take time. As you begin to hit these two head on, I
would suggest you read or re-read last monthʼs article where I focused on mental
toughness. If you set your mind and conscious thoughts in a positive manner first, then
you will have far better success. Remember, just setting out to achieve a goal is one
thing; having the right mindset is another.

 

See you on the road...
Robert

 

Robert Wilhite started MyCycleCoach.com, a professional coaching business for
cyclists, in 2005 and works with beginners to elite racers. He is the Head Cycling
Coach for the Atlanta Triathlon Club and he also founded the Jackson County
Brevet charity ride that is held every June in Braselton, GA.