How to physically prepare for a cycling marathon

Long cycling rides are exhausting and put a lot of strain on your body. Sometimes your muscles give in before your cardio-respiratory function reaches its maximum rate while other times, your heart can’t keep up with your legs. Both muscle and cardiorespiratory function are improved through endurance training. We will give you a few examples of cycling workouts to get ready for your next long ride.

Interval training

This type of training proved to be superior for endurance building. The other option, long steady rides are not as effective but they are definitely easier than interval training. The workout can be brutal and it’s recommended to first make sure you are in a decent physical shape before trying it out. Interval workouts should not be done more often than twice per week.

After a warmup, begin with 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by 30 seconds of easy pedalling. Repeat this cycle for 10 minutes and then start a 5 minute period of very easy pedalling. Once the rest period is over, start the interval sessions again and continue them for another 10 minutes. Make sure to integrate a proper cool-down at the end of your workout.

Hill charges

If the race encompasses uphill cycling, you have to prepare for them. No amount of flat level cycling will match regular uphill workouts. On a moderate incline, stand out of the saddle and pedal as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Sit back down and pedal easily for another 30 seconds and then repeat the fast paced sequence but this time without standing up. Do this alternation for 6 climbs and then allow yourself a 10-minute period of easy pedalling on flat surface. If you feel up to it, do another set of 6 climbs before you finish your workout.

Attack intervals

Unlike micro intervals that last 20-30 seconds, attack intervals are generally longer, up to 2-3 minutes. Ride for 3 minutes at the maximum pace you can hold up for this period of time. By the end of the 3-minute interval, you should be flagging. If you’re not, you are not doing it hard enough. Recover at an easy pace for 2 minutes. It’s ideal if you can do 3 sets in a row without passive rest. Don’t push yourself too hard from the first session and don’t do more than 2 intense workouts per week.

The rest of your workouts should focus on long steady rides to make sure that you can actually cycle for the needed period of time. It takes practice to cover all the necessary mileage on race day.

Remember that even though interval training is beneficial and increases VO2 max, your heart, muscles and ligaments need time to recover. Otherwise, you risk injuring yourself thus wasting all the effort you have put in so far. Missing a race because of an injury can be hard on your psyche too and it takes a lot of willpower to get back in the saddle to keep up with long stressful training sessions.