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12 Ways to Improve your Cycling Endurance

If you are a cyclist, endurance will be a part of your training at one point. Learn how to create an endurance training plan based on your goals. Get the fuel and prep you’ll need before long rides. Then access different types of rides and workouts to help you towards your goals.

Endurance training plan

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Endurance training is different because it isn’t about how fast you can go but how far—and far rides require proper planning, gear, and fuel. Like any new training plan, we recommend starting at your baseline and planning from there, and of course, taking some time before you jump into it to assess your goals.

1. Create a schedule

Endurance training is going to lead you to longer rides. But to get there, you want a schedule. Sticking to a schedule for your rides helps ensure you get in proper miles, safely build time and distance, and get the results you are looking for. This training schedule will include your longer rides and other variables of training like strength training, stretching, rest days, and more. We recommend scheduling each month, week by week, and day by day the activities to accomplish, including space to put goals and track your ride metrics. The specifics of your training plan will depend on what you are working towards and how much time you have. However, every training plan should have strength, intervals, endurance, and rest elements.

2. Have the right gear

While having proper gear will always help when you are on the bike, it will especially help when you are on the bike for your longer rides. If you are heading out for an outside ride, consider packing a small bag full of the essentials,

  • Waterproof food pack (see fuel below)
  • Tool kit for your bike
  • Layers (depending on location, this might be—rain jacket, fleece, etc.)

If you are riding indoors, you will want proper gear, but it’s likely to be a bit simpler, your temperature won’t vary, and you won’t need a tool kit. But you will need the right fuel.

3. Fuel correctly

One of the most important things about preparing for endurance rides, and doing an endurance ride itself, is properly fueling yourself. Regardless of the exact amount you are riding, it doesn’t actually change much. We recommend you always.

  • Pack more than you think you’ll eat and drink: 
    One of the worst feelings is being on a ride and realizing you don’t have enough food or water. So regardless of whether you are indoors on a bike or outdoors, have enough fuel and water nearby, and pack a little extra. 
  • Eat or drink something every hour:
    This helps ensure you don’t get the “bonk” or what many cyclists describe as being really hungry or overly thirsty.
  • Eat high-carb clean meals:
    You do want to properly fuel before your ride as well. We recommend things like quinoa, oatmeal, pasta, sweet potatoes, or anything that is filling, has a lot of carbohydrates, and is clean.
  • Keep cash on you if you’re riding outside:
    If you need water or a snack, you can stop and get it.

Endurance training rides

Man cycling on city bridge next to highway

The main way you can prep yourself for long rides is to improve your overall endurance. Some of these rides will be the long rides themselves, while others are different types of rides that will help you build endurance for longer rides.

4. Long low intensity rides

When you want to build endurance, you’ll want to schedule some time for longer rides that aren’t high intensity. These rides will push you to your time and mile limit, but the intensity of pace should be manageable to keep going. You should plan to schedule this time of ride at least once a week and increase the time over weeks.

Looking for entertainment on your long ride? Try exploring on Vingo!

5. Tempo rides

A tempo ride is a higher intensity ride. It works to build intensity within ‘working zones’ meaning you will be riding at a slower, less intense pace and then pick up the pace to a manageable but challenging zone for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Tempo rides are great for increasing intensity.

6. Hill rides

Given it’s pretty unlikely that a long ride will go without any hills, you want to train specifically for those hill moments. For this particular ride, you repeat a hill from 6-12 times and climb for 2-3 minutes with a 3-5 minute recovery after you’re done. If you are outside, this could literally look like just biking up the same hill, while indoors it would be a repeated climb.

Strength training for endurance rides

Woman Doing Plank Pose on Yoga Mat

In addition to the rides themselves, cross-training can be incredibly beneficial to any cyclist. Strength training will help prep the muscles you’ll use on those long rides.

7. Core exercises

On long rides, cyclists should be keeping the body relatively neutral. There are no big pushes or changes in movement but instead consistent steady pedaling. Much of the stabilization to do that will come from your core. Your core also helps protect your lower back while you ride, especially on those longer rides. Here are some of our favorite core exercises to try.

Plank Pose
A great overall strength pose. Here, stack your shoulders over your hands or your forearms. Keep your hips in line with shoulders and hold. Stay for a couple of breaths and repeat.

Boat pose
This helps get into hip flexors and your abdominal muscles. Come to a seat with your knees out in front of you, lift your feet off the floor, keep a straight back and lift your hands up over your head. Hold and keep your back straight.

Alternating leg and handhold
This is both a spine and core exercise which strengthens all around the core. Come to a tabletop position, lift one leg straight back, and the alternate arm straight forward, stay here.

8. Spine exercises

Many riders find that their back becomes achy after long rides. To avoid putting too much pressure on the spine, you also want to strengthen this part of your body. Some of our favorites to do that include,

Cobra
This is a great way to strengthen the low back and counter-movement to the hunching over that happens on a bike. Lay down on your belly with your hands underneath your shoulders, then lift your chest and your head with little weight in the hands. Repeat this.

Bridge
This is another great exercise to strengthen your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Lay down on your back, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Pick up your hips and hold.

9. Leg exercises

Strengthening your legs will help prevent injury and also improve your power capability. Biking requires action from your entire leg, including quads, glutes, hamstring, and calves. So we’ve provided a couple of our favorites to work on each of those.

Squats
Squats are perhaps the most similar looking to how we ride a bike. It requires your quad and your glutes to work to keep you in place. Set your feet hip-width distance apart and sit your hips back, taking the weight into your heels.

Calf raises
Your calves also help the push and power of your pedal. For this one, take feet hip-width distance, rock weight onto your toes, and lift your heels off of the earth. Continue like this.

Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a great all-body exercise requiring strength from your hamstring, glutes, and core. Stand hip-width distance apart with a weight (or no weight), keep the legs straight but not locked out, and lean forward. Reach towards the ground, but keep your back flat and reach your chest forward.

Flexibility training for endurance rides

Woman doing lunges on school track field.

Equally important to avoid injury is properly stretching out your muscles. By keeping your hips, hamstrings, and quads open, you can properly power your ride and avoid over-stress.

10. Hip flexibility

Your hips are in many ways your powerhouse in cycling. So much of the push and pedal movement comes from the hips. But cyclists are notoriously known for tight hips. To keep your hips more open and avoid tweaks, stretch out both inner and outer hips. Try these stretches,

Figure four
Stretching out the outer hip, lie down on your back and cross one ankle above the other knee. Create a 4-like shape with the legs. Stay there, or interlace your fingers between the thigh and your knee that’s straight and lifted.

Happy baby
Stretching your inner hip, grab for the insides of your feet or insides of your thighs. Keep your shoulders down onto the ground.

11. Hamstring flexibility

Cycling will naturally make you have tighter hamstrings because of how often we use them. Take some time to stretch them out. We recommend any forward fold, standing or seated that you can relax the low back.

12. Quad flexibility

Lastly, be sure to stretch out your quads as well. Quads can be lengthed in a couple of different ways, including,

Lunges
Coming into a lunge on your back knee, you can let the weight sink forward to feel stretch your back leg. Or you can come up onto your toes and bend back knee to feel the quad.

Quad stretch
You also could come into different poses to stretch your quads, like standing or lying down on your bell.

Key Takeaways:

Endurance training is a must for most athletes at one point. Planning for your training, fueling and prepping correctly, and trying different endurance workouts are great ways to build your endurance. In addition to all the endurance prep, be sure to take care of your body by properly cross-training and stretching. Then, once you’ve done all that– see how the miles fly by!


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