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Earlier this week, we published an article from our ongoing series of case studies, “Diagnosis.” In it, we examined the case of a young rider who was trying to find the right amount of base training to do in the winter months. Readers requested more information on how they might be able to tailor their base miles, so here is an article from the August 2016 issue of VeloNews magazine that has some tricks to help you find time to fit in long rides and make them worthwhile.
One every seven to 10 days
Dr. John Hawley, head of the Exercise and Nutrition Research Group at Australian Catholic University, feels one long ride per week or even less is sufficient. Providing some evidence, a study out of Canada’s Waterloo University by Alan Green — one of the few to truly test the benefits of long rides — showed that the increase in MCT and plasma volume lasted six days.
Two hours is not enough
While the right length varies widely with experience level, it was clear from Green’s research that two hours produced few adaptations in even untrained subjects.
No more than six hours
A third study out of the University of Waterloo showed that three hours per day of low-level muscle stimulation was enough to produce near maximal MCT gains in rats. And MCT levels dropped slightly when muscles were chronically stimulated for more than six hours.
Keep the intensity low
These rides are not another opportunity for intensity. To train the right adaptations and isolate slow-twitch fibers, the rides should keep blood lactate levels below two millimoles. That roughly translates to 60-75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Make them fatiguing for fast-twitch gains
If the rides are sufficiently fatiguing, you’ll see gains in fast-twitch fibers, according to Hawley. You’ll also deplete your glycogen and train your fibers to use fat for fuel. The ride should still be steady and avoid high-intensity work. Just ride close to 75 percent of your maximum.
Do them year round
Gains from high-intensity work can take as few as six sessions. But many of the gains from long rides can take years to accumulate, which is part of why they are hard to research. Bundle up, and make them a regular part of your routine throughout the year.