For variety, try different terrain contours. Good examples include a hill which gradually steepens (to test your pacing) or a hill with multiple steps in gradient (which can be attacked with brief but intense bursts). If you must train after work, there may be too much traffic on the major roads during the rush hour, but you may be able to find a less trafficked hill circuit near your house that will allow for an intense hill repeat workout. If you train on hills, you will see benefits when riding on flat roads too.
If you race or ride with a club, you will find that you can breakaway from the pack at will, or when you see riders ahead you will find that you can chase them down with less effort. Remember that gravity and acceleration are the same. Training against gravity will make it easier for you to accelerate and breakaway, on any terrain.
Performing with power requires a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness that can be accentuated with special methods. An example is a single speed bike which encourages the muscles contract more forcefully. Instead of down shifting to an easy gear when climbing a hill, a single speed bike forces you to ride up that hill with high intensity. At the top of the hill you will be exhausted and breathing hard, but satisfied knowing you are triggering mitochondrial biogenesis.
The next time you ride your multi-speed bike, you will be stronger and faster. If you feel that you have reached a fitness plateau on your regular road bike, a single speed bike can help you break through that ceiling. Sprinting is a great way to boost muscle strength and mitochondrial power. An example is Mark Cavendish who began his career as a track cyclist and now has tallied an extraordinary number of Tour de France stage wins. Sir Bradley Wiggins (the 2012 Tour champion) was also a track cycling star who strengthened his legs on a single speed bike.
Measuring oxygen consumption on the bike is not practical and heart rate monitoring has its limitations. However, power metering can give the athlete real time readout of his output in watts. This technology is miniaturizing and becoming more affordable to everyday athletes, making wattage metering an increasingly important part of training and fitness coaching.
Time trialing is a discipline that builds sustained high levels of power. Although commonly identified by the wind-cheating aerodynamic equipment (pioneered by Greg LeMond) time trialing is really about human power output. To succeed at time trialing you need the same qualities that are measured with VO2 max: a high cardiac output and high oxygen demand from your muscles.
A common misconception is that long steady distance (LSD) is the best way to train for endurance events such as a marathon, century ride, or triathlon. Long-distance competitors often train for their events by gradually lengthening their training distance, but maintain the same slow to moderate pace. Compared to training at a jogging pace, HIIT will do more to trigger mitochondrial biogenesis.
Endurance athletes can benefit by integrating periods of intensive effort, that is, interval training into their workouts. This will increase the number of their mitochondria, which in turn will supply them with extra energy they will need when participating in an event. Even for the endurance athlete, quality (high intensity) training can boost mitochondria more than quantity (high mileage) training. Many long-distance runners are reluctant to give up on the idea of LSD training because of lore and tradition.
Another reason is because the physical act of running causes foot and joint impacts that require recovery on "easy days." They should be aware that running with sore tendons and joints is a setup for overuse injury. Either nonimpact training or a day of complete rest would be better than running in pain. LSD training has one major benefit in that it encourages fat burning over glycogen utilization. Fat is very energy dense and a very efficient fuel source for your mitochondria. Glycogen, on the other hand, is a more limited fuel source that is best reserved for shorter bursts of speed.
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