The bike leg of a race is a double-edged sword for triathletes because on one hand, the bike is the easiest of the three disciplines in which to make improvements. But on the other hand, triathletes often don't have enough time to commit to making their cycling stronger. Fortunately, with just two workouts a week, triathletes can make huge gains on the bike without spending countless hours in the saddle and away from family, work, friends and real life.
The Long Ride
No matter what distance triathlon you're racing or what your skill level is, you're going to have to cover the same distance as every other athlete lining up to start the race. The easiest way to make that a breeze is to build up your bike endurance week by week until you're able to bike longer than you'll actually have to during the race. This is called an over-distance ride.
Building up your endurance so you can easily ride long enough in your race is simple. Each week, ride progressively longer in five to 10 percent increments until you can ride the following distances and times:
• Sprint: 30 to 35K
• Olympic: 60K
• 70.3: 115K
• IRONMAN: 5.5 hours
If you get in one long ride each week, and prior to your race you get in at least five rides of the distances or times prescribed above, you'll have excellent bike endurance by the time your race comes around.
The Intense Ride
Once you've built up the ability to ride long enough to finish your chosen race distance, you'll likely want to get faster. You can do this with an intense ride once a week. This intense ride doesn't take much time, just 30 to 60 minutes, but fair warning: When we say intense, we mean intense!
The purpose of the intense ride is to increase your VO2 Max, which is the amount of air your body can process, and is a big determining factor for success at every triathlon distance from sprint all the way up to IRONMAN. How to increase your VO2 Max is with intense bursts of effort (perhaps better known as interval training) where the bursts of intervals are anywhere from 15 seconds to eight minutes.
During the winter, start incorporating these intense bursts of effort by making them short with lots of rest in between. A workout could be as follows:
• 10-minute warmup
• Six sets of 15-seconds hard effort, 4:45 minutes rest
• 5-minute cool down
As the training progresses, gradually increase the duration of the interval, increase the number of intervals completed or decrease the length of rest time between intervals. During the race season, a hard ride day could be as follows:
• 5-minute warmup
• Six sets of 8-minutes hard effort, 2-minutes rest
• 5-minute cool down
By focusing on these two workouts, every triathlete, regardless of skill level or distance of race they're focusing on, will be able to complete the required distance of the bike portion of their race AND do so in a time that's personally fast and satisfying.
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