Forum home Road cycling forum Training, fitness and health

Optimising Fitness During Longish Commute

meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
I do a 15 mile each way commute 4 days a week through the Scottish Highlands. The ride into work has 300m of ascent and 400m of decent - home is obviously the reverse. On the way in I hit a 100m high 1:10 climb within a kilometer. After doing this journey for 2 months now, I average about 19mph. It's often very windy.

I'm looking to get fitter simply to do the journey faster. What should I be doing to get there quickest? I'm sure it's not as simple as riding the hardest I can on every journey. Should I be doing one day fast then the next steady? Fast in, slow out? Should I be attacking that hill or just warming up? Any other tips?

I know that this is probably counter my fitness goal, but how do I minimise muscle gain? I know this might seem odd but I originally started this to lose overall weight (for motor racing). I've lost loads of fat (2" off my waist in 2 months - not quite seeing my abs yet) but replaced all of it with muscle mass. I've always been a powerful build type and found muscle easy to gain - fat harder to lose (mesomorph?). I've been focusing on getting my cadence up (currently average low-90's rpm) and try not to "mash" the pedals.

In case it helps, I'm 45, my peak HR is 183 (measured running), avg HR cycling 160 - max HR cycling typically 173.
ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
«13

Posts

  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    to be honest, if you can already ride a 15m route with over 1,100ft of climbing at an average of 19mph in the wind, then I suspect there won't be many people on here who could offer you much useful advice...
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    Do some racing, wish I could average 19mph over that, I'd probs be averaging about 14mph.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    OK - thanks - the trouble is the other person I occasionally cycle with is as close to an elite athlete as I've ever come across - the guy's a machine and destroys me up hills (it doesn't help that him and his bike weigh about 20kg less than me with no bike) - so I have a very difficult benchmark and therefore possibily unrealistic expectations.

    I've read somewhere that you should alternate hard days with easy days to allow glycogen levels to rebuild and that pushing hard every day is a mistake. I'll keep working at it. I'm very lucky to have such a fantastic commute - sea, snow-capped mountains, red squirrels, deer and almost no cars so I try to make the most of it.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,692
    OK - thanks - the trouble is the other person I occasionally cycle with is as close to an elite athlete as I've ever come across - the guy's a machine and destroys me up hills (it doesn't help that him and his bike weigh about 20kg less than me with no bike) - so I have a very difficult benchmark and therefore possibily unrealistic expectations.

    I've read somewhere that you should alternate hard days with easy days to allow glycogen levels to rebuild and that pushing hard every day is a mistake. I'll keep working at it. I'm very lucky to have such a fantastic commute - sea, snow-capped mountains, red squirrels, deer and almost no cars so I try to make the most of it.

    I refer you to softlad's statement.

    You should be giving us advice with that sort of speed/climbing! :shock:
  • maddog 2maddog 2 Posts: 8,114
    I usually spin on the way to work, then try and fit in some high-intensity intervals on the return journey, or take a longer route.

    Mix it up. Try to have steady days, long days and mental days.

    A quote I like is [for most recreational cyclists] "their easy days are too hard and their hard days are too easy". Who said that...
    Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to prove anything that's remotely true! - Homer
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 52,602 Lives Here
    maddog 2 wrote:
    I usually spin on the way to work, then try and fit in some high-intensity intervals on the return journey, or take a longer route.

    Mix it up. Try to have steady days, long days and mental days.

    A quote I like is [for most recreational cyclists] "their easy days are too hard and their hard days are too easy". Who said that...

    That statement may well be true.

    However, since I'm not a pro, a) super easy rides are seriously boring and are mentally difficult to do given how little I can ride in the first place and b) I don't like having to throw up after every ride. They're not paying me to ride!
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    edited March 2010
    napoleond wrote:

    You should be giving us advice with that sort of speed/climbing! :shock:

    I don't have any advice to give. I try not to let anything stop me riding in - fitted my old MTB with Ice Spikers after I fell off my road bike on ice and kept riding right down to -9C (brakes and gears froze). 400 miles (and the height of Everest) on Ice Spikers probably did wonders for my fitness. I do push myself quite hard - each day I'm not quicker than the previous best, I'm disappointed - I have a competitive streak. Beyond that, I know very little technically about bikes and riding - I've always been the type of rider who just gets on and rides. Hence the questions on here
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,692
    maddog 2 wrote:
    I usually spin on the way to work, then try and fit in some high-intensity intervals on the return journey, or take a longer route.

    Mix it up. Try to have steady days, long days and mental days.

    A quote I like is [for most recreational cyclists] "their easy days are too hard and their hard days are too easy". Who said that...

    Coggan?
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    napoleond wrote:

    You should be giving us advice with that sort of speed/climbing! :shock:

    I don't have any advice to give. I try not to let anything stop me riding in - fitted my old MTB with Ice Spikers after I fell off my road bike on ice and kept riding right down to -9C (brakes and gears froze). 400 miles (and the height of Everest) on Ice Spikers probably did wonders for my fitness. I do push myself quite hard - each day I'm not quicker than the previous best, I'm disappointed - I have a competitive streak. Beyond that, I know very little technically about bikes and riding - I've always been the type of rider who just gets on and rides. Hence the questions on here

    Are you cat1? How many races you done? You won any? What's your longest distance you do when you are not commuting? Do you average like 25mph on those?
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    freehub wrote:

    Are you cat1? How many races you done? You won any? What's your longest distance you do when you are not commuting? Do you average like 25mph on those?

    I only really commute (it's enough) - I just want to get faster at it. Motor racing is my sport (along with a bit of hockey) though I'm only an amateur at that.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    napoleond wrote:
    maddog 2 wrote:
    A quote I like is [for most recreational cyclists] "their easy days are too hard and their hard days are too easy". Who said that...

    Coggan?

    Nah, my mate Colin told me that!
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    freehub wrote:

    Are you cat1? How many races you done? You won any? What's your longest distance you do when you are not commuting? Do you average like 25mph on those?

    I only really commute (it's enough) - I just want to get faster at it. Motor racing is my sport (along with a bit of hockey) though I'm only an amateur at that.

    If you just commute, 15 miles, and do motor racing, I find it hard to believe you are able to maintain 19mph on a very hilly route like that, it takes allot of effort and time to get to a level where you can hold efforts like that.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    freehub wrote:

    If you just commute, 15 miles, and do motor racing, I find it hard to believe you are able to maintain 19mph on a very hilly route like that, it takes allot of effort and time to get to a level where you can hold efforts like that.

    The effort to pedal a 10 year old Kona Cindercone fitted with 1kg Ice Spikers and kitted out for snow & sleet through a Highland winter is not insiginificant. I started at about 12mph with that and got that up to just under 15mph avg. Changing to the road bike obviously then gave me a big speed advantage - as did dumping the rain jacket and moving to road shoes. If I were to compete on the road bike, I'd do far more rides on the MTB - I'm trying not to build muscle though.

    Don't misjudge motorsport from a fitness point of view. I was pretty fit already playing hockey, doing an "advanced" spinning class, pump class and hill walking to manage my weight. My heart rate hits 181bpm during a race - mostly through adrenalin.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    meanredspider,
    What should I be doing to get there quickest? I'm sure it's not as simple as riding the hardest I can on every journey. Should I be doing one day fast then the next steady? Fast in, slow out? Should I be attacking that hill or just warming up? Any other tips?

    I think this falls under the realm of basic sports training methodology. For maximum gains, you shouldn't just be hammering out the same thing on every ride. As mentioned before, mixing it up, some easy some hard, allows you to go harder on the hard rides. But that's just the start. Looking at it in more detail, if you break your ride down, there are different specific aspects you can train. E.g. steep bits of the ride followed by the downhills, you can train to increase sustainable power on the few minutes going up and equally your recovery period from that effort. Over the course of some months, by focusing on different aspects, your overall time will improve because the cumulative effects of all those incremental improvements add up. Can I recommend some books? "Training and Racing with a Power Meter" and "The Cyclists Training Bible". The first is a good read even if you don't own a power meter, because the basic methodology is very sound. The second, well the previous edition was rather out of date, but there's a new one out - either way there's some very solid advice in there on devising a training plan.

    As regards losing muscle mass, I think the trick is to ride for longer. You're riding for, what, less than an hour. This is a short and sharp workout in cycling terms - you need to try to fit in some longer rides. The difference appears in your body's hormonal response to these different workouts - in shorter workouts, your body produces more testosterone and less cortisol, and this promotes muscle growth. On an endurance ride, far more cortisol is produced, and less testosterone - cortisol acts to inhibit protein synthesis, e.g. less muscle growth.

    Finally, if you're not just interested in training for cycling, "Periodization Training for Sports" by Tudor Bompa is an excellent read, as is "Functional Training for Sports" by Mike Boyle. Superb both of them, every athlete should own copies!

    Have fun!
  • nasahapleynasahapley Posts: 717
    Hi MRS,

    My commute used to be 17-odd miles with a bit less climbing that yours, but probably a bit more traffic, and I got to the point where I could expect to average around 20mph, depending on the wind. I'm a bit confused as to how amazed others are at your speed - there's at least two other posters on this thread who must be better riders than me given the ride stats they post from time to time, but I reckon my commute times are in the same ballpark as yours!

    Anyhow, I didn't actualy do this commute for that long, and I was still getting faster at it when getting a job elsewhere put a stop to it. I seemed to find that if I did it two or three days a week, usually not on consecutive days, but absolutely hammered it when I did do it, then that led to faster improvements than doing it four or five times a week but slightly slower. Not sure if there's any scientific basis for that at all, but that's the way it worked for me. I did have the luxury of various other methods of getting to work, though, so if you don't then it might be that one day hard, next easy is the best thing to do to start with.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Thanks, folks - a couple of helpful posts.

    I'll take a look at the books and the info on hormones is interesting too. I'm not really interested in doing longer rides for now so I'll have to live with the muscle issue. At some point the muscle addition should stop and the fat loss will take over. I don't have the time to do additional longer rides - building the cycling into the day has worked well.

    i like the idea of splitting the ride up and tackling certain aspects - certainly climbing is something I'd get plenty of benefit from.

    I was a little surprised too by the reaction to the speed. Whilst cycling colleagues are quite impressed by my progress, they also reckoned that 20mph should be my target.

    I drive one day a week partly because that one day I play hockey and bring fresh clothes in and generally do stuff it would be difficult to do without a car.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • chrisw12chrisw12 Posts: 1,246
    nasahapley wrote:
    Hi MRS,

    My commute used to be 17-odd miles with a bit less climbing that yours, but probably a bit more traffic, and I got to the point where I could expect to average around 20mph, depending on the wind. I'm a bit confused as to how amazed others are at your speed - there's at least two other posters on this thread who must be better riders than me given the ride stats they post from time to time, but I reckon my commute times are in the same ballpark as yours!

    Anyhow, I didn't actualy do this commute for that long, and I was still getting faster at it when getting a job elsewhere put a stop to it. I seemed to find that if I did it two or three days a week, usually not on consecutive days, but absolutely hammered it when I did do it, then that led to faster improvements than doing it four or five times a week but slightly slower. Not sure if there's any scientific basis for that at all, but that's the way it worked for me. I did have the luxury of various other methods of getting to work, though, so if you don't then it might be that one day hard, next easy is the best thing to do to start with.


    I've got to be honest, my first reaction was 'get your speedo checked out'

    19-20 mph for a hour is not exactly outstanding but 19-20 mph commuting, with wind, four days a week, with hills by someone who's relatively new to the sport is a bit special.

    Then again, does it matter, not one bit, as the op just wants to get better relative to himself.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    chrisw12 wrote:


    I've got to be honest, my first reaction was 'get your speedo checked out'

    19-20 mph for a hour is not exactly outstanding but 19-20 mph commuting, with wind, four days a week, with hills by someone who's relatively new to the sport is a bit special.

    Then again, does it matter, not one bit, as the op just wants to get better relative to himself.

    I'm confident the speed is right. And, absolutely, adding the speed was an afterthought in case it mattered. All I'm interested in is how best to get quicker as efficiently as possible.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    Averaging 19mph over that terrain still seems unlikely, you'd be in the fitness range of CAT1 riders if you could do that, this elite rider who used to ride with the Manchester Wheelers till he moved back to his country would struggle to do that and he destroyed us all on hills.

    I notice allot of people seem to not get average mph, in another thread some "newbie" reckons he averaged 23mph over his commute which is undoubtedly wrong.
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    freehub,

    I don't think this is unlikely at all. Particularly considering a background playing hockey, which revolves around ~45mins of hard effort. In other words, roughly the same time as 15miles at 19mph. Having played football for a number of years before really concentrating on cycling, field sports like that really develop your legs well for those kind of power profiles. Of course, I get spanked in other areas :-)
  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    freehub wrote:
    I notice allot of people seem to not get average mph, in another thread some "newbie" reckons he averaged 23mph over his commute which is undoubtedly wrong.

    I remember speaking to a beginner once who reckoned that he was averaging 22mph over 60 miles in the Peak district.....on a cheap hybrid... ;)
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    huuregeil wrote:
    freehub,

    I don't think this is unlikely at all. Particularly considering a background playing hockey, which revolves around ~45mins of hard effort. In other words, roughly the same time as 15miles at 19mph. Having played football for a number of years before really concentrating on cycling, field sports like that really develop your legs well for those kind of power profiles. Of course, I get spanked in other areas :-)

    Just cause someone trains for hockey would not make them into some elite level cyclist tbh.

    You can't compare 45 mins of hard hockey effort to 15 miles at 19mph at all.....

    I could do 45mins of hard effort playing hockey, even though I'd be shite at hockey, does not mean if I could do that, I could do 15 miles very hilly at 19mph.

    I can cycle for 6 hours on end, roughly 120 miles at 20mph average, does not mean I average 20mph or even do that distance.
  • huuregeilhuuregeil Posts: 780
    That's not quite what I'm saying. What I am saying is that kind of rolling hill power-recovery-power-recovery fitness takes many years of training to build up fully, and that field sports, while the fitness is not directly transferable to a bike, train exactly that aspect of performance.

    Besides, we have no idea what level the OP played to. The higher the level you play, the bigger the premium placed on speed, it's not just about technical skill, the key differentiator between and good and excellent player is speed.

    Besides, a one off performance like that doesn't make someone an elite level cyclist.

    Besides, it doesn't matter anyway, he/she asked for training advice and that advice remains the same.
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    huuregeil wrote:

    Besides, a one off performance like that doesn't make someone an elite level cyclist.
    .

    It's apparently not one off. As has being said, if he's managed to build up fitness to a very high performance cyclist, they he must have a good idea how to train.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,550
    Guys - there's a disconnect here somewhere - my colleagues tell me I should be able to average 20mph for the journey yet it seems to have caused all sorts of a kerfuffel (sp?) on here that I average 19mph. That doesn't make sense to me. I catch and pass all other cyclists I come across but the only reference I have is a guy who rides a Madone and does Mt Ventoux (sp?) for fun. Ref hockey, I used to play for Canterbury who were in the premiere league
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,692
    If you can average 19mph on a very hilly ride then you should get racing sharpish! You will make elite in no time and get a free bike!
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    Guys - there's a disconnect here somewhere - my colleagues tell me I should be able to average 20mph for the journey yet it seems to have caused all sorts of a kerfuffel (sp?) on here that I average 19mph. That doesn't make sense to me. I catch and pass all other cyclists I come across but the only reference I have is a guy who rides a Madone and does Mt Ventoux (sp?) for fun. Ref hockey, I used to play for Canterbury who were in the premiere league

    I catch and pass all cyclists I come across also. Does not make me fast though. What exactly is your current job? If they're none cyclists or just use a bike now and again, the reason they tell you that you should be able to is because they have no idea, they think cause 20mph is slow in a car it must be on a bike, and they reckon they do 20mph when they don't. It's not easy keeping 20mph on any terrain really.

    Just cause someone has a Madone and as climbed Mt Ventoux does not make him special, I know people with Madones who have climbed Ventoux more than once.
  • MettanMettan Posts: 2,103
    freehub wrote:
    you'd be in the fitness range of CAT1 riders if you could do that

    Agreed Will - that's how I see it :wink:

    Meanredspider - personally, regards your commute, I'd just keep doing what you're doing (as long as you don't stray into an overuse injury) - 1000 ft over 15 miles, 4 times a week, seems a nice setup - it's plenty sufficient to keep your fitness and "speed" improving imho - you're attacking it hard, there's plenty of climbing - sounds like a good workout. having said that, if it becomes too much, Hard days, Easy days is a great way of keeping ticking over and reducing the risk of overuse injury - keep a close eye on your knees. You could always incorporate some rest days (as a minimum), if your knees start complaining.

    Regards the 20 mph avg, your colleagues are possibly overlooking the 1000 ft of climbing ? - (tends to have a detrimental effect on avgs).

    Just for info - it can take 2 years of regular riding/training for a typical "fitness" guy to pump out regular 19 mph avgs on the flat (loops) over a reasonable distance. And that's full loops, not easy one-ways (wind assisted) - and many never get to that level.
  • chrisw12chrisw12 Posts: 1,246
    Mettan wrote:
    freehub wrote:
    you'd be in the fitness range of CAT1 riders if you could do that

    Agreed Will - that's how I see it :wink:

    Meanredspider - personally, regards your commute, I'd just keep doing what you're doing (as long as you don't stray into an overuse injury) - 1000 ft over 15 miles, 4 times a week, seems a nice/good setup - it's plenty sufficient to keep your fitness and "speed" improving imho - you're attacking it hard, there's plenty of climbing - sounds like a good workout. having said that, if it becomes too much, Hard days, Easy days is a great way of keeping ticking over and reducing the risk of overuse injury - keep a close eye on your knees.

    Regards the 20 mph avg, your colleagues are possibly overlooking the 1000 ft of climbing ? - (tends to have a detrimental effect on avgs).

    Just for info - it can take 2 years of regular riding/training for a typical "fitness" guy to pump out regular 19 mph avgs on the flat (loops) over a reasonable distance. And that's full loops, not easy one-ways (wind assisted) - and many never get to that level.

    That's interesting, I was thinking about the same sort of time span.

    I personally think the 20 mph barrier for a training ride for one hour is a pretty good standard and would need a lot of right conditions. In a race it's a piece of .... mind.

    Great thread by the way, reminded me of the journey I've been on to try and get that 20mph training ride. (tt bike, no wind, no traffic, no hills, all lights on green :roll: fast tyres.)
  • freehubfreehub Posts: 4,258
    Mettan wrote:
    freehub wrote:
    you'd be in the fitness range of CAT1 riders if you could do that

    Agreed Will - that's how I see it :wink:

    Meanredspider - personally, regards your commute, I'd just keep doing what you're doing (as long as you don't stray into an overuse injury) - 1000 ft over 15 miles, 4 times a week, seems a nice setup - it's plenty sufficient to keep your fitness and "speed" improving imho - you're attacking it hard, there's plenty of climbing - sounds like a good workout. having said that, if it becomes too much, Hard days, Easy days is a great way of keeping ticking over and reducing the risk of overuse injury - keep a close eye on your knees. You could always incorporate some rest days (as a minimum), if your knees start complaining.

    Regards the 20 mph avg, your colleagues are possibly overlooking the 1000 ft of climbing ? - (tends to have a detrimental effect on avgs).

    Just for info - it can take 2 years of regular riding/training for a typical "fitness" guy to pump out regular 19 mph avgs on the flat (loops) over a reasonable distance. And that's full loops, not easy one-ways (wind assisted) - and many never get to that level.

    Last summer I was doing 70 mile loops averaging 19-20mph and at that time, it was around 2 years since I started first cycling. Loops where rolling.
Sign In or Register to comment.