Junk miles/easy but not easy enough/Hard but not hard enough???

tonysj Posts: 391
edited August 2019 in Training, fitness and health
Hi All,

I keep reading that a lot of cyclists ride Junk miles which they say are doing very little for their overall fitness and increase in performance.
I can guess what type of effort these Junk miles will be, steady pootle with mates chatting and enjoying the social ride etc and I'm not against this type of ride.

What I'm unsure about is the term of a ride being Hard but not hard enough to improve fitness!

A typical solo ride for me will be 20-35 miles with an average speed of 17 mph plus elevation is around 700 ft per 10 miles.
I should point out I don't currently follow any training plan, intervals or other sessions and no longer ride on the turbo during warmer months.
My FTP mid February was 286 watts,( probably slightly lower at the moment I would guess say 275 watts ) I'm 56 yrs, 76 kg and don't race and would class myself as a recreational rider who likes a challenge and will push myself.

Just got back from a solo ride this morning 23.5 miles, 1726 ft elevation, average speed 18.6 mph for the main ride, not counting the last 1.5 mile cool down, in 1 hour 18 minutes, Normalized Power 255 Watts, Ave w/kg 2.78. Intensity Factor 0.883.
Would you say that this ride overall would be Not going Hard enough or close to a Hard enough ride to be worth riding at this intensity in the future?
Generally all my solo rides are similar to the above.




  • maryka
    maryka Posts: 748
    Not hard enough imo. My hard steady rides of that duration have an IF well over 0.9 because I do threshold work around FTP.

    Basically this type of ride, when you do it all the time, makes you too fatigued to ride properly hard. No worries about that if you aren't training for anything specific, but your body has probably become well-adapted to these upper tempo rides over recent months, therefore you're not really taxing it much these days and therefore not progressing.

    Junk miles are underrated. You have to ride easy to be able to ride truly hard. Accumulating volume with longer Z2 rides is the only way to get it without fatiguing yourself for the days you want to do Z4/5 efforts.

    Comes down to how many hours you have to train, what your goals are, etc. though. Regardless, mixing up the riding you do is what makes your body adapt and compensate. Riding the same hard 60-90 min all the time is a recipe for plateauing. Our bodies are very good at adapting then getting lazy (efficient) unless you keep throwing different stuff in the mix.
  • imposter2.0
    imposter2.0 Posts: 12,028
    If you don't follow any kind of training plan or performance objectives, then there is no such thing as 'junk' miles. You're over-thinking it - as is everyone else who uses the term without any reference or definition.
  • PhilipPirrip
    PhilipPirrip Posts: 616
    Don't worry about only rides that are hard work counting.

    You can ride for your mental wellbeing as well as physical fitness and as you don't race and class yourself as a recreational rider who likes to casually ride with mates sometimes then it sounds like you've got a good balance to your cycling for you at this time.

    I'm just a few years younger than you but tend to ride slighty further and those numbers do ring true with me. I could ride harder but I ride for enjoyment, and all time in the saddle is time well spent as far as I'm concerned.
  • jgsi
    jgsi Posts: 5,062
    In terms of getting 'fitter', then no, you aint riding hard enough. You are simply not producing the levels of stress required for improvement.

    In terms of general well being, staying away from the pressure of racing, enjoying the bike, what more do you actually want?
  • N0bodyOfTheGoat
    N0bodyOfTheGoat Posts: 5,898
    Purely from a perspective of trying to improve your FTP figure, a ride or two per week with a higher Intensity Factor would be better IMO, which would then probably mean other rides would have <75% IF.

    But there are other benefits to getting out on your bike besides improving your FTP, sometimes it's simply great to get out of the four walls without caring about PBs, something I'm struggling to tell myself once again today!
    2020 Voodoo Marasa
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • trek_dan
    trek_dan Posts: 1,366
    If your just cycling for fun throw your power meter in the bin and just go out and enjoy yourself with your mates. Not enough people do that and its easy to loose the joy of cycling if your looking at numbers all the time.
    If you have a specific goal in mind set a training plan (either through a coach, Trainer Road, a book etc) and stick to it. Maybe enter some club TTs as a benchmark.
  • RutlandGav
    RutlandGav Posts: 144
    I've been listening to the Velonews podcasts and according to those guys, all aerobic work stimulates your aerobic system.

    Long , uninterrupted rides are thought to be best since they train your fast twitch fibres for aerobic work once they get recruited as your slow twitch fatigue, but there isn't really any such thing as junk miles. The problem with higher intensity stuff is that it fatigues you far more, so assuming you don't have too many demands on your time, a large volume of aerobic work stimulates your aerobic system more than the much smaller volume of higher intensity stuff you'd be able to manage before burning out.

    They also say that recovery rides that are neither fast (65% threshold) nor long (1 hour or less) are underrated as they stimulate , rather than repress, the immune system and it's the immune system that rebuilds your muscles after a heavy session broke them down.

    That 23.5 mile ride you did at 90% of your FTP sounds quite hard ! I'd be close to bonking after that, and i wouldn't be able to do one of those every day.

    I'm 10 years younger but not as fit as you. In the past couple of months I've been adding a 100 mile weekend ride to my 100 miles or so of commuting. Both of which are mostly done at 160W or so though there's some variability on the commute .. sometimes I go 30W faster or slower depending how i feel. 6 weeks ago I was at about 200W FTP, now I think it's nearer 230W - easy gains starting from a lower base. But no over threshold stuff so far.

    According to those Velonews guys, anaerobic intervals improve anaerobic power and lactate tolerance, which can help you win a race, but if anything those adaptations are counter to the ones you get from aerobic work.
  • pianoman
    pianoman Posts: 706
    I'm inclined to agree even if I would have disagreed a few months ago. The recent hot weather, when my blood pressure dropped too low to be measured from constantly doing one hour "fast as possible" rides and runs, not to mention my relatively weak endurance on the Snowman Classic Triathlon on Sunday, was the moment the penny dropped.

    So this coming winter: ignore the willy wavers, do more miles (including at the end of every club ride), less intensity, choose primary goal (first half Ironman), enjoy cycling more. What's not to like?
  • tonysj
    tonysj Posts: 391
    Thanks for the advice guys.
    I've started to put a bit more effort into the Hard rides since I last posted.
    Today my ride was 22.5 miles, 1362feet elevation , 19.1 average MPH, 1 hour 11 minutes, Power ave 253 watts, Normalized power 308 watts, Intensity Factor 1,058.
    I did do another FTP test soon after the original post and it was 291 watts slightly up.
    I think these Hard rides are helping my fitness progress but like some mentioned about plateauing I'm doing sprint and 40/20 intervals during the Hard rides so it's varied.
    Thanks again.