Cycling, or biking, is an effective way to build cardiovascular stamina, for you can exercise for long periods without excessive muscle fatigue. Compared to exercises requiring a full-body effort against resistance, sitting and pedaling is less strenuous and allows you work out longer. While you are building strength, stamina and endurance, you are increasing your muscle use which will have more benefits on your workouts.
What is stamina/endurance?
The words “stamina” and “endurance” are often interchanged by people, with stamina usually used to refer to one’s cardiorespiratory system’s ability to work over time, and endurance used to refer to muscle’s ability to work over time. If one exercises at high speed and high heart rates for short period, he or she is building cardio capacity; while exercising at lower speeds and heart rates for longer periods, it will help to build one’s cardio stamina. Briefly speaking, both stamina and endurance refer to one’s ability to work over a period of time, rather than at one’s maximum intensity for a single, explosive movement.
A Few Things You Should Know Before Workouts
Target Heart Rates
Target Heart Rate Zone (bpm)(female)
Performance (e.g. Sprints)
Age 18 182 to 202 141 to 182 121 to 141 101 to 121
Age 19 181 to 201 141 to 181 121 to 140 101 to 120
Age 20 180 to 200 140 to 180 120 to 140 100 to 120
Age 21 179 to 199 139 to 179 119 to 139 100 to 119
Age 22 178 to 198 139 to 178 119 to 138 99 to 119
Age 23 177 to 197 138 to 177 118 to 138 99 to 118
Cycling at 70–80% of your Max Heart Rate is the most effective in building your stamina. People in different ages require different heart rate to achieve their training goals. According to researchers from Northwestern Medicine, men can subtract their age from 200 to get a general estimate of their maximum heart rate. As for women, they can get an approximate value by subtracting 88% of their age from 206. The above form is the target heart rate zone which a female person needs to reach to achieve different goals.
From the above form, we can know that if you are a girl of 18 and want to build stamina, your heart rate should reach 141 to 182 to achieve this goal effectively.
Steps to Build Stamina
Make your own plan and determine your goal
Make a specific target for your stamina and cycling fitness. For example, determine if you're aiming to comfortably cycle 15 miles without feeling very tired or if you want to push harder and train for serious competition. It will determine how much you should cycle per week and how intense your workouts should be.
You can choose to ride indoors or outdoors, and you can change your speeds and resistance levels by gear changes and inclines. If you choose to ride outdoors, a course containing hills makes your ride more challenging. If you use an exercise bike, you can manually change resistance settings.
Increase your amount of exercise
Increase your riding length from time to time. For example, if you have finished cycling 20 miles this week, try a total distance of 30 miles next week. Set a goal to increase your distance and speed by around 5% to 10% every week if you want to challenge yourself.
Try some long-distance ridings per week
Ride for as long a distance as you can three times every week. According to John Hughes, director of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association, it is ideal to achieve them with three 2-hour sessions. After several times of execution, move to two 3-hour cycling sessions when you’re okay with that. These arrangements suit serious riders or people looking to significant increase in their stamina.
Use the interval training method
In your weekly cycling schedule, use the interval training method. For example, if you cycle for around 30 minutes, including 6 minutes at the start and end to warm up and cool down, divide the remaining 24 minutes into 6 sessions of 4 minutes. Train at around 60% of your maximum heart rate for the first, third and the fifth periods, and at 80% for the other three.
Don’t forget to drink water before and after cycling. If you ride outdoors, bring a bottle of water or sports drink with you. Do remember, if you just finish exercising, you shouldn’t drink water immediately, no matter what kind of sports it is.
After cycling for a long distance, eat pieces of energy bars or fruit like banana may help you feel better and maintain your physical strength. It will help you ride farther without feeling so exhausted.
Find some partners to train together
It is very easy for one to find excuses to avoid training when he or she is training alone. Therefore, it is very necessary to train with other bikers to keep you motivate and get supervised. You can get group goals and encourage each other to achieve them. Training with a team will push you to improve your stamina.
After a long-distance riding, your body awfully needs two things: carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are essential to supply glycogen stores, which can become depleted during a long ride. Protein is needed by your body to build and repair muscle tissue. The following five foods are suitable for people after a long ride.
Sweet potatoes are rich in carbohydrates and vitamin C, which helps to accelerate wound healing, facilitating your body’s recovery.
Eggs are rich in protein and are the first choice for people who are doing body-building. Recent studies show that there is no effect on one’s blood cholesterol level to eat eggs.
Scientific studies have shown that chocolate milk is one of the best recovery foods for athlete. The sugars in milk are simple carbohydrates, which can be absorbed easily by the body. Besides, milk is rich in vitamin D and calcium, which help strengthen your bones.
Nuts are a great post-ride snack for they are high in protein. Nuts have the added benefit of being portable, which is important if you’re not going home immediately after a ride. Nuts are high in unsaturated fats and plant sterols, both of which help to lower bad cholesterol. To maximize their benefits, mix nuts with some dried fruit to get you closer to the 4:1 carb to protein ratio.
The simple carbohydrates in white rice are broken down more easily by the body than the complex ones in whole grain alternatives. White rice also contains important amino acids necessary for building muscle. For an added nutrient boost, cook white rice in chicken broth or coconut milk instead of water.
Remember to keep notes. Track your average heart rate, maximum heart rate while training. And the time you have spent in your target heart rate zone which should be accurate to the minute.
Do not exercise every day. Your body needs a chance to recover from tired training throughout the week.
Don’t push too hard while training. Your body needs time to adapt to the changes it’s going to go through so you have to be patient and understand that’s a process.
Rest, recovery and nutrition are as important as the training itself.