An hour at zone 3, is it useful?

A light bike doesn't replace good fitness.

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AJS914
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by AJS914

It seems like this topic is really about trainer motivation. My biggest motivation for trainer rides has always been along the lines of 'if I don't ride this thing three times this week, I'm going to get dropped on weekend group rides and I'll be really out of shape come spring when the racing season start'.

10min warm up @ 170w then 20min effort at 216w.
I find that shorter intervals make trainer work go by faster. The counting of the inteval and rest period and generally watching the clock helps the time pass more quickly. Mentally, I find a 20 minute interval tougher unless it's at a low enough intensity where I can watch a movie at the same time. I have done 2x20 or 3x15 sweet spot while watching super hero action movies. It has to be a movie where you don't have to pay a lot of attention to dialog.

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petromyzon
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by petromyzon

I may not be correct about the differences between trainer and rollers in your case. But personally I reckon rollers are better for warmups and recovery sessions whilst trainers are better for getting work done.

Trainer motivation is a real issue for me too. I have nearly 10 years of power data and whilst there are a few "hacks" and intervals etc. that really work for me the basic take home is that the overall quantity of riding between 50% and 90% of FTP is the key determinant of my fitness.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

I come from a heavy sports science background and so I'll try to chime in with some thoughts. I'm going to generalize here so give me some rope. From a cycling perspective, the point of any training is to increase your cardiovascular system, and your muscular system. These are both intertwined.

Your cardio system can essentially be broken down into your body's ability to convert oxygen into energy. On a macro scale, we are talking about lung capacity and heart strength. These elements are fairly easy to plateau and straightforward. The hard part is the micro level. We are now talking about mitochondria and capillarization of the muscles you use when you turn a pedal. This process never stops, although there is a point of severely diminishing returns after maybe 5-7 years.

This is why consistent, long-term training is so important. You need to be training consistently to build up mitochondria and capillarization in your legs. It builds up over time. If you take a long break, you lose it and have to essentially start from scratch (well not completely, as a trained athlete can rebuild mitochondria and capillaries faster than someone who never exercised before).

And what's the best way to build up mitochondria and capillarization? Well, it's long slow miles. Lots of them, for a very long period of time (years).

Going up to lactate threshold and beyond (Vo2Max level efforts) aren't that efficient in creating mitochondria and capillarization. They're good for developing your ability to deal with lactate buildup, and increasing the macro aspects of your cardio system, but very poor at developing what you need for long aerobic efforts (anything over 10 minutes really).

Research shows that cardio efforts of 45 minutes is when your body starts producing peak levels of HGH which is key for muscular development. Efforts of 90 minutes is when you hit the point of severely diminishing returns when it comes to capillarization and mitochondira buildup. Efforts beyond 90 minutes give you severely decreased levels of cardio benefit, but your body begins to learn how to process your energy stores (glycogen, fat stores) more efficiently, so long rides are obviously essential for pro riders.

The tricky part is, cycling races are often hours long. But you max out the HGH benefits at 45 minutes, and you basically max out your micro aerobic benefits at 90 minutes. Efforts beyond 90 minutes becomes a matter of how efficiently your body can use energy (using less for the same output), and this can really only be achieved by training yourself at distances equivalent to your competition (target) distances. But you need all 3 (HGH, capillarization/mitochondira AND energy efficiency). The longer the distance of your target event, the more important energy efficiency and the less important capilliarzation.

What this all means is, if you are going so hard that it limits the amount of 45/90 minute workouts you can do per week, or you can only do 45/90 minutes once a day, or you can't do a 3 hour effort at any pace, then you are obviously not gaining full aerobic benefit. Ideally, you are getting the benefits of 45/90/90+ everyday, and obviously if you are going too hard on too many rides, your body simply won't be able to handle it.

So the key is, find a way to get as many 45/90 as possible, and if you have the time, get in 90+ rides. But the 45/90 are the most important from a physiological perspective, and 90+ rides are really marginal gains but absolutely critical if you are planning on racing or going on rides that are 90+ minutes.

Another way to think about this is, you need the micro cardio development to really do great interval or tempo sessions. The point of interval/tempos are to be able to push high paces for as many reps as possible. High quality workouts essentially. But if you lack the basic aerobic conditioning, you will do fewer intervals (or slower ones at least), and your tempo rides will be slower or shorter as well, which means you get less bang for your hard workouts. The basic aerobic conditioning lets you have better hard workouts, and so you get more out of them.

What I have seen from nearly every amateur endurance athlete (cycling, running, swimming, etc.) is that their basic cardio conditioning is far worse off (relatively speaking) than their lung capacity or muscular strength (which are also generally not at optimal levels). Almost everyone I meet, the easiest way for them to improve is to do more 45/90 sessions at slow paces. After a year, their conditioning will be greatly improved.
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peted76
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by peted76

@iheartbianchi I think you're taking us all to school today, thanks for the insight. Fascinating stuff, I read it twice.

Since starting this thread a month ago, I've upped my sessions on the bike from two/three to four/five and haven't touched rollers for about three weeks, focussing on the turbo. I've learned that I'm simply missing out a chunk of training by not doing longer easier sessions. I have been following the built in app workouts provided with the Kurt Kinetic app and have also found that it comes with a free month of trainerroad (so as it's now just about light enough in the evenings to ride outside I'm thinking I'll save that for next winter).

I'm feeling pretty good about my early season form, a PB at my local Roadmans TT a couple of weeks ago, first crit race of the season went better than expected, form on the road is feeling good, I have a little local loop I do when I'm time crunched but just need to get out there, where two days ago I smashed a couple of my PB's (and then smashed myself into a car but that's another story, nothing broken, bike's at the shop being inspected for damage). I'm putting the good form down to the turbo.

Anyway all good info in this here thread, thanks to all.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

peted76 wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:19 pm
@iheartbianchi I think you're taking us all to school today, thanks for the insight. Fascinating stuff, I read it twice.

Since starting this thread a month ago, I've upped my sessions on the bike from two/three to four/five and haven't touched rollers for about three weeks, focussing on the turbo. I've learned that I'm simply missing out a chunk of training by not doing longer easier sessions. I have been following the built in app workouts provided with the Kurt Kinetic app and have also found that it comes with a free month of trainerroad (so as it's now just about light enough in the evenings to ride outside I'm thinking I'll save that for next winter).

I'm feeling pretty good about my early season form, a PB at my local Roadmans TT a couple of weeks ago, first crit race of the season went better than expected, form on the road is feeling good, I have a little local loop I do when I'm time crunched but just need to get out there, where two days ago I smashed a couple of my PB's (and then smashed myself into a car but that's another story, nothing broken, bike's at the shop being inspected for damage). I'm putting the good form down to the turbo.

Anyway all good info in this here thread, thanks to all.
The part that is most surprising is that efforts at heartrates of 80% max gives you almost no additional benefit than an effort at 60% of max. So you get nearly the same benefit from 120-130bpm as you do 150-160bpm. The latter are what we call junk miles. High fatigue and less mileave for low benefit. So we either say go 50-60% or max, or guy 90-95% of max, but limit what you do in between.

When young endurance athletes join a national team or pro team for the first time, they are often shocked at how slow everything is. Of course, the fast training is incredibly fast, but they can only do the incredibly fast training because of the countless slow miles.
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AJS914
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by AJS914

At the end of February, after having listened to all the Velownews podcasts and read some of Stephen Seiler's research, I started intentional long slow distance base training. I wanted to do a reset and start from zero. My training had been up and down. I'd hit a fatigue wall and then have to pull back and rest and it didn't feel like I was getting stronger.

Anyway, after 6 or 7 weeks of this I think I'm starting to see the payoff. On my club's group rides I'm hanging with a new group of riders that previously dropped me on climbs. Today I dropped two riders that have always been faster than me and hung with another that is way faster than me.

I'm going to keep this up for another month before I start adding some structured interval sessions.

Basically I've been doing at least two 3+ hour rides a week. One is our Saturday group ride which I tack on an extra 1.5 hours in order to make it an extra long ride. The other long ride I do by myself. I fill in the week with another 1.5-2 hour ride and a recovery ride or two. I've been averaging 5 rides / 125 miles a week. I've hit 10 hours a couple of times.

It seems to be working and bringing me up a level or two. I'll start some kind of build phase in a month. It will be interesting how I handle that and how far it improves my fitness. I think my build phase will be basically trading out one of the 1.5 or 2 hour rides for a dedicated interval session. I get a lot of intensity on the Saturday group ride so I probably don't need more.

TheRich
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by TheRich

I thnk there's also a psychological training aspect of doing the long rides regularly...which really is a big part of the battle.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

TheRich wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:26 am
I thnk there's also a psychological training aspect of doing the long rides regularly...which really is a big part of the battle.
Long slow rides are just mind-numbingly boring! If you need to “push” or be “tough” to survive a long slow ride, you are going too fast and ruining the purpose of a long slow ride.

The mentally tough aspect comes in during your intervals or tempo rides where you are riding near or above your lactate threshold.

Now you can throw in intervals or tempos during your long slow rides, if you are short on time, but the problem is the tempo/intervals generally arent very fast, and you spend most of the ride recovering from oxygen debt as opposed to building your aerobic conditioning. These types of rides are very usedul during the racing season when you are trying to build race fitness, but arent appropriate for base building.
Last edited by iheartbianchi on Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:19 am, edited 3 times in total.
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iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

AJS914 wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 1:12 am
At the end of February, after having listened to all the Velownews podcasts and read some of Stephen Seiler's research, I started intentional long slow distance base training. I wanted to do a reset and start from zero. My training had been up and down. I'd hit a fatigue wall and then have to pull back and rest and it didn't feel like I was getting stronger.

Anyway, after 6 or 7 weeks of this I think I'm starting to see the payoff. On my club's group rides I'm hanging with a new group of riders that previously dropped me on climbs. Today I dropped two riders that have always been faster than me and hung with another that is way faster than me.

I'm going to keep this up for another month before I start adding some structured interval sessions.

Basically I've been doing at least two 3+ hour rides a week. One is our Saturday group ride which I tack on an extra 1.5 hours in order to make it an extra long ride. The other long ride I do by myself. I fill in the week with another 1.5-2 hour ride and a recovery ride or two. I've been averaging 5 rides / 125 miles a week. I've hit 10 hours a couple of times.

It seems to be working and bringing me up a level or two. I'll start some kind of build phase in a month. It will be interesting how I handle that and how far it improves my fitness. I think my build phase will be basically trading out one of the 1.5 or 2 hour rides for a dedicated interval session. I get a lot of intensity on the Saturday group ride so I probably don't need more.
Just remember your body can only handle maybe 2-3 months of intense training before you peak, and you start losing fitness because you are doing fewer long slow miles.

The key here is that you accumulate the benefits of long slow miles (build on top, rather than start from scratch every 2-3 months). So after you have peaked, you go back to building on your existing base. This means you either have to increase volume, or keep volume constant but increase speed of your long slow miles.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the time duration of your long slow miles constant, but increase slowly the distance covered. A good rule of thumb is 2-5% increases in distance or speed every cycle (2 times a year basically). Marginal improvements, but over the course of 5 years its a massive difference.
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TheRich
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by TheRich

iheartbianchi wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:08 am
TheRich wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:26 am
I thnk there's also a psychological training aspect of doing the long rides regularly...which really is a big part of the battle.
Long slow rides are just mind-numbingly boring! If you need to “push” or be “tough” to survive a long slow ride, you are going too fast and ruining the purpose of a long slow ride.

The mentally tough aspect comes in during your intervals or tempo rides where you are riding near or above your lactate threshold.

Now you can throw in intervals or tempos during your long slow rides, if you are short on time, but the problem is the tempo/intervals generally arent very fast, and you spend most of the ride recovering from oxygen debt as opposed to building your aerobic conditioning. These types of rides are very usedul during the racing season when you are trying to build race fitness, but arent appropriate for base building.
Not that it's that physically tough, but after a certain point it gets hard to stay focused, at least in a non-competitive situation. Then the more you do it, the more familiar it is, and the easier it is, mentally....which influences your physical performance.

iheartbianchi
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by iheartbianchi

TheRich wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 7:45 am
iheartbianchi wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 5:08 am
TheRich wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 3:26 am
I thnk there's also a psychological training aspect of doing the long rides regularly...which really is a big part of the battle.
Long slow rides are just mind-numbingly boring! If you need to “push” or be “tough” to survive a long slow ride, you are going too fast and ruining the purpose of a long slow ride.

The mentally tough aspect comes in during your intervals or tempo rides where you are riding near or above your lactate threshold.

Now you can throw in intervals or tempos during your long slow rides, if you are short on time, but the problem is the tempo/intervals generally arent very fast, and you spend most of the ride recovering from oxygen debt as opposed to building your aerobic conditioning. These types of rides are very usedul during the racing season wㅇhen you are trying to build race fitness, but arent appropriate for base building.
Not that it's that physically tough, but after a certain point it gets hard to stay focused, at least in a non-competitive situation. Then the more you do it, the more familiar it is, and the easier it is, mentally....which influences your physical performance.
Well if you can’t motivate yourself to do the long slow miles, I think you really need to reevaluate what you are doing on the bike and maybe just become a casual rider. Not trying to be condescending, but committing to a proper training program (with the long slow miles it entails) is a massive lifestyle commitment and is not appropriate for most riders. If you have committed then there will be more considerations beyond merely motivation or boredom and probably should get a proper coach. Fatigue is probably the biggest source of loss of motivation for this group and thats why its so important to do slow miles to avoid fatiguing yourself on your easy/recoveru days.

Probably why so few former pros train seriously at all after retiring. 3+ hour rides more than once or twice a werk just dont fit in the context of having a normal life.

But this is a separate discussion from my original point, which is that most amateurs are doing themselves a disservice by only riding 2-3 times a week and try to make up for limited rides by going too hard and too long. Thats just not physiological possible and all they do is overtax the absolutely wrong part of their cardio system. It is better to do 5-6 easy rides (45-90 minutes each, with maybe one longer slow ride of maybe 2-3 hours) than going on 3 long and hard rides a week. In the latter you will peak and plateau, whereas in the former you can build for 5 years or so before you get close to hitting your lifetime potential. Of course none of this is ideal from a competitive perspectice, just speaking for amateurs with full time jobs who probably cant do more than 90 minutes of training on a weekday (if that!). But surely we can all do 45 minutes!

Just look around - how many riders do you know that have been riding for years and really hammering the pace, but never improving? This probably describes 99% of all amateur riders after their first couple of years riding. Its counterintuitive, but everyone just needs to go slower (and more often!).
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by TheRich

iheartbianchi wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 11:33 am
Well if you can’t motivate yourself to do the long slow miles, I think you really need to reevaluate what you are doing on the bike and maybe just become a casual rider. Not trying to be condescending, but committing to a proper training program (with the long slow miles it entails) is a massive lifestyle commitment and is not appropriate for most riders. If you have committed then there will be more considerations beyond merely motivation or boredom and probably should get a proper coach. Fatigue is probably the biggest source of loss of motivation for this group and thats why its so important to do slow miles to avoid fatiguing yourself on your easy/recoveru days.
Three hours is nothing, I'm talking about four to five or more...which is a long time to be doing anything and some form of fatigue is almost unavoidable.

The mental benefit I was referring to is that when you've done them for "training," when/if you do a century, GF, or even a race, the concept (and the techniques, requirements, and limitations) of riding that far/long is more familiar. Which is on top of the physiological benefits from doing those rides.
iheartbianchi wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 11:33 am
Just look around - how many riders do you know that have been riding for years and really hammering the pace, but never improving? This probably describes 99% of all amateur riders after their first couple of years riding. Its counterintuitive, but everyone just needs to go slower (and more often!).
No doubt. You get good at what you practice, so if all you do is try to beat up on your friends for a couple hours and specifically target relatively short Strava segments, that's what you'll be good at.

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by iheartbianchi

TheRich wrote:
Sat Apr 13, 2019 7:12 pm

Three hours is nothing, I'm talking about four to five or more...which is a long time to be doing anything and some form of fatigue is almost unavoidable.

The mental benefit I was referring to is that when you've done them for "training," when/if you do a century, GF, or even a race, the concept (and the techniques, requirements, and limitations) of riding that far/long is more familiar. Which is on top of the physiological benefits from doing those rides.
I see - well now we're getting a bit specific! My posts were just very high-level, general info that I think anyone who is seriously training would already be aware of (that mileage and frequency of rides are key). Obviously, long rides/events/races are extremely complicated and difficult to train for, and my posts don't really cover any of that in detail. Likewise, I tend to think doing (and training for) a century is much harder than most local one-day races or criteriums. The distance is just brutal and if you're not prepared, no matter how slow you go you can really destroy your next 2-4 weeks and you lose out on 2-4 weeks of training benefit.
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dim
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by dim

iheartbianchi wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 9:33 am
I come from a heavy sports science background and so I'll try to chime in with some thoughts. I'm going to generalize here so give me some rope. From a cycling perspective, the point of any training is to increase your cardiovascular system, and your muscular system. These are both intertwined.

Your cardio system can essentially be broken down into your body's ability to convert oxygen into energy. On a macro scale, we are talking about lung capacity and heart strength. These elements are fairly easy to plateau and straightforward. The hard part is the micro level. We are now talking about mitochondria and capillarization of the muscles you use when you turn a pedal. This process never stops, although there is a point of severely diminishing returns after maybe 5-7 years.

This is why consistent, long-term training is so important. You need to be training consistently to build up mitochondria and capillarization in your legs. It builds up over time. If you take a long break, you lose it and have to essentially start from scratch (well not completely, as a trained athlete can rebuild mitochondria and capillaries faster than someone who never exercised before).

And what's the best way to build up mitochondria and capillarization? Well, it's long slow miles. Lots of them, for a very long period of time (years).

Going up to lactate threshold and beyond (Vo2Max level efforts) aren't that efficient in creating mitochondria and capillarization. They're good for developing your ability to deal with lactate buildup, and increasing the macro aspects of your cardio system, but very poor at developing what you need for long aerobic efforts (anything over 10 minutes really).

Research shows that cardio efforts of 45 minutes is when your body starts producing peak levels of HGH which is key for muscular development. Efforts of 90 minutes is when you hit the point of severely diminishing returns when it comes to capillarization and mitochondira buildup. Efforts beyond 90 minutes give you severely decreased levels of cardio benefit, but your body begins to learn how to process your energy stores (glycogen, fat stores) more efficiently, so long rides are obviously essential for pro riders.

The tricky part is, cycling races are often hours long. But you max out the HGH benefits at 45 minutes, and you basically max out your micro aerobic benefits at 90 minutes. Efforts beyond 90 minutes becomes a matter of how efficiently your body can use energy (using less for the same output), and this can really only be achieved by training yourself at distances equivalent to your competition (target) distances. But you need all 3 (HGH, capillarization/mitochondira AND energy efficiency). The longer the distance of your target event, the more important energy efficiency and the less important capilliarzation.

What this all means is, if you are going so hard that it limits the amount of 45/90 minute workouts you can do per week, or you can only do 45/90 minutes once a day, or you can't do a 3 hour effort at any pace, then you are obviously not gaining full aerobic benefit. Ideally, you are getting the benefits of 45/90/90+ everyday, and obviously if you are going too hard on too many rides, your body simply won't be able to handle it.

So the key is, find a way to get as many 45/90 as possible, and if you have the time, get in 90+ rides. But the 45/90 are the most important from a physiological perspective, and 90+ rides are really marginal gains but absolutely critical if you are planning on racing or going on rides that are 90+ minutes.

Another way to think about this is, you need the micro cardio development to really do great interval or tempo sessions. The point of interval/tempos are to be able to push high paces for as many reps as possible. High quality workouts essentially. But if you lack the basic aerobic conditioning, you will do fewer intervals (or slower ones at least), and your tempo rides will be slower or shorter as well, which means you get less bang for your hard workouts. The basic aerobic conditioning lets you have better hard workouts, and so you get more out of them.

What I have seen from nearly every amateur endurance athlete (cycling, running, swimming, etc.) is that their basic cardio conditioning is far worse off (relatively speaking) than their lung capacity or muscular strength (which are also generally not at optimal levels). Almost everyone I meet, the easiest way for them to improve is to do more 45/90 sessions at slow paces. After a year, their conditioning will be greatly improved.
Good post ...

I'm planning to start training properly, and have been watching youtube videos, reading google, reading about the training plans on Training Peaks and have bought a few books. I will be having a proper bike fit soon (waiting for my new shoes which I've ordered), and then I will start training from scratch using my powermeter

all the sites that I have read, state that one must start with a training plan that focuses on base miles. Keep the power in zone 1-2 and cycle with a 95+ cadence, irrespective of distance and hills etc

I cycled to work earlier and tried this (12km roundtrip), and I can say that it is not as easy as it sounds .... I was like a bunny with dura cell batteries and I'm actually exhausted even though I never went fast. My normal cadence averages between 76 and 80 RPM on longer rides.... 100 RPM is a big jump but I will persist

The plan that I am keen on using is over a 12 week period with the final ride a distance of 200km .... it will be tough at 95+rpm :shock:
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by iheartbianchi

dim wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2019 2:54 pm

Good post ...

I'm planning to start training properly, and have been watching youtube videos, reading google, reading about the training plans on Training Peaks and have bought a few books. I will be having a proper bike fit soon (waiting for my new shoes which I've ordered), and then I will start training from scratch using my powermeter

all the sites that I have read, state that one must start with a training plan that focuses on base miles. Keep the power in zone 1-2 and cycle with a 95+ cadence, irrespective of distance and hills etc

I cycled to work earlier and tried this (12km roundtrip), and I can say that it is not as easy as it sounds .... I was like a bunny with dura cell batteries and I'm actually exhausted even though I never went fast. My normal cadence averages between 76 and 80 RPM on longer rides.... 100 RPM is a big jump but I will persist

The plan that I am keen on using is over a 12 week period with the final ride a distance of 200km .... it will be tough at 95+rpm :shock:
Interestingly enough, I haven't really bought into the high cadence brigade (even though my natural cadence is very very high). I don't think there's enough science to make this conclusion, because people's biomechanics are quite different, and I believe that people naturally find their most efficient biomechanics.

For example, when you look at Kenyans running, they have what the Western world calls the "ideal" running efficiency. Their forward lean, ball of foot strike, arm and shoulder swing, everything. But the funny thing is, the Kenyans get ZERO biomechanical training at all. That's just the way they run. And that's because they've been running hundreds of miles a month every month since they were little kids! So in cycling, I think if you increase your mileage enough (may take years), you will naturally find your most efficient pedal stroke. And trying to work against your body's natural inclinations by forcing a new biomechanical motion I think may be recipe for injury.

One thing to keep in mind about the "base" is that obviously the "base phase" CAN be part of a training cycle, but not always! In a training cycle, you taper down the mileage as you get closer to your target event and you enter a maintenance phase where you build towards a peak. But your peak doesn't last long, so once that's over, that's when you need a brief period of rest (depending on how long your cycle was) before going back to "base phase." But if you're not really training for something, ideally you are in "base phase" year-long and throwing in maybe one interval or hard tempo ride a week. And after 5 years or so, you'll be in the best shape you'll probably ever been in for the rest of your life.
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