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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Specifically in regards to cardio and building lung endurance. (my lungs usually quit before my legs do). Is it better to do shorter rides every day, or a longer ride every other day with a rest day in between?


I hit the mtb trails on my FS as often as I can for fun. I also have somewhat of a gravel bike I ride on the rail trails for exercise, I try to get into a cardio range.. Cardio has never been my strong suit, when I run I get winded really quickly. My typical gravel routes are 12-16 miles, 20 if I'm feeling it that day. So, if my intent is to improve my lung function and build up to longer rides, would it be better to do 20 mile rides every other day with a recovery day or better to go balls out for 10 miles every day?

Same question applied to developing riding muscles, assuming the answer could be different.

For the record the mtb trails near my are a lot of up and down. They kick my butt. 6-8 miles feels like doing 20+ on the rail trail.
 

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I secretly ride 12spd
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This is a rabbit hole with 5 million different answers depending on who you're talking to.

What are you ultimately trying to accomplish? You say stronger lungs, but why do you want stronger lungs? Racing? Longer bikepacking routes? Keeping up on club rides?

The more info you give the more specific answers you're going to get. Right now your vague description of what you're looking for is probably going to produce a lot of bro science answers.
 

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How old are you?
Do you recover well?
What's your BMI?
Live at altitude?
Using a HR monitor?
Other excercising involved?
Sit down all day?

Way too much to consider for a general answer.
 

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It is sort of hard to believe but the best way to build you cardio is long rides at an intensity where you can carry on a conversation. These rides will not only build your ability to ride really hard, but they will allow you to rider faster without having to go hard. If you just ride hard all the time you get better at riding hard, but you don't really get better at riding fast without have to go hard. A small difference but an important one.

The best training though is a combination of the two. Try something like this.

Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Long and easy
Wednesday: Short and Hard.
Thursday: Long and easy.
Friday: OFF
Saturday: Long and easy.
Sunday: Long and Hard.

Repeat two times and then spend a week doing only medium length rides at low intensity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
No specific goal other than to be generally in better shape. I don't race, I don't bikepack, I don't group ride. I want to be able to go uphill for more than 10 seconds without being out of breath. When I play Ultimate frisbee I want to go for more than 1 point without needing a sub.

-37
-I don't know.
-I don't know.
-upstate NY
-no HR monitor.
-I use my elliptical when I can't bike. Very mild weightlifting on occasion.
-I sit all day but only because Covid-19 took my job. Trying to stay active.

I've owned a bike of some kind all of my life, but only rode occasionally and casually until last summer when I discovered mtb and the rail trails. At 37, I've never made any concerted effort to exercise and I've always been overweight. Getting to the age where it's going to turn into health problems if I don't start doing something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@LMN that is pretty much what I've been doing by accident, the schedule you suggest.
 

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@LMN that is pretty much what I've been doing by accident, the schedule you suggest.
The other factor is consistency. A good rule of thumb is takes 2-3 months of consistent riding to find decent fitness. Personally, I need at least 100-150hrs in the legs before I feel half decent on the bike.
 

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Based on the info you’ve included, I would focus on miles at this point, and ride at an intensity that you can maintain for the duration. 20-30 miles are not that hard to do on the road or gravel, because there likely won’t be drastic elevation changes.

It sounds like you need to increase your baseline fitness. Slow, steady, and frequent is the key.

You will find that you’re able, after a while, to increase your speed and/or distance. Maybe once a week try intervals that are shorter in distance but harder in intensity. You may need to go easy the next day.

After decades of riding religiously, I don’t really lose much cardio over the winter, because I keep riding. It’s my legs that lose their strength and stamina, but even that comes back after the summer is in full swing. Good luck— don’t give up. You WILL reach a point where the cardio stops hurting and you’ll actually find that it feels great and you need it.😉
 

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I want to be able to go uphill for more than 10 seconds without being out of breath.
Back in the '70s and '80s when I was doing a considerable amount of road racing, if I knew I'd be racing in hilly country, I'd train by hitting some rather intense hills at least once or possibly twice a week. I would typically mix that up with rides as LMN has described above along with at least one day of rest per week. Uphill trail cycling on a mountain bike really isn't much different in the sense that hills need to be ridden often enough to build up the stamina you need in order for it to become easier over time. In other words, the more you do it, the easier it'll get!
 

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I don't bother resting unless I'm pushing my limits to exhaustion. Or I feel that I'm burning out, such as if I'm pushing my limits on every ride to the point it's normal.

I prefer mixing things up. That's just my style though. If I exhaust myself doing one thing, I can rest while doing another thing.
 

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I'm no expert on the subject, but I've found what works for me is a bit of both. I found that doing one long ride per week (like a 3hr MTB ride) with several shorter high-intensity rides (or wind trainer sessions) in between was what gave me the best improvements in all round fitness. With your long rides try make each one a little longer than the last, even if its only an extra mile or so.
 

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You're right. That IS hard to believe.
The “talk test” has been used for many years to indicate aerobic or anaerobic activity.
It has been used by countless athletes. I suspect that modern technology has made this method dated. It still works well.
 

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A little hard to do without knowing your hr zones but you would need to incorporate some threshold work into your plans. It seems your body has some base but needs a little top up with longer steady rides. You will need to get your body to adapt to the punches of your local mtb trail with sprints or high intensity work once you feel ready for those efforts. I would seriously look at spending the next 2 months on being able to stretch your 13 mile gravel to 30+ miles , with some harder efforts after. Remember when the body wants a break, to give it. Also , dont know your weight but power and weight play a role when going uphill.
 

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I'm no expert on the subject, but I've found what works for me is a bit of both. I found that doing one long ride per week (like a 3hr MTB ride) with several shorter high-intensity rides (or wind trainer sessions) in between was what gave me the best improvements in all round fitness. With your long rides try make each one a little longer than the last, even if its only an extra mile or so.
I'm not a biking expert either, but I do know a bit about fitness training, and for almost any kind of fitness work, there is a benefit to variety in training or to training in "cyces," where you train one way for period of time and then switch it up for another way. I also believe that it is really important to have some rest days, which don't have to be sedentary but can use active recovery, i.e., low intensity work such as walking or stretching.

I've never understood the runners who run every day. That seems like a recipe for grinding your legs into paste, though I'm sure they get their results. Biking of course doesn't have the impact that running does, but I still believe your muscles need rest for maximum recovery.
 

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I've never understood the runners who run every day. That seems like a recipe for grinding your legs into paste, though I'm sure they get their results. Biking of course doesn't have the impact that running does, but I still believe your muscles need rest for maximum recovery.
Well said.

Of course I have 2 cents of comment. Rest is key. If you must do exercise every day, exercise different muscle groups. I.E. upper body lower body. Still, consider a rest day or more as part of of the plan.

Read up on food intake-not just some workout powder. Powders have their place. Not a fan.

Contrary to belief, you can trash your knees pedaling a bike. Disbelieve that, you will find out.

How do I know this stuff? Simple. School of hard knocks.
 

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No specific goal other than to be generally in better shape. I don't race, I don't bikepack, I don't group ride. I want to be able to go uphill for more than 10 seconds without being out of breath. When I play Ultimate frisbee I want to go for more than 1 point without needing a sub.

-37
-I don't know.
-I don't know.
-upstate NY
-no HR monitor.
-I use my elliptical when I can't bike. Very mild weightlifting on occasion.
-I sit all day but only because Covid-19 took my job. Trying to stay active.

I've owned a bike of some kind all of my life, but only rode occasionally and casually until last summer when I discovered mtb and the rail trails. At 37, I've never made any concerted effort to exercise and I've always been overweight. Getting to the age where it's going to turn into health problems if I don't start doing something.
Honestly, it sounds like you should just ride more and set some difficult goals that you can push to meet. If you can only go uphill 10 seconds before you're out of breath, then any riding you do is going to be helpful.

If you've been a casual rider and you're wanting to jump in deeper, just go push yourself. No need to overthink things and try to find some secret recipe when you're in a situation where you will benefit from all types of riding.

That said, I can tell you what worked for me personally. The best shape I have ever been in was when I was varying my riding the most. I had a few years where I rode a SS cross bike to work every day, did a lot of mountain biking after work and mixed in some gravel on the weekends. I also consistently had races scheduled so I had something to work towards. Most of them were more "fun" races, but I took them serious enough to not slouch.
 

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Definitely somewhat strange as I feel like lungs can always recover during a ride whereas legs can reach a point where they can't. Or at least that's my experience.

Road training (sacrilegious, I know) is definitely helpful for legs and lungs. On my road or gravel bike I seek out rides with a lot of elevation because that is the most effective training I've ever found.

My mtb rides get changed up from day to day just because of other factors like free time on any particular day, work schedule, personal life. But after the first month or so of true riding season I definitely want to be at a point where I can go pretty big and still ride pretty big the next day. If I go beyond big and to the point of exhaustion then a recovery day or two is not only needed but I am guessing important.
 

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The better training schedule is the one that becomes a habit. Something that you can stick to long term. Whether that's short or long rides etc, depends on the individual. Just IMO.
 
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