Volume vs Intensity …

Cycling does you good. Does more cycling do you even more good?

Given my advanced age the effect of cycling on all cause mortality is of urgent concern. Research on older folk getting off the couch and onto their bikes is scant. The obvious advantage of such studies would be the relatively short time the researchers would need to wait for the endpoints. In the absence of old folk as guinea pigs  we can look to wise coaches for opinion or extrapolate from studies that draw their participants from a wider spectrum.

Joe Friel is wise and famous and a prolific author. In Fast After Fifty he tells us that long slow distance will set you apart from the guy next door. It will also set you apart from the guys on the podium. In other words he damns it with faint praise. His prescription is to go for the intensity.

This is borne out by findings from the Copenhagen City Heart Study (Schnohr et al)

Relative intensity and duration of cycling were recorded in 5106 apparently healthy men and women aged 21-90 years drawn from the general population of Copenhagen, and followed for an average of 18 years. Total number of deaths during follow-up was 1172, of these 146 were coronary heart disease deaths. For both sexes we found a significant inverse association between cycling intensity and risk of all-cause and coronary heart disease death, but only a weak association with cycling duration.

If you want to live longer ride faster not further. QED.

Charity rides are a fun way to spice up your riding program. They’re better than races because they are races really but a large proportion of the riders don’t realise it and are therefore easier to beat. These events have succumbed to the Corona virus for the moment but they will return one day. The one I’m looking forward to is Maryborough’s R3R. I did the short course last time. Next time my goal is the full 109 km.

Can I prepare for 109 km by doing interval sprints? Well not on their own. Volume is vital, the effort though must be at a certain intensity. The “fat burn” zone doesn’t cut it. Joe again …

Very low heart rate training is often referred to as the “fat-burning” zone. This is another case of a myth that refuses to go away. Low intensity, slow exercise does not burn more calories or more fat than does high-intensity, fast paced exercise.

In fact high intensity exercise will have a greater impact on body fat than low intensity junk miles even if the calories consumed during the exercise is less because of the impact on metabolic rate during the rest of the day.

Which leads us to the real point. Volume is a fairly meaningless metric. What matters is effort versus recovery, training versus over-training.

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