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  • Posted Mar 2, 2009

This month I am going to cover 'tempo' riding. This is a tricky riding pace and is sometimes equated with 'no man's land'. Some people avoid it like the plague, others spend too much time at this pace.

Daylight Savings Time begins this month so get ready to get your riding legs on again! All the best in training, Coach David Ertl WELCOME TO... THE TEMPO ZONE! No, it's not the twilight zone but some people avoid it like it is. If you've read much on cycling training, you most likely have heard that you should ride hard on your hard training days, and then ride easy on your recovery days. One of the things I see all the time with serious cyclists who are not on any sort of training plan is that they tend to ride the same pace all the time, and often this pace is a fairly hard effort that they can hold for an hour or two. Very often, these people ride with others and they tend to push each other. So what's wrong with this? Well, nothing, unless you want to get faster. Riding at a moderately hard pace most of the time will train you to ride well at that pace, but won't help you get any faster than that. You also risk getting tired because this is a hard enough effort and you may tend to do it day after day. This is why this pace is sometimes referred to as 'No Man's Land'. Some people avoid it because it's hard enough to make them tired but not really hard enough to make great improvements. There's some truth to this, but not completely. Read on. This moderately hard pace is what I call the 'Tempo' pace or zone. It's a harder, faster pace than what you would ride on a long endurance ride of two hours or more. But it's not as fast as your would ride harder, more structured workouts such as intervals. The heart rate in this zone is typically about 75-85% of your maximum heart rate. This is a rate you can hold for an hour or two. It isn't a really difficult pace but does require some concentration to maintain this pace. So here's the issue with this zone. If you want to improve endurance, you should ride longer and longer rides. These need to be two hours and more. You really can't do a tempo pace for two hours unless you are already quite fit. If you can't ride more than an hour or so, then you aren't getting any endurance benefit and you should do something higher tempo, such as intervals (aerobic threshold or anaerobic zone workouts). So there is little room for just going out for an hour and a half at a fairly hard pace. It's not hard enough to really stress your anaerobic system and it's too hard for an endurance ride. But there is a place I recommend them. These tempo rides are especially useful in the spring where you haven't built your endurance base back up yet from the winter. It may be cold or you may not yet be able to do longer rides yet. If you are only going out for one to two hours, push the pace - don't just ride at your endurance pace. By pushing yourself harder than endurance pace, this will help to build your aerobic base so you will be better able to do longer endurance rides. These tempo rides are also helpful if you typically only ride at a casual endurance pace - this is the first step toward increasing your pace so you can ride faster. The Featured Workout below is a standard tempo ride. To determine your heart rate for these zone 3 rides, refer to my free ebooklet, Basics of Cycling Training which is available at my website, www.CyclesportCoaching.com .

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