Building endurance is critical whether you’re training or just looking to ride longer distances on the weekends. This typically involves regular exercise — ideally daily, and performing repetitions of lower-weight exercises over long periods.
It’s also about open-mindedness to new workouts that push you beyond your comfort zone. This will help you see that your body can perform much longer than expected.
You’ll want strong cardiovascular endurance if you prepare for a long gravel race or bike-packing expedition this year. This is an important aspect of a good Train to Ride Gravel Bike Program because it can help you maintain your overall strength gains while improving your health and reducing the risk of heart disease.
The goal of cardiovascular endurance is to be able to perform high-intensity exercises for long periods without becoming tired. This metric is typically measured by measuring your ability to pedal a stationary bike at different intensity levels or running a set distance in a certain amount of time.
While any exercise that raises your heart rate technically increases your cardiovascular endurance, certain workouts are better for building endurance than others. This includes walking, running, cycling, swimming, and playing tennis. These exercises force your body to use oxygen efficiently so that your muscles can convert it into energy molecule ATP.
Getting stronger helps your body handle the jarring impacts of riding over loose, gravelly terrain. Incorporate 1-2 trail rides into your weekly schedule to build strength. Also, consider incorporating upper body and core strength training twice per week using exercises like push-ups (graded from against a wall to on hands and knees, then on the ground), wheelbarrow walks, animal walking (playing with a child as they pretend to be crabs, frogs, bears or worms) and age-appropriate obstacle course completion.
Long gravel races require a sustained endurance effort for hours. To prepare for these demands, include long Tempo and Lactate Threshold Intervals at lower cadences (e.g., 3×20 minute intervals separated by 10 minutes recovery) into your workouts as you get closer to your A race(s).
Endurance refers to the ability to maintain a high level of performance over a prolonged period. Increasing endurance takes time, dedication, and consistent training. Having endurance allows you to participate in long events that test your cardiovascular and muscular systems, such as gravel races.
Cardiovascular endurance is trained with interval and steady-state training, increasing your VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake), movement efficiency, lactate tolerance, and anaerobic energy systems. Endurance training also increases the number of capillaries per muscle, allowing for more oxygen delivery to the muscles.
Muscular endurance focuses on training your Type 1 “slow-twitch” muscles to perform at a higher intensity for longer durations and resist fatigue. Postural endurance, in particular, is important for reducing fatigue and preventing injuries.
Mental endurance is also critical for long-term goals, such as consistently completing a race or training. This is when you need to have grit and persevere, even when things get tough.
If you join a Gravel Bike Training Membership, the training may differ from typical road racing or criterium workouts. Knowing when to splurge on higher-volume weeks and when to start tapering is important.
Some athletes will need to develop more power for high torque efforts, especially if they’re planning to race in sandy or muddy conditions. Long endurance rides also help you prepare for the long duration of most gravel races. Aiming to get in a few days of back-to-back, endurance-focused riding will build up your capacity for hours on the bike and allow you to practice your nutrition and hydration strategies.