Endurance Training for Masters - Road Cycling UK

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Endurance Training for Masters


The problem with Master Cyclists is that in general they have been cycling for many years and are in habits formed when much younger. The like to train as the younger guys because that is what they have always done but this is not ideal.
True, training will have its benefits on the body, but the problem with Masters is that it takes longer to recovery.

The amount of cycling should be based upon the types of event the rider wants to take part in, duration is key. For Road racing, most events are only 40-50 miles with longer for Championships, so training durations should be 2 to 2 ½ hours in general.

To loose weight or add volume then longer rides up to 4 hours should be included. To balance the longer rides, there should be several 1 hour recovery rides a week to keep the body ticking over and the legs supple. Ideally a ride to work will suffice of about an hour’s duration.


As stated earlier it takes longer to recover from high level activity as you get older, the greater the intensity, the longer it takes. I am not going to quote times as every one is different, but typically after a hard race on the Sunday, you can still feel tired on the following Tuesday. So the next race or hard training should be on the Wednesday.

If racing on Wednesday then I have found it is better to put in two 1hr easy rides (to work and back) on Monday to ease the stiffness out of the legs, then rest on Tuesday. Just make sure you warm up for about 20 minutes prior to the Wednesday race.

Warming up: Start with 10 minutes gentle riding, then put in up to 5 short sprints of no more than 50 metres with 30-40 secs between efforts and then one good 200m sprint to get the heart rate right up, ready for the first race effort.


Another factor regarding intensity is the specific nature of the training. If you are planning to ride hilly races, then you must train over hilly circuits. The chain gang going over 3 hills at most does not constitute hilly training. You must go to terrain that is similar to the roads expected in the forthcoming races. Then ride the hills at the level you expect to race at or just under. A heart rate monitor is ideal for this, as you need to get up to your red zone limit (usually about 90% MHR) and hold it for the climb ,again the duration of he climb should be the same as you expect to race for.


It is understood that the benefits of training occur not when training, but after the recovery, or adaptation from the training. If you are still tired from the previous session then your legs are not going to perform as you would like.

Tiredness is a sign that the lactic acid has not cleared from the legs and the muscle fibres themselves are still repairing or replenishing their store of glycogen (fuel). So if you put in another hard session, then you will deplete your energy stores once more, leaving you more tired, which will take longer again to recover from.

Signs on non-recovery are:

  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Soreness in the legs
  • General lethargy and possible irritability with others ( low blood sugar)
  • Slight feeling of hunger as your body is trying to replenish its stores
  • Trouble sleeping, need for cat naps instead of a sustained rest overnight.
  • General body infections appear, such as cold sores, spots, onset of colds etc.

    The above are all symptoms of overtraining, which will occur if the non-recovery is sustained. The cure is taper down for mild overtraining, or complete rest for major overtraining. Also I would advise taking a multivitamin with iron, plus additional vitamin C.
    The easy answer to preventing over training is to build in sufficient recovery rides and rest days.

    Structured Program

    All of the above leads nicely to the main topic of using a structured training program. Even if you have limited time, it is best to use that time wisely and get the most from your training. A structured program will enable you to focus on specified target events and build up to them and get the best results. The build up needs a solid base to start with, the first phase is conditioning.

    Conditioning is the ability to obtain a level of fitness in order to then specialise in the form of racing required. It can take 3 months to build a good base. I liken this to building a house, the base must be solid and firm before any walls are built. You have to be able to ride for the same duration as you plan to race plus 25%. The riding is done at a steady pace of about 75% MHR, no harder. This time is also useful for developing pedalling technique, so use a fixed wheel bike for about a third of the rides.

    Next plan which races you wish to target

    Then contact a coach to provide a structured program which should have a phase of endurance, one of power work, one of speed work, then a recovery period. The volume and intensity is defined by the ability of the rider and the target events, so no specifics here.

    About the Author

    Ray Pugh is a professional cycling coach who presently looks after mostly junior riders, one being Jonny McEvoy, 2nd in the 2006 National Junior Road Race and former National Youth Cyclo Cross champion. A former BCF National Junior Road Race Champion himself, Ray has ridden in over 1,500 events with many successes in road racing, time trailing, cyclo-cross track racing, duathlons and triathlons. He has coached riders to World championship selection in both road and cyclo-cross. Now in his 50th year, Ray won his age category and finished 2nd overall in this years tough LVRC Angel of the North 2 day and recently finished 8th in the LVRC National Road Race championship for his age group on a hilly 55ml circuit in Lancashire.

    Coaching questions for Ray? E-mail them to [email protected] and we’ll pass them on.

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