Yes, I am one of those annoying people that talks to you when you are out of breath up a climb. At least that’s what Louise tells me. It’s not like I am never the person out of breath – that’s the beauty of cycling, there is always someone fitter than you!
So what has all this got to do with riding slowly? It’s that time of year again when we get to go out and really enjoy our rides without too much structure. No strict power or heart rate targets, rather targets for the amount of coffee stops and friends to see along the way. Winter training is great after a hard season racing. Best of all, these rides are actually supposed to be slow.
Riding slowly sounds easier than it is. I am by no means fast, but have found it difficult to spin along merrily which are the instructions we are provided for “base miles”. It’s so much more fun to cycle fast! Plus, when balancing a full time job and kids (not me but probably you) it is all too easy to slip it into a harder gear and bash out the miles to avoid getting home to an annoyed missus (also not me as Louise cycles more than me – thank goodness).
So is all the hype about slow base miles true? Well I have done some reading and won’t bore you with the theory, but will pick up on a few points (so yes I’ll bore you with the theory).
The pyramid. The idea is that our fitness is like a pyramid – the wider the base, the higher the peak can be. Now I have to agree with this. Have you ever tried going hard straight into hard training in November? I did a few years ago and ended up having to wait until Christmas to ride again because of a knee injury. The more I built base strength the harder I could go in the peak season.
Burn fat instead of energy. Apparently the longer and easier rides teach the body to burn fat rather than eat into energy supplies thus be more efficient with oxygen. This only works if you don’t fill your face with sweets and energy bars though! I have to agree. I have been my lightest weight when putting in the long rides over the winter period. I am also starving when I get back from a 4-5 hour ride.
Probably even more important than both of these points is that it is just more fun. Because you can ride with friends, stop for coffee, and generally not worry about losing a few minutes here or there on a climb (go away strava, at least for now). This has been the best part for me. It is a real mental break from putting in those hard measured efforts in the peak season. I actually look around, listen to the birds and sometimes even sing, to the surprise of some people I pass.
So I am a fan of the slow miles and I plan to prolong them as long as I can!