Don’t. Steady, moderate-paced, base-building rides perform their own unique metabolic magic you don’t want to miss out on.
Just ask Inigo San Millan, PhD, of The University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center (CUSM&PC) in Boulder, Colorado, who has helped thousands of riders, runners and swimmers get faster by slowing down.
“Zone 2 training is harder than a recovery ride, but not so hard that you can’t talk the whole time. Depending on your fitness level, it’s between 55 to 75% of your VO2 max intensity or about a 5 to 6 on a 1 to 10 scale,” says San Millan.
“This is where you’re burning the most fat for energy before you cross the threshold into more carbohydrate burning. The majority of your rides – about 75% of your training time during base training period – should be here for the best training benefits. Stick to it three to four days a week in the first several weeks of training and you’ll see your watts go up as your heart rate and perceived exertion remains the same.”
You burn fat
When you ride at base-building intensity, you’re primarily using your aerobic, Type I, slow twitch fibres to do the work. These fibres fuel themselves mostly with stored fat and just a little bit of carbohydrate.
Burning fat = good thing.
You build more mitochondria
Type I fibres are home to the bulk of your muscle’s energy producing mitochondria. When you devote time to building your base, you’re actually stimulating mitochondria growth and improving their function, so you become an even better fat burner.
That’s a key benefit of building a big base. Your body becomes so good at burning fat that you preserve your precious glycogen stores, which gives you the energy you need to go hard at the end of a long ride or race.
You get really good at using oxygen
Because you’re using lots of oxygen during base training, your body adapts to make it easier for you to get as much oxygen as possible into your working muscles with every heartbeat.
That means your heart gets stronger to pump out more blood per beat and your body lays down a larger network of capillaries within your muscles so you can deliver more oxygen and nutrients and carry out more carbon dioxide and metabolic waste products per minute.