Splitting Long Training Rides?

by Paul
(Vancouver, Canada)

I'm training for half-ironman and Ironman distances. I usually plan to do a long ride (4 - 5 hours) at least once a week. However I often struggle to do this due to time constraints. It is possible to break this down - say into 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours in the evening? Would you get benefits because you can go harder on each ride or would I be losing the benefit of the long ride?


Mark answers:

Thanks for the question Paul. It's a difficult one, trying to get all the training in you need to do for Ironman.

Splitting the session makes it a different session to one 5 hour ride. If you ride a 5hr ride straight through you are conditioning the muscles and the rest of the body to that duration. There is no rest, no chance to recover. This is one of the points of rides long steady Extensive Endurance, that you are mentally, and physically prepared for what is (for most people) a long time in the saddle.


If you split it and ride a bit harder, or even a little longer (~3hrs) in each ride you will be doing a slightly different session. Going harder will mean you induce fatigue a little quicker, but as long as you are maintaining a general intensity that is less than Lactate Threshold 1 , you will be training the same energy system (which is good). They will both be fat burning sessions, and the first will be long enough to put an endurance challenge on the second (if a 5 hour ride normally challenges your endurance).

Unless you are very well conditioned you will not find 5 - 6-hrs rest enough to fully recover from your 2.5 - 3hr ride, so you will still get an endurance training effect from doing two separate rides.

If you go too hard and move up over LT1 for extended periods this is a different training session, and will place a different stress upon the body, and consequently you will get a different training adaptation.

So the simple answer is if you cannot manage to do the one ride then splitting it is a viable means of getting in the duration, but it is worth increasing intensity marginally (keeping it below LT1), and if possible just adding a little extra onto each ride so the total volume is slightly more.

But if you want to maximise your endurance gains, try to get the long Extensive Endurance ride in one go.

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