There is no perfect number of hours
Increasing the number of hours in the saddle is not guaranteed to improve fitness, weight loss, health, or any of the other benefits of cycling. In fact, it can even lead to the opposite. If you can’t recover well from the cycling you do, you might overtrain and damage your performance or even health.
It’s unfortunate but there is no perfect number of hours that will work best for every cyclist. We all have to find our own number.
Find your minimum effective dose
It doesn’t matter whether you’re riding for health, performance, or to become a professional cyclist, the stress that training causes to your body is the key variable. It can either stimulate your body to adapt and improve or cause damage if your body can’t keep up.
This is why it’s a good idea to look for the ‘minimum effective dose’. This means the minimum number of hours that will trigger a positive adaptation. If you’re cycling fewer hours than this, you will stagnate and see no positive changes. But if you keep adding more hours, you will hit a point where adding more isn’t going to produce any further adaptations.
For example, if you’re riding five hours every week increasing to 10 hours isn’t going to be twice as effective. And if you increase to 20 hours your body might not be able to handle it at all. So, how do you determine your minimum effective dose?
It all comes down to your goals
It helps to track your cycling hours and the progress you’re making. Goals can tell you how well your body is responding to increases and when to stop adding extra hours. But ultimately, the main driving factor is your reason why. Why are you cycling and what do you want to accomplish? Here are the four scenarios we will take a look at.
- Cycling to stay fit and healthy
- Cycling to improve performance
- Cycling to win races
- Cycling to become a pro
The rest of this series will give you examples of the minimum effective dose for each one of these. Most of us will land somewhere in between them but it will be helpful to have a general idea of where to start.