3 Steps to Improve Cardiovascular Capacity | Barton Haynes

Bart Haynes here in sunny San Diego, continuing my series on bike training. In this article I’ll look at 3 easy steps to improve your cardiovascular capacity for better performance in bike races.

The benefits of cardiovascular performance hardly need to be pointed out – better cardiovascular performance means you can go longer at a harder pace. There are three easy steps you can take to improve your cardio performance.

Add Longer Rides – and Do It Right

Adding longer rides will help improve cardiovascular capacity. However, when you increase your distance do not increase your aerobic effort. You should try and keep your effort around 70%, whatever that feels like to you. My rule of thumb is that you should ride hard enough to be tired, but not so hard you can’t easily hold a conversation. 

The reason you want to ride at this pace is that you will not tire out your muscles and other parts of your body, but you will strengthen your heart and lungs. 

Interval Training Twice Per Week

Interval training is an excellent way to improve cardio performance. You should incorporate interval training into a couple of rides per week. Interval training makes you work harder for short bursts of intense riding. 

The way you incorporate this into your ride is to:

  • Do moderate riding for a period of time, such as 5 minutes
  • Do a shorter period of intense riding, such as for 1 minute (i.e. sprint)
  • Repeat the process

Ultimately what this looks like is doing your normal ride and then sprinting at regular intervals. It’s helpful to have a timer handy if you want to be precise. Some people enjoy doing more sprinting. I enjoy the 5 to 1 ratio, which can be 5 minutes moderate and 1 minute sprint, or 10 minutes moderate and then 2 minutes sprint, etc. 

Hills and Altitude

Finally, another great way to improve cardio performance is to do a long hill ride, especially up mountains where you gain significant elevation. Mountains are deal because:

  • You can get into elevations over 8000 feet, which is ideal for altitude training 
  • Mountains have long, less steep hills which will allow you to ride longer than really intense hills
  • Mountains provide both long and slight hills AND elevation at the same time

These rides are likely not regularly available to you, and may require driving too. If you can do these rides at leas once or twice per month you can really get in good shape.

Hiking is a good alternative to this as well. 

Best of luck,

Barton Haynes