Cycling for weight loss: Use deliberate practice on each ride to reach your weight loss goals

Cycling for weight loss: Here’s the method the world’s best athletes use to achieve their goals.

And you can start doing the same now

Get RIDE to 75

By Clint Latham – Get Free updates of new posts here

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first symphony at only eight years of age. Thats right, 8 years old. When we hear talents like this we immediately think that Mozart was born with some incredible talent. Mozart was known to have what we call perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is when a person can name any note being played on an instrument based solely on sound alone. Mozart was incredible with his perfect pitch. He could be in another room and name any note played on any instrument, incredible!

For years scientists thought that perfect pitch was a genetic trait. A trait that would be likely found in cultures where a word’s meaning

is based on the pitch upon which it is said. But it wasn’t until 2014 that the Journal of the Psychology of Music reported the incredible findings of music research scientists in Japan. 30 children were selected for the study that didn’t show any traits of containing perfect pitch. Over the period of a couple of years and using very specific training techniques; all 30 children developed perfect pitch.

Looking back at Mozart we see that Mozart’s father, a good musician but not great, had aspirations of turning his children into the musicians he wished he had been. From a very young age Mozart’s father used very specific and deliberate practice techniques to hone Mozart’s music abilities. Turns out he wasn’t born with it after all.

This is all very fascinating but what does this have to do with cycling?

Deliberate Practice

If you expect to go out on the bike and just ride and get great results you are misguided. It takes deliberate practice in very specific areas of your training to increase your abilities. We all work under the assumption that more experience equals a greater expertise.

However, a research scientist at the University of Florida, Anders Ericsson, found the opposite is true. The more experience we have the worse we will perform when compared to someone with less experience. How can this be true? This only holds true if we reach a general level of expertise and then stop our deliberate practice and then just ‘go through the motions’. Ericsson’s research started when he found that doctors with most experience generally performed worse on performance standards compared to doctors with only a couple years of experience. The reason? The doctors with less experience were constantly being put in situations outside their comfort zones forcing them to find new methods to establish a diagnosis for a client’s issues.


What we can learn from the worlds greatest cheater
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Matt Fitzgerald, leading nutritionist and endurance trainer, found that in Lance Armstrong’s hay day, he become 25% more efficient on his bike from 1999 to 2005. Now this efficiency was completely independent of his drug use. This was all mechanical. Lance would labor over small details, like increasing pedal efficiency by pedaling with one leg on a trainer for countless hours. Learning to relax his upper body on climbs to conserve every ounce of energy possible for his legs and the list goes on and on. What’s important is that Lance saw areas that needed to be improved and he deliberately practiced them until they were perfect.

Team Sky uses the same deliberate training tactics to help them be the best in the world. Team director, Dave Brailsford’s 1% approach has made him famous. Not to mention his 3 tours wins in the last 4 years. Team Sky works to improve everything by 1%. This includes everything from pedaling drills, relaxing on the bike to reduce calorie burn to the pillows the team sleeps with. The only way to see improvements in each area is to deliberately practice to induce a performance increase.  


Ride to 75

If you are new to cycling or have been cycling for a couple of years without direction, here’s how you can start deliberately practicing today.

I want you to go out on each ride with the mind set to Ride to 75. Ride to 75 is broken into two parts, intensity and time. If you have any health concerns and as a good general practice please consult with your doctor to make sure there are no health concerns before starting any new exercise program.


When we ride we want our average heart rate for the duration of our ride to be 70-75% of our maximum heart rate. This is going to accomplish two goals

  1. At 70-75% of our max hear heart we are in the upper limits of our aerobic threshold. Thereby using fat as a primary fuel source and Increasing our aerobic capacity

  2. Increasing our EPOC or after-burn affect. This is the amount of fat the body uses post work out to restore our bodies back to homeostasis.

At 70-75% the heart rate is high enough for us to sustain this effort for our entire ride. Training in this zone is challenging but sustainable for most people. 

To calculate your Ride to 75.

220- Minus your age = Max Heart Rate

max heart rate x .75 = Ride to 75

Example 220-34= 186 x .75 = 139.5 bpm


Each week we want to ride for at least 75mins. If you can ride for more thats great but your goal for each week should be at least 75 mins. You can break this up how ever you like. 1 x 75 min ride, 3 x 25 min rides, or 10 x 7.5 min rides.

Research shows that to see the health benefits of exercise we need to accumulate 75 mins of moderate intensity exercise each week. This is the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association. For more details on the science of accumulation in exercise see my other article titled


The Take Away

With these two basic principles you can start your deliberate practice to Ride to 75 each week to start achieving your health and fitness goals.

Leave me a comment below and tell me what do you struggle with the most in trying to reach your health and fitness goals?

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