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  1. #1
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    Multi small workouts vs one big one ?

    Say you commute to and from work each day, about 10 miles each way @ 14mph. Later, you also ride to dinner about 2.5 miles each way @ 14 mph.

    From a general health, wellness, and obesity avoiding standpoint, how does this compare with doing a single 25 mile loop @ 14mph?

    In all of these various rides, as soon as you've ridden a half mile or so you've increased your metabolic rate to about it's max (for 14mph). At the end of each ride it will slowly decline back to it's base, over about a 20 minute period perhaps. So, in the latter scenario you've had a high metabolic rate chunking through extra calories for a bit over 2 hrs. In the first scenario you've spent the same amount of time riding, but you've had an extra 90 minutes of residual high metabolic rate (assuming at least 20 minutes between rides). Theoretically that's a lot of extra calories burned. Or is it? But wait there's more (RIP Billy Mays), those commuter rides likely involved a lot more stopping and waiting than the workout loop. And all that waiting was at a higher metabolic rate. More calories burned?

    At what point would your body adjust to frequent little outputs of energy and increase your base metabolic rate? Or would it ever?

  2. #2
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    In some cities, I'd feel pretty happy to be able to hit a 14 average, and I race now and then.

    I've heard that current thinking is for health and wellness purposes, having the volume broken up is fine. Since you're proposing the same volume in both instances, it's a wash. Although I think you've got a point about calories spent recovering. I also think that when I've warmed up once at some point during the day, my metabolism stays a bit more ready until I'm sedentary for a while. So having a few shorter efforts would keep my motor running a bit more.

    I also don't measure miles, I measure time. Are you using 14 mph as an average, or a cruising speed? If an average, on those commutes, you had to work harder because of the lost time. If a cruising speed, I encourage you to let go of it, it's a totally useless number.

  3. #3
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    The 14mph is purely for comparison/discussion purposes - if you ride the same distance at the same pace on the same bike in the same conditions...

    In reality most of us ride a bit faster on training/fitness rides (17 - 20 for me on my 15lb Scott) and a bit slower when commuting (about 9 for me on my 50lb Opafiets). On average I'll stop/restart twice on a 25 mile training ride, but 17 times in 25 miles of commuting. Oh, an additional 30 - 40 lbs of groceries isn't unusual for part of a commute ride.

    I've thought it'd be fun to get some kind of power meter on my Opafiets, but it'd have to be crank or pedal based. Even so, this wouldn't account for the residual metabolism.

  4. #4
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    Having a PM I believe you would be getting the same TSS.

  5. #5
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    I don't think you and I calculate averages the same way. For me,

    (average speed) = (miles ridden)/(time spent on ride)

    Many cycle computers and GPS units "cheat" and don't count time spent not moving. But your body still gets a chance to recover, and it's possible to maintain a much higher speed during the moving portions than without those rests. Just look at my tracks from track racing!

    I can hold a 20 mph average for 10 miles. Probably even 20 if they were really flat. But I strongly doubt that either of us can hold that average for 25 miles, especially with stops along the way. And the effort to hold that average varies from taking a while to catch up to me if I'm riding somewhere flat, especially if I also get to hide on others' wheels to making me feel like I'm going to vomit if I'm doing it on the 10 miles of rolling hills I was thinking of earlier in the paragraph. It's very hard to find 10 flat, uninterrupted miles where I am. (And would be boring anyway.)

  6. #6
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    let's take you example to an extreme.

    Case A: Every 30 minutes from 7 am to 7:30 pm you hop on your bike and ride for 1 mile at 14 mph then sit for about 25 minutes and do it again for a total of 25 miles, . .

    Case B: You sit all day long except that you ride 25 miles at 14 mph at one time, but to make the effort equivalent to Case A you have to stop and hop off your bike every mile.

    Case C; sit around all day long and drive your car 25 miles in a traffic jam averaging 14 mph

    I would guess that Case A is probably better for your health and longevity than case B, and I've heard about some studies that might support my guess, but the difference between A and B is insignficant compared to how much better either is than Case C.
    Last edited by Reynolds531; 10-10-2012 at 09:42 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichieB313 View Post
    I have no idea about the adjustment, but I have been noticing over the last week or so that I am doing 20-25 mile rides and am pushing higher averages during the flat area's. Like holding 22MPH through area's that I used to cruise through.

    I guess i'm naturally doing intervals?
    Who knows, just keep riding!
    You're getting in better and better shape. Very cool!

    You may be doing pseudo intervals. Typically intervals are fairly short, maybe 0.5 - 3 minutes, and very high intensity. They are, in a word, excruciating. A great way to increase your overall performance though (along with BOS miles, rest days, hammerfests, and actual races).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I don't think you and I calculate averages the same way.
    Umm. I don't think it matters. The point is, ALL else being equal, is a single workout or, that EXACT SAME workout but broken up in to multiple smaller pieces throughout the day, better for general health, well-being, and weight control. The key difference between these two being much more time of residual high metabolism with multiple smaller workouts (I think).

    Am I missing something in your post? Does what I've said make sense?

    BTW, on a few occasions this year I did 36 mile group rides with over a 22mph average - based on start/finish times. Not bad for an old guy. When I was racing in the 70's I often did 25 mile ITT's in less than 1 hr. Be careful about assumptions. :-)

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by InfiniteLoop View Post
    Umm. I don't think it matters. The point is, ALL else being equal, is a single workout or, that EXACT SAME workout but broken up in to multiple smaller pieces throughout the day, better for general health, well-being, and weight control. The key difference between these two being much more time of residual high metabolism with multiple smaller workouts (I think).
    Agreed. Assuming the shorter workouts are long enough to actually elevate your metabolism to a steady state, more workouts per day would likely result in more time (post workout) at elevated metabolism and therefore more calorie burn. The effects would be slight and of course the amount of time at elevated metabolism and how elevated depends greatly on the intensity and duration of the workout.

    After a long (100 mies or more) hard ride I'm "hot to the touch" for hours.

  10. #10
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    I think that short intervals of working out is better than a long ride because you're starting up your metabolism again and again.

    Then again, I think that might be bad for you... but I can't logically see why.

  11. #11
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    For fat loss, I would expect a longer workout to be more effective than doing smaller workouts at 14 mph. With smaller workouts, you eat and replenish glycogen in your body before and after each ride. With one long workout, you burn up your glycogen stores and dip into your fat reserves.

    Everyone is different but I don't believe that you get much of a metabolic boost while riding 14 mph. If you were doing high intensity sprints, then I'd choose to do the smaller workouts since high intensity exercise over a long duration without refueling has the potential to burn muscle.
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  12. #12
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    Comparisons

    Quote Originally Posted by teflondog View Post
    For fat loss, I would expect a longer workout to be more effective than doing smaller workouts at 14 mph. With smaller workouts, you eat and replenish glycogen in your body before and after each ride. With one long workout, you burn up your glycogen stores and dip into your fat reserves.

    Everyone is different but I don't believe that you get much of a metabolic boost while riding 14 mph. If you were doing high intensity sprints, then I'd choose to do the smaller workouts since high intensity exercise over a long duration without refueling has the potential to burn muscle.
    Fat loss will occur if, over days and weeks, you take in fewer calories than you burn. If you take in too many calories between these short rides then of course you will gain weight but if you don't then you won't.

    Recognize that the OP just used 14mph as a comparison (one long ride at 14 mph vs. some shorter rides at 14 mph totalling to the same distance). You definitely would get little afterburn at 14 mph unless you were riding an MTB in the woods.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    .... I also think that when I've warmed up once at some point during the day, my metabolism stays a bit more ready until I'm sedentary for a while. So having a few shorter efforts would keep my motor running a bit more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons View Post
    .... Assuming the shorter workouts are long enough to actually elevate your metabolism to a steady state, more workouts per day would likely result in more time (post workout) at elevated metabolism and therefore more calorie burn. The effects would be slight and of course the amount of time at elevated metabolism and how elevated depends greatly on the intensity and duration of the workout.
    There was a study... that more or less said the same thing you guys are posting. My doctor had told me about it... and later I did read something about it on the Internet. Sorry I don't have a link to it.

    But... a 20 minute aerobic exercise session is supposed to cause a metabolic increase for “up to” 7 hours. I don't know... if next year or next week some other group will publish a study that says just the opposite... that sorta stuff does happen. But, if your normal routine takes advantage of brief sessions that could be a plus. I am not sure however... that I'd want to add a third shower in my day.... for the benefits gained by a 20 minute workout.

    I have added a before breakfast walk/run to my routine. It should help me with the winter cycling down-time. And.. I know for a fact the walk/run gets my heart pounding, and sweat running... and doesn't add an additional shower. Then in the afternoon when the sun is shining... even if it's only warm enough for me to stand a hour on the bicycle... I feel like I've done my body good.

  14. #14
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    I wouldn't purposefully break an hourlong workout into shorter sessions to try to get better training effect from it. But I do commute by bike, so I get a fifteen minute ride twice a day before I even start planning. I think for a lot of us, there are a lot of little bits and pieces of time that a bit more exercise can fit into, if desired.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I wouldn't purposefully break an hourlong workout into shorter sessions to try to get better training effect from it. But I do commute by bike, so I get a fifteen minute ride twice a day before I even start planning. I think for a lot of us, there are a lot of little bits and pieces of time that a bit more exercise can fit into, if desired.
    I agree completely! Even when driving a car.... you can always find a parking place (a lot easier) further from the store.... instead of close up. I call this free exercise. No extra time required (to speak of), no equipment to buy, no special clothing needed. And you can get a little mini-walk.

    Admittedly, for ether fitness or weight loss any benefit would be immeasurably... tiny.

    For someone with a short commute like yourself cycling could save a TON of money and hassle. But the health/fitness benefit may not be so pronounced. I think... I would at least sometimes... take along a kit to change into. Then change that 15 minute bicycle trip home into a 2 hour joy ride.

    You would still continue to get all the benefits of commuting. Plus at no extra cost and very little extra time get a great work-out.... while having a blast on your bicycle.

  16. #16
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    I don't know much about the subject, but to venture a guess I think it would be more beneficial to do a long ride instead of multiple short rides. Again, I'm just guessing here, but it seems to me that assuming the same speed having your aerobic workout be longer would be beneficial on a couple of fronts. A longer workout would be more taxing than multiple ones. Because you'd be taxing your body longer. For example, it's easier to run 400 meters than it is to run a 5K, again assuming the same pace. Another benefit, maybe unrelated to fat burning, is that you'd get used to being on the bike longer. That would improve your endurance, toughen your butt & hands, and mentally prepare you for longer rides i.e. a metric or a century.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Versatile View Post
    ....... I think it would be more beneficial to do a long ride instead of multiple short rides. Again, I'm just guessing here, but it seems to me that assuming the same speed having your aerobic workout be longer would be beneficial on a couple of fronts. A longer workout would be more taxing than multiple ones. Because you'd be taxing your body longer. For example, it's easier to run 400 meters than it is to run a 5K, again assuming the same pace. Another benefit, maybe unrelated to fat burning, is that you'd get used to being on the bike longer. That would improve your endurance, toughen your butt & hands, and mentally prepare you for longer rides i.e. a metric or a century.
    No one would disagree with that! Certainly the more quality time with/on the bicycle the better.... if you want to be a better cyclist.

    But if the goal is increasing your metabolic rate.... a half hour work out (or less) and you're done. Again if the interest is ONLY metabolic.14 sessions a week at 30 minutes each might be the best goal for training a body to be at the ready and burning calories. Maybe mix it up a bit with dancing, or playing with a Wii.

    As an avid cyclist (now) that sounds like torture! I love the time on my bicycle. Cutting a ride down to 30 minutes would drive me crazy.... now. But when I weighted more than my bicycle was rated to carry... even 20 minutes was a work-out.

  18. #18
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    In my case, if I ride short distance, I try to ride harder. When I ride longer "40-100 miles" I definately see an increase in fat burning. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. I believe that you have to use up your glycogen, before you tap into your fat stores.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by g-dawg View Post
    ....... I believe that you have to use up your glycogen, before you tap into your fat stores.
    That is interesting. And apparently not a bad theory. It supports the “before breakfast” exercise routines that I have read about as well.

    In my case... I discovered this idea while I was looking for a new winter routine. I started a 3K walk/run. That keeps it right at the 20+ minutes and doesn't screw-up my plans for the day. Of course... the before breakfast idea assumes the individual doesn't eat in the hours preceding the sleep period. Meaning break-fast would be the meal after a 12-16 hour period without eating (a fast).

    This is all theory and I openly admit I have no special knowledge or training in any of this. I bicycle for fun (even when training to be a better cyclist). And I don't think of my cycling as for weight control or exercise. I do exercise for health and fitness reasons... separately.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by g-dawg View Post
    I believe that you have to use up your glycogen, before you tap into your fat stores.
    Yes, but that doesn't matter. A Calorie is a Calorie. It's 4.2 kilojoules of energy. If you burn a Calorie, you burn a Calorie. Doesn't matter where it comes from.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kerry Irons View Post
    After a long (100 miles or more) hard ride I'm "hot to the touch" for hours.
    How fast does your heart rate return to normal vs being hot to the touch?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by InfiniteLoop View Post
    Yes, but that doesn't matter. A Calorie is a Calorie........ Doesn't matter where it comes from.
    Maybe... it might. Some peoples body's out here haven't lost a pound... in decades. Giving up the fat reserves for casual energy can be something a body might be reluctant to do. At least that is what a friend of mine that manages a name brand diet center once told me. Some people report extreme fatigue and even depression when dieting.

    Getting and keeping a body to tap the fat reserves for energy, and continue to repair and maintain normal health can be tricky. Certainly... to lose weight all anyone needs to do is stop eating. But to remain healthy, energized, and happy while shedding pounds does require a little planning and effort.

    Having a way to mix things up to trick the body into giving up stored fat is a good idea. I like the idea of throwing in several 20-30 minute exercise routines to recharge a diet. And I believe the before breakfast idea worked well... at least for me.

  23. #23
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    Not true

    Quote Originally Posted by g-dawg View Post
    In my case, if I ride short distance, I try to ride harder. When I ride longer "40-100 miles" I definately see an increase in fat burning. I don't know why, but that's the way it is. I believe that you have to use up your glycogen, before you tap into your fat stores.
    Just curious, but how do you know you see an increase in fat burning on longer rides?

    The research is fairly clear on this. Over a range of intensities fat burning increases slightly but is right around 200 calories per hour. So if you're burning 600 calories per hour (just under 20 mph/32 km per hr) on the flats) then you're getting about 1/3 of your energy from fat metabolism. If you're burning 1000 calories per hour (about 24 mph/39 km per hr) then you're getting about 1/5 of your calories from fat metabolism.

    If you used up your glycogen stores before you started fat burning then you'd bonk at about 2-3 hours and could only go around 12 mph (200 calories per hour). You are burning fat when you exercise and you DO NOT have to burn though the roughly 1500 calories of stored glycogen before you start burning fat.

  24. #24
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    I lose weight faster, and my bmi number drops when I'm riding longer distances. When I ride shorter distances at a harder pace, my weight stays the same. I have no scientific evidence other than a bathroom scale and a mirror.

  25. #25
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    I should also mention that I'm a type 2 diabetic. Maybe this has something to do with it.

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