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Does splitting long endurance rides really affect the training effect?

It's quite often not recommended to split the rides even though the total duration is the same.

Here are two examples. Assume that they exercise at the same endurance pace.

Athlete 1

  • M 30 min at 8:30 AM, 30 min at 5:00 PM
  • T 30 min at 8:30 AM, 30 min at 5:00 PM
  • W 30 min at 8:30 AM, 30 min at 5:00 PM
  • T 30 min at 8:30 AM, 30 min at 5:00 PM
  • F 30 min at 8:30 AM, 30 min at 5:00 PM

Total duration: 5 hours

Athlete 2

  • M 90 min at 8:30 AM
  • W 90 min at 8:30 AM
  • F 120 min at 8:30 AM

Total duration: 5 hours

Notice that the duration is the same.

Why longer but fewer sessions may be better

According to this article, having the workout done all in one go is more important for those who are well conditioned because recovery is faster. http://www.intelligent-triathlon-training.com/-splitting-long-training-rides-.html

Fatigue increases RPE which may suggest an increase of muscle fibre recruitment. Recruiting more muscle fibres should mean that they produce more capillaries and mitochondria. It makes sense why running slower but longer can make athletes get faster. If the slow twitch muscles are refuelled during the 8 hours rest like between commutes, the fast twitch muscles may not get exercised because there wouldn't be a need to.

Does that work in real life? In real life, would athlete 1 be more likely to plateau sooner? Maybe experience sooner cardiac drifts during a longer workout or race?

Possible contradiction

According to some articles, it's ok to split up workouts.

https://www.sharecare.com/health/types-exercise/do-daily-exercise-at-once

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=118017&page=1

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    If your goal is performance for an endurance event (e.g., 2 hours or 120 min) you should typically have some sessions that are least 3/4 of the target duration. There are a whole series of adaptations that you need to train for longer events, 30 min won't get you there. Personally, it takes me 45 minutes just to properly warm up for focused efforts. – Rider_X Jan 19 at 6:07
  • When you say focused efforts, do you mean interval training? – Brian Jan 19 at 7:34
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    Ninety one-minute rides are clearly going to be different ot one ninety-minute ride, so the obvious answer to the title question is "yes". But, really, if 90 minutes is a "long endurance ride" for you then, as I've said before, you're still at the stage where you should just be improving your general fitness rather than worrying about all of this. Indeed, I can't help noticing that all your questions are hypothetical ("Would it be better to do A or B?") and you never seem to ask practical questions of the form "I've actually done something; how can I get more benefit?" Go out! Ride your bike! – David Richerby Jan 19 at 15:05
  • 90 - one minute rides mean if done over eight hours, we do it every five or six minutes. There are people who do 30 minute rides 10 times a week. They bike to work. Some of them were my co-workers. – Brian Jan 19 at 19:51
  • Good thing about more shorter rides is you have more opportunities to raise above endurance level effort. If your Wednesday morning's ride happens to have a tailwind, you can put in more effort and work on your max power. Then when its a headwind home you can have a longer endurance session at the same endurance power (and lower speed) – Criggie Jan 19 at 21:30
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"Long" is subjective but those aren't really endurance training sessions. The 30 minute sessions could be completed on glycogen stores alone, and at least the 90 minute sessions after a decent breakfast. One way of thinking of endurance rides (events if you're thinking tri) is those where fuelling during the ride becomes important.

But there's a massive gap between general fitness advice for the unfit, as you've linked at the end, and training for competition or other challenges, as you've linked earlier. To me you've described athlete A's habit (or even commute) , and athlete B's training plan, as you say the pace is the same and an endurance pace.

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    When you consider all the hassle of changing clothes, getting the bike out, warming up etc. I think short (30 minute) rides are simply not worth the effort. Unless they are high intensity training sessions. – Michael Jan 19 at 8:10
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    @Michael as a dedicated training session I'm with you. As trying to make productive use of commuting time it's another matter (dress in bike gear first thing, change into work clothes on arrival is what I'd do anyway). Unfortunately traffic limits the training value – Chris H Jan 19 at 9:22
  • Im thinking about single leg biking to work. At the same heart rate, about twice the number of muscle fibres are used. On the ride home or the next ride day, the other leg is exercised. Its simulates exercising when partially fatigued in terms of recruitment. Maybe the 30 min would be worth more than 60 min in that aspect! You need a counterweight. – Brian Jan 19 at 16:55
  • @ChrisH Do you think that's one of the reasons why some can be active and unfit? Studies show that being fit protects us from the effects of being sedentary even if both groups are as active. – Brian Jan 19 at 19:53
  • Apart from definitions of "active" and "unfit" there are so many factors to take into account, such as genetics and beer. Humans aren't easy systems to model or study (as much as I'd like them to be - I'm a physicist and all these physiological factors can get frustrating). – Chris H Jan 19 at 20:01

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