Building Stamina

I find that I can only ride for a maximum of an hour before I have to stop. The pain gets too much. I am riding with good quality bike shorts, saddle, bike shoes and have the correct height for the saddle. Now, 12 years ago, I had an injury in my right hip that was from a surgeon who did not listen to me when he was performing his surgery - I bled until I passed out. The blood damaged muscle and nerves, so I have some constant pain. Now this being said, I found out that my sciatic nerve does not follow the “normal” pathway most people have. Mine passes through the piriformis muscle, so I do not know if this causes some discomfort on it’s own or not? (Anyone else have this nerve pathway?, how do you fair??) So I keep riding as much as I can, but I cannot seem to break beyond that hour before I have to stop! Can anyone offer me some “useful suggestions and help?”

This would probably be a question to a doctor or, more likely, to an experienced physical therapist.

If drugs from the Ibuprofen or Tylenol or Aspirin family do not help, the only thing that comes to mind is to experiment with the bike fit and saddle shape and width in hope to find something that works. “Quality” in this case means very little, fit to your body shape means a lot.

Common sense suggests that your saddle could perhaps exert direct pressure on the piriformis only if it is an extremely wide seat, which can only be comfortable with a very upright position on the bike - and even that seems questionable, but I am not an expert.

When you ride in Zwift, it is perfectly OK to stop and take a rest! There is absolutely no reason why you need to ride non-stop in recreational indoor or outdoor riding. Even if you are on a workout, you can pause it, take a break, and come back. When you are on a free riding route, you can get off the bike, leave Zwift open and running, and come back to it and continue riding even several hours later. You will still be able to finish the route and get your badge!

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Most cyclists need to gradually build up endurance over weeks and months if not years, to be able to ride longer and longer distances. Increasing time on the saddle no more than 10% a week is one rule of thumb.

You don’t lay out your cycling experience here. But for many newer cyclists, riding for an hour is an accomplishment. Riding on an indoor trainer for more than an hour is endurance beyond what many avid cyclists would have considered, ten years ago. You’re probably always pedaling, never stopping and standing at intersections.

So for some people at least, feeling pain after riding an hour is normal, without any injury. You have to gradually build up the adaptations that make it comfortable to ride many hours.

But as Andrei suggested, an internet forum is not a replacement for medical advice.

Not medical, so much as what others have experienced, and learned from over the years. I suspected as much when you say riding non-stop on a trainer as compared to the road is different, especially if one is riding within city limits. However, one of my goals was to build up endurance so as to ride long distances of up to 50 kms at a time, and then do the return. Actually, and I know this is pretty much dreaming out of my ability is to ride up to 100 kms virtually non-stop. I know there are people who can do this, and I’m curious how they got started doing long haul rides. Since I have been a kid, I’ve almost always been on a bike, though for about 15 years I did not ride nearly as much as I do now. Also, I sometimes forget that when I bought my current “new” bike 12 years ago?, I had problems riding it 7 kms. Now, I ride it 20 kms or more in one stage without conking out! That is remarkable considering from what happened to me 12 years ago. Good grief, the doc darn nearly killed me off! I was black and blue from my navel down into my right leg! 5 litres of blood in the wrong place inside the body is very toxic!

Thanks very much for your reply to my question. Perhaps some more work is needed, and I will get to where I want.


When I first started riding (as an adult) 100 kilometres seemed absolutely impossible. I remember how satisfied I was with my first 20 mile (32 km) ride. And I was tired and sore after that. I remember watching the tenths click off my cycle computer and counting them down, knowing there was no way I’d be able to do another mile or two after that.

As time went by, however, you begin to get a better understanding as to how your body does long cycle rides. Part of this is understanding how easy us cyclists have it. We spend most of the time sitting down! Most club cycling group rides are conducted with riders chatting with one another for many of the miles. We happily eat and drink as we pedal along. And this knowledge helps you build endurance: Most of the time you’ll be cranking over the pedals, you won’t be huffing and puffing out of breath - the way you would be if you were running around a soccer field or doing a 10k. Your exertion will be set to a pace that you can maintain for (literally) hours at a time. And cyclists eat and drink in the saddle because their bodies need the hydration and fuel.

There isn’t a way to build endurance quickly. It takes a regular program of completing progressively longer distances. In between your “endurance” days, you need to work on other aspects of your bike fitness: sprinting, FTP building, VO2 max work, etc. You also need to toughen your body: you sit bones and the skin in your contact areas. Your back and neck need to get used to sitting in various on-bike postures. Your muscles need to get used to working for two, three, four hours and more. And you need to understand how to keep your body fuelled and hydrated on the bike. Drink before you get thirsty, eat before you get hungry. Most cyclists have “bonked” at least once. That’s when your body runs out of muscle glycogen. You feel very weak and light-headed. It’s a very unpleasant experience, and one you definitely don’t want to repeat. But it does teach you to consume calories when you are riding hard.

If you really want to do a 100km ride it almost certainly is an attainable goal. (Unless your Doctor tells you otherwise!) But you need to work up to it. There are Zwift training plans designed to give people a structured training plan that combines many of the elements people have discussed.

Good Luck. And Ride ON!

Thank you for such a detailed description of what is necessary. I know it is hard work, but my problem has been lack of direction in training, lack of consistency. This is where I wish I had someone a little more experienced than me go on a few rides with me now and then, watch how I perform, and offer tips as we go along. Ok, sounds like I need a coach! Well, that would not be a bad idea, but I can’t afford one, and I know from talking around if I committed 1 - 2 hours a day to start, I would probably be there sooner than I thought possible. I guess I could make time, if I got off this silly darn computer, and got out there and did some peddling!

Thanks again.