Not running, but cycling? – Looking for training advice after injury

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    In early 2020 I suffered from a fall on a volcano in Chile and messed up my right knee quite bad. Recovering from surgery took a long time, and in the 2nd half of 2022 I was finally able to resume training. Initially mainly focused on regaining strength, supervised by a sports doctor, and later I started to include some cycling (mainly low-intensity). This is probably the point where I should mention that running is no longer an option for me: I am missing both menisci in my right knee, and there is a lot of cartilage damage.

    Autumn last year I started incorporating more intensity (threshold, VO2max, etc) in my cycling, and currently I’m at an FTP of 3.7 W/kg (for the cyclists around). While I certainly enjoy cycling, my main goal right now is to get back into mountaineering-shape. In addition to cycling three to four times a week, I sport climb twice or three times a week, and I do some strength training once a week.

    Undoubtedly my fitness has improved since last year and I’m able to blast on the trails for – in mountaineering perspective – rather short durations. I am now wondering to what extent this fitness will translate to useful fitness in an Alpine environment. VO2-max is nice for short power bursts but mountaineering is a whole different game: you’ll spend hours in the endurance/aerobic zones, and even if you wanted you will never be able to reach VO2-max intensities because there’s just less oxygen available. With a lack of substantial mountains nearby there are few alternatives to cycling when it comes to building endurance fitness, and again:
    – I enjoy cycling a lot, and
    – I should not be running.

    Of course my aerobic base has also benefited from the previous rather high-intensity training, but I’m wondering if an alternative approach that still involves a lot of cycling (more volume, less intensity?) will still be an adequate way of working towards my goals. Lacking mountains, I can throw on a pack and start climbing long staircases or spend hours on a stair stepper. This is something I’m willing to devote some time to (as I appreciate there is no real replacement for moving your feet while carrying weight), but as to not die from boredom I would like to keep such activities to a minimum and when possible cycle instead. Looking forward to hear your takes on it!

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