New cyclists look to the pros, their fast friends or training manuals for ideas on how to train, but these complicated and time-intensive methods aren’t necessarily the best way for beginners to start building their cycling fitness.
The same concepts that make experienced riders faster don’t exactly apply to a new or novice cyclist. Instead, stick to these rules, or at least keep them in mind, before you chase your faster friend up that last hard climb.
AVOID DOING TOO MUCH TOO SOON
The biggest mistake I see new cyclists make is doing way too much early in their cycling journey. When you are new to a sport, basically any ride or new skill is going to push your limits. Pushing a bit harder, further or trying new skills is what you need to be doing, but try nudging these limits and letting your body and mind adapt slowly. No need to go so deep that you end up with many days of soreness, fatigue or, worse, an injury. Don’t try to do it all in one ride.
RIDE AS MANY DAYS POSSIBLE
Riding frequently sounds like common sense, but most adults don’t have the luxury to just ride all day — we have to balance family and work with any recreation time we can squeeze in. I advise my new and novice clients to get on the bike most days of the week, even if it is for 5 minutes. This keeps the daily load to a minimum but allows you to make progress more quickly by exposing your mind and body to pedaling and balancing. Even an indoor trainer can be a handy solution to squeeze a morning spin in or watch some TV if you can’t get out before dark or need to be home with the kids. Riding with the kids is a great way to get on the bike as well, even if it isn’t super speedy. And finally, commuting to work or the market on two wheels counts, too.
RIDE WITH A VARIETY OF PEOPLE
Don’t just ride with a fast friend or loved one; instead, seek out various riding scenarios so you can get different types of experiences. This helps you learn what you love about cycling and also ensures you aren’t always in suffer-mode (this isn’t enjoyable or effective training for anyone).
And don’t discount the power of one. Solo rides are the reason many cyclists are attracted to riding. Riding alone allows you to pick your own pace.
Swimmers are quick to get coaching since a lack of skill is expressed very quickly once you’re in the water. For cycling, once you can sort of move forward, it is easy to think you have mastered cycling, but whether you are learning to corner faster, ride in a group or master log hops, coaching can help. Skill sessions come in many forms, including private sessions, small groups or bigger clinics. Search for group rides that are targeted toward beginners or novices and take a beginner’s mindset with you; be willing to try and probably fail a lot.
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THE PERFECT WORKOUT FOR A BEGINNER
The perfect workout for a beginner is one that focuses on fun, nudges your limits slightly and allows — even motivates — you to return for another ride tomorrow. Get help, mix up who you ride with, ride alone and get on your bike as much as you can, and you’ll continue to improve and make gains.