Getting into better cycling shape is likely an ongoing journey — as they say: It doesn’t get easier, but you get faster. Whether you want to sign up for your first century or simply lose weight, start with this six-step guide:
STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUTS
Getting on your bike as much as possible is definitely a good thing. But if you’re ready to take the step to being a fitter cyclist and attempting to reach new goals, you’ll need to develop a structured training plan to get the most out of your weekly workouts and give each workout purpose.
When developing a solid training plan, you’ll want to include a mix of three kinds of rides:
- Long, slow rides that focus on endurance.
- Interval training to build your V02 max and speed.
- Strength training to improve your power.
By opting for variety in your training and including each of the basic training rides, you’ll eliminate weaknesses and become a well-rounded cyclist. Instead of just hopping on the bike and going for a ride whenever you have time, make a plan at the beginning of each week that fits your schedule and focuses on progressing toward your individual goals as a cyclist.
SET A CHALLENGING GOAL
One surefire way to get fitter is to have a goal for yourself to accomplish something on the bike that you’ve never done before. It could be riding a 100 miles, signing up for your first cycling event or attempting to break your personal record (PR) in the one-hour time trial.
Whatever it is, working every day to reach those goals provides focus and motivation for you to get on the bike — especially on those days when you might otherwise be tempted to skip a workout. Once you have a good goal in mind, tailor your training plan accordingly and calculate how long it will take you to reach these goals.
ADD MORE CYCLING TO YOUR WEEK
While training plans and goals are great, they won’t do you any good if you’re having a hard time fitting cycling into your busy life. Work, family, weather and other obstacles can make it challenging, but not impossible, to fit in your daily workout. Whether it means commuting to and from work, setting up an indoor training space or heading to a high-intensity spin class at the gym, there are ways you can work around your other commitments if you’re dedicated and disciplined.
When you make your weekly training plan, save your long rides for the weekends when you have more time, and schedule quick indoor training rides for those days when you know you’ll be short on time. On those days when nothing goes as expected, do what you can and don’t worry about slight deviations from your plan. Remember, cycling for just 20 minutes is much better than no cycling at all.
IMPROVE ON YOUR WEAKNESSES
Whether it’s muscular endurance for sprints or working on your power-to-weight ratio to be a better climber, there’s always something you can train to be a better, fitter cyclist. Instead of avoiding what you’re not good at, make it a point to concentrate some of your time each week improving your weaknesses.
If you commonly avoid hills or brake hard whenever you approach a sharp corner, include hill repeats or practice your cornering technique at least once per week. You can also work on pedaling efficiency to improve your speed and cadence, practice drafting by riding in pace lines or work on your bike-handling on long descents. Whatever it is, the more you work on your deficiencies the better cyclist you’ll be, and the more likely you are to challenge yourself with longer, harder rides or races.
GET SERIOUS ABOUT RECOVERY
Part of getting fit is being consistent and riding as many days during the week as possible. To do so without getting injured and recover properly for your workout the next day, you’ll need to take your time off the bike just as serious as the time you spend on the road.
Getting enough sleep each night, eating a healthy diet, stretching and massage are all ways you can help speed along the recovery process by reducing soreness and allowing your muscles to recover for the following day’s effort. While it isn’t easy, these lifestyle choices can play a big part in whether or not you reach your goals.
ENJOY WHAT YOU’RE DOING
Structured training plans, goals, intervals and recovery might seem like it takes all the enjoyment out of the sport. While getting too bogged down in the details and routines can cause burnout, one way to avoid losing your passion for cycling is to make it a point to have as much fun on the bike as often as you can.
One or two days or per week, try leaving all your gadgets like cycling computers, cadence sensors and power meters at home and just go ride your bike for fun. Invite your friends, challenge them to a short sprint or simply head out for a relaxing ride on your favorite route with no goals in mind other than enjoying your time on the bike. This helps you reconnect and remember that the more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you are to keep at it.