Making the decision to begin cycling is a great move. Whether it’s been a few years since you went for a long ride or you haven’t even been on an indoor cycling bike since you were a kid, you’ll be happy to know that starting again really is as easy as riding a bike. Cycling is a great low-impact workout that gets you moving and out and about exploring the outdoors. Whether you plan on riding the city streets, a paved trail, or off the beaten path, here are some of the best ways to get started.
Equipment & Gear
The first thing you need to do is find the right bike. The best thing to do is to go to a good bike shop, ask a lot of questions, and go on some test rides. Here are some basic things to keep in mind.
- All professional cyclists will tell you to get a bike fitting if you can. An expert will take your measurements and fine tune the adjustments to make sure that you’re as comfortable as possible.
- Make sure you have a good seat. This will continue to be important as you progress, too. Firmer seats are actually better than soft ones because they’re better able to keep their shape over time. You might experience some discomfort at first but as your body gets used to it, you’ll appreciate the support. Should you wish, you could consider things like heart rate monitors that can help you determine how you are progressing.
- At the very least, you should always have water or energy drinks with you when you’re riding. It’s a good idea to have snacks on hand, too, like energy bars just in case you become lightheaded.
The Very Beginning
As with any exercise, don’t push yourself too hard right away. It’s common to think that cycling is something that you can just easily get into. After all, kids ride bikes all the time, right? In reality, it’s not that easy. Doing too much too fast can cause injury and turn you off the sport in the long run.
When you first begin, set a reasonable mileage goal for your rides. Between five and eight miles is a good place to start. If you can’t do that many, don’t worry; start with what you can do and try to go a little farther with every ride.
You should ride a few days a week. This not only helps you get used to riding, it will familiarize you with your bike and help your body get used to the mechanics. Setting goals of three days a week is a good place to start.
Take caution when choosing your route. Start with relatively flat rides at first. Early on, you should focus on getting used to riding and building up endurance. Avoid large hills or bumpy off-road trails until you have a little more experience under your belt.
Rest up after each ride. Recovery is just as important with cycling as it is with any other sport. If you want to become a strong cyclist, you have to give your body time to recover.
The Next Step
Once you’re able to ride for an hour at a continuous pace, it’s time to mix it up a bit. Interval training is the next step. It will give you a better workout and prepare your body for moving onto more difficult workouts and varying terrain.
With interval training, you add in short intervals when you exert more effort. While this happens naturally when you’re riding if you experience any changes in elevation, to be effective these intervals need to be more frequent and controlled. While interval training will help you become faster, the main goal is to help you be able to handle more intense rides. It also maximizes your workout because you’ll burn more calories.
When moving on to this kind of workout, you should still aim to cycle three days a week. The first ride of the week will be steady like those in the previous workout but you should try to push them from one hour to 75 to 90 minutes.
The second and third rides will incorporate interval training. First, ride for 15 minutes at a comfortable pace to warm up. After that, do five minutes of intense cycling following by ten minutes at a comfortable pace. You should do the cycle of five minutes of intense riding followed by ten minutes of comfortable riding three times. The last comfortable ride will serve as your cool down and can go as long as 15 minutes if you’d like.
So, how fast should you go during the more intense intervals? Push yourself until you’re sweating and it becomes a little difficult to talk and try to keep that pace for the entire five minutes.
If you’re ready for more, there are a few ways you can continue your training to make it a little more intense. The easiest thing to do is add a day or two during the week to your training. Don’t do interval training on the extra days—just enjoy a ride at a comfortable pace. If you don’t have time to do that, you can extend the rides you’re already doing. Who says you have to stop at an hour or 90 minutes? Keep going! Finally, if you’re a fan of interval training, push yourself even harder during the more intense intervals.
Cycling is an effective low-impact exercise that is really easy once you get the hang of it. If you haven’t been on a bike in years, it’s really not hard to pick it back up. After all, there’s a reason they say things are “as easy as riding a bike.”
If you want to make the most out of your cycling exercises, follow the workout we laid out above. They’ll help you be able to ride longer and harder. Plus, they will prepare you to move onto different facets of cycling like mountain biking or competitive riding. At the very least, keeping at this program will help you get fit, lose weight, improve your health, and enjoy a lot of quality time outdoors.