If you’re feeling more confident on your bike and want to start going out for longer rides, you’ll need to make sure you have the fitness and stamina to manage it. Cycling long distances is physically demanding, and not something you can just hop on your bike and do. You need to improve your fitness gradually, and you can do this by just doing a little more each week. If you’re new to road cycling, start by riding three to five times a week for up to an hour each session. Don’t go too hard in your first week, go for volume and increase your intensity later. You should be able to speak normally while riding your bike, if you can’t, you’re going too fast.
For the first month, continue building volume by increasing your riding time by 10% each week, over the course of three to five rides. If you have a busy working schedule during the week, go for a longer ride at the weekend to rack up some mileage. Make sure you factor in at least one rest day a week, with no training to give your body a chance to recover. And ride with your newly found cycling buddies to help you improve. Riding with more experienced cyclists is the best way to learn cycling skills.
However, riding more hours can only take your fitness so far, so as you progress, start looking at increasing the intensity too. That’s where intervals come in, alternating between bursts of high intensity and recovery periods of lower intensity. You can decide the length of the interval, but generally the harder the interval, the shorter it will be, and vice versa. When intervals are longer than they should be, intensity decreases towards general aerobic conditioning, which isn’t the goal of the interval.
Can I cycle indoors?
Sometimes, training indoors can allow us to cycle more often. It’s a great way for beginner cyclists to start as there are no cars or junctions to contend with, and you won’t get rained on which is a nice bonus. There are lots of options available if you want to combine road cycling with training indoors:
- Spinning classes: are held at most gyms and at class-specific studios across the country. They’re led by an instructor who will motivate the group, and will tell you when to pedal harder or faster. You will use a dedicated spin bike and they’re usually up to 60 minutes of high intensity training, so be prepared for a proper workout.
- Turbo trainers: can be set up in the comfort of your own home, and a basic one can be relatively inexpensive. You simply clamp your wheel in and pedal away, using the gears or inbuilt resistance controls to increase the intensity.
- Rollers: are also easy to set up at home, but they can be a little more difficult to use at the beginning. Rollers are quite basic, consisting of three drums with a cable linking them together. But there are more expensive ‘Smart’ versions which can replicate the resistance created by inclines on indoor cycling apps.
- Exercise bikes: are a classic piece of fitness equipment and can be used at home, or at your local gym. It’s great for burning calories, and you can track your performance on-screen. Change up the resistance to get the most from your workout.
To become a strong, well-rounded cyclists, it’s useful to combine riding with other exercise too. It will help prevent injury, and it’s also important to have a strong core and upper body to increase balance, endurance and power.
How can nutrition help with my cycling?
As you get more into your cycling, you might want to start looking at your weight and diet. Afterall, the fuel you put into your body is a massive factor in determining the performance you get out of it. Here are a few tips for what to eat and drink to get the most out of your cycling:
- Up the calories: If you’re cycling more, you’ll be burning more calories, so you need to increase your calorie intake. If you have a cycle computer, you’ll be able to see how many calories you’ve burned during your session. Aim to replenish these calories with healthy foods. If you’re trying to lose a little weight, then aim to leave a shortfall of 250 calories a day, but that should be a maximum in order to keep your strength up.
- Stay hydrated: In addition to drinking 1.5-2 litres of water a day, cyclists should be drinking additional fluid to match any loss during riding. Weigh yourself pre and post-ride, and for each kilo you have lost, you should drink an additional litre of water. So if a 60-minute ride leaves you 0.5kg lighter then you need an extra 500ml of fluid to rebalance yourself.
- Carbs for energy: Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Your weekly requirement will largely depend on how many miles a week you ride. A good way to make sure you’re eating the right amount of carbohydrate is to eat a fist-sized portion with each meal. Opt for slow-burning carbs such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables.
- Good fats only: Omega 3 and 6 fats are vital to maintaining health and are found in nuts, seeds, fish and oils. They help to reduce inflammation in the body, and are known to reduce bad cholesterol, which assists in the prevention of heart disease.
- Vitamins and minerals: It’s recommended to eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables per day, selecting a rainbow of colours and aiming for darker-coloured fruits and vegetables. If you need a little more help in getting enough vitamins and minerals, you might want to opt for a good multivitamin. But it’s also advisable to consult your GP or a nutritionist before making big changes to your diet.
- Fuel your ride: If you’re eating enough throughout the day, easy rides of less than 90 minutes don’t usually require any additional fuel. Although if you’re heading out for a longer or more intense ride, it’s a good idea to top up your carb stores. Opt for a sports drink or energy gels to give you an extra boost on your ride.
- Protein for recovery: Getting a good amount of protein into your diet will support your health, immune function and recovery. Include beans and pulses in your diet along with lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy.