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Healthy and General

A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling Workouts

3 min read

If you want to start cycling regularly, it’s helpful to build consistency and progression with a plan to build strength and endurance safely and effectively, says Clucas. What you choose will depend largely on your level of fitness. For example, if you regularly do other types of exercise, you may feel comfortable with a higher degree of biking intensity — in terms of speed, distance, or both — to start with.

Beginners, though, should take it at a much slower pace to get used to the feeling of riding, and progress gradually from there.

Here’s a sample beginning plan from Seacat that’s not based on distance. Instead you’ll increase the intensity (to build up strength and endurance) by upping the time you bike and the pace you go.

The pace will be specific to your fitness level and abilities. Keep in mind that a moderate pace means that on a scale of 1 to 10 in intensity, you’re at about a 6 or 7, where you can talk in short sentences but not sing. An easy pace would be a 2 or 3, where you can easily hold a conversation. A sprint-style pace of 8 or 9 means you can only say two or three words at a time without taking another breath.

Cross-training workouts should be non-aerobic workouts, such as strength training, Seacat says. He’s also included active recovery days; Seacat recommends doing movement that focuses on balance, flexibility, and mobility on these days (like yoga or walking). These are less strenuous, and should be done at a relaxed pace.

Be sure to check with your health provider first if you have concerns about any chronic health issues, such as cardiovascular disease or joint problems, or any other medical concern that might make it unsafe to try a new exercise routine.

Week 1

Day 1 Bike 15 minutes at an easy pace.

Day 2 Active recovery, 30 to 60 minutes.

Day 3 Bike 20 minutes at an easy pace.

Day 4 Rest.

Day 5 Bike 30 minutes at an easy pace.

Day 6 Active recovery, 30 to 60 minutes.

Day 7 Cross-train, 30 minutes.

Week 2

Day 1 Bike 15 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 2 Active recovery, 30 to 60 minutes.

Day 3 Bike 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 4 Cross-train, 15 to 20 minutes.

Day 5 Bike 30 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 6 Rest.

Day 7 Cross-train, 15 to 20 minutes.

Week 3

Day 1 Bike 15 minutes at an easy pace, followed by 10 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 2 Active recovery, 45 to 60 minutes.

Day 3 Bike 20 minutes at an easy pace, followed by 15 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 4 Cross-train, 20 minutes.

Day 5 Play with simple intervals: Bike 10 minutes at an easy pace followed by one minute of moderate effort; repeat three times.

Day 6 Rest.

Day 7 Cross-train, 20 minutes.

Week 4

Day 1 Bike 10 minutes at an easy pace, followed by 20 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 2 Active recovery, 30 minutes.

Day 3 Hill train: Bike 10 minutes at an easy pace. Then find a hill that you can climb (preferably a small one, rather than one that feels challenging or overwhelming) without getting off your seat, then ride up and back 8 to 10 times at an easy pace.

Day 4 Active recovery, 30 to 60 minutes.

Day 5 Bike 10 minutes at an easy pace, followed by 30 minutes at a moderate pace.

Day 6 Rest.

Day 7 Go for distance: This will be your first long ride, so pack snacks and water, and take it at an easy pace. Either do a loop course that seems like a reasonable distance for your ability, or go up-and-back, turning around when you feel like you still have plenty of energy. It’s better to end a ride with some energy left than feeling like you’re coming in on fumes. Seacat suggests planning to ride for about twice as long as your longest ride to date.