Do I really have to train?
Yes! Cycling Challenges are designed for people of average fitness as long as you are prepared to train. You should start training several months before the event, and the attached programs will help you to do this.
How you start training for a long distance bike ride depends largely on your present fitness level, age and the amount of cycling you have done in the past. There are various ways to train for your challenge, below and in tabulated form are various training regimes that can be adapted to fit into your personal lifestyle.
People who have not ridden a bike for several years or indeed at all will have to start their training regime at least 4 months in advance of their trip. Mileage should be built up gradually to avoid injury and over-exercise, and to establish a good base fitness on which to build the stamina levels you will need on a cycle challenge.
A cycle ride every other day should be attempted for the first 4 weeks and the mileage should be between 5 and 10 miles, there is no need to over stretch the ride by pushing a gear that is too difficult, or riding as fast as you can, this can come later.
From the outset you should attempt to develop your cadence, which is the speed at which your legs rotate (RPM), this will improve your aerobic capacity meaning your heart and lungs will grow stronger and be less stressed when cycling or exercising.
To develop your cadence you should select the gear that feels most comfortable when you are cycling on whatever gradient. If you can keep a steady RPM of around 60 - 70 most of the time this would greatly aid the speed at which you become cycling fit, and will increase your strength and stamina which you can then build on.
Before you know it you will find yourself being able to push harder gears while maintaining the same RPM. After you have become comfortable with your cadence and riding position, it will be time to start stepping up the mileage. For the next 4 weeks you should attempt to ride 15 - 20 miles 3 times a week, with a Sunday ride every other weekend of about 25 miles.
By now you should be feeling really confident and starting to enjoy the sport of cycling. In the next 2 weeks it would be worth maintaining the same schedule but now starting to ride 20 - 25 miles three times a week with an alternate Sunday ride of 30 miles.
The following 2 weeks should see the introduction of an extra day’s cycling into your training, this day’s mileage may only be around 10 - 15 miles but it will help you get a feel for cycling day after day. It would now be a good idea to step up the Sunday rides to three a month with a mileage of 40 miles.
In the final three weeks your daily mileage should be around 30 miles on each outing and any Sunday rides should break 50 miles. A week before you leave for the trip you should wind down and perhaps attempt 3 short 10 - 15 mile rides.
This category might include anyone who has been cycling intermittently over the years, perhaps by cycling to work in the summer or regular Sunday rides with the family. As you will have a degree of basic fitness and confidence built up from previous cycling, 3 months or so of training should prepare you for the ride.
The first 4 weeks should be spent introducing a regular programme into your training and concentrating on your cadence (as above), which will help develop your strength for the sustained ride. A mileage of 15 miles three times a week combined with alternate Sunday rides of 30 miles should be attempted for the first month.
The second lot of 4 weeks should see you feeling stronger and confident to increase the mileage; your cadence should be fluent and comfortable, and the three rides a week should be covering about 25 miles each and the Sunday rides up to 40 miles.
The penultimate 3 weeks should see the introduction of a fourth training ride every week, these four rides should be around 30 miles in length with three Sunday rides a month of 50 miles or more. You should by now be feeling comfortable with all these distances as long as you don’t push yourself too hard.
The final week should be spent winding down with three 10 - 15 mile rides and the confidence that you know you can complete and enjoy the 10-day ride ahead of you.
This category would include people who cycle regularly throughout the year whether it be commuting 20 miles or more to work a day or training seriously with weekend races and time trials. People within this category should already have a good training schedule and be amply fit to tackle a cycle challenge, though they should probably step up the training for long days riding.
People included within the commuting bracket may find it a good idea to step their weekly mileage up by cycling a longer route to work, or doing a brief morning or evening ride and by also doing regular weekend rides of around 50 miles or more.
Fitting training into a busy lifestyle
The programs attached are a rough training guide. Obviously with work, family and fundraising commitments you may not always be able to achieve what we have set out for you. However in order to get close to achieving the training it is very important to organise your time properly. There are plenty of ways to ensure that you maximise your training, even if you feel you have no time outside work.
- You must organise your week to make time to get out to do some training.
- Get up an hour earlier and go out for a quick cycle with some stretching in the morning before work while it is still light.
- If you can cycle to work, do so. If you can’t cycle the whole distance between work and home, why not cycle to a station / bus stop in between home and work and then continue your journey on public transport. You will obviously need to be happy that you are able to leave your bike in a safe and secure place.
- Use your lunchtimes to take regular brisk walks or cycle around your work area.
- Find a steep set of stairs i.e. five floors of a department store/office block and climb them five times, at least three times per week.
- Swimming, squash, badminton, fast walking and any other sport will also help get you prepared.
- Joining a leisure centre is a good idea as the local fitness instructors may well be able to design a programme specifically for you. Most good gyms have exercise bikes, or even better spinning classes, where you can clock up mileage more safely and comfortably. But do try to cycle as much as possible in ‘real’ conditions. The more you can train in similar conditions to your challenge, both in terms of terrain and weather, the better.
- It is important at weekends to get into some hilly areas to experience cycling on different surfaces and to experience the hills and of course the weather.
- You should make the time to cycle on some consecutive long days: an isolated Sunday ride does not have the same effect as two consecutive days. Nothing will prepare you for the trip better than actually cycling.
You may not stick to the training guide exactly but you need to keep it in mind and to do regular exercise every week according to the guide. You will enjoy this experience far more if you are physically fit, indeed, without training you may not be able complete this challenge.
- 1 hour of QUALITY workout in the gym is worth 2 hours out on the road, but the interior gym experience does not prepare you to physically ride a bike through the air in the outdoors.
- It is important to warm up for at least 10 minutes before undertaking any exercise – see the attached basic stretch programme for guidance.
- A good idea is a circuit of machines giving aerobic workout e.g. rowing, cross-country skiing, stepper / climber, exercise bike.
- Try the attached exercise circuit sheet to help build specific muscle groups.
- Spinning classes are excellent, leg weight training is also recommended.
- Turbo trainers are very good, especially during the winter months as they enable you to train indoors on a “real” bike. It will keep you fit and get you used to the shape of your bike. Fluid turbo trainers are quieter if noise is a problem in your household.
- Make sure you plan adequate rest/recovery days as part of the training.
Note: Before using any gym equipment, please ensure that you are properly instructed by the staff at your gym / leisure centre.