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Training tips: How to make the most of your time on the bike
More and more of you are discovering the joys of cycling, whether it’s for commuting, leisure riding with friends and family or as a means to keep fit. So it’s no surprise that the events calendar is packed with new and exciting cycle events.
Taking on a cycle challenge may seem daunting at first, but pick the right event for you, make sure you train adequately and we’re sure you’ll be hooked.
Here the trainers from the Diva 100 women only ride share their tips for completing a 50km or 100km cycle ride for the first time.
How do you train?
It’s all about progressively asking your body to do just that little bit more than it can already comfortably do and then giving it time to adapt, recover and come back stronger. The trick is to do it steadily.
Unlike running, cycling is a low impact sport and once you develop a basic level of endurance and get into a rhythm, as long as you provide your body with adequate fuel and hydration, it will happily keep going and going.
Each time you ride you will improve and you will develop something called ‘muscle memory’ as your muscles will start to get used to the action of pedalling and work in a much more efficient and coordinated way.
This is half the battle and before long you will be able to glide along at a reasonable pace without it feeling too hard at all. The best way to develop this muscle memory and then to work endurance into your legs is to steadily up your mileage and spend more and more time in the saddle.
Start your rides very gradually to allow your muscles to slowly warm up and become supple to avoid risk of injury. At the end your ride, a few simple stretches will help avoid stiffness the next day; hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and lower back should be the focus of your stretching routine.
Initially you should look to ride on flat, quiet roads as you get used to the bike and its handling without the distractions of too much traffic. As you get more confident, you can start to vary the terrain.
Cycling is a very safe sport as long as you keep your head up, are aware of your fellow road users and always wear a helmet.
When you are endurance training, you should work at an intensity that feels challenging enough so that you are starting to breathe a little heavier and you feel pleasantly warm. It is important, however, that you feel you can sustain the effort for the duration of your ride.
Avoid riding so hard that you are out of breath, then riding very slowly to recover and repeating. This makes for a very unpleasant experience on the bike and won’t do much to develop your endurance.
A good way of checking that you are at the right level of intensity is to make sure you are capable of having a conversation.
If you can only utter a few words before gasping for breath then ease up!
During the course of a bike ride, your body will require fuel. A good diet is essential to completing the ride comfortably and with some energy left at the end!
It is not uncommon to lose 3000 calories or more during a 100km ride and you need to take on sufficient fuel to be able to cope with this output.
The training plan
The training plan below is based around gradually upping your mileage so that you find yourself at the start line of your century ride confident that you will see out the distance.
The plan works by gradually upping your weekly mileage over three weekly cycles. You should make the fourth week an easier one to allow your body to adapt and come back stronger.
Midweek rides are shorter and can be done at a slightly quicker pace, though still at that nice endurance intensity, with a longer ride at the weekend to work on your ability to just keep going.
Keep these efforts steady, remember it doesn’t matter how quick you get there, just that you get there. Don’t worry if you miss the odd session, what matters is that you keep that week-in-week-out consistency going, as that’s what gets results.
You can always add swimming, running or other aerobic exercise to your training to keep it interesting and ensure you maintain a healthy level of fitness.
More info: www.action.org.uk/diva
The Women’s Sports Magazine