A Simple Plan For Your Cycling Goals

Patience. Balanced nutrition and rest. A simple plan. Put these all together, and you can prepare yourself for that first big cycling experience. No need to get bogged down in details. Commit to simplicity, and you'll simply have a great time!

The Law Of The Farm

Consider the farmer, who helps feed your life.

Harvest happens in the fall. Planting must happen in the spring. For your farmer to have anything to harvest, he must plant in the spring and tend to his crop all through the summer. He can't suddenly realize towards the end of summer, "Ooops, I didn't plant anything yet. Better get to it!" He'll have nothing to harvest if he operates that way. He needs to budget the appropriate amount of time to work on his crop for the whole thing to work out.

The same approach applies to much that you'll want to accomplish in life. And it certainly applies to any of your athletic endeavors.

To enjoy your charity ride, your first 50km ride, your first metric or traditional century ride, you must be riding on a regular basis for at least 3 months prior to your goal date. Be patient with yourself. A missed ride here or there won't make a huge difference. But if you stop riding for most of a week, and start doing that on a regular basis, you won't be ready for that big day. Sure, you can probably finish the ride, but it's not likely you'll enjoy yourself along the way - especially in the last third of the ride.

Food Is Fuel - Sleep Is A Legal Performance Enhancer

There is much you can control off the bike that will contribute to your long-term success on the bike. Nutrition and rest are the key areas to keep your eye on.

Just because you are now riding on a regular basis doesn't give you a free reign to start eating whatever and as much of anything you want. Most people grossly over-estimate how many calories they've been burning. I'd say the calorie-burned estimates provided to you by any electronic device, or even table of activities, will likely over-estimate your burned calories in the range of 10-20%.

And humans are notorious for under-estimating the number of calories they actually consume. 

Much can be accomplished following Michael Pollan's simple advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." (See: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) Avoid eating anything that arrives home packaged in plastic. Real food shouldn't require much processing to make it digestible. For instance, breakfast cereal isn't really real food.

At every meal, at least half of your plate should be covered in fruits and vegetables. Try to source your animal proteins from free-range and/or grass-fed sources. Pause to consider that much of what passes for chicken and beef in our supermarkets is really corn in another bag...

Eat your calories, don't drink them. Save the drinking for water. Drinking your calories in the forms of juice and soda and fancy milk-based coffees will again stuff you with more calories than you actually need.

For the majority of beginning cyclists, the quickest way to getting faster is simply to lose some weight. Cycling speed largely comes down to your power-to-weight ratio. Trimming your weight will happen faster than pumping up you power, if you pay attention to your eating.

Rest is the other key off-bike component.

You become a more fit cyclist during your recovery time in between every riding session. The most direct route to your recovery is sleep. Every time you sleep, your body will produce its own natural shot of human growth hormone, which your body loves to use to speed your recovery.

Whenever time allows, grab a short post-workout nap. 30 minutes if sufficient, but don't go over 1.5hrs. At night, get a full uninterrupted sleep of 7 to 9 hours. Log your nighttime sleeps over the course of at least a week to find what seems to work best for you.

A Simple Plan

Finally, you can slice and dice your workout schedule into macro-, meso-, and micro-cycles. But when you are just beginning, you can really keep it much simpler than that.

You won't go wrong following a basic hard workout day followed by an easier day. Here's a simple plan to get you going:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 30 minutes at a high cadence (aim for 100rpm and higher) and low tension (i.e., a very easy gear), continually pushing yourself to the edge of your highest comfortable cadence. It's okay to back off and rest if you struggle to maintain the higher cadences.
Wednesday - 1 hour at a solid riding pace, just something that feels about a 3- or 4-out-of-10 effort scale.
Thursday - Same as Tuesday.
Friday - Same as Wednesday.
Saturday - 30 minutes with a few 3 minute efforts at a low cadence (aim for 50 to 60rpm) high tension (i.e., it should require some solid effort to push those pedals around). Try to get 3 of these low cadence efforts included in your ride. Recovery in between is in a low tension, easy gear, until you feel ready to work hard again for the next 3 minute effort.
Sunday - Same as Wednesday, but this time try to ride a little longer than 1 hour.
If you are feeling a little sore, don't skip a workout, but do your best to get in a ride like Wednesday's - 1 hour at a 3/10 effort.

As you get closer to your big ride day, increase the length of time you commit to the ride on Sunday. 2 weeks out from you big ride day, you should try to have a Sunday ride that is approximately as long as your goal ride. Think about the time first, then consider the distance for this ride. In the last week before your big ride, just keep all your riding days at about 1 hour at the 6/10 effort level.

That's it.

You'll likely lose some weight with this approach. Your endurance will improve. Your pedalling efficiency will improve. And your leg strength will improve. Add these all together, and you'll really enjoy your big ride day. In the very least, you shouldn't suffer!

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