Ok, so you already know that riding is good for your heart, waistline, brain, etc (what, you didn’t know that? Well check it out!). If you want to get more out of your riding, there are some general strategies you can easily add to your next fun ride, commute, or trip to the store.
Intervals - Intensity is an important part of getting the most out of an exercise regimen, and is easy to add to any kind of ride. Using a watch or visual benchmarks (like stop lights or signposts) alternate periods of high intensity output (not always sprinting, but definitely 85-95% of your maximum effort) with a period of greatly reduced output. Alternate these throughout part of a ride to boost the point at which you feel exhaustion and build speed and strength.
Active Rest - After you’ve done a couple sessions of focusing on intensity, add another layer to it by focusing your mental energy on the active rest sections. Specifically, work on having proper technique in your pedal stroke, keeping a base speed, and maybe tracking a line in front of you.
Aerobic Limits - Interval training is great, but shouldn’t be the whole of your approach. Instead, focus some of your rides on keeping a consistent speed somewhere in between your high and active rest speeds. Use this as a chance to push your aerobic limit and stamina not through intensity but through consistency and duration.
High Resistance - On the other side of things, take advantage of your gears (or any hills) to introduce greater resistance to your pedal stroke. Once again, you can add layers of intervals or aerobic effort, but with the challenge of a much harder time pedaling. You can attack these out of the saddle or seated, but either way it should feel like pedaling in molasses!
Note: if you start encountering any non-muscular pain or fatigue, such as joints or connective tissues, pull it back until the pain is gone. That may mean rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, etc. Exercise shouldn’t hurt in that way!