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.
1. Start slow - If you’re new to riding, there’s no need to aim for land speed records or endurance tests. Simply head out on your bike at a pace that feels comfortable and choose a short route - that way you’re never far from home. By starting slow, you’re more likely to stick to your ride routine and achieve your goals.
2. Build cardiovascular fitness - Try riding for a sustained 20-30 minutes four times a week, if you can. Make sure you’re working at the optimum level by using the ‘talk test’. If you can maintain a basic level of conversation, that’s perfect. If you can sing a song, you need to work a little harder!
3. Intervals - Intensity is an important part of getting the most out of an exercise regime, 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.
4. 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 and keeping an even speed.
5. 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.
6. 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 pedalling. You can attack these out of the saddle or seated, but either way it should feel like pedaling in molasses!
7. Have fun! - You're far more likely to succeed when you enjoy what you're doing. Want to keep your rides calm and leisurely? Go for it! Want to set a personal best time for your favourite off-road track? Awesome! By enjoying your rides, you will travel further and keep pedaling for years to come.
Note: if you start encountering any pain or fatigue, or if you’re unsure of what is a healthy and safe exercise regime for you, always consult a doctor or other medical professional.