Once you start cycling regularly, it is important to determine a training intensity that corresponds to your fitness level.
Finding a cycling speed that feels suitable for you is not usually difficult. A typical mistake for beginners is to bike too fast in the beginning of a session, leading to a slower speed towards the end as energy levels slump. If that sounds familiar, you should keep close tabs on your heart rate in the first half of your training session. Training correctly to increase endurance means keeping exercise intensity at a stable level throughout a session. Intensity may even increase slightly towards the end.
If you have used a heart rate monitor for other types of exercise, determine corresponding heart rate levels as follows: when cycling your heart rate should be around 10 bpm lower than when you run and 15 bpm lower than when cross-country skiing. This is because the upper body doesn’t move when cycling, and not as many muscles are, therefore, in use.
Always start a training session with a 10-15 minute slow-paced warm-up, to get your body progressively used to more intensive training. If you feel vigorous after the warm-up, then you can move on to the training session itself. As a beginner you should aim for a stable rhythm and avoid hard or long sprints. You should be able to keep up a good, stable pace throughout your session, and still have some energy left at the end.
Training till you drop is not recommended, as it doesn’t improve a beginner’s fitness and recovering from such harsh training can last several days. Once your bike ride is over, cool down your pace for 10-15 minutes to start your recovery. Stretching your muscles afterwards is always a good idea, as the repetitive nature of the cycling movement can quickly reduce muscle suppleness.
On uneven tracks, your heart rate will obviously increase when cycling up-hill, but make sure it does not rise above your aerobic threshold (that’s when your body starts to produce a lot of lactic acid). If it does, then you are training too hard, and endurance will not develop in an optimal way – and endurance is of utmost importance for a cyclist.
For those who are determined to improve aerobic fitness, training at least 3 times a week is recommended. All training doesn’t necessarily have to be on a bike, other aerobic exercise work well with cycling. Runners can replace long runs with bike rides instead. This way the pressure on the legs is reduced while still working on endurance.
When planning your weekly training schedule, keep in mind that to improve your performance, hard training days should alternate with lighter ones. For your perfomance to improve continuously, your body needs to recover before it takes on another hard session. An over-worked body does not get fitter.