Spring bike rides can mean so many things – the start of a new year after a long winter, a fresh beginning, the first steps into a new plan to get fit. Whether you’re just getting out of the house to enjoy nice weather, or you’re pushing yourself to start your interval exercises on transitional days of snow and sleet to be ready for spring racing – bike rides in the first days of Spring can be wonderful. The window is now wide open for getting in shape, and unless you live in paradise, the weather can be a bit tenuous, so here are four recommendations for orienting yourself towards spring bike rides.
1) Set goals.
Perhaps you want to be able to ride 50 miles or 100 miles by June. Maybe you want to be fast for early season races in April or May. Maybe you want to lose a few pounds after a long winter’s hibernation. Try to think of both short term (weekly/monthly) and long term (spring/summer or 2016) goals and identify something to accomplish in each. The short term goals should build toward the long term goals. For example, I want to ride 5 days per week at 20 miles per ride, to help build my fitness for my favorite 75 mile event in June.
2) Have a plan.
What will it take to reach your goals – to be prepared for your next big race or chip away at your desired fitness level? Start by thinking about how much time you have to ride each week and each day of the week. You might be someone who wants to ride 3 days a week, so you can think about a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule. Or maybe you’re riding every day and you want to maximize the volume of riding, so define what is realistic for you to accomplish each day of the week when thinking of your other responsibilities – work, family, running errands, and recovery. Write down your plan and keep a journal of your progress, marking off the successful completion of each ride and training week.
Do your best to balance your riding throughout the week, rather than being a weekend warrior. It is much easier to build fitness and see physiological progress with a consistent balanced riding schedule. In other words, riding 3 or 4 days per week at 1-2 hours per day, is much better than not riding at all Monday through Friday and then doing 3-4 hours each on Saturday and Sunday. That kind of imbalance will lead to fatigue, injury, and potentially weight gain due to fluctuations in your metabolism and eating habits.
3) Rest right.
Don’t forget about recovery. Your body will need time and fuel to recover. Be sure to plan well-balanced and nutritious meals after your ride to aid recovery – try to take in some calories (A mix of carbs and protein) within 45 minutes after your ride and then have a full meal within 3 hours post ride. You may find you’re extra hungry the next day after a big ride so plan ahead. Prepare healthy meals and snacks for the day after your ride as well.
Also think about recovery in short and long cycles. A short cycle would be – riding Monday and Tuesday for 2 hours each day while using Wednesday for recovery. A long cycle would be – riding hard 5 days per week for 3 weeks, then riding easy only 2 days on week four as recovery. Furthermore, think of your larger cycling goals and plan a couple breaks around the seasons. If you have an event or goal in June that you’re building for, plan a week or two off afterwards to do other stuff like taking a family vacation, running or playing soccer. During such a rest period you should give your cycling legs some time to recover, while strengthening different weaknesses by cautiously changing up your exercises. When winter rolls back around, try other sports like cross country skiing – but be sure you don’t forget to budget for them.
Lastly, If you’re caught under the weather, take the time to rest. Being sick is your body clearly telling you to give it a rest. There’s no need to begrudge yourself to your riding schedule if your body is demanding time to fully recover. And don’t worry too much about making it up by overloading yourself once you’re healthy again. Chances are you will ride yourself back into sickness. With good rest you are likely to come out ahead.
4) Be social.
My final recommendation is to mix social elements into your rides and training plan. Whether you’re riding for the podium or just want to be in shape, riding can be a lonely pursuit. No matter what your goals for cycling, try to plan rides with friends a couple times a month even if you only have one big goal planned for the season. Try to reach some smaller local events. Informal counts! It could be an alley cat, a local group ride, a charity ride, or a practice race. There are countless great free events going on all the time, so check out your local bike shop and ask about e-mail lists, Facebook pages, and websites/blogs where you can learn about what’s going on in your community. Many of these informal rides end at breweries or restaurants and they’re a great way to meet new people.
All told, bike riding is not only great exercise, but it can be an excellent vehicle for organizing your life and setting achievable and realistic goals for yourself. It’s great for your health, it’s an awesome way to meet new people, and it can break up the monotony of a 9-5 work week. No matter your goals for your cycling ‘career’, whether it’s to cut a minute out of your ride to the grocery store or race Paris-Roubaix, utilizing the strategy of having goals, a plan to reach those goals, and taking time for rest and recovery is a sure way to be successful and feel more satisfied with your bike riding and life in general. Plus you might find yourself having a little extra fun and meeting great people along the way!
Article written by Nick Lemke. About Nick…
An avid cyclist whose first love was mountain biking as a teen. Nick’s a thirsty competitor with a pro’s license in mountain biking. However, his primary racing interests in recent years have been competing at UCI level and Elite Nationals for sponsors Kona Bikes and Hi Fi Sound Cycling Components. Don’t let his expertise fool you though. As disciplined and accomplished a cyclist he is, he’s equally affable, down-to-earth and focuses a great deal of effort in encouraging others to ride. Interested in learning more about how Nick can help you become a stronger rider? Enlist him as your own private coach!
Check out his profile at Cycle-Smart.com for more info.