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12 Lessons from a New Cyclist on a 500 Mile Solo Trip

Well, I’ve done it. I set out to cycle 500 miles and I was able to accomplish the goal in 9 days. This was my first attempt at at a long distance bike ride (commonly known as bike touring) over multiple days. I wasn’t even sure I would make it, but I was excited to try. Here I am though! Writing about the longest, most difficult physical challenge I’ve ever completed. Would I do it again? I can’t wait!

Here are the most important 12 things I learned on my first bike tour:

1. Cycling isn’t hard.
To be honest, I like running but I haven’t run more than 8 miles in a couple of years. Why? Because after 5 miles I am a sweaty horse, gasping for air. Cycling isn’t like that. It’s a feat of persistence, more than a physical challenge (unless you’re trying to make some crazy good time, which…err, I definitely wasn’t. I was moving at turtle’s pace.). If you can bike, cycling 500 miles is totally doable without much training. While I’m relatively physically active and bike 10 miles a couple of times a week during the summer months, I’ve only biked 45 miles once in my life prior to this trip.

2. Cars can be nerve-racking.
My biggest safety issue was not the curious creep I met along the way. Instead, it was the drivers. It wasn’t even the truckers! Truckers are actually quite understanding of cyclists and always try to make space between the rider and their monstrous vehicle. For some reason, it was always the jerks in pickup trucks. Talk stereotypes that ring true. I lost count of the times they passed inches away from my body. They could have easily killed me if I had lost my balance for a second, and it was incredibly scary. (side note: if you’re wondering why cyclists ride on the road even if the road has a shoulder, it’s because there’s a ton of glass and debris on the side of the road. It’s easy to get your tire punctured, and then, you may be stranded. Stranded is better than dead, but it’s a hard choice to make since the odds of getting a tear in your tire are very much against you).

As time did go on I begin to feel more comfortable with cars passing. It’s just something I think I will eventually get used to but if you have the opportunity to take side roads with less traffic I highly recommend! The peace and tranquility is worth the few extra miles.

3. Relatively low pain/risk of injury.
Now, I’m not a doctor, and I’m fortunate enough to be very healthy, so take this with a grain of salt. But, the only dangerous pain I felt was knee pain, and frequent stretching helped to eliminate it. Of course, because cycling is not physically difficult (read no. 1) it’s also easy to overdo it. I had a few days where I cycled nearly 70 miles, and at the end of the day, I was like ‘meh, push comes to shove, I think I could do another 30’. In reality, even if I could, that definitely wouldn’t be healthy for my knees.

Related

The Top 10 Reasons Everyone Should Bike to Work

4. Good gear matters, but it isn’t everything.
I honestly don’t like experts. My life dream is to create a movement of anti-purists that just prove experts wrong all the time. Experts are entitled and close-minded because they’ve typically spent too much money on gear and too much time in the gym and they’ll tell you that’s the way you have to do it. No thanks. Get out there and just do it. I did my 500 mile bike in my 3-year old $30 sneakers. Sure, it may have been easier with proper shoes, better seat and an ultra-light bike. But nobody can tell me that it isn’t possible to do this without those things. If you wait for just the right moment, when you have just the right equipment and lots of money in the bank, you’ll never do it. Those are self-imposed barriers. Ignore them. Better yet, crush them and forget about them.

5. Google for bikes sucks.
American Cycling Association maps are expensive, can be outdated and the route doesn’t pass through cities. The Greenway site/navigation SUCKS. As a side project in the next few months, I’m planning to do more research on other options. If nothing better exists, I’ll build an app where bike tour route information is crowdsourced.

6. You become a minimalist, appreciating life more than ever.
I’m not sure what it is – maybe the 2 pairs of underwear you wear over and over, the rain that soaks your only change of clothes, or maybe the countless carcasses you see on the road- but cycling makes you reflect on your life a lot. You quickly realize that you don’t need much to live and be happy, and as the miles pass, you realize that everything is temporary, and the present moment is really all that you have. For me, long-distance cycling was a shortcut to meditation.

7. Your enemy number 1 is the wind.
There were times when it felt like I was climbing a steep hill, grinding with all the power of my legs, when in reality, I was actually going downhill. It was a total eye opening experience when it came to wind and cycling. Side wind is arguably even worse, especially when you’re on a bridge. It legit feels like you’re gonna tip over, fall in the river and become food for Nemo.

Some words of advice, drop down a gear or two in order to maintain a smooth, steady cadence (pedal rotation). Try getting low so you act less like a sail. If all this fails just embrace the wind and think about how strong of a cyclist you’re going to be. You can also always plan to ride another day if timing allows for it.

8. Take it day by day.
At first, the 500 miles seemed so damn daunting. Part of me thought I’d fail. Then, I just started planning one day at a time- just 60 miles I have to get through, that’s it. I’d split those 60 miles into 3 pieces where I’d have longer breaks for meals. So, all I had to do at any given time was just 20 miles. I’d stop approximately 3 times for a water break, so 20 miles became only 7 miles. In the last 20 miles, I’d be so tired that I only wanted to go to the next sign on the road. I can thank my 12-year old nephew for that tip. He runs with me sometimes (he’s on a bike, I run) and he always says ‘just make it to the next mailbox, that’s all you gotta do, Magda!’

9. Practical tip 1: Always carry more water than you think you’ll need.
There were at least a couple of times I ran out and one of these times resulted in severe dehydration. If you see an opportunity to fill your water bottles even if they aren’t empty take it.

10. Practical tip 2: You’ll need lots of batteries.
Aside from water, spare battery packs to charge your phone are a must, even if they weigh a ton. You might end up looking at your phone for directions more often than you think which is a sure fire way to drain your battery.

11. Practical tip 3: Keep your backpack light or don’t wear one at all.
If it’s heavy, your shoulders and back will hurt like hell. I made that mistake in the first couple of days, then, I moved heavier stuff to my saddlebags. You don’t really feel the weight when it’s on your bike, but you do feel it when it’s on your back. Removing your backpack all together is even better and greatly reduces your chance of back pain while on a bike tour.

12. Lastly, when I finished, the first thing I felt was this weird emptiness.
I didn’t feel happiness or a sense of accomplishment. I totally forgot to take a triumphant photo as I was handing off my bike to be flown back home. I legit didn’t know what to do with myself for the rest of the day, and the next day I got up at 6 AM ready to cycle again. Once I reminded myself that I was done, my second thought was: okay, so… how about a new challenge? 1,000 mile bike tour, anyone?

This post was originally published on zigzagging.world, where Magda blogs about fitness, travel and her adventures in New York City.

Training for 500 miles in 5 days

thanks Vorsprung…I have just spent most of the evening reading all about the Audax stuff on your sig link, very interesting and loads of information on there which is relevant to me.
Anyways, my training this week, I started out with a small loop from home and back, is 14.7 miles, more or less flat, but with a little climb at the start/end depending which way round I ride it. Started out at about 60 minutes, but this came down to around 47-50 or so minutes by the 5th time of doing it. Am managing to keep my avg at over 15mph, which is my aim for the 500 miles ride.
So today I wanted to ride longer, just to spend more time in the saddle, and not necessarily concern myself with averages, so I did that, I rode Stromness to Kirkwall, but made the ride into a near 30 miler, then straight back was 14.7 miles. On the ride there I could have given up at about the 19 mile point, I had a long dead straight section with a slight headwind, and I was absolutely knackered, but stuck at it and am glad I did. The ride back was hard, very hard, I could only get a 12 mph average, due to a strong blustery headwind for the entire 14.7 miles, not good.
So all in all I am happy with how its going, mini-rides each night and a longer one at the weekend, will up my mini-rides to 20 miles this week.
Also what are cows problems, whenever I ride past them, they stop eating and all look at me as if I have done something to offend them, poor attitudes in my book.
Here is a link to my strava stuff if you wanted to look – I used ridewithgps for my first couple of rides, but I think strava is better.

I am a little sore this evening, not loads, but think I will probably wake up worse than I am now, and the bike didn’t want to change onto the smallest ring at the front today, so I just didn’t use it.
I also managed to clock up a max of 42.9 mph, which I was pleased with.

Once you’ve hammered out a route and a timeline for your upcoming tour, and your bike and gear are in tip-top shape, it’s time to start getting your body ready.

You might consider the three legs of the “tripod of training” to be conditioning, nutrition, and hydration.

When training for a bike tour, you’re not only putting your specific muscles (and specific soft tissue areas, like your bottom!) through the paces, you’re also training things you don’t see, or don’t necessarily even think about, to enable them to run more efficiently.

And if you’re coming out of winter hibernation or another period of relative inactivity, training will be especially important.

Training Makes for a Happier Tour

Riding a bicycle day after day, whether loaded with gear or not, can be physically demanding, particularly on the legs, butt, and upper back and shoulders.

Sure, you might be able to successfully complete your planned tour without following a program like the one outlined below, but a large share of your trip would double as training. If you get in shape in advance, then the tour can be enjoyed from the outset rather than simply endured for a certain amount of time. And if your tour is “only” a week long, you might find yourself finally getting in proper shape just when it’s time to return home.

The better your fitness, the less likely you’ll sustain an overuse injury and/or saddle sores, which have ruined many a tour.

Training with loaded panniers is needed practice for a self-contained tour. Brain Coop

Building a Training Plan

This program — especially the recommended mileages — is aimed at preparing for a long-distance, multiweek tour. You can gear down accordingly if you’re heading into something shorter and more leisurely.

Stage 1: Base Training Miles

Start training at least 12 weeks before your planned departure date. Your first four-week period can take place indoors on a trainer if winter or early spring weather inhibit outdoor riding.

Ride three or four days a week. Don’t worry too much about distance; go more for time. Try to work up to two hours for the longest ride.

Most riding should take place at a steady pace, one you think you’ll be able to keep up for hours, spinning gears low enough to keep you in the range of 70 to 90 revolutions per minute.

Take time to add in a stretching routine, even if it’s for only five or 10 minutes a day. This will help prepare your muscles, tendons, and ligaments for the subsequent training stage.

Stage 2: Building Strength

The goal of the second four-week stage is to build on your base, adding in specific and general strength training.

At least one day per week incorporate some speed intervals, or “sprints” into your workout, achieving a heart rate that’s higher than your touring rate of perhaps 100 to 120 beats per minute.

Seek out more hills, but don’t overdo it. Most of your outings should still be steady-state “spin rides,” including a weekly long ride of two hours or more.

Throw in some calisthenics and/or light weight lifting to exercise body parts that cycling tends to neglect, and keep up the stretching routine.

Stage 3: Building Endurance

During stage three you’ll build endurance atop the foundation you have established. Begin by taking longer rides once or twice a week. By the end of the month, you should be riding 40 to 50 miles on these long rides.

Go to new places and enjoy the scenery. This is what bicycle touring is about, and you’ll be training your mind as well as your body. Take breaks, carry food and plenty of water along, and train for eating and drinking on the road.

Stage 4: Ride with Weight

If you’re planning a self-contained tour, begin to carry weight on the bike as you ride, particularly on the long endurance days. Begin slowly, carrying about 20 pounds or so, and work your way up to carrying all of your gear a couple of times before your trip starts. You need this time to build strength in your ligaments, muscles, and tendons. This will help to avoid injuries and prepare you for an enjoyable trip.

Since you’ll be putting substantially more stress on your body than it’s accustomed to, rest days become just as important as workout days. Get plenty of sleep, practice proper hydration and nutrition, and you will come out of this stage stronger than ever — and raring to go.

I tried an Instagram fitness plan people are going crazy over — here are 6 reasons it’s completely overrated

Women around the world are obsessed with Kayla Itsines, an Instagram-famous fitness trainer from Australia.

Itsines has managed to c ultivate what devoted fans call an “Army” with her lucrative Bikini Body Guide business. They will fill a venue, packed tightly like sweaty sardines, to exercise in the presence of their famous trainer.

The core of her business is a series of PDFs (and now, a sometimes-criticized app) that come complete with a 12-week workout plan and a nutrition manual.

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But the real gem of her branding is her viral Instagram account, with over 5 million followers. It’s an amalgam of social media-friendly platitudes, photos of her enviable abs, some of her colorful meals, and — most notably — striking before-and-after photos of her “girls” who have taken on the her workout plan and lived to show the results. It works, the photos say, seducing you with every visible muscle line. Try this. Get sick, sick abs. Come, join the army!

For a few weeks in my life, I, too was a part of that army…to an extent. If Kayla’s army was the most recent Game of Thrones battle, then I wasn’t a zealot willing to throw my life into the fray for House Itsines. I was more like an onlooker, grateful to not have to tear my body to shreds in the name of the Seven Kingdoms (or a bikini body).

I admit it: I’m highly susceptible to fitness trends. I drank the SoulCycle kool-aid. I’ve tried Insanity. I went up and inch and down an inch at barre class.

So when I stumbled upon Itsines’ Instagram account, I thought, why not. I’ll try this! It’s markedly less expensive than SoulCycle classes, right?

And the 12-week plan seemed pretty simple: you pay $52 for a PDF of her workout guide or her nutrition guide or scoop up both for about $90 (unfortunately for Itsines, it’s pretty easy to find the PDFs online, too).

You do seven minute circuits of burpees, weights, and questionable exercises like “double bench jumps” two to three times a week. Kayla instructs you to do “LISS” (low intensity steady state) three times a week — such as a long walk. She encourages one HIIT (high intensity interval training) in the final month.

As time goes on, she tells people to amp up the number of workouts. She encourages days for stretching, too.

I was definitely sore after some of the circuits. But around week eight or nine or so, I stopped doing it.

Though I truly believe that Itsines is a spectacular business woman who is very good at posting photos on Instagram who has sound advice, I didn’t stick to the program. Here’s why:

1. People report inconsistent results with the program.

Are you a sloth who has never stepped foot off your couch, save to the kitchen to grab some mac and cheese? Have you never exercised a day in your life, and consider doing shots of tequila an arm workout? Congratulations, you might lose weight doing the Bikini Body Guide!

But you also might lose weight doing any workout. (Honestly, I’ve found that getting a Fitbit has been one of the best things I’ve done for my health; I’m generally more aware of how much I move throughout the day.)

These sexy before-and-after photos do not necessarily mean that the Bikini Body Guide is the actual reason people are losing weight; it could be a multitude of factors, from diet to lifestyle changes, and more.

That said, there’s no denying that Itsines has helped many young women feel confident. People on Reddit talk about how they’ve gotten stronger; that’s great! Strength training is important. The photos are pretty obvious and tell a great story — but it’s not the whole story, and it’s a promise that may or may not be fulfilled.

I saw negligible results, and moreover, Redditors have also reported mixed results, with some people saying how since they already ate healthily, much wasn’t going to change — but one thing is clear that in order to see any results, you need to do everything Itsines subscribes, which, unlike the highly-publicized three circuits a week, is time-consuming. There is no short cut to wellness, sure, but I have a lingering suspicion some people latch onto Itsines’ ideas because they think that it might be a short cut.

2. There’s no “one size fits all” approach for weight loss — and the program is innately prescriptive.

“Throughout my industry experience, the more I interviewed my female clients, it became apparent that many girls were aspiring for a specific yet common look,” Itsines writes in her guides. “What these girls really wanted was the confidence and positive physical change that came as a result of a healthy lifestyle.”

“I have heard many trainers and individuals say lots of different things about how to get ‘results’ – such as what IS required, what is not required, shortcuts you can take and things to avoid. In this eBook, I am hoping to clear the confusion for you and focus more on YOUR specific goals,” she writes.

That’s a mixed message, isn’t it? And Itsines seems to make it seem as though this is tailored to individual women, but it’s not: it’s entirely prescriptive, even if it’s not her intention.

This is the sad, unfortunate truth of any exercise program, especially ones that sell themselves as miracle workers and promise to rid your body of excess fat and unleash your hidden six pack: every body is made differently and everyone needs to figure out what works best for his or her body. This can make doing a prescribed workout program extremely frustrating, because you could be twelve weeks in — a fiscal quarter! — and realize that your body needs something completely different than what you’ve been doing.

3. The branding didn’t resonate with me.

The name of her program alone is troublesome — and even some bloggers who rave about her guides often confess that they dislike the name “Bikini Body Guide.” It’s pretty regressive. After all, what is a bikini body? As many people say now, it’s a body…in a bikini. It’s your best you.

In her eBook, Itsines appears to be ready for that criticism. She swears that a “bikini body is not a certain body weight, size or look, but rather a state of mind where you are confident and feel good about YOU. I do not believe that a single figure, idealistic individual, or image should be the sole goal for a broad-spectrum audience. I think the end goal should still be the same, but the definition for that goal is happiness through health.”

“I completely understand that there are many women around the world that have different goals or are already comfortable with their body. I don’t promote my work in a derogatory or demeaning way to anyone, as we all have different tastes. My work is entirely about making women feel comfortable about their bodies, and assisting the women that specifically seek the outcomes that my advice has proven to achieve,” she writes.

But it’s impossible to ignore that Itsines’ main way of advertising is showing impressive before and after photos, though she also appears to cover her bases by posting Instagram photos that claim “health is not a size. It’s a lifestyle.” But then, why is there such an emphasis on scintillating, chiseled abs?

Not everybody’s body is meant to be cut like a Victoria’s Secret model. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better you — I’m not against dramatic weight loss photos — but Itsines’ message feels inconsistent to me.

Instagram debunked

4. I need more guidance than a photo.

(Kayla Itsines BBG)

Those without her app are left with something troubling: no guidance other than illustrations. It’s not really rocket science to realize that improperly doing a workout (and for twelve weeks) could be risky, and that’s a risk that anyone who signs up for the Bikini Body Guide is taking.

There are some moves I felt wary about doing on my own. Jumping onto two side-by-side benches typically used for bench presses? No, thanks.

Celebrity fitness trainer Anna Kaiser has spoken out against the problem with the rise of the Instagram fitness celebrity (though she didn’t name names; she just spoke vaguely about the problem with Instagram fitness stars).

“Most of the trainers are personalities,” she said to me recently. “They’re not educated in fitness, and you don’t actually get to interact with any of the people. They’re just going off of pictures and videos, and … could end up hurting yourself for years with injuries that will affect you for years down the road.”

“I would just warn people against following a personality or someone who looks great in a bikini and really seek out someone who knows what they’re doing, and that’s the general feeling in the fitness community today,” she added.

Personally, I feel safer doing intense exercise with some supervision nearby.

5. The schedule is not realistic for everyone.

In her guide, Itsines advises against doing her circuits and “LISS” workouts at the same time, and toward the end of the guide, she’s encouraging more workouts than there are days in the week. She doesn’t advise that people do resistance training and cardio back-to-back, but suggests training once in the morning and once in the evening.

Do you know who works out in the morning and at night? Victoria’s Secret models. Do you know the audience that’s gobbling up Kayla’s advice? Young girls. Young girls who are in formative states — mentally, emotionally, and physically — and they’re nodding their heads and saying, “yes,” and making the gym the center point of their lives.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with making the gym a priority. But Itsines is subtly advocating that people schedule their lives around multiple workouts a day. This is not doing a double SoulCycle class for fun on the weekend. This is subtly telling young women that in order to get this elusive bikini body, they need to make gym trips. Twice. That’s just not realistic for most young women, who should be living balanced lives.

Weirdly, though, Itsines says her goal is to help women lead balanced lives.

“I want to help educate girls all around the world, and make them understand that exclusionary diets or training styles are not necessarily the best way to go — rather, a well-rounded healthy lifestyle can be far more flexible, beneficial, and enjoyable,” she writes. To be fair, her diet doesn’t demonize carbs…which is a plus.

I fully believe that Itsines is out to help young women, but unless you have a very open schedule, this just might not work. That’s how I felt, for sure: when would I get in all of these sessions and sleep and have a social life and prep all this healthy food? All of those are very important aspects for being a well rounded, healthy person.

6. It’s really not that revolutionary for the price.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kayla Itsines is a very smart young business woman. The workout guide is more than $50…for an eBook. It’s more for the nutrition manual. The app is $19.99 a month. Itsines swears you don’t need anything, but you do need equipment, from medicine balls to weights and more (and reviewers have said how they didn’t anticipate the additional expenses, and they can really add up).

And realizing what Itsines is getting people to do — resistance training, fat burning low intensity cardio, and high intensity interval — isn’t entirely groundbreaking in the fitness world.

The only revolutionary thing she’s done, in my opinion, is that she’s cultivated a community and made women accountable for their wellness. She’s made them feel strong and helped them feel like they can do push ups. She’s brought millions of women together. That’s great. And to her credit, she’s gotten millions of women interested in exercise, which is hugely important.

But I think the brilliance ends about there. After all, like with diets, there is no magical mystery cure for getting the body of your dreams. It’s a combination of taking care of it, exercising safely so that you can keep exercising in the long run, and eating well — doing something that you enjoy and works for you. And sometimes, if you have really specific goals, you might have to seek out an expert — which, yes, costs money, but they’ll pay attention to your needs.

To be fair, Bikini Body Guide may work for some women, but if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. Remember, this guy lost 140 pounds eating Chick-fil-A almost every day, so really, it’s all about finding something that’s sustainable for you.

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Read the original article on Business Insider UK. © 2016. Follow Business Insider UK on Twitter.

How to lose weight cycling

If you’re looking to get fitter, trimmer and lighter, not to mention healthier, then cycling is a great way to lose weight. It’s efficient, enjoyable, easy to slot into a busy day and, best of all, has emotional and mental benefits as well as physical ones. What’s not to like?

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  • How to lose belly fat by cycling
  • 10 steps to becoming a fitter, faster, better cyclist
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In fact, we’ve found 30 reasons to love cycling, and if an activity is enjoyable, studies show you are much more likely to stick with it, which is hardly rocket science, but is a big plus when it comes to trying to shed some weight.

14 things you need to do if you want to lose weight by cycling

1. Set a realistic goal

You can choose a target weight using Body Mass Index, or BMI, as a guide. This is a based on a person’s height to weight ratio, and is used by many medical professionals, and is good for identifying a healthy target weight to aim for. Use an online tool such as the NHS BMI checker to identify a healthy weight for you.

BMI is far from perfect, but is a good guide to get you started.

An alternative is to aim for a target body fat percentage. A healthy man would have a body fat percentage of 15–18 percent and a woman of 25–32 percent. A man who trains and rides regularly can reach a body fat percentage of 8–10 percent and a woman training and riding regularly of 24–28 percent.

There are lots of weighing scales that will measure body fat percentage, so buying one could be a good investment

2. Aim for a rate of weight loss of up to 1kg per week

While it can be tempting to try and lose more, studies have shown that sudden and rapid weight loss is rarely maintained, with many people putting the weight back on and more.

Instead, think of this as a gradual process and a change of lifestyle. You don’t just want to lose the weight, you want to keep it off too.

“For most people if they have an hour a day, and they are happy doing an hour a day of exercise, then they can expect to lose a kilo a week,” says Andy Wadsworth, a personal trainer and coach.

3. Ride at a moderate pace often

If you want to burn fat, you need to ride at a pace that gives you a heart-rate of between 68 and 79 percent of your max heart rate. This is something you can set up using a heart rate monitor and bike computer, such as Garmin.

  • Buyer’s guide to GPS bike computers
  • Buyer’s guide to Garmin Edge bike computers

If you don’t have these, you need to aim for a pace that leaves you out of breath but still able to maintain a conversation.

Most of your exercise should be at this level, which is good news because although it’s tiring, you won’t be finishing every ride completely drained.

Aim for around an hour a day.

  • How to improve your speed, fitness and body composition with a heart rate monitor

4. Commute to work!

Commuting by bike is an efficient way of making exercise and cycling part of your everyday life Andi Weiland / EyeEm / Getty

One of the brilliant things about cycling is that it’s also an efficient form of transport, so switching your commute to two wheels means you’ll be getting in a regular amount of exercise in time that you would have spent travelling anyway.

Commuting by bike can have a huge impact on weight loss. A recent study by the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research showed that people who switched to cycling from driving or public transport lost on average 7kg/1stone over the course of a year, when riding 30 minutes each way.

Cycling also helps improve your concentration, creativity and stress levels, so you’re also likely to be more productive when you get to work.

  • Quiz: which type of bike should you be commuting on?
  • 5 effective ride-to-work workouts

5. Add two or three high-intensity sessions a week

High-intensity sessions will help improve your cardiovascular fitness, making your body a more efficient calorie-burning machine. Either swap these for two or three of your regular rides or, if you feel up to it, add them on top or combine them by adding a high-intensity session at the end of a moderate ride.

For these efforts you’ll need to be riding to 70–90 percent of your heart rate for most of the session, or riding hard enough that you can’t hold a conversation. You don’t need to hold this pace for the whole session: interval training is very effective.

  • 6 ways to burn fat fast

Wadsworth recommends adding this on top of your regular workouts. “Your body starts to work in an anaerobic mode, so your body has to repair itself after the exertion and burn fat that way, as well as increasing your aerobic capacity and muscle mass.”

“The more muscle you have, the more fuel you’ll need to keep it going, the more calories you’ll burn,” he continues.

If you don’t fancy doing this outside or the weather is bad, there’s always the spin class at your local gym. It won’t be as much fun as riding outside but it does mean you can get a good workout when it’s lashing rain.

  • Find out why you should try spin classes this winter

6. Get plenty of sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is also an important part of weight loss Daly and Newton/Getty

Sleep is the unsung hero of weight loss. Studies have shown that people who get six to eight hours of sleep a night are much more successful at losing weight and keeping it off, and also tend to be less stressed.

Research has also indicated that people who don’t get enough sleep at night are more prone to feeling hungry and less likely to feel satiated when they eat.

And of course, a good night’s sleep is essential to help the body repair and build muscle after each day so you are ready for the next.

It sounds simple, but it’s important; aim for a quality sleep of around seven hours every night to give yourself the best chance of losing that weight.

  • Read our tips on how to get a good night’s sleep for a great day of cycling

7. Keep track of your progress

Choose a way to track your progress Paul Smith – www.smithpic.co.uk

Keep motivated and monitor your progress by recording it as you go.

Don’t be disheartened if things don’t change at the same rate; you are training your body to be fitter and more efficient, and some weeks you’ll see lots of progress, other weeks you might plateau. The overall trend is what’s important.

If you’re tracking your progress using your weight or body fat percentage, then measure yourself once a week, ideally at the same time of day. First thing in the morning after you’ve been to the toilet is a popular time!

  • How to keep a training diary

If you use Strava or a similar route tracker, you’ll be able to see your fitness improving as you progress — you’re likely to get faster along sections, which gives a great sense of achievement!

Clothes are also a great way to check how you’re doing. If you’ve got a favourite item you want to fit into, or something you currently wear, check back every couple of weeks to see how it fits on you now.

  • Best GPS devices for cycling
  • 21 of the best Strava tips

8. Add in some cross-training and flexibility work to your routine

Build in stretching to your routine to help your body recover and to avoid injury gruizza / Getty

While cycling is great for weight loss, it does put stress and strain on the body, particularly if you are new to it. Cross training will help balance out the leg-heavy muscle workout you get from pedalling, and flexibility work will stretch out those muscles and tendons, preventing injury, aches and pains.

Free weights, pilates, swimming, Zumba and boxing are all great for cross-training, giving you a stronger core which will benefit your cycling. Pilates and yoga are good choices for flexibility work.

All of these help build muscle, and the more muscle you have the more efficient your body will be at burning calories.

  • Training exercises you can do off the bike
  • 8 stretches to improve your flexibility and cycling performance

9. Eat little and often

If you think of your body like an engine, then you want to keep it topped up with fuel and running at a steady rate throughout the day.

Wadsworth recommends eating small amounts of good food every three to four hours, it will help you maintain a stable metabolism, burn fat consistently and ensure your energy levels are stable so you have enough oomph at the end of a day at work to hop on your bike.

When you finish a ride, a protein and vegetable-rich dish will help you recover better.

  • Best carbs for cycling — what to eat and when
  • 9 energy-boosting breakfasts to keep you riding strong
  • 6 healthy, tasty and quick packed lunch recipes
  • 10 protein-rich meals for post-ride recovery
  • More tasty and nutritious recipes for cyclists

10. Avoid sugar and processed food

Avoid foods that contain large amounts of refined sugar Aminata Conde / EyeEm / Getty

Sugar and processed foods may give you plenty of energy, but they often have low nutritional value. Plus, any sugar that you don’t burn off immediately will be stored by your body in the form of fat, which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.

We’re not saying you can never have cake — it’s a traditional part of the cycling experience, after all — but we are saying limit your intake to once a week or as a treat, and cut out those other sugary snacks and chocolate bars altogether.

You’re also best to avoid the sugar-packed sports energy gels and bars out there. They’re fine for racing and long events, but if you are trying to lose weight then you are better off eating a good balanced meal beforehand and topping up with something like a banana, some nuts or jerky.

  • 5 healthy eating tips to help you lose weight
  • 5 low-sugar snacks to keep you powered up

11. Focus on lean protein and plenty of fruit and vegetables

Focus on eating satisfying foods with a high nutritional value Olive Magazine

Eating the right foods is as important as avoiding the wrong foods. You need to give your body everything it needs to run efficiently, build muscle and sustain exercise.

Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight: How to get lean for peak performance (available on Amazon), recommends eating quality foods that will have a high nutritional value and often lower calorie density too.

Choose lean protein such as fish, chicken, beans and pulses. Opt for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables alongside them, and choose wholegrain carbohydrates or ones with a low glycaemic index such as sweet potato, rolled oats or rye bread.

As Wadsworth says: “It’s a general rule of thumb, but if you can grow it or run after and catch it or fish for it, that’s what you should be eating. Stick to that diet and you’ll lose weight.”

Smoothies and juices can be tempting, but you’re often better off eating the whole fruit as then you’re also getting dietary fibre rather than just the sweet, sugary juice.

  • 7 tasty, fast and light fish dishes
  • 10 protein-rich meals for post-ride recovery

12. Try riding before breakfast

Heading out for a short ride before breakfast can be a great way of kickstarting your weight loss. Your body is forced to use its stores of fat as there is no food in your system.

This is called fasted training.

Aim for a ride of between 30 minutes to an hour, but you will need to eat something if you’re going to be riding for much longer than that.

  • 13 tips for a faster, newer you this year

13. Avoid overtraining or under eating

If you’re looking to lose weight it can be so tempting to beast yourself on the bike or cut your food intake right down. Neither of these is healthy, and ultimately they don’t work in the long term.

“If you want to burn fat, that’s like burning logs in a bonfire. If you want the bonfire to keep burning at high temperature, like your metabolism, then you want to keep feeding it logs every three hours — that’s the little and often approach with food. If you stop fuelling it, then the body goes into starvation mode and it will hold on to calories more,” says Wadsworth. “So short term yes you lose weight, but give it a few weeks and it all piles on again.”

Go too hard on the bike, particularly if you are just getting into cycling or starting to do more, and you risk tiring yourself out completely, leaving you no energy to do anything, or injuring yourself and therefore putting yourself out of action.

Cutting back your calorie intake too much will mean your body isn’t getting enough fuel and nutrition to support the exercise you are trying to do, so won’t work as effectively, and is more likely to go into starvation mode where it stores any food it does get, which is completely counterproductive.

If you are trying to lose weight, then the general guidance is that men should aim for 1,900 calories and women for 1,400 calories.

Steady exercise with good, lean food equals steady weight loss that you’ll be able to keep off.

  • 5 simple rules to avoid weight gain while eating enough for cycling

14. Enjoy it!

Whether you ride with friends, colleagues, family or your partner, remember to enjoy it! Phil Hall / Immediate Media Co

The best thing about cycling is how much fun it is. Whether you like speeding along country lanes, ripping along mountain bike trails, long contemplative rides on your own or social rides with your friends, there’s loads to love, and you’ll almost forget you’re actually exercising while you do it!

So get your friends involved, join a club, go out with your family and make cycling part of your life. Above all, have fun!

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This article was updated on 5 December 2018 and has been rewritten since it was first published, so some comments below may be out of date.

This post explains why cycling is the best exercise for weight loss, and describes 7 steps to lose weight by cycling. Cycling burns a lot of calories, and can be sustained for long periods of time because it is so much fun. And because cycling is a low-impact exercise, you can start cycling even if you are very overweight. Many people have lost impressive amounts of weight with the help of cycling, and you could become one of them!

You don’t need to be a greyhound to cycle. This is Maggie and I, during one of my fatter stages. I took off a lot of my extra weight by cycling regularly.

How Cycling to Lose Weight Works

Riding a bike uses all of the largest muscles in your body: your quads, your hamstrings, your hip muscles, and your glutes. Using large muscles burns a lot of calories. An average calorie burn per hour on a bike is around 400 to 600 calories, depending on your size and how hard you pedal. So if you can ride a bike for an hour a day, you can burn up around 4,000 calories per week. This is enough to burn off a pound of fat, even without changing your diet (although it’s essential to adopt a healthier eating plan too). And because cycling is fun, you can keep doing it for long periods of time.

Cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that is safe and fun for most people

Cycling dramatically increases the number of calories you burn, and also burns fat. It does this in several ways:

  1. While you are cycling, you burn hundreds of calories.
  2. Even once you stop cycling, you continue to burn more calories throughout the day, because your body uses calories to repair your muscles. And the exercise will push up your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories you burn while you’re just sitting on the couch, or even sleeping! After cycling, your BMR will stay up for hours. If you do 45 minutes or more of cycling, you are likely to keep your BMR raised all day long.
  3. You can burn fat by cycling for long distances at moderate to slow speeds, providing you don’t consume more than 200 calories per hour while you are cycling.
  4. You can burn up a lot of calories and rev up your metabolism in a short period of time by doing high intensity interval training on your bike. This has the added advantage that it effectively combats aging, as explained in this post about why cycling is the best exercise to fight aging.
  5. Over time, cycling will turn your body into a fat-burning machine. This is because it will build lean muscle tissue, which in turn raises your BMR permanently!

Sometimes I put on weight, and have to take it off again. This is me before and after a year of cycling. I lost about 40 pounds by cycling to work most days

Which Training Zone is Best for You?

There are two basic ways to exercise on a bike:

  1. You can do long, steady rides at moderate intensity in the fat-burning zone; or
  2. You can do very fast bike rides in the high intensity zone, which burns carbs.

Interval training mixes it up, with bursts of very high intensity for short periods alternating with recovery cycling for longer periods. For example, you might ride at a moderate intensity for 5 minutes, then ride as fast as you possibly can for 2 minutes – and then repeat this cycle several times.

There is much debate about which of these ways of exercising is better for fat-burning. The consensus seems to be that interval training is more effective for fat burning, gets you fit faster, and is the most effective for fighting aging. The Journal of Applied Physiology reported that two weeks of alternate-day interval training boosted cyclists’ fat-burning ability by a whopping 36%. And the Journal of Cell Metabolism reported that high intensity interval training on bikes was the most effective way for people to fight aging – with the positive results being most pronounced in older people.

Also, if you really want to boost your fat burning, you might want to combine your exercising with a fat burning supplement based on natural products, such as Phen375.

If you read my Complete Bike Training Plan, you will see that I have figured out a way to incorporate both kinds of bike training, so you get the best of all worlds, and burn fat in as many ways as possible – while also fighting aging.

Related: Average Joe Fitness Cycling Training Plan Phase 2 makes interval training simple.

Step-by-Step Guide to How to Lose Weight with Cycling

Step 1: Consider How Much Time You Have for Cycling

Think seriously about how much time you can realistically devote to cycling. Make a commitment that you will devote that time to cycling, no matter what.

Also, think about whether commuting by bike at least some of the time is feasible for you. It’s a great strategy because you have to spend time commuting anyway. If you can commute by bike even a couple of times a week, you will burn extra calories twice a day (because once you get to work on a bike, you often have no choice but to use the bike to get back home again!)

My current commuter bike, which is an adapted Specialized Tricross. to learn how to set up a commuter bike

Step 2: Set Goals and Make a Plan to Achieve Them

Most motivational experts agree that setting SMART goals is crucial. In the context of cycling, SMART goals would be

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic and
  • Time bound

For example, you could plan to lose 26 pounds of fat (not muscle!) in one year. That meets all of the criteria above. You could then break that down into even more specific goals that you can measure. You could plan to lose 4 pounds in month 1 (because most people do lose more weight the first month), and then plan to lose 2 pounds per month for the next 11 months. This plan is a whole lot more realistic and achievable than planning to lose 26 pounds in a month!

Once you make that plan, you should write it down somewhere where you can look at it often. This reinforces the plan and your motivation.

With your goals written down in black and white, all you need is a plan to achieve your goals. For example, assuming that you burn at least 400 calories per hour of cycling, this would be the math:

  • To burn off a pound of fat, you need to use 3,000 calories
  • At 400 calories per hour, you need to cycle for 7.5 hours to burn 3,000 calories
  • To lose 2 pounds per month, aim to cycle 15 hours per month, or 3.75 hours per week.

Next, refer to one of our cycling training programs and plan how you will put in those hours. Hint: it is actually very simple. In a nutshell, you will start off with moderate paced rides, and then later add in some interval training as well. The slideshow below highlights our best posts about cycling training plans. Just click on a slide to go to that post. I highly recommend our Complete Bike Training Plan, which has all the information you need in one place. You will notice that all these plans include a recommendation to also do some strength training two to three times a week – for balance, and also to ensure that you lose fat, not muscle.

  • How to Choose the Best Bike Lock
  • 5 of the Best Indoor Bike Trainers
  • 7 Steps to Lose Weight by Cycling
  • How to Use Interval Training on a Bike to Fight Aging
  • Average Joe Cyclist’s Beginner Cyclist Training Plan: Phase 1
  • Average Joe Cyclist’s Beginner Cyclist Training Plan: Phase 2 – Interval Training
  • A Guide for Fat Cyclists – How to Set up Your Bike and Get Out and Enjoy!
  • Research shows that cycling fights aging by making your brain grow!
  • 5 Great Strength and Conditioning Exercises for Cyclists
  • Why Stretching is Essential for Cyclists
  • 10 Minute Complete Stretching Routine for Cyclists
  • Complete Bike Training Plan – Includes Phases 1, 2, and 3
  • Heartwarming Video about How Cycling Saved Phil Jones from Morbid Obesity

Of course, human beings are a lot more complex than pocket calculators, as everyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows only too well. Sometimes the math just does not work out that tidily. However, rest assured that if you add 15 hours of cycling to your month, and also make a few sensible adjustments to your diet, you are certain to experience positive changes to your health, which will most likely include achieving the weight loss goals we mentioned. Always remember that losing even 5% of your body weight has significant positive impacts on your health, including improvements in blood pressure. And a combination of regular exercise, plus eating more lean protein and vegetables and less sugar, and eating frequent small meals, is certain to make you healthier.

Step 3: Get the Right Bike

If you are starting out as a very heavy person, make sure you get a bike that is robust enough for you. A light-weight racer would not be the best bike to start out on. A mountain bike or a hybrid would be a better choice. Here’s a guide to choosing the right bike.

Also, make sure you get the right size bike, so it is comfortable and safe for you. Here’s a guide to getting the bike frame size right, which includes an explanation of how your ape index affects your bike size.

Sometimes, the right bike for you might be the one you reserve in spin class!

If you live in a challenging climate (e.g. almost anywhere in Canada!), remember that you do not have to cycle outdoors to lose weight. In the winter, spin classes could work really well for you, especially if you value having someone else to encourage and guide you. Although bear in mind that these can be quite fast-paced, so they will be a bit much for a beginner. I actually tried one back in the day when I was just starting out in cycling, and had to leave the class, red-faced and exhausted, half-way through. I was too embarrassed to ever go back – which, in retrospect, was stupid of me. Everyone has to start somewhere!

If you prefer the privacy of your own home, you can adapt your regular bike into an indoor trainer with a simple but effective machine, such as the Kinetic by Kurt Indoor Bicycle Trainer. It’s quiet, safe, solid, and comes with a lifetime guaranty.

An indoor trainer, possibly paired with a good app, makes it easy to cycle your way to fitness and weight loss while indoors

Step 4: Start Small and Work Your Way Up

Don’t go out and cycle two hours the first day, then find that you are too tired (and too sore!) to cycle again for a week. Build up slowly and minimize the pain. No-pain-no-gain is just not true! See my Complete Bike Training post which shows you how to start slowly and build up to great things.

Step 5: Monitor Your Progress

Monitoring your progress will motivate you to ride more. It’s a way of challenging yourself by competing with yourself. You can use Garmin Connect, if you have a Garmin bike computer. Or, get any decent bike computer to record your achievements – here’s a post comparing 7 of the best bike computers.

Also, there are also a whole host of apps you can download to your smart phone to track your rides and your progress for FREE. Good ones include Strava, Map my Ride, Google Maps, Cyclemeter, and Wahoo Fitness. Strava is my favorite, and it’s good for the global cycling community as well! You could also buy the excellent and simple-to-use Garmin 25 (reviewed here), the smallest GPS bike computer in the world.

A good bike computer is a great way to monitor your bike rides

Apart from tracking your rides, of course you will also want to track your weight loss progress. You can do that with a regular scale, but bear in mind that it is vital to ensure your food and exercise mix is causing you to lose only fat, not muscle. For that reason, a really good body composition scale is a great idea. I highly recommend the Nokia Heart Health and Body Composition Scale, which I (and many other people) have had success with. This scale not only tells you what your weight and body composition are, but also tells you your heart rate. You will find that your heart rate decreases as you get fitter, and it is fun and encouraging to record this.

It is also useful to record your weight loss progress with a good fitness app. Personally I find the free version of My Fitness Pal works really well. It has a great calorie counter, and it is easy to use it to record your rides. I tried pairing it with Strava, and found this did not work that well – I had to keep correcting the automatic exercise records. For example, if I recorded a hike with Strava, My Fitness Pal would record it as an (extremely slow) bike ride! Other than that, it is a great fitness app.

Step 6: Mix it Up!

Ride different routes to keep it interesting. If you can, ride different bikes too. For example, a racer will give you a good commute and a nice speed high, but mountain biking will give you more of a full body workout. If biking to work starts to bore you, consider doing long weekend rides in the country side instead.

Also, start to think about whether you are ready to join a local cycling group, which will motivate you to keep going, and make it more fun. This will only work if you are extroverted. The nice thing about cycling is that you can do it alone, if you are an introvert.

Step 7: Reward Yourself!

Plan some rewards for your hard work. For example, give yourself a reward when you have ridden your first 100 miles. And the first 200 … and so on. Pick a reward you like that will not actively sabotage your goals! For example, reward yourself with a puppy when you hit 1,000 miles. That way, you will have to start doing some walking as well! My dogs cause me to go for a walk every single morning, which has to be a good thing.

Reward yourself with a puppy when you hit 1,000 miles!

If you need any more motivation to start losing weight by cycling, watch this heart-warming video about how Phil Jones, once morbidly obese, saved his own life by cycling.

I hope this post helps you on your way to achieving your personal weight loss goals with cycling. No matter what happens, cycling will make you healthier, stronger, and fitter. Good luck!

Try this step-by-step approach to cycling, and eventually, you could be part of a happy group like this! No matter what happens, cycling will make you healthier, stronger, and fitter

How to Lose Weight Cycling
A Guide for Fat Cyclists – Tips for Getting the Right Bike and Gear
7 Steps to Lose Weight Cycling
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How to Ride Your Way Lean
Can you Lose Weight with the Ride your Way Lean Program?
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You can’t out ride your diet

Unfortunately cycling, or any exercise, isn’t free rein to be able to eat whatever you want. Even if you are putting in 10 hours plus each week on the bike, it takes depressingly few biscuits, cakes or takeaways to nullify the calories you have burnt while riding. You are probably looking about 10 minutes of riding per chocolate digestive and more than two hours for a typical Indian takeaway. Exercise is certainly a key component in healthy weight loss but, without keeping a close eye on your diet, isn’t enough on its own.

Do the maths

Weight loss, despite what some diet plans would have you believe, is as simple as calories in versus calories out. Some simple sums can show why cycling might not be having the impact on your waistline you are hoping for.

Let us look at a theoretical Sunday Club Run:

We will be fairly generous, assume the ride was fairly feisty and, over 3 hours, our rider burned 1800 calories. During the ride he fuelled well, taking in:

X3 gels : 342 calories

X1 bar : 250 calories

X3 500 ml sports drinks : 120 calories

At the café stop he treated himself to a slice of victoria sponge (“well, it was a brisk 3-hour ride”) and a skimmed milk latte (“trying to shift a pound or two”): 350 calories

Once home, he had a recovery drink: 250 calories

So, his total calorie intake for the ride was 1552 calories resulting in a fairly low net deficit of 248 calories. To lose a pound of fat requires a weekly deficit of 3500 calories or 500 calories per day.

So our rider, despite his efforts on the bike, is still 252 calories short of this goal and, if he has also had a big pre-ride breakfast, has a decent post-ride lunch and then has a big dinner, as he has done a good ride, he could easily end up with a calorie surplus.

Yes, he maybe could have skipped the cake, cut out a gel and bottle of energy drink and maybe not bothered with the recovery drink but he was riding fairly hard and would have needed the fuel and his intake certainly wasn’t above and beyond what a lot of riders consume.

Over estimating calorie burn

Although it can be fairly easy to track calories going in, that is only part of the equation and calories going out are far harder to accurately calculate.

First, you have to know your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you require just to exist at rest and, although there are on-line calculators that factor in age, height, weight, gender and activity level, they still only produce an estimate.

Next, you need to know how many calories you are burning on the bike. There are three main practical based methods for doing this:

This first is using a power meter. One of the key bits of data a power meter produces is the amount of work done in a ride which is expressed in kilojoules. Kilojoules convert to calories at a rate of 4.186 kilojoules per calorie. However, because we are fairly inefficient at converting our food energy into pedal power, losing about 75-80% to heat production, the actual ratio is approximately 1:1. There is some variation from rider to rider due to differing levels of efficiency but, in general, the accuracy for calorie burn calculated from power meter data is within 5%.

Next is using a heart rate monitor. The algorithms used to calculate calorie burn from heart rate have become increasingly sophisticated. The more hard data you can add, such as age, height, weight, gender, activity level, functional threshold heart rate (FTHR) etc, the more accurate the value you get will be. However, most heart rate based calculations are only 10-20% accurate.

Finally are estimates based solely on metrics such as time, distance, age, weight and activity level. With no input as to how hard you are actually working, you’re looking at an accuracy of between 20-60% off the mark.

To put this figures in perspective, here is the variance in calories burned for our theoretical Sunday Club Run.

Actual calorie burn: 1800 calories

Power meter (5%) : 1710-1890 calories

Heart rate (20%) : 1440-2160 calories

Activity estimate (60%) : 720-2880 calories

With so much scope for inaccuracy, knowing for certain that you are hitting that daily deficit of 500 calories is really hard. Going too low with your deficit can be as bad as going over it as it can easily push your body into a starvation state. This can result in your body holding onto its fat reserves and sacrificing lean tissue.

This doesn’t mean that tracking calories isn’t worthwhile, in fact it is probably one of the most effective ways to control weight but you have to be aware of the limitations of the data you are using to do so. The solution, rather than blindly following the numbers despite what your weight is doing, is to use them as a guide and then, by monitoring your actual weight changes, continuously tweak them. If your weight isn’t reducing over a couple of weeks, it is likely that your BMR estimate was inaccurate, you are not burning as many calories through exercise as you thought or even a combination of both. Reduce your daily calorie goal by a small amount, work to that new number for a week or two and see the effect it has. Keep refining your daily calorie target in this way and it won’t take long to find the number that is right for you.

The fat burning myth

A common mistake made by lots of cyclists who want to lose some weight is going out and riding at a low intensity in the so-called “fat burning zone”. Yes, at lower intensities, our bodies will draw predominately on fat reserves for fuel but, because the effort is so low, total calorie burn will be low also. It doesn’t matter what form, fat, carbs or protein, those calories take, if the balance is negative, you will lose weight. So, if you are looking to lose weight, forget about the fat burning zone.

This doesn’t mean going out and riding as hard as you can manage all of the time, solid steady paced endurance rides are still important but don’t fall into the trap of making all of your riding one paced.

Trying to combine dieting with training

Unfortunately, hard training and calorie restriction don’t go well together. Cycling, especially at higher intensities, requires fuel and, if enough fuel isn’t provided, the quality of and the progress yielded by training will be compromised. To lose weight, the best time to do it is during a period when your training load is relatively low and you aren’t focussing on high intensity sessions. The off-season is probably the best time to try and shed a few pounds.

Fuel the session

Another common mistake is to eat the same or similar every day regardless of the riding you are doing. For example, a big bowl of porridge is brilliant on the morning of a big ride but, if you’re not cycling that day or not doing a session until later in the day, it is not necessary. A less carbohydrate and calorie heavy breakfast, such as an omelette or yoghurt with fruit, would be more appropriate. Conversely, if you are riding hard and the quality of the session is your priority, it is important that you take on sufficient carbohydrates. At the same time as you plan your training, plan your diet so that it is appropriate to the riding you are doing.

The scales can lie

If you are exercising, especially if you are doing strength work, it is possible for your weight to remain static, or even go up, but you could still be losing fat. Conversely, if you’re being too aggressive with your dieting, the scales could be dropping but you could be losing valuable muscle mass. One of the simplest ways to check whether either of these scenarios apply to you is to either keep an eye on how your clothing is fitting or, if you want a bit more objectivity, take some measurements (chest, waist, hips and thighs). Monitor these along with your weight. Alternatively a qualified fitness professional at your local gym or health club should be able to take some skin-fold measurements for you. Make sure the same person repeats the measurements for you and, by comparing the total sum and individual skin folds, you can track the changes in your body composition. Be wary of scales and hand held devices that use bio-impedance to measure body composition as factors such as hydration level can significantly alter the results they give.

Medical reasons

If you think you have addressed all of the issues and common mistakes described in this and the previous article but are still failing to lose, or are gaining, weight, there are a number of medical conditions that can be responsible. Chronic stress, hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are just a few examples. Also, some medications, especially steroids, that are prescribed for a number of conditions can also make weight loss hard. If you are confused or concerned about your weight loss issues you should consult with your GP.

10 Things Pro Cyclists Do That You Should, Too

While most of us will never be as fast as the pros, that doesn’t mean we can’t train like one. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or just interested in fitness, these training techniques and racing habits commonly used by pros like Chris Froome and Peter Sagan can help you improve your speed, lose weight and avoid injury on the bike.

1. VARY YOUR TRAINING INTENSITY

Rarely will a pro cyclist get on the bike without having a specific goal in mind. For you, this means knowing your training zones and varying the intensity of your cycling workouts depending on your goals for the year.

Instead of just jumping on the bike and going out for a ride, if you want to get faster you’ll need a training plan that includes a mix of long, slow rides, interval training, hill repeats and drills to improve pedaling efficiency and bike-handling skills. This will keep you from getting in a zone 3 rut and help you become a well-rounded cyclist.

2. MONITOR YOUR FOOD INTAKE

It isn’t uncommon for pro cyclists to weigh their food before eating a meal to keep close tabs on weight gain between rides. While you don’t need to take your nutrition to these kinds of extremes, monitoring how many calories you consume on and off the bike with an app like MyFitnessPal can help you shed extra weight.

If you can achieve a lower overall body weight without decreasing your overall power output, you’ll be faster on the bike.

READ MORE > I’M A RUNNER WHO USED MYFITNESSPAL FOR A MONTH, HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED

3. EAT WELL ON THE BIKE, SOMETIMES

In long-distance events like the Tour de France, pro cyclists consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 80–100 grams of carbohydrates and 2–3 bottles of fluid every hour they’re on the bike. This may fluctuate depending on the intensity of the stage and weather conditions, but either way the pros consume a lot on the bike to replenish and maintain energy levels and keep from bonking in the latter part of the race.

While you only need to follow this advice for training rides or races longer than two hours, remember that during shorter efforts loading up on energy bars and sugary sports drinks is overkill and will only make you gain weight.

READ MORE > 6 TIPS ON CYCLING FOR WEIGHT LOSS

4. INDULGE IN A POST-RIDE MASSAGE

Off the bike, pro cyclists are known for enjoying a post-ride massage or two. On top of being a great way to relax aching muscles, a post-ride massage also speeds recovery and prevents muscle soreness by improving circulation, elongating muscle tissue and calming the nervous system.

If you have the money, getting a massage after a big training ride can definitely help, but if you don’t there are other ways to recover without shelling out $80. For $10–$20, a foam roller can give you similar benefits.

5. PACE YOUR EFFORTS

Whether you’re interval training, racing or heading out for a long, slow ride, pacing your effort and staying within your pre-determined training zones is a must to get the most out of your workouts.

To take a page from the pro’s book, pace your efforts with a heart-rate monitor and power meter. This keeps you from going too fast too early and to maintain an even pace so you can finish all of your rides strong.

READ MORE > POWER VS. HEART RATE: WHICH METRIC IS BETTER?

6. RELAX OFF THE BIKE

There’s an old saying in cycling that goes something like this: Don’t walk if you can stand. Don’t stand if you can sit. Don’t sit if you can lie down. On the bike, pros go hard all the time, but off the bike they are the kings of taking it easy.

Afternoon naps and staying off your feet when you’re not training can help you recover faster and make you feel more refreshed when it’s time for another hard day out on the road.

7. GET PLENTY OF SLEEP

Six to eight hours of sleep might be sufficient for the general public, but for pros this would never do. When you’re spending that much energy each day on the bike, not getting enough sleep can lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system and injury.

As you begin to increase your training load, keep in mind that you’ll also need to increase the number of hours you sleep per night. Consider eight a minimum and shoot for something closer to 10 hours per night during more difficult training blocks.

8. USE THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY

Disc brakes, aero road helmets, skin suits and the latest wheel technology are always fair game inside the pro peloton. Since there is only so much training you can do, getting more aerodynamic and lowering the overall weight of your equipment can be another way to improve your speed and gain an advantage over the competition.

Upgrading that old, heavy steel frame for a newer carbon version could help you out on the road more than you think for that upcoming Gran Fondo — and opting for disc brakes on a long, wet descent over rim brakes will improve your safety, too.

READ MORE > 7 UPGRADES TO TAKE YOUR BIKE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

9. RECON THE RACE COURSE

Pushing the pace in the middle of a race only to be surprised by a series of unexpected climbs can spell disaster — and maybe even cause an early exit to your day on the bike. By studying the terrain on the course before race day, you’ll be able to pace yourself better, conserve energy when you need to and plan for those moments when you want to dish out the pain.

In addition to the terrain, pro cyclists also keep a close eye on weather conditions. This helps them make informed decisions on bike, wheel and tire selections and wear the right clothing to stay warm and comfortable instead of getting caught in a storm unprepared.

10. WEIGHT TRAINING

To get faster, you’ll need to do more than just ride your bike. Since power is generated from the core, an off-the-bike workout regimen should be included in your weekly training sessions to gain strength in areas the pedaling motion doesn’t develop.

Core exercises and weight training for the upper and lower body will also help your climbing and sprinting, reduce pain and prevent injury on the bike.

GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RIDE

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Purists often preach that to properly prepare for the cycling season, you need to roll out six weeks ahead and do nothing but low-heart-rate, low-intensity rides before you throw the hammer down and go out and play—especially if your idea of fun is a frisky group ride. That’s no problem if you’re a pro rider with nothing but time and a salary to ride, but for the rest of us, it’s precious pedal time we simply don’t have. Thankfully, it’s also unnecessary.

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“For pros who can ride 20 to 30 hours a week, a long base training period is appropriate,” says expert coach Jeb Stewart, C.S.C.S., owner of the online coaching company Endurofit. “But if you struggle to squeeze in half that amount, it’s almost counterproductive because you aren”t clocking enough saddle time to elicit a training stress.” Stress is key. If you don’t have hours to slowly tax your system, you need to do shorter rides with focused efforts to stimulate fitness adaptations, says Stewart. “You can get the same amount of training stress in a 90-minute tempo interval workout as you can in a three-hour endurance ride.”

You’ll still need to build in saddle time to condition your body to sit on a bike for longer rides, but Stewart’s focused four-week training plan will lay down a solid fitness foundation for the season ahead. To stave off early-season aches and pains, warm up and cool down before and after each workout, and recover for five minutes between intervals.

How to use this plan: First, check out the workouts below and familiarize yourself with each type and zone. Then follow the four week plan to get fit fast.

The Workouts

Fast Pedaling: Spin quickly with proper form. Active and recovery periods are the same duration. This improves pedaling efficiency and increases workout intensity.

Big Gear Tempo: Ride a bigger gear at a specified cadence in the Tempo zone. (If knees begin to hurt, decrease the gear and increase the cadence to do regular tempo work instead.) This improves muscular endurance and increases training stress.

Tempo: Ride intervals at 90+ rpm in the Tempo zone. This increases aerobic fitness, muscular endurance, and training stress.

Endurance: Ride for two to five hours in the Endurance zone at a comfortably high cadence. This boosts muscular endurance, aerobic fitness, and fat-burning capacity.

Hills: Ride in the Endurance and Tempo zones on hilly terrain using gearing and cadence to control effort. This improves muscular endurance and overall strength.

HR Zones and T Power

Threshold Heart Rate (HR): Average HR or power for a 20-minute time trial or 1-hour hard group ride

Week 1

Monday: Off
Tuesday: 1 hour with 5 sets of 5 x 15-second Fast Pedaling intervals
Wednesday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Thursday: 1 hour with 3 x 10-minute Big Gear Tempo intervals at 50 to 70 rpm
Friday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Saturday: 2 to 3 hours in the Endurance zone
Sunday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone

Week 2

Monday: Off
Tuesday: 1.5 hours with 4 sets of 5 x 30-second Fast Pedaling intervals
Wednesday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Thursday: 1.5 hours with 3 x 15-minute Big Gear Tempo intervals at 60 to 80 rpm
Friday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Saturday: 3 to 4 hours of Hills
Sunday: 1.5 to 2 hours in the Active Recovery zone

Week 3

Monday: Off
Tuesday: 2 hours with 3 sets of 5 x 1-minute Fast Pedaling intervals
Wednesday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Thursday: 2 hours with 2 x 20-minute Tempo intervals
Friday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Saturday: 4.5 hours of Hills
Sunday: 1.5 to 2 hours in the Active Recovery zone

Week 4

Monday: Off
Tuesday: 1 hour of easy pedaling
Wednesday: 1.5 hours. with 5 x 30-secong Fast Pedaling intervals and 1 x 10-minute Tempo interval
Thursday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone
Friday: Off
Saturday: Group ride, century or hammerfest
Sunday: 1 hour in the Active Recovery zone

selene yeager “The Fit Chick” Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, pro licensed mountain bike racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.

Cycling Training Plan for Beginner

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How to train for a 500 mile bike ride?

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