Planning Your Training Program
In preparing for a multi-day ride, it is critical that you train at the appropriate level for you. It should be challenging and geared toward improvement, but not overwhelming, considering your current fitness level and your personal cycling history. Often, cyclists preparing for a tour will try to cram in too much training, at too high an intensity. Regardless of how many weeks you have before the Ride, it is best to spend the time training at a level that is appropriate for you and improve from that starting point.
Map Out a Plan
Planning your goals, training objectives, training program and particular rides and routes takes very little time and is extremely valuable as your ride approaches. Take some time to think about your goals for your training. Think about when you can make time to ride, where you can ride, who you might ride with, etc. Make sure the goals are achievable and monitor them weekly. It can be helpful to break larger goals into smaller, more specific objectives that have a time goal attached to them (e.g. “Ride 40 miles by June 15 without getting off the bike before 20 miles). These goals can change, but it helps to commit them to paper.
Tune Up Your Bike
Before hopping on your bike for the season, make sure it is in good working order. It’s a good idea to take it to a bike shop and get it tuned up. Plan for another tune-up about 1 to 2 weeks before your big Ride.
Outfit Your Bike and Yourself
Make sure that in addition to having a working bike, you have the proper tools, spare tubes, and snacks that you need. Early in the season, it can be cold, so it’s important to dress appropriately for riding. Because weather changes, it helps to dress in layers or wear detachable arm and leg warmers which can be removed more easily than a jacket and pants (and take less storage room).
Warm Up and Stretching
To avoid injury, it is important to let your body get warmed up as you start your ride. Do an easy lap first, or a slow jog for at least 3 minutes before a ride. Then stretch. This will enhance your circulation and prepare your body for physical exertion. Stretch before, during and after each ride. If you keep your muscles warmed-up and flexible, you are much less likely to feel sore the next day. While riding, every 30 minutes stand on the pedals, arch your back and stretch your legs. You can also vary your riding position by moving your hands from on top of the handlebar to the brake lever hoods or drops to prevent muscle fatigue.
Setting a Goal
You should pace yourself according to your end goal. If working towards riding in a large ride, you should aim to ride 75% of your longest distance at a comfortable pace at least once beforehand. If you are training towards a multi-day ride, you should also train towards cycling for consecutive days. If you are planning on riding 80 miles followed by 50 miles in the New York or California Rides, you should be able to ride for consecutive days of 60 and 30 miles. If you are doing the shorter routes of 40 and 30 miles, you should have ridden days of 30 and 20 miles beforehand. You should work towards riding significant distances multiple times a week.
Keep a Training Journal
Cycling training is intended to prepare you for a particular ride or series of rides by building up your endurance, cycling muscles, cycling intuition (e.g. how to ride safely on the road) and the joy of riding your bike. Keeping a training journal enables you to track your progress throughout your personal training program. Such a program can last for as little as 8 weeks to almost half of a year depending on what your goals are.
Develop Your Routine
Take it slowly and build up your ability over time. Ride or exercise at least two or three times a week, and gradually increase length and intensity. Try to do one long ride every week. That one long ride should be 50% of your weekly total, and should increase by about 10% each week. This rate will ensure that you build your muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance gradually. By 6 to 8 weeks before the event, you should be riding three times a week, even if it is for only 30 minutes at a time. Riding 45 minutes a few times a week is much better than two to three hours all at once. If you can’t get out on your bike, try indoor spinning classes, a great simulation of cycling. Use your bicycle to commute, if you can. Try to get a short, but intense ride in before or after work. Consistency is paramount for training.
Vary Your Rides
You will be better off if you have trained to tackle both distance and hills. Alternate between shorter rides with more hill climbing and longer rides on flatter terrain, and some that combine both hills and distance.
Get Other Exercise
Riding your bike is the best conditioning for a multi-day cycling event, however, demanding schedules and weather are not always conducive to riding outside. Remember: the goal is to gradually gain strength and build endurance, and there are many ways to do this. In addition to riding, you can walk, hike, swim, run, ski, snowboard, dance, lift weights, or take a class like aerobics, cardio kickboxing, step, spinning or yoga. No matter what combination of training you choose to do, it is imperative that you train, as it will help prevent injury, and it will make your long ride much more enjoyable.
Don’t overdo your workout! Giving your body sufficient time to rest is as important as building strength and endurance. If you are exhausted after a long hard ride, do not try to do another long ride the next day. Let your body rest.
Although you’ll experience some of cycling’s benefits almost immediately (more energy, more restful sleep, etc.), an appreciable increase in fitness will require several weeks of consistent training. To attain the long-term fitness and health benefits of a cycling exercise program you should put in at least 20 to 60 minutes of cycling, three to five times per week, for at least 8 weeks, preferably more. Here is a sample chart to guide you on your training, based on the riding groups of the Israel Ride. If you have more or less than 12 weeks, condense or expand the chart appropriately. Each week, you should attempt one long ride and a few shorter ones. Your mileage each week should increase from the week prior. Keep track of your rides, noting your speed, distance, terrain, and even how much you ate or drank if it helps you fine tune your cycling experience. Click here for a downloadable version of the chart below to help you plan your cycling training.