Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and offers several health benefits, like improved cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength, and better mental health. Still, you may want to create a cycling training plan to maximize your cycling performance and achieve your goals.
Cycling training plans are tailored programs that can help you to get the most out of your workout and achieve your fitness goals. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of a cycling training plan and provide tips on creating the most effective plan for your goal.
- Determine your goals for cycling and use SMART goals based on your motivations
- Set a realistic schedule for your training that includes rest days
- Establish training zones based on your maximum heart rate and create workouts that target specific areas
- Create a plan that suits your needs and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workouts over time
- Track your progress regularly to visualize how far you’ve come and stay motivated
Determine Your Goal
As a beginner cyclist, it’s important to establish your goals for your training plan so that you can create one that is specific to your needs and objectives. To do this, you’ll first have to determine why you want to cycle and what you want to achieve.
You may want to ask yourself if you want to ride for leisure, to improve your fitness, or whether you’re preparing for a specific event, such as a century ride. Understanding your purpose will help you set realistic goals aligning with your motivations.
Once you better understand what motivates you, it’s time to set SMART goals. Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
It’s also important to assess your current fitness level, which will help you determine where to start and how much to progress in your training sessions. You can do this by getting a fitness assessment, including a VO2 max test and body composition analysis, to find your starting point.
Set A Realistic Schedule
Setting realistic schedules for cycling training plans helps you stick it out in the long term and achieve your goals. First, you’ll want to figure out how many days per week you can realistically dedicate to structured training.
Of course, you can always start with a manageable number two days a week and work your way up as you become more consistent in your routine. Consistent training is essential if you want to achieve maximum results, so be sure to plan around your existing schedule rather than forcing a new routine.
You’ll need to come up with set times for your workouts as well to help you establish your training plan and prioritize your training. Try to consider it a set appointment you can’t get out of! That way, you’ll be accountable for your scheduled training session.
It’s essential to always leave time for a rest day. Structured sessions don’t have to mean that you can’t let your body recover. Remember, your workouts will strain your body. So rather than work out for prolonged periods without rest, you should also add a few rest days into your schedule. And don’t forget to stick to them!
Establish Training Zones
To make sure that your training plan is tailored to your overall fitness level and objectives, you’ll need to establish your training zones. This will help you make the most of your cycling fitness training and create key sessions focusing on specific areas.
Your maximum heart rate zone is determined by first understanding your max heart rate. This is usually the highest heart rate you can achieve during intense exercise. If you don’t know your exact maximum heart rate, you can estimate it by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 30 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 190 (220-30).
Now you can calculate your maximum heart rate zone based on your max heart rate percentage. This may also help you to assess your training stress. If you need a little more guidance, here are the typical zones and their associated percentages:
- Zone 1 (low intensity): 50-60% of maximum heart rate
- Zone 2 (endurance): 60-70% of maximum heart rate
- Zone 3 (brisk): 70-80% of maximum heart rate
- Zone 4 (threshold power): 80-90% maximum heart rate
- Zone 5 (maximum effort): 90-100% maximum heart rate
You’ll want to use a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate during your workout. Still, if you don’t have a power meter or a heart rate monitor, you can always use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) according to the Borg Scale.
Ideally, you’ll want to create workouts that target your zones with a mix of low-intensity rides, ride intervals, and tempo rides. For example, you may want to start with two Zone 1 rides, two Zone 2 rides, and one Zone 3 weekend ride per week. Remember to take those all-important rest days in between!
Create A Plan
With all of the above information mapped out, you can start to create training plans that suit your needs. Of course, this is only your starting plan. You should plan to increase the duration and intensity of your workouts over time to continue to challenge yourself.
Over time, you’ll find that you can endure longer rides and keep a more consistent pace, thanks to your new-found aerobic fitness. Although long rides are important for your overall strength and endurance, a short, steady ride at a low intensity may help you to build on your plan. Pacing yourself can also help you with tired legs!
Example training plan for week 1:
- Monday: Rest day
- Tuesday: 90-minute bike ride with two 10-minute sections where you ride hard in Zone 3 and then push yourself to Zone 5 for 20 seconds every 2 minutes. This should be repeated four times in each section
- Wednesday: Either go on a group ride or participate in a time trial with your club
- Thursday: Repeat Tuesday’s training
- Friday: Go on a leisurely ride at average power or take a rest day
- Weekend: Train for around 5 hours, split over both Saturday and Sunday
When you start your training, you’ll want to be sure to track your progress. This will help you visualize how far you’ve come and keep you on track to achieve and surpass your goals.
Track Your Progress
As a beginner cyclist, there are several ways to keep track of your progress. Still, you should remember that progress takes time, so you’ll need to be consistent with your training to reap the rewards of your efforts. You should always celebrate the small victories and keep working towards your goals.
Keeping a training diary is one of the easiest ways to track your progress. In the diary, you’ll keep records of your rides. Be sure to include each ride’s duration, distance, and intensity for better accuracy. This may help you to see how you’re improving, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Alternatively, log all your rides in Strava and review your statistics and progress.
Plenty of cycling apps can track your rides and provide data on your speed, distance, and elevation gain. You can use this data to monitor your progress and assess where you are in achieving your goals.
If you have a heart rate monitor, measuring your heart rate during your rides can indicate how hard you are working. As you become fitter, you’ll be able to ride at higher intensities while maintaining a lower heart rate.
Similarly, if you have a power meter on your bike, you can track your power output on your rides. This will give you a more accurate measurement of your efforts and how you’re improving over time.
Adjust Your Plan
You can adjust your training plan to keep challenging yourself based on the information you track. Be careful not to make too many drastic changes too quickly, as this can cause injury and burnout.
If you find that you are consistently completing your rides with ease, you can gradually increase the length of your rides. You can start by adding 10 to 15 minutes to your time – remember to monitor how your body responds.
On the other hand, you might find that you aren’t feeling as challenged by your training anymore. In that case, you might want to increase the intensity of your workout, either by increasing the resistance on a stationary bike or tackling more hills.
Of course, adjusting your plan may not be enough to get you back on track. In some cases, you’ll need to rethink your goals. This can help to avoid feeling stagnant and realign your goals to suit your new training needs.
Tips For Staying Motivated
Even professional cyclists need training tips on how to stay motivated to continue with their training. Some of the best tips that you can use to help you stay consistent include:
- Set realistic goals. You should always set realistic goals aligning with your fitness and cycling abilities. This will help you to see the progress you’re making and stay motivated to carry on.
- Find a cycling buddy or join a group. Cycling with others can make your rides more enjoyable, and you can work together to motivate each other.
- Mix up your rides. You can avoid monotony by mixing up your workouts. Try to add variety to your routes, try different terrains, or add intervals to your rides.
- Incorporate cross-training. Cross-training uses other exercise activities to keep you fit while breaking the repetition of cycling every day. You can start by adding one day of this training per week. A great complimentary cross-training exercise for cyclists is strength training.
- Reward yourself. Keep some excitement in your routine by rewarding yourself when you achieve a goal. You can even use this as an excuse to buy yourself some new cycling gear!
- Take breaks. Rest days and training breaks can help avoid burnout and stay motivated for longer.
Next Step: Seek Guidance From A Professional Coach
For beginner and professional cyclists, the next step on your training journey is to take your cycling to the next level. You can do this by seeking guidance from a professional coach.
A professional coach can create a personalized training plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. They can also provide you with expert advice on various aspects of your cycling journey, like your technique, nutrition, and recovery. This may help you to identify any problems or weaknesses in your skills.
Of course, having a coach is another great way to stay accountable, motivated, and on track. They can give you regular feedback on your progress, help you set new goals, and adjust your plan when needed.
With a coach, you’re likely to see faster results than if you were training on your own. You should be sure to vet your coach thoroughly and choose one who is experienced in working with cyclists. Having a coach is an investment in your cycling journey, so take your time to find someone who fits your needs.
How long should my cycling training plan be?
The length of your cycling training plan depends on your goals and level of fitness. Typically, most plans range between 6 to 16 weeks.
What should I eat before and after my cycling workouts?
Before your workout, you should eat a meal that is high in proteins and carbohydrates. Ideally, you’ll eat this around 2 – 3 hours before. After your ride, you should eat a meal with a mix of carbs and protein within half an hour of ending your workout.
How many rest days should I have as part of my training plan?
Ideally, you should take 1 – 2 rest days a week to allow your body to rest and recover. However, you may need to take more rest days until you build your strength and endurance.