by: Kevin Mackinnon
Congratulations, you were one of the lucky ones who managed to find a bike in a store over the last 14 months! (Or maybe you were able to fix up that bike you bought years ago and never actually rode.) Now you’re determined to get out and ride that bike not only for fitness and to enjoy the warmer weather but to put your efforts to good use through an MS Bike event this summer.
We’re here to help—this is the first instalment of a three-month training program designed to help you complete a 60 or 100 km ride. The main goal with this first month of training is to get you comfortable on the bike and help you develop a consistent training plan.
First things first, though. As Philippe Tremblay points out in this primer for beginner cyclists, there are a few things you need to take care of before you get started.
Bike fit and tune-up
While it’s presently a challenge with so much of the country in some sort of lockdown, try to get someone at a bike store or an experienced cyclist to have a look at you on the bike to make sure it fits. There’s nothing worse than trying to spend lots of time on a bike that doesn’t fit properly. Once that’s done, get your bike into the store for a tune-up before you hit the road to make sure everything is working properly.
Get the right clothes
There’s a reason cyclists wear shorts with a padded chamois! Avoid chaffing from day one with the right gear.
RELATED: Why do cyclists dress like that?
Gearing and pedals
Spend some time learning about your gears and getting in and out of your pedals. (We’ll talk about that some more below.)
Bring a water bottle
Staying hydrated is important.
Buy a spare tube
Spend some time on YouTube learning how to change a tube.
The plan outlined below gets you started with at least three rides a week, with options to add other sports to the mix and more cycling workouts for those looking for a more demanding plan. It also incorporates some strength training, which is a critical component of any training plan to help avoid muscle imbalances that can lead to injury and to promote overall fitness and health.
Suggested training week
Monday: Day off
Tuesday: Ride 1
Wednesday: Rider’s choice/strength work
Thursday: Ride 2
Friday: Day off
Saturday: Rider’s choice/strength work
Sunday: Long ride
Getting comfortable on the bike
In non-COVID times, before I allow a cyclist in my training group to ride with us, I first spend some time with them working on their bike handling skills. If you haven’t been on a bike for a while, you should do the same. Find yourself a parking lot with lots of room and take some time to work on braking and clipping in and out of your pedals, changing gears, reaching down to grab a water bottle while you’re moving, your balance and cornering.
The most important component of a successful training plan is consistency. Three workouts a week for 12 weeks will take you much further than the occasional five-workout week followed by weeks with one or two efforts. The plan below aims to include three bike rides every week, with the option to add sessions on the bike or some other type of activity. We’re assuming you’re embarking on this plan heading into the summer, so hopefully you’ll be able to get outside for your rides.
Ride 1 and 2
The weekly schedule includes a couple of rides during the week. Start with a distance that you know you can complete, then try to build on that each week. The idea is to start with some time on the bike over a distance that you can complete comfortably. You’ll probably want rides 1 and 2 to be half- to three-quarters the distance of your long ride. If you find that to be way too easy, check out this more advanced eight-week plan.
RELATED: The MS Bike 8-week training plan
The long ride is an important component of your training plan—the goal for MS Bike is to go the distance and make a difference, right? The key to your long ride is to start at a reasonable level and build gradually.
These rides should be done at a 60 to 80 per cent intensity level. The easiest way to gauge if you’re riding at the appropriate intensity is to make sure you can keep a conversation going. Since we’re likely to be riding by ourselves for a while, try to make sure you don’t feel completely out of breath while you’re on these rides. Don’t sweat it if you have to push a bit beyond that on climbs but keep things easy the rest of the way.
Most people look to get their long rides done on the weekends when they have more time, but any day of the week is fine as long as you get it done. Here are some suggested long ride builds based on goal distances of 60 km and 100 km.
60 km ride goal
• Week 1: 10 km
• Week 2: 15 km
• Week 3: 20 km
• Week 4: 20 km
100 km ride goal
• Week 1: 20 km
• Week 2: 25 km
• Week 3: 30 km
• Week 4: 30 km
Even though your legs are going to be doing the lion’s share of the work for your big cycling effort this summer, maintaining overall strength should be a critical component of your training plan. You don’t need to hit a weight room for hours and hours of strength training every week. In fact, that probably would hinder your bike goals as you would likely gain some unwanted muscle mass.
Your strength work should be focused on core strength and incorporate as many body-weight exercises as possible. Aim to complete a couple of strength sessions a week for about 20 minutes.
For core strength workouts that will help every cyclist, check out this equipment-free program.
OK, so you have three bike rides and two strength workouts. What else should your training week include? For some riders, that workload will be more than enough. For those who want to add some more training to their weekly schedules, the weekly program includes a couple of “cyclist’s choice” days. These could be some easy bike rides, easy runs or even just some long, brisk walks to get you out of the house and enjoying some fresh air.
One of the most important things you’ll do as part of your training plan is to make sure you have a day off every week. Giving yourself a 24-hour break to let your body rest and recuperate will make all the difference in your performance and ability to build and maintain your fitness. The program above includes a couple of days off – Friday, so you can rest up before the weekend, and Monday, to allow you to recover from your longer ride.
About MS Bike
Every summer cyclists of all ages and fitness levels come together across Canada to find, and conquer, their personal cycling challenge at MS Bike. This year is no different as we ride 90km over one week or one day to support the 90,000 Canadians living with multiple sclerosis in our communities. Join us as we hit the road, trainer or stationary bike and unite online for a cycling experience you will never forget.
Register at msbike.ca
Kevin Mackinnon is a former professional triathlete who has been coaching cyclists, runners and triathletes for more than 30 years. He is the editor of Triathlon Magazine Canada and a senior editor at Canadian Cycling Magazine.