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A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling, Part 6: Training and Accomplishing Stuff

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” ~ Archilochus

Training variation is a key to success

Today let's look at two factors that really control any training (on or off the bike) that we do: duration and intensity.

You can get fit by doing long rides or by doing shorter and more intense rides. The old idea was that lots of base miles/LSD (long slow distance) were what made a rider strong. New theories have come to show that even untrained athletes can gain significant measurable fitness by doing shorter but more intense workouts. Look up tabata or any of those HIIT type workouts. So which is right?

First off, anytime you ride, you are ahead of everyone on the couch, so don't forget that! My personal belief is that both LSD and HIIT are important for you. I think that often, it is those medium intensity rides that get us in a funk. You know those ones where we didn't really ride too far, and we didn't really ride very hard at all. Maybe we just wasted that 75 minutes piddling around?

Someone once said, "Make your hard days harder and your easy days easier." It is really a mantra to live by. You should get that tattooed on you somewhere.

When I look at my week of riding, I try to do two really hard days, and the rest of my rides that week are easy or off. Ideally, I would race once and do a hard workout once or twice with easy days after each. Then I would try to get a couple longer rides in at a lower intensity on the days I have left. So it might look like this:


  • Monday- off or active recovery at low intensity, maybe crosstrain or walk

  • Tuesday- hard ride

  • Wednesday- easy or off

  • Thursday- hard ride

  • Friday- easy or off

  • Saturday- long easy ride

  • Sunday- long easy ride


  • Monday- off or active recovery at low intensity, maybe crosstrain or walk

  • Tuesday- solid hard hour of riding; workout

  • Wednesday- hour of low to medium intensity, what I would call maintenance

  • Thursday- solid hard hour of riding; workout

  • Friday- off or active recovery at low intensity, maybe crosstrain or walk

  • Saturday- long easy ride at low intensity or a short ride at some intensity to get ready for tomorrow's race

  • Sunday- race day or long easy ride

If you have no way to quantify your effort, easy means able to carry on a conversation with no problem and hard means not able to do much more than gasp for the most part. When you have heart rate or power as a measurement, you can set up zones that will tell you how hard you're working, and you can establish a measure of workout intensity. We can talk about these measures in the next coming posts. Having a heart rate strap or power meter will be a big bonus here.

You will have to learn to listen to your body and adjust. Do not be afraid to rest if you feel sick or tired. However, riding a bike is hard work. As I quoted Greg LeMond a few posts ago, "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster." You should get that tattooed on you somewhere.

Check out Tyler's take on training for some simple ideas on easy and hard.

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