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I figured I would turn it over to all of you that cycle on a regular basis and can offer me advise on how to really start getting in shape. This sounds like such a no-brainer question, but I think cycling is a different type of exercise that involves so many compenents and body parts, and I just wanted to know how one should start? How many miles should I attempt? Interval training? Value of a trainer during the winter months?

Thank you!

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Warning: really long post!
There’s a lot out there about how to get into great biking shape, but really the most important is luckily the easiest: just ride. Biking is a fantastic way to get in shape, and all it takes is spending time in the saddle, getting comfortable on the bike, going as long as you can go and then, next time, pushing yourself a little bit farther or a bit faster. If you don’t already, get yourself a cyclometer so you can see your distance and speed. Even if you don’t have specific training goals, it’s a great way to gauge how you’re doing.

The first step I’d recommend is getting your bike professionally fit to you. One of the biggest deterrents to getting on the bike is pain from a previous ride (i.e. elbows, neck, etc.), so I can’t stress enough how much a real bike fitting can alleviate that. I had mine done at Johnny Sprockets by the manager, Manuel, and it’s made a world of difference.

As far as mileage, it’s up to you based on where you are now. A “distance ride” means different things to different people. How far are you going now? If you’re looking to put on miles and push yourself, the lakefront path is actually a great place to start since it’s easy to go out and back and it’s impossible to get lost :) . 15 miles is a good place to start – on the lakefront path this is approximately from the North end of the path at Hollywood, down to Randolph St and back. 20 miles on the path would be from Hollywood to about 31st St.

You can definitely try interval training as you get comfortable riding – it’s a great way to build endurance and strength long-term. I’m not an expert by any means – if anyone out there trains for racing feel free to add your own tips – but one of the things I do is bursts of 30 pedalstrokes at a time, so 30 pedalstrokes of high intensity, then a minute or so of recovery. If you’ve ever taken a spinning class, you can borrow some of the spinning drills. I used to teach spinning so I have a few others I can send you if you’d like.

The winter is really different for everyone. I tend to stop riding when it gets cold, and I have a trainer that I use a lot to stay in biking shape, but more so to just stay in shape during lazy winter months. I also do spinning classes which, though they’re a poor substitute for real riding, allow you to do things you wouldn’t do on a bike (especially in Chicago) like climb major hills. If you can find a spinning instructor who’s also a cyclist (vs. an aerobics instructor on a bike), stick with them and hopefully through their classes you can not only get in shape, you can become a better cyclist. The winter is also a great time to do weight training.

I know this is really long but I hope it helps a little!!
Another factor is what type of shape are you in to start with? This is not a slam in any way shape or form. At the start of this Summer I weighed 300 lbs. My blood work was ok but I had become a living fat body on the couch. I have two kids (8 and 5) that I wanted to play with but I became too winded in trying to keep up with. I became depressed and started thinking that I would never lose weight. I found an old Raleigh on Craigs list for $40 and started riding. The very first day I rode 2 miles, my a$$, legs, back and other things I had not used in 20 years all hurt. I thought theres $40 wasted. The next day my kids asked me to go on a bike ride with them. It was 2 miles to the local school, where I rested while they played. We did this every day and soon we rode 3 miles. Then I was riding 5, then 7 miles after they went to bed. Now I usually ride about 10 miles every night (weather permitting) and I'm down to about 265. 10 miles is not much for some but to me its a new beginning. I have more energy and feel 1000% better about my self.

So what I was relay trying to say is to start slow and build to a realistic goal for your fitness level. Ride safe and ride smart. Its very easy to get discouraged when you start so ride at your pace and not any one elses. Good luck.
1) get fitted properly (yes, you will pay $$ for this)
a) your position will probably change the more you ride. your bike won't get used to you but you will get used to riding it.
b) poor fit + high miles = bad stuff for your body a la repetitive motion injury.

2) ride daily.
a) start slow and short. this will give your body time to adapt to the "correct" fit.
b) the worst thing you could do is balls to the wall your first ride.

3) after 2 weeks start adding miles to your rides. 10% per week. remember, you need to give your body time to adjust. not doing this can lead to nastyness like patellar tendinitis, achy breaky backs, a sore ass, etc. e.g. A few years ago I increased weekly mileage too much/too fast and found myself having to get off the bike for 2 weeks while my body healed. 2 weeks off = going backward

4) until you get base mileage in I wouldn't sweat intervals, HR zones or anything else. back when I was a youngster I was told something like, "Feb 1st you start riding fixed gear. 500 miles 48x18, 250mi 48x17, 250mi 48x16. After that, you can ride your road bike." the point of this was to simplify riding and to get my body used to the bike again. there was no speed requirement. i just had to log the hours. i have no idea what your base mileage should be because I don't know what your fitness level is or how much you ride now. A really simply way score base miles is to ride 5 days a week 45 min a day from tomorrow until it gets too cold to ride. then go inside and refer to my next point ---->

which is:

don't spend $$$ on a trainer until you actually think that you're gonna have fun sitting in your basement or living room with a fan blowing on you while you have the tv cranked up way too loud watching Wild Chicago re-runs on channel 11 (seriously who needs to see Zoe Orgasma and his Barbie collection or the House of Wax episode again???) instead, spend the $$ on a gym membership. go lift weights** and cross-train. do high intensity intervals on the treadmill or elliptical (google HIIT). and while you're doing all of that smile to yourself because you're not me getting up at 5 am, sitting on a bike going nowhere, eating a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder in it while checking out the Reader's missed connections hoping that the really cute indie girl I smiled at decided to post something cute about my stupid tattoo and the way I blushed when she reciprocated the smile (. . . . . shutup, you've all been there)

**incidentally, if you happen to be a woman and fear getting "manly" by lifting weights, you won't. unless you're taking steroids there is no way you'll get beefy arms, a strong jaw and lower voice (i make no promises about chest hair). and please please please don't avoid the free weights. lifting free weights works your body in a way that machines never can.
----
Oh yeah. According to the most newest and bestist exercising data blah blah blah. One needs to exercise about 1 hour daily to loose weight. (I'm not sure that I believe this BUT I did happen to read it on the NYT website---right next to the "PILLS TO MAKE YOU GET FIT" article) You also don't really start to burn fatty McFatFat off until after 20 min of cardio. Hmmm. also the whole aerobic vs anaerobic debate is BS. calories burned are calories burned.

Don't bother with the books like Chris Carmichael's 7 weeks to a Lance Armstrong Ride or Ride with Lance or Give $15.00 to Lance and Learn that There are No Secrets to Riding Like Lance. If you feel tempted to buy a book like that send the $15 my way (I want new bar tape anyways) and I will gladly call you every morning for a week at 5am to tell you that you need to get up, eat healthy, take your multi. and get your ass on your bike.

---
hmm. i just scrolled down to see the posts below. i'd agree with most of what they say. the stuff I don't agree with is because I'm crotchety not cause they're wrong.


good luck. and remember a morning encouragement wake up call is only $15 away!!!
Definitely get fitted for your bike; it's worth the money (here I preach, but yet I haven't had a fit).

Last winter I used rollers, and they're difficult to get used to, but I still prefer them to a trainer for the simple fact that it's easy and I work on balance and have to focus on the bike every single moment I'm on them.

Try one-leg drills (if riding clipless) to practice going from a downwards stroke to and upwards stroke smoothly. At about "7 oclock" in the pedal stroke (right pedal, for this example), slightly point the toes downward, turning them flat at 11-1 oclock.

Good luck with it all, and don't forget: riding your bike in the winter isnt so bad! You may even see a polar bear!
Leah said:
You can definitely try interval training as you get comfortable riding ... If you’ve ever taken a spinning class, you can borrow some of the spinning drills. I used to teach spinning so I have a few others I can send you if you’d like.

The winter is really different for everyone. I tend to stop riding when it gets cold, and I have a trainer that I use a lot to stay in biking shape,

I'd say start out with the intent of riding at a challenged and consistent but not breathless pace for about a month before adding in any interval work. It might be one of the toughest things with starting out but it will pay dividends down the road (it can be boring and it can be hard to control your effort). Your body needs time to adapt to the bike BUT ALSO needs to establish a good base of operations which will make intervals far far more productive down the road.

My suggestion would be to set a goal or goals now before the winter hits to carry you through. That will keep the motivation higher and get yer butt in the saddle in the cold months whether it is on a trainer, spin class or out in the cold.

Keep us updated, I bet you'll get plenty of encouragement and help here along the way.
That's a great idea. Thanks for that. Sometimes I think a higher gear will get me results fasters, but you're absolutely right. Thank you!

M.A.R.K. said:
One thing I like to stress if your gunna use a bike to get in shape or lose weight is to ride in your lower gears, and spin spin spin those pedals. If you have to get out of the saddle to pedal, or cant get a fast cadence going, your riding in to high of a gear. The idea of this is that you want to burn fat, not build muscle. I guess the same idea works with lifting weights too, more reps of less weight, vs. less reps of more weight. Does that make sense?
$15.... hmmm. I'll give you $12 plus look through my friends and see if I can't get you a date, because... man...!

Tommie said:
1) get fitted properly (yes, you will pay $$ for this)
a) your position will probably change the more you ride. your bike won't get used to you but you will get used to riding it.
b) poor fit + high miles = bad stuff for your body a la repetitive motion injury.

2) ride daily.
a) start slow and short. this will give your body time to adapt to the "correct" fit.
b) the worst thing you could do is balls to the wall your first ride.

3) after 2 weeks start adding miles to your rides. 10% per week. remember, you need to give your body time to adjust. not doing this can lead to nastyness like patellar tendinitis, achy breaky backs, a sore ass, etc. e.g. A few years ago I increased weekly mileage too much/too fast and found myself having to get off the bike for 2 weeks while my body healed. 2 weeks off = going backward

4) until you get base mileage in I wouldn't sweat intervals, HR zones or anything else. back when I was a youngster I was told something like, "Feb 1st you start riding fixed gear. 500 miles 48x18, 250mi 48x17, 250mi 48x16. After that, you can ride your road bike." the point of this was to simplify riding and to get my body used to the bike again. there was no speed requirement. i just had to log the hours. i have no idea what your base mileage should be because I don't know what your fitness level is or how much you ride now. A really simply way score base miles is to ride 5 days a week 45 min a day from tomorrow until it gets too cold to ride. then go inside and refer to my next point ---->

which is:

don't spend $$$ on a trainer until you actually think that you're gonna have fun sitting in your basement or living room with a fan blowing on you while you have the tv cranked up way too loud watching Wild Chicago re-runs on channel 11 (seriously who needs to see Zoe Orgasma and his Barbie collection or the House of Wax episode again???) instead, spend the $$ on a gym membership. go lift weights** and cross-train. do high intensity intervals on the treadmill or elliptical (google HIIT). and while you're doing all of that smile to yourself because you're not me getting up at 5 am, sitting on a bike going nowhere, eating a bowl of oatmeal with protein powder in it while checking out the Reader's missed connections hoping that the really cute indie girl I smiled at decided to post something cute about my stupid tattoo and the way I blushed when she reciprocated the smile (. . . . . shutup, you've all been there)

**incidentally, if you happen to be a woman and fear getting "manly" by lifting weights, you won't. unless you're taking steroids there is no way you'll get beefy arms, a strong jaw and lower voice (i make no promises about chest hair). and please please please don't avoid the free weights. lifting free weights works your body in a way that machines never can.
----
Oh yeah. According to the most newest and bestist exercising data blah blah blah. One needs to exercise about 1 hour daily to loose weight. (I'm not sure that I believe this BUT I did happen to read it on the NYT website---right next to the "PILLS TO MAKE YOU GET FIT" article) You also don't really start to burn fatty McFatFat off until after 20 min of cardio. Hmmm. also the whole aerobic vs anaerobic debate is BS. calories burned are calories burned.

Don't bother with the books like Chris Carmichael's 7 weeks to a Lance Armstrong Ride or Ride with Lance or Give $15.00 to Lance and Learn that There are No Secrets to Riding Like Lance. If you feel tempted to buy a book like that send the $15 my way (I want new bar tape anyways) and I will gladly call you every morning for a week at 5am to tell you that you need to get up, eat healthy, take your multi. and get your ass on your bike.

---
hmm. i just scrolled down to see the posts below. i'd agree with most of what they say. the stuff I don't agree with is because I'm crotchety not cause they're wrong.


good luck. and remember a morning encouragement wake up call is only $15 away!!!
I've found that riding a lot, drinking, smoking and generally having a good time keep me in good shape. I hope this works for you as well. :-)

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