Absolute Beginners: Training for the Dilettante

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Believe it or not, more than half the training year is gone! We have only five months or 25 more weekends to prepare for the epic 545! But, you say, how can I possibly be ready? Here are 15 16 training tips to help you and make training fun and easy.

Please add your tips in the comments! Also, follow some of the links for additional articles I’ve written on these subjects.

How the Polar Bears rock ALC 2014 training in the far north.
Image Credit: Glenn Gebhardt.
  1. Daily Rides. Training is less painful if it’s routine. Find a way to fit daily or quasi-daily rides into your schedule, even if they’re short.
  2. Commuting. Even if you have to drive part of the way, find a way to ride your bike to work. You’ll totally impress your friends and colleagues!
  3. Spin Classes. A great way to get your body ready for rides. Spin classes are no substitute for hours on the road, but they’ll increase your aerobic capacity and help your body get ready for warmer weather and longer rides.
  4. Get a Trainer. For around $300 (or much, much more), you can ride your own bicycle in the warmth of your living room. Add on those miles, sweat off the Christmas feast, and increase aerobic exercise without riding in the dark.
  5. Choose Back-To-Back Rides Over Distance. If you have a limited number of hours per week to ride (but more than 2 hours per week), choose to ride on two consecutive days rather than putting all your time into one longer ride. This will prepare you for the 7 days we’ll be riding in June.
  6. Choose One Longer Ride Over Two Shorter Ones. Alternately, if you’re limited to about two hours, do one long ride rather than two one-hour rides. A two-hour ride will help condition your body for the distances we’ll be doing.
  7. Leave from your House. When going on a recreational ride, choose a ride that leaves from your house. That will help keep the time commitment low by eliminating the time driving.
  8. Ride Before Work. If you cannot commute, grab a banana and do an hour or two before you leave for work. If you go early enough, there will be less traffic than after work. Better get a light set!
  9. Spend Some Time Getting to Know Your Bike. On the days you cannot ride, set aside some time to clean and examine your bike. This will help you feel more confident on rides, and will keep your bike running well.
  10. Get a Bike Fit. Now is the time to make sure your bike is properly fit for you. A good fitter will make small adjustments which will eliminate pain and numbness! It is well worth the expense.
  11. Make a Training Plan. Sit down with a calendar, the ALC website, and your mates and choose weekend dates and rides. Then add one to five week-day training rides and commit to them.
  12. Gradually Increase Mileage. In your training plan, don’t forget to plan for hour and mileage increases. You need to get comfortable with a 60-mile ride by June. At this point, a 60-mile ride might take you up to seven hours — a real time suck. So start smaller and work your way up.
  13. Go on Training Rides. The ALC offers volunteer-led training rides all over California and in other states as well. If none of them are convenient, ask your local bike shop about rides in your area.
  14. Commit to a Training Ride Series. Some of the ALC training rides are “series.” A series is a set of rides on consecutive weekends that begin at the same place and time every single week, and gradually build the number of miles. This will build confidence, your cycling network, and motivation.
  15. Hook up with a Ride Buddy. I cannot stress how important this step is. Cycling is wonderful because almost anyone can do it and improve. In some ways it appears to be a solo sport, but really its all about the people. Connect and you will learn to love the early hours and sore muscles!
  16. Ride for time, not Distance. Cyclists alway ride for distance — “I rode 30 miles today.” “Are you doing that century?” “The ALC is 545 miles.” This can be intimidating and cause you to think your training is insufficient. Instead, if you have an hour, ride for a half hour and return. Next time, try to ride a bit further with your half hour.
Figure out what works for you, then do it. You’ll impress your friends. You’ll impress your coworkers. You’ll impress your partner. You’ll impress yourself. But most importantly, you’ll impress your donors!

Much love and here’s to a great 2014 training season!
Your Bear.

PS: If you found this useful, click “Donate,” above and consider a gift to my ride!

Over the next couple months, I’m going to write a few articles with the lead-in title “Absolute Beginners,” explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I’ve learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I’ve taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!


One thought on “Absolute Beginners: Training for the Dilettante

    Early Season Training « Bear's ALC Page said:
    January 28, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    […] Second, gradually add in solo rides. This early in the season, you probably need to add in only one or two weekly rides, or 30 miles max, in addition to your weekend training rides. Your extra rides don’t have to be hard, but they have to get your body used to the stresses of riding. Commute to work or the grocery story by bicycle, if you can. Pick up some miles at a cycling class or on a trainer. Here are some tips for adding in extra miles. […]

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