Cycling training programs for beginners

Thinking of doing indoor cycling but don’t know where to start? I am here to guide you with the ins and outs of beginning a cycling training program.

What are the best cycling training programs for beginners? From my experience, doing some base training first is the best way to start. It will help you build a solid foundation for your whatever track that you want to pursue later on.

Base training will help you build the endurance you need whether your goal is to lose weight, pursue a professional cycling career in the future, prepare for a cycling event, or just cycle for general fitness.

What is base training?

Professional cyclists usually do base training during their off-season (winter) to maintain their fitness and prepare for harder training and races for the next riding season.

Mind you that pro cyclists are already top of their game, yet some if not most of them still opt base training. Now if you are starting from zero, then you have more reason to build your endurance first before trying anything drastic.

Doing high-intensity exercises right away, though it may help you lose more weight faster (if that is your goal), can also put you at risk to injuries or overtraining.

Base training rides take around 60 to 120 minutes and moderate in intensity. Professional athletes may do more.

You can tell if you are doing moderate-intensity if you can talk easily while working out.

Another way to tell if you are doing moderate-intensity is by knowing your maximum heart rate and using a heart rate monitor. A moderate-intensity exercise is between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

At this intensity, your body is trained to burn more fat instead of glycogen or the stored form of carbohydrate, particularly glucose. This doesn’t automatically mean that you would lose weight faster, but it can help you build more endurance in the long run and prepare you for higher intensity workouts in the future.

Base training doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same thing for six to 12 weeks. You can have progression during your training. If you can endure only 30 minutes on your first ride, do your best to add 15 minutes more for each succeeding week.

Alternatively, you can start training within 50% of your MHR and gradually increase your target until you reach the 70% MHR upper limit.

Ideally, you should train three times a week. Also, make sure you have rest in between training days to help you recover.

Sweet spot training

Although base training is ideal for beginner cyclists, not everyone can commit 10 hours or more of training per week. When base training is not realistic for your particular situation, you can try sweet spot training as your next best option.

While base training is more on the volume of rides, sweet spot aims to strike a balance between volume and intensity. The goal is to work hard enough for you to get physiological gains but not too hard for you to get burnt out.

How do you find your sweet spot? Aim for 75%-85% of your maximum heart rate to get to the sweet spot.

If you are training with a power meter, train between 88% to 94% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP), or the maximum average power you can sustain for an hour. To know your FTP, you can use a cycling training app that tests for FTP.

Things to consider before beginning a cycling training program

Goals

Before you begin a training program, you must set clear goals for your self. What are the specific things you want to achieve for your training?

Are you training to lose weight? Are you preparing for a sport event? Or do you just want to have a healthier lifestyle?

Knowing your goals is important so that you will be able to choose the next steps to take.

For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, then you might want to incorporate High Intensity Interval Training and strength training in your program once you have build endurance from your base training.

Level of fitness

If you have purely sedentary lifestyle (aka deskjob and netflix on your spare time) then you have sudden realization to keep fit by indoor cycling, it is best to take things slow. Yep, even if cycling is considered as a low impact workout, you can still suffer injuries and burn out if you take things to the extreme right away.

On the other hand, if you are already active and just want to add cycling into the mix, you probably can do more challenging workouts sooner than every body else. Or else, you might not feel challenged enough.

Time commitment

How much time can you really commit? Ideally you should really spend as much time needed if you’re serious about your goals.

But let’s admit it, ours is not a perfect world. Sometimes we have just got to do with what we have.

Choose a training plan that align with both your goals, level of fitness and your available time. There are many apps or free and paid cycling programs that you can choose from.

Things to get you started

An Indoor Trainer

Cycling outside may be more appealing for many people. I for one, prefer to ride outdoors sometimes. However, it is not always possible to do so because of the weather.

Even when it is sunny outside, sometimes you cannot ride outdoors because of time constraints.

Indoor trainers allow you to train regardless of the weather and you can consistently train based on your schedule.

How to choose the best trainer? Read the following previous articles to guide you:

What’s the Best Portable Cycling Trainer

The 5 Best Indoor Trainers on a Budget

The Best Indoor Bike Trainers for Seniors

Proper clothing

Wearing proper clothing may seem a little trivial when cycling indoors, but believe me it is really important.

You must wear comfortable and sweat wicking top to keep you from overheating.

Padded cycling shorts can make a difference during your training. You don’t want to suffer from sore bums after hours of training.

Wear proper cycling shoes and make sure the cleats are attached properly for a smoother and efficient ride.

Trainer accessories

I highly recommend you to invest in the following accessories.

  • water bottle – dehydration is your number one enemy. Always keep a bottle of water closeby.
  • towels – expect a lot of sweat. Keep a towel on your handle bars to catch the sweat dripping from your bod.
  • fans – aside from wearing proper clothing and drinking water, fans are also your weapon against overheating.
  • mat – put your trainer on top of a mat to dampen vibrations and noise while you are working out.
  • a power meter or speed and cadence sensor (when not using smart trainer)- these are optional, but highly recommended because they can help you track your progress over time
  • computer or mobile device and training app/subscription -(optional) You need a bike computer to display your stats if you are using power meter or speed and cadence sensor. You can also install training apps or subscribe to a program if you want a structured training.

Related questions

Can I incorporate strength training in my exercise program? Yes. Strength training will help build your core muscles and help you gain more power. Strength training exercises is best done on a different day. Also, steer clear of those classes that promote lifting weights while indoor cycling.

Is indoor cycling safe for pregnant women? With proper precautions, indoor cycling is safe for pregnant women because it is a low impact exercise. It is still best to consult your physician if you are planning to do indoor cycling while pregnant.

Adam Johnson

As a middle-aged, 40 something cyclist, my riding goals have changed over the years. A lover of all things retro, and an avid flat bar cyclist, I continue to live in the glory days of past triathlon glories.

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