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I prefer biking to running for "base training" because it provides aerobic and endurance training. Although running does provide aerobic training it doesn’t have the other advantages of biking like low impact for aging knees. Biking also builds muscle tone and strength much more so than running.
If you are new to serious biking, here are some basics. Biking should be done three times a week at the beginning of the training program. Two times a week will be fine but other training activities (the circuits) should be added after the first few weeks to supplement the two-day bike program.
Serious bikers talk about something called spinning. Spinning is the most efficient way to move on a bike. It means you form a complete circle of power with your pedaling action. Pedaling isn’t a series of alternating downward pressure strokes, it is a continuous circle of pressure on the pedals. The downward push shouldn’t do all the work. As the right foot comes to the top of the pedal circle the left foot begins to pull up during the back of the pedal circle. Combining the pull back and up with the push down and forward gives the circle no weak points. Alternating these movements from right to left foot and from pushing to pulling requires some practice, but once you have the idea of spinning, biking enjoyment is reached. It’s hard to explain because it feels so powerful yet requires much less strength. You become an efficient machine, in tune with the bike.
Here’s how it’s learned:
- Spin at ninety or more revolutions per minute. This means you are in a low gear and your feet are turning very fast. I often practice the spin early in the season at 120 RPM to speed up my feet. Bike stores sell little bike computers that tell you exactly how fast you are spinning. At only $20 - $30, they are worthwhile and a great training tool.
- A good way to measure your improvement is to ride the same loop or a number of loops that you can repeat. After the first week, time your ride. The computer can also be used as a timer and it records your average speed. Do not try to improve your time during the first two weeks. Ride for the enjoyment and experience.
- Your first weeks of riding should be half to three-quarters of an hour long. Your ride can have some small hills and you may need to learn how to ride standing up.
- If you are riding at 90 RPM as recommended and you come to a hill your cadence will decrease. You can maintain the same gear by standing on the pedals. Standing gives you more power but it is more demanding aerobically. It is good to do some standing as it develops other muscles and requires bike handling skills and balance.
- The really dedicated enthusiast will want to use a heart rate monitor. The monitor tells you how hard you are working or not working. People who are new to biking usually say they have a hard time getting a workout. They try to compare it to running, where they are immediately out of breath. Biking will get you out of breath, have no worries, but you have to learn how.
- Make sure you are in good health and have no medical conditions that keep you from participating in strenuous physical activity. If you are unsure about your ability to start a physical program consult your doctor.