Crash course: Get bike-tour ready in a month

You're in big trouble. You've been a stranger to the bike all winter, but in a moment of enthusiasm you signed up for a weeklong tour.

Not only that, it starts in a month. You don't want to hammer at the front, but you'd like to finish comfortably and enjoy the ride.

So how do you overcome a winter of sloth in four weeks?

Don't worry: Cycling coach Hank Lange is going to bail you out with daily workouts that will get you to the start line fit and raring to go.

But before you begin his four-week plan, take note: "It's difficult to develop a recipe that works for all riders," he warns.

"You should draw from your own experience. For example, can you go from nothing to riding six days a week without injury? Or do you need to start more slowly?"

Rod Kramer, director of the nationwide Dirt Camps, says, "Even if you have some basic fitness from running or skiing, you need saddle time to work the specific cycling muscles."

As you follow this training program, Lange suggests monitoring five key "bio markers" each day:

1. Morning heart rate
If it's elevated five to eight beats per minute above normal, take a rest day. (Before rising, count your pulse at the neck for 15 seconds and multiply by four.)

2. Training heart rate
If you can't get your heart rate up even when working hard, go easy rather than force the workout.

3. Soreness and fatigue
Aches are your body's signals that you're asking it to do too much.

4. Quality of sleep
Restless sleep is a sign of overtraining. Slack off.

5. Bowel and bladder habits
Sudden changes such as diarrhea or frequent urination indicate that your body can't handle the training load.

The biggest mistake, Lange says, is failing to adjust your plan if you aren't adapting to the training: "You need to acknowledge when you're tired and cut back on riding accordingly."

Week one: Back in the saddle again
(Total riding time: 6.5 7 hours)

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 1-hour ride, easy. You should be able to converse normally during these rides.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 1-hour ride, easy.

Sunday: 2.5 - 3 hours (30 to 40 miles) at a slightly slower pace than the weekday rides. Choose flat to rolling terrain. On hills, keep effort moderate.

Week two: Build your aerobic base
(Total riding time: 7 - 7.5 hours)

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 1-hour ride, easy.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 1-hour ride, easy.

Sunday: 3 - 3.5 hours (40 to 50 miles) at a slightly slower pace than the weekday rides. Flat or rolling terrain.

Week three: Add intensity
(Total riding time 7 - 10 hours)

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 1-hour recovery ride, done slightly slower than the midweek rides from the first two weeks.

Wednesday: 1- to 2-hour ride, slightly faster than the mid week rides from the first two weeks.

Thursday: 1-hour recovery ride.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 1- to 2-hour ride (conversational pace).

Sunday: 3 to 4 hours on hilly terrain. Use the hills for natural intervals by riding up briskly.

Week four: Sharpen up
(Total riding time 4 to 5 hours)

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 1.5- to 2-hour "threshold" ride.

Warm up by riding easily for 20 minutes, then begin with a 30-second work interval, then pedal easily for 1 to 2 minutes, repeat, adding 30 seconds to the work interval each time up to 5 minutes.

Recovery intervals should remain 1 to 2 minutes in length. Don't overwork — ride briskly but not all-out.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: 1.5- to 2-hour "threshold" ride.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: Easy 1-hour ride

Sunday: The tour starts. You're ready.

Discuss This Article