10 Rides to Regain Fitness

The cold season, with its bad weather, early nightfall and iffy road conditions, can be murder on riding time. If you wound up riding the couch all winter, you need a plan for getting back up to speed fast.

Our guide includes 10 get-started-again rides designed by Will Dillard, who has coached cyclists, triathletes and duathletes to compete in state, national and world championships (ultimatecyclinggroup.com).

One key: Don't try to get it all back at once. For the first few weeks, avoid riding two days in a row.

The Plan: A 10-Ride Guide For Regaining Lost Fitness

Ride #1: Ride 10 to 15 miles on level or rolling roads. Use a self-selected cadence—in other words, ride at a pace you can comfortably maintain throughout the ride, avoiding hard efforts.

Ride #2: Go about 50 percent of the distance or time of your last long ride that was less than 50 miles, with a self-selected cadence. To gain leg speed, add three or four spin-ups (see below).

Ride #3. Increase distance or time by 10 to 15 percent of your previous rides using a self-selected cadence. Do four or five spin-ups during the ride.

Ride #4. Repeat previous ride but at 75 to 90 rpm. Do five spin-ups and two power drills (see below).

Ride #5. Increase distance or time by 10 to 15 percent of your previous ride, with an average cadence of 75 to 90 rpm. Complete five spin-ups and three power drills.

Ride #6. Your ride time or distance should be 70 to 80 percent of your last long ride before the layoff, averaging 75 to 90 rpm. Do five spin-ups and four power drills.

Ride #7. Add a hill climb that's at least a half-mile long with a 5 to 6 percent grade. Warm up over a few flat miles, climb using medium gearing, and recover by riding back down. Then repeat once.

Ride #8. Ride a route equal to 90 percent of your last long pre-layoff ride. See if you can ride comfortably at 75 to 90 rpm, mixing in spin-ups and power drills. Climbers, add hills with a 7 to 8 percent grade.

Ride #9. Do the equivalent of your last long pre-winter ride at 80 to 100 rpm over rolling terrain. Add a few spin-ups and power drills. On one flat stretch, maintain 90 to 100 rpm until hills reappear.

Ride #10. Add 10 to 15 percent time or distance—and continue to do that on each subsequent ride, up to the length of your goal event. Continue to mix in some spin-ups and power drills.


On a flat stretch, increase your speed for 30 to 60 seconds, then return to normal pace and fully recover.

15 Proven ways to get faster.


On a gentle uphill, shift into your hardest gear and maintain as high a cadence as possible for one minute.

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