Building up fitness

dazza12 Posts: 20
edited August 2013 in Road beginners
I've been back in the saddle now for a couple of weeks, and starting to feel the benefits of it.

My commute is only around 1.6 miles, but some parts of this (the hills) are still a struggle - however every day it's less and less of a struggle. I'm quite a portly chap, prior to this two flights of stairs did me in but I can fly up them now without breaking a sweat.

I'm after some tips for how to build up my fitness, something that I can do that will actually benefit me and not just prolong the agony. Also something that may help the weight to shift (looking to eventually lose around 5 stone), but being fit and healthy is the priority.

I use Strava and I've been able to add some sections of my commute, and it's good to see me getting trophies every day. It's showing me how much fitter I'm getting, even though it's sometimes a bit disheartening when someone much older than me flies past me going uphill!

As yet, I've got no way of measuring other parts of my ride or fitness. I don't have a heart rate monitor, I understand it would be good for me to see what zones would be best for me. Any recommendations? I use Strava on a Samsung S4, so ideally anything needs to be compatible with that (not necessarily Strava if there's anything better). No other sensors on the bike, so I couldn't tell you what cadence I'm getting.

In terms of rides, what would be a recommendation as to distances that I should be aiming for in order to build up my stamina? Should I be gradually building up to a longer distance, or every so often try to cycle as far as I can bear? Should I also be trying to climb hills at this stage, as even a small incline kills me at the moment.

Thanks for any advice that you can give.


  • djm501
    djm501 Posts: 378
    Hi, sounds like you've made a good start.

    I would say don't sweat it too much - just get out and ride. I started from a very poor base of fitness and healthiness last year - I was 20 stone. I lost four stone in six months and the first three of those fell off me as I just commuted to work. I didn't discover the riding apps like Strava properly for about 3 months.
    What I would do if I was you was just extend your rides so you increase distance rather than try and batter it out as quickly as possible - traffic lights eventually become the limiting factor in that. Find bigger and tougher hills as you go also, those early tough hills will seem totally insignificant compare to the new ones in time. My commute is 5 miles basic but I have several 'indirect' commutes that rise from 10 miles to 33. I even did 50 miles to work once but that was a bit silly as I was late and had to get up really early.

    I now do about 600 miles a month and I still haven't bothered with anything like a heartrate monitor. I do use Strava and other GPS apps though.

    Good luck whichever way to choose to go though - welcome to the club :D
  • simonhead
    simonhead Posts: 1,399
    I was over 20 and am at 18, started cycling and playing rugby again after a good few years and many pints of larger off. The bike was for commuting but i got the bug and the weight has dropped without doing a huge ammount about my diet.

    In January I set myself the goal of doing the ride London this year and completed it, I told pretty much anyone that would listen that i was doing it and didnt want to have to tell them that I had failed so really pushed myself with the training.

    I broke my training down into 3 areas covering 6 days a week with a day off.
    1 Distance - start with a short ride and add a few miles each week, I started with 20 and build up to 90 over 4-5 months. Do this once a week.
    2 speed - have a circuit that is safe and relatively short. I have a circuit of about 4 miles near me that is relatively flat and only has 1 pedestrian crossing. I timed myself on this twice a week trying to improve my time. After 8 weeks i did 2 circuits twice a week again trying to improve time.
    3 Hills - for a big guy these are the killer, Twice a week I did a set 20 miles with a good hill or 2 in it, just trying to stay at a reasonable pace. After 2 months i upped the distance every second week by 5 miles.

    This plan may not work for you but has helped me lose weight and increase fitness massively. I have now started to look at diet as well and the weight is still coming off, i want to drop another stone and then stay around the 17 mark but really increase my fitness so i can play better rugby.
    Life isnt like a box of chocolates, its like a bag of pic n mix.
  • smidsy
    smidsy Posts: 5,273
    Work on time and intensity instead of worrying about distance.

    Fitness comes from spending time pushing the pedals, so try and up the duration of your rides gradually.

    To mix it up a bit you can also add in higher intensity sessions to work your cv system and get used to going up and down your heart rate. Sprint between lamp posts or other available landmarks and then slow down for a while and then sprint again.

    Also try and work on cadence. Do not be tempted to push big gears slowly, instead spin smaller gears faster. (nelly the elephant works as a cadence sensor :mrgreen: )

    Do not worry about numbers, just keep cycling.
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • johngti
    johngti Posts: 2,508
    smidsy wrote:
    Also try and work on cadence. Do not be tempted to push big gears slowly, instead spin smaller gears faster. (nelly the elephant works as a cadence sensor :mrgreen: )

    Do not worry about numbers, just keep cycling.

    Oh you swine - guess what's going to be going around my head every time I go out now!!
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    The head of the herd was calling far far away...
  • kajjal
    kajjal Posts: 3,380
    Just gradually increase the distance you do to work by taking slight detours. Then on the way home you can also try and go a bit faster. At the weekend try an easy paced longer distance ride. You will find as you get fitter you can still push just as hard but the difference is you go further faster as your fitness improves.

    As suggested before make sure you have a rest day. Eating healthily also helps but only if you eat enough , lack of food means lack of power. Health eating does not mean living off boiled chicken and the other "really tasty" foods some cyclists obsess about.

    Due to a should injury I started back on my bike again in April and for a few weeks was dragging myself round a five mile run. After that I built up to ten miles and pushed harder to really improve my times. Now I am doing some hill training which is really helping. Just don't forget to enjoy it :)