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Newbie and am i really that unfit?

chigwellbenchigwellben Posts: 15
edited March 2019 in Road beginners
Hi all,

My name is Ben and i am brand new to cycling. I live 7 miles form work and i decided i need to stop being unfit and get some exercise.
I bought a Carrera TDF ltd edition cheap from facebook (Possibly one size too small if i am making sense of the recommendations but it feels ok and ive adjusted the seat height based on watching youtube recommendations) and ive ridden to work just twice and it sat for a while
Yesterday i decided that enough was enough and i need to take it seriously. But i got on the bike and literally within about 3-4 minutes i was breathing heavy and my quads started burning until eventually i had to stop. Got my breath back and pushed on again and within a few minutes i was in the same position. In my 7 mile commute i got off and pushed 6 times to get my breath back and heart rate back down.
Am i really that unfit? Ive been sat on my backside for 10 years with only gym style weight training as exercise and no cardio but that commute was a joke. took me 50 minutes to do 7 miles and i was getting out of breath so fast
One thing i realised is that i didnt eat before i left and had nothing to drink so i was fasted and badly hydrated but is this what i have to expect?
Everyone around me says just keep going and you'll improve. I'm desperate to love cycling and ride everyday but that journey was genuinely discouraging. I will go again but today my legs are aching badly
How do guys ride hundreds on miles at weekends if i cant do a mile without stopping????
Is that normal for a beginner? I used to ride my bike everywhere as a kid without feeling like that
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  • whyamiherewhyamihere Posts: 7,333
    First the bad news - To be blunt, yes, you are really that unfit.

    This isn't unusual for someone who's done no cardio for years. I'm a very occasional runner, and if I've left it a long time between going running, I'll be struggling after a few hundred metres. The good news is that if you do carry on with it, you'll adapt very quickly. Make sure you're using your gears properly, and listen to your body - Sore muscles are to be expected, but pay attention to any actual pain because it might point to something not being right in your setup. And definitely eat and drink before/during your rides - You'll soon work out how much you need and what works for you.
  • I very often struggle to get past about 4th gear and seem to spend most of the time in 2nd or 3rd. Any more then i get out of breath and my quads burn unless its downhill
  • Yeah, it suck dosen't it. Out of breath, totally knackered, legs ache for days after, censored hurts because it's not used to the saddle and you wonder whether the pain's all worth it.

    The good news is that this initial hurt will soon pass. Your cardiovascular will improve and eventually you'll be able to cycle longer and harder. Your leg muscles will very quickly get used to it and will no longer ache for days after. And your censored will toughen up like old leather. It won't take that long either.

    Keep at it though, if you leave weeks and weeks between each ride you'll get no where.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    yup - probably ..

    you don't mention how hilly those 7 miles are - or what the riding surface is like ...

    however, neither do you mention your riding style - it sounds like you're going "all out" - reign it in a bit and take your time - I bet you could do the same distance in 40-45 minutes just by taking it a bit easier and not having to stop all the time.

    When I first stated, doing 5 miles was a good ride - these days it's barely a warm up and I can do 15 miles towing a child and not feel any ill effects - alternatively I can do a 10mile TT and be glad to get off at the end of it...
  • If your legs are sore, give them a rest and start off by commuting 1 or 2 days a week and build up. You're only going to put yourself off if you make it unpleasant.
    It kind of works well at this time of year anyway - ride in on the nice days and drive/train on the miserable rainy days.

    Also, if you're so out of breath that you need to walk, slow down a bit - it'll almost certainly be faster than stop/starting.
  • yeah i guess that may be a case of not being able to control my speed? In my uneducated mind i'm just peddling a bike but i'm not paying much attention to how hard or fast i'm doing it. I'm just peddling till i'm knackered and then having to stop
  • Some good advice here already. Stick at it and you'll soon notice the difference, any hill that you may have to push up right now you'll soon be riding up. Sure you may feel like censored right now but you'll soon be feeling great when you notice the improvement and it'll motivate you to keep on going.
  • Think of it like weights or running. You don't set off sprinting or start with the heaviest weight.

    Start easy and build it. It gets way easier and you'll soon be doing that journey in 30 mins, easily.

    I'd add that you'll be surprised how 'easy' a gear you should be in. Legs should spinning nicely, rather than grinding away a really hard gear - like the gym. Easier to do lots of reps of small weights than one big heave.
  • edward.sedward.s Posts: 142
    Its normal to feel knackered at the start. As everyone has said, it will come. Just keep at it and build up gently.

    Within a few months, if you like it, you'll be cruising that ride. You'll also be poor as you'll get upgrade-itis with the bike.
  • edward.s wrote:
    Its normal to feel knackered at the start. As everyone has said, it will come. Just keep at it and build up gently.

    Within a few months, if you like it, you'll be cruising that ride. You'll also be poor as you'll get upgrade-itis with the bike.
    I'm already signing up for cycle to work scheme and looking at new bikes :lol:
  • I'm the same, I tend to just go flat out unless I consciously take it easy.
    7 miles in 50 minutes is about 8.5mph, you could always use strava on your phone or a cheap cycle computer to allow you to monitor your speed to get you used to it.
    yeah i guess that may be a case of not being able to control my speed? In my uneducated mind i'm just peddling a bike but i'm not paying much attention to how hard or fast i'm doing it. I'm just peddling till i'm knackered and then having to stop
  • I echo everything that’s already been said.

    Well done for doing something about your health and taking up cycling to commute to work. It’s one of the best thing to do to improve your health, get into something new (and potentially addictive but in a good sense), SAVE SHED LOADS OF MONEY, do your bit for the environment, etc. The benefits of cycling to work are overwhelming in many different aspects.

    I too struggled big time when I started commuting by bike. Even a 2mile pootle to train station nearly gave me a heart attack when I did it the first time. Your muscles aren’t conditioned for cycling (muscle recruitment, efficiency, strength etc), it’s working unconsciously to keep balanced, pedalling techniques aren’t efficient, you’re figuring out your optimal and steady pace, you’re improving your cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular system, etc. You will notice the improvement rather quickly if you keep at it.

    Best thing I did was I increased the distance gradually. So, for me I started a mere 2 miles to the trains station and took the train for the rest of the commute. Then I got curious (and got fed up with unreliable and expensive train faire) and started getting off the train 2 stations earlier and cycled 5 miles to work (total 7miles to work, and another 2miles home). Then I notched it up a bit and decided to do the whole 15miles commute one direction once a week. That was a bit of a jump so I died (and got lost) when I first did it. After two years of gradually increasing my cycling commute distance, I can happily blast all the hills on single speed anytime any day. I do around 88-110+miles a week now.

    So, yes, it’ll be tough but nothing wrong with that and keep up the good work. Be proud of your little achievements. Get Strava on your phone and track your commute progress (warning: potential risk of addiction, silly commute racing with others, and make sure you configure your privacy as you prefer).

    Happy cycling.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Cycling shouldn't be that hard so you're doing something wrong.

    I'd also pick up the bike and spin the wheels to make sure nothing is rubbing. And is the chain oiled ? Are the tyres pumped up hard enough ?

    Put it in a gear that lets you pedal at a cadence greater than 60rpm.

    Keep at it. You'll get there.
  • cougie wrote:
    I'd also pick up the bike and spin the wheels to make sure nothing is rubbing.

    That is a very good point
  • awaveyawavey Posts: 2,368
    I think it can be that hard to start cycling, even if you dont feel you are necessarily that unfit, I remember my first commute to work,was probably 7miles, I cant really remember how long it took me, a good 40-60mins I reckon, and there werent any hills to contend with either.

    I got in to work, eventually, sat down at my desk could barely move my legs anymore they ached so much, and it took me the rest of the morning to recover properly I was so fried I couldnt even really concentrate to do any work, it nearly put me off for good I just couldnt believe how anyone could possibly do or cope with that as a way to get to work, plus I still had the ride home to contend with

    but I kept at it, and slowly over time, and it was a long time it didnt come quickly at all at first,as I wasnt really enjoying it so rides were infrequent and short, Id get home and barely be able to walk up the stairs but eventually it started to click, I found I could ride for longer,further, maintain speeds better, even climb the occasional hill without stopping half way up.

    and one of the key things Id found was, Id bought just a cheap bog standard hybrid from an LBS, all 18kg of it even before adding rack/panniers, but it had come with hybrid style knobbly tyres as standard, and it was like riding a bike with 50p's for wheels, just switching to proper round city/road commute tyres was a revelation and made things alot better. theres alot to be said for making sure things spin round correctly :)
  • yiannismyiannism Posts: 344
    You remind my self at my beginning, overweight, unfit, 5km on relative slow tempo was hard for me. After 2-3 months i was able to ride 30km with ease. On the 6th month i did 65 km, and i was like wow! what an accomplishment. After 9 months i did my 1st 100km, and i felt that i would die. After 4 years in cycling the question is not how far or how high i would go, but how fast.

    The moral story? yes you are very unfit, but if you give time to your self, and be consistent with your training you will get there. Just have in mind that cycling its not sprinting, its a marathon. Dont rush the things, increase your workload not more than 10-15% each time, and give time to your body to heal from time to time.
  • haydenmhaydenm Posts: 2,868
    monkimark wrote:
    cougie wrote:
    I'd also pick up the bike and spin the wheels to make sure nothing is rubbing.

    That is a very good point

    Agreed, it's easy to overlook. On the second day of the NC500 my other half rode 50km with a first aid kit rubbing on her rear wheel and didn't think to investigate why she was struggling so much... :lol:

    As others have said, use an easy gear to keep your legs spinning lightly, you'll build up cardio in no time
  • Starting from a relatively low fitness baseline, like I did back in January 2017, it takes time for your heart to adjust to regular cardio-vascular and your legs to adjust to regular cycling, you can easily end up "over-training" and making every turn of the pedals feel like agony.

    The key is to push your fitness boundaries, but also let your body recover by having regular rest days each week.

    If you are recording the rides and don't already use one, grab a heart rate monitor such as https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Monitor- ... 99-7060702.

    If you use Google Chrome internet browser, grab https://chrome.google.com/webstore/deta ... pckn?hl=en with a free Strava account and use the "fitness trend" to judge when to ride hard, ride easy or simply have a rest day.

    "Form" of -10 to -30 in Elevate is supposedly optimum for progression, but more negative than -30 is considered over-training.
    ================
    2020 Voodoo Marasa
    2017 Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc 2016
    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • cld531ccld531c Posts: 517
    Good luck and stick at it.
    It may be worth checking your feet are in the right position, newcomers often have their feet too far forward and this can make things a lot more difficult. Try riding with the balls of your feet on the pedals if not already, helped my OH quite a lot.
  • do a quick fitness test...its easier and more accurate running...run any distance as quick as possible (unless you have a power meter) then enter data here and get your percentile bit.ly/myvo2max.
  • Does anyone have tips on what to eat for breakfast and fueling to ride?
    How long before leaving etc? Its only 7 miles but i definitely noticed i struggled doing it fasted and badly hydrated
  • webboowebboo Posts: 2,684
    Does anyone have tips on what to eat for breakfast and fueling to ride?
    How long before leaving etc? Its only 7 miles but i definitely noticed i struggled doing it fasted and badly hydrated
    Unless you did not eat or drink in 24 hours before, it’s highly unlikely that you are struggling as a result of not eating or drinking.
    A cup of tea, coffee, water, some toast or cereal. In other words just a normal breakfast will suffice.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    I _could_ ride in the morning fasted, but usually I'll have a normal breakfast and a cup of tea ...

    you may find that a bottle of water on the bike helps - nothing worse than feeling thirsty on a ride - even if you are hydrated ...
    There's arguments for riding fasted anyway - but tbh, IMHO, if you're just going to have breakfast when you get there, then it's not going to make a huge difference right now - so if you feel better for having a normal breakfast before you go, then have one... just don't overdo it ;)

    I tend to snack through the day - mostly fruit - and try and eat something before I head home - if I don't, and leave it too long, I can end up feeling shaky - then eat far too much ;)
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    I'm fine riding or running fasted of a morning. I'll happily do 30 or 40 miles to the cafe stop on a Sunday.

    Can't see how 7 miles would be a fueling problem.
  • step83step83 Posts: 3,866
    Does anyone have tips on what to eat for breakfast and fueling to ride?
    How long before leaving etc? Its only 7 miles but i definitely noticed i struggled doing it fasted and badly hydrated

    Normal food? Your body is the bikes engine, if you dont put any fuel in the engine it wont go. A lot of the what to eat gumph is for people doing big rides daily so you make sure your replacing the depleted glycogen stores if your going to an from work you will be more than fine eating normal food.

    Just eat normally and keep hydrated youll be fine.
  • Hey Ben, how are you getting on with your commute? A bit easier?

    Re: food before your commute. As other have said, as long as you eat something as you wake up (it doesn't even have to fill you up) and a glass of water, it should be fine for your commute. Trust your morning hungriness and eat as you feel fit.

    For example, I have a cup of coffee (3/4 filled ordinary tea cup) and bran flakes and semi-skimmed milk (1/2 filled on ordinary Kelogg's football shaped cereal bowl) just to get rid of the morning hunger and go off for 15mile, 55min commute ride. And I'm fine until 4hrs after my breakfast, then I have to snack something as my stomach is grumbling.

    I'm still erring on the side of your previous sedentary lifestyle. You mentioned gym style weight training and no cardio for the last 10yrs (I'm guessing you're in late 20s or in 30s?). Getting used to cardio workout like cycling from zero is naturally challenging (though it'll get easier once you overcome the initial shock as you experienced!) and perhaps you might be a"red line" cyclists who just want to ride as fast as possible? I used to be like that (I used to get wound up by the passing cars and tried to stay as fast as possible for as long as possible. It doesn't work like that, I figured...).

    Do you come across fellow cycle commuters on your way? If so, it might be a good way to figure out and regulate your pace: are they faster than you, about the same or much slower than you?

    Keep us posted on how you're getting on, and keep asking questions here, too.

    Happy cycling
  • yiannismyiannism Posts: 344
    I did several 70+km without breakfast just a coffee, with couple of surreal bars and water during the ride. 7 miles shouldnt be a problem.
  • webboowebboo Posts: 2,684
    yiannism wrote:
    I did several 70+km without breakfast just a coffee, with couple of surreal bars and water during the ride. 7 miles shouldnt be a problem.
    Are surreal bars what milemuncher uses when he’s doing his 100 milers with the 45kg rucksack.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,003
    webboo wrote:
    yiannism wrote:
    I did several 70+km without breakfast just a coffee, with couple of surreal bars and water during the ride. 7 miles shouldnt be a problem.
    Are surreal bars what milemuncher uses when he’s doing his 100 milers with the 45kg rucksack.

    Either that, or those 'special' bars that you get from Amsterdam coffee shops...
  • I smashed it today!!!!
    You guys really heped me and i know what i was doing wrong. I was just getting on the bike and going balls out till i couldnt breathe and my heart rate was elevated. Today i cruised the same journey, any time i started breathing heavy i just backed off a bit and maintained a constant speed more or less. I rode up every hill and didnt get off the bike once!!!!
    Journey took me 46 mins according to Strava averaged 9.5mph
    I rode through my company gate with a smile on my face and felt like i could have turned around and rode straight home again. I also felt that at times i could have comfortably ridden quicker too.
    Really pleased with myself today!!!
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