Getting started as a cyclist can be great fun, and addictive too. The more you do and the more you see improvements in your fitness, the more you’ll want to do. This is great news, you’ll reap the rewards in your health and fitness and start getting faster (and having more fun) on the bike.
It’s a steep learning curve, too, though. When I started cycling I made lots (and lots) of mistakes, and now as a coach I see others making similar errors when getting started in sport. Follow my top 7 tips for getting started in cycling and you’ll be cycling all summer long.
1. Don’t do too much, too soon
Although cycling isn’t a weight bearing activity like running, you can still get injured. Doing too much too soon will put strain on your ligaments, tendons and muscles as well as the skin on your undercarriage and even hands and feet.
A tendon injury can be very frustrating and take quite a while to heal. These often occur around the knee in beginner and experienced cyclists alike. If you start feeling a niggling pain, don’t ignore it! Take some time off riding until it clears up and seek the advice of a professional on how to prevent it in future. Building up the amount of time you spend riding each week slowly, no more than a 10-15% increase in duration per week, should help reduce the risk of these kind of injuries.
2. Make sure your bike is set up correctly
You certainly don’t need the latest speed machine to get started in cycling but at the very least you should make sure your bike fits you correctly. Your local bike shop can help you here and if you are dusting off a bike you’ve had for a while they can also check that it is road worthy. The latter will make sure you’re safe, that your brakes are working and that your tyres are the right pressure which will make cycling much easier.
3. Do some cross training
If you’re starting cycling doing a little bit of cross training, that is some kind of activity other than cycling, can really help your general fitness and how well you ride the bike along with helping prevent injury. This can be walking, swimming or gentle weight lifting at the gym.
4. Recovery is as important as training
It’s a bit of a cliché amongst athletes but recovery is the most important part of training. Time off the bike is when your body heals from the stress of exercise and gets stronger.
Crucial to recovery are sleep and nutrition. You’ll need more sleep if you’re doing lots of exercise as your body produces key hormones for muscle recovery during sleep. Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and protein, too. A key product for me is BetterYou Magnesium Oil Body Spray. Magnesium is lost through sweat and is key for muscle function, plus it helps you sleep – bonus! I also use BetterYou Boost B12 Oral Spray to help meet the nutritional needs of hard training.
5. Track your training
While there are plenty of great apps and websites to track training it can, and has been for many years, simply be done in a notebook or paper diary, nothing fancy needed. It will really help you keep track of the progress you’re making and make sure you’re not doing too much.
6. Wear a helmet
I learnt the hard way that helmets are very important when cycling! Don’t skimp on the skull protection, and if your helmet is covered in moth balls and cobwebs, consider investing in a new one as they don’t last forever. Sleek, light and cool helmets are now very affordable and if bought from a bike shop will certainly have the right safety standards to keep your head as safe as can be in case of accident.
7. Have fun!
This is the most important aspect of riding a bike. The fitter you get, the more fun you can have as cycling becomes easier and easier. You’ll soon be flying up your local hills and able to spend longer in the saddle with less discomfort.
I hope these top tips help your cycling summer - get in touch on Twitter @alitriathlon if you have any questions!