Bicycling isn't just a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but it's also an excellent form of exercise. Harvard Medical School reports that the average 155-pound woman burns almost 600 calories in just an hour of moderate, 12-miles-per-hour biking. If you're competitive, or if you just want to add the excitement of a new challenge to your biking routine, consider joining one of the hundreds of bike races that take place across the country. While training and preparation varies according to the type of race and the distance involved, several general preparation strategies can help you squeeze the highest performance out of your body.
Weight train with resistance-based exercises that target your biking muscles, such as squats and and leg presses for your calves, thighs and glutes. While specific workout schedules vary depending on your strengths and weaknesses, Harvard Cycling recommends one or two strength-training days every week in the three months leading up to your racing season.
Cycle one long ride per week, starting a minimum of three months before your racing season. Focus on riding the distance that will be required in the official race you plan to do. If you can't go quite as far as the race requires, go as long as you can and try adding to the distance every week as you gradually build your endurance.
Incorporate a couple interval rides into your weekly training, which now brings you to a total of three or four total workout days — one or two strength training days, one long ride and two interval rides — in the week. Interval rides, which help to quickly increase your speed and endurance, involve riding as hard as you can for three minutes. Rest for 90 seconds, then repeating it for a total of four quick 90-second rides in a set.
Eat a small meal — no larger than 1,000 calories — approximately four hours before your bike race. Focus on relatively low-fiber sources of carbohydrates and protein, such as fruit and yogurt or white bread and peanut butter. This primes your body's fuel levels to give you a boost of energy in your race without the indigestion and discomfort sometimes caused by heavier foods.
Arrive at the race course early enough before the race to give you time to survey the racing route, either on your bike or in a car. While you could do this on paper using a map, seeing the route in person gives you a better idea of what to expect so you don't experience surprises on the actual race.
Warm up right before the race's start time by cycling slowly for 20 or 30 minutes. This rushes oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and helps prepare you for physical activity and intense exercise.
- Harvard Medical School: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes
- Bicycling Magazine: Race-ready in Six Hours a Week
- Bicycling Magazine: Bicycling's 50 Golden Rules
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Eating Before & between Athletic Events
- BikeRadar: Race Day Preparation
- Coach Hughes: Recovery for Endurance Cyclists
- After your race, you might experience muscle inflammation and soreness. Wrap a bag of ice or frozen vegetables in a towel and apply it to your sore muscles for 20 minutes.
- While some cyclists like to bring heart rate monitors and similar gadgets with them to a race, don't. Such tools may seem helpful but will only mentally distract you from directing all of your energy and focus to the race at hand.
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.