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Back in the Saddle – Ease into It

By Jiri Kaloc

It’s so easy to overdo it at the beginning of the season and take all the fun out of cycling or end up with an injury. We know that we should start slow and gradually build but the excitement of a sunny afternoon early in a new season is hard to curb. Here are a few tips to help you prevent overdoing it in the new season.

Focus on having fun first

It’s natural to want to jump back where you left off and ride the same routes at the same watts, and hit the same times as at the end of last season. Unfortunately, doing this most often leads you to burn out or get injured before you manage to get in shape. If you want to get back in decent cycling shape, consistency is most important. That’s why focusing on having fun the first few weeks helps. Don’t look at your Garmin or Strava stats for the first few rides. Just soak in the experience and ride by how you feel. There will be time for getting more structure and beating some personal best later.

First of all, have fun! © Profimedia

Watch out for signs of injury

It’s important to remember that you’re not starting from scratch. Studies suggest that muscles retain some of the adaptations to training for quite a long time after you stop training. You might be able to push hard quite soon compared to someone who is a cycling beginner. Unfortunately, this also means that old injuries or weak spots from last season might start coming back. Pay close attention to early signs and plan more rest days if you feel like something isn’t quite right. Enough rest is essential for your body to properly adapt to regular cycling again.

Start with short rides, add intensity later

While having fun at the start of a new season is important, it’s good to have a general idea of how much to ride and how quickly to ramp up your training. Here are a few rules of thumb.

  • Start with short 20-minute easy rides 2-3 times a week. Doing 6 shorter rides in 2 weeks helps your body adapt faster than doing 1 really long ride per week.
  • After 1-2 weeks, start adding longer rides and don’t shy away from manageable hills.
  • After several weeks of moderate training, start adding small doses of high-intensity intervals. These will build your fitness faster, and seeing some impressive numbers is always good for morale.

Enjoy the sense of progression

Don’t look too much at how fast or how far your friends and cycling buddies are going at first. It can discourage you or make you push harder than your body can handle. Instead, focus your attention on your own progress. The start of a new season is when you can see quick improvements in fitness. Let the progression be your motivation and the reason to stay consistent.

Set goals

Once you get back into your cycling rhythm, don’t try to catch up on the missed training in the off-season. Start from where you are and progress steadily from there. It helps to define goals to have a clear focus. A very common goal is to complete a race but it can also be your total distance in a year or losing weight or saving a bit of money on commuting. Think about what kind of training frequency and intensity is required to get you there and how you could fit it into your schedule. That will help you see what kind of training you should actually be doing.

Start today

This is the most important thing about easing back into cycling. Don’t put it off, don’t do too much planning and strategizing. The sooner you start, the quicker you’ll be in shape and riding consistently. There’s no time like the present!

Next up in Back in the Saddle series