Small steps to cycling fitness

This post is going to seem a bit odd to people who have been riding for a long time, and think nothing of hopping on their bike and heading out for a 25km ride ‘around the block’. The reality for new riders is that riding that ‘far’ is a big step and not one to be taken lightly.

I had a few health issues when I first started riding, and it took a mammoth amount of effort to get up the smallest of hills. I just could not envisage the day when not only would I navigate the same hills with minimal effort, but would do this without even noticing the incline!

The reality is that, for those people who have never ridden before, or have not ridden since they were young, getting up the confidence to get on a bike can be very confronting. However, as with most challenging things, getting started is the hardest part.

Start by riding small, manageable distances. If you live in a quiet street (traffic wise), then ride up and down your street, then when you are comfortable, extend your zone around the block. (Make sure you know your road rules though, and rigorously observe them). If you have an experienced rider who is prepared to ride slowly with you and show you the ropes, so much the better.

Even better still, if you can get access to a cycleway where there is no traffic at all, this will be an excellent place to build up your fitness levels. I was lucky in this regard, traffic is almost non-existent in my suburb, so it was ideal.

Once you can do the equivalent of a few laps of the block and arrive back feeling invigorated rather than exhausted, then you are ready to go further afield. But don’t make the mistake of trying to go too far too quickly. You will arrive back exhausted and the enjoyment of riding will be lost.

Having a breather half way up the hill – that slope in the distance still waiting to be conquered!

Nearly at the top – pushing the loaded Anthem up the last bit of that big hill in the Scottish Highlands

If you have a steep hill or two along your route and they give you sleepless nights, the solution is easy – get off and push your bike up the hard bits, then enjoy the ride down the other side! There is no rule that says if you have a bike, you have to ride it all the way!  I have pushed my loaded bike up many steep hills, when common sense dictated that walking was far more sensible than struggling to ride. It is also a good way to ‘appreciate the view’ or ‘take a photo’ – yes, I have used all these excuses! But now I don’t bother with excuses, if I want to walk, I just do!
Using this method, no hill will ever be a problem for you again and you can go back to having undisturbed beauty sleep!

But each time you get to a hill, try to get a little further before you dismount. Before long, all those hills that looked like such a challenge will gradually become less forbidding, and eventually, you will barely notice them.

I can remember the enormous feeling of achievement when I first cycled 26km. The best part was that this took us into our local shopping precinct, so a cup of coffee was always available at the half way mark. This soon became a regular and enjoyable summer weekend outing.


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