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  1. #1
    Senior Member camhabib's Avatar
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    Beginners Fitness and Training Questions

    Used to cycle quite a bit, had an accident about 4 years back and haven't really been involved in any decent physical activity since. Picked up a bike last week and have started to go at it pretty hard, trying to get back into shape. I have a few questions tho, hoping someone can help me with.

    1) When cycling, what muscles should be doing the primary work, and which should be closest to maximum capacity? I find that my thighs are completely fine after extended rides, however my calves are rather worn. Is this just due to developed upper leg muscles but underdeveloped lower leg? Possible problem with position or gear?

    2) Is it better to do one medium length ride or several shorter rides that combine to an increased distance? I find that after around 10-15 miles, my legs (again the calves) become quite tired. Resting for 15-30 minutes allows me to continue on with my ride.

    3) I am rather light (5'10" and 125lbs) and would like to gain some weight. I would also like to add some kind of substance to my drinks to keep me better hydrated throughout my ride. What are some good protein supplements for home and additives (or drink itself) for on the go? I've also been using just the powerbars for in ride snacks. Are those sufficient for now?

    4) Are there any other exercises I should be performing, other then just getting out there and riding, to increase my level of fitness? My daily routine is a stretch in the morning, followed by a <10 mile ride, with slow start and stop. Daily life in the afternoon. Come home and do a quick stretch, ~20 mile ride, slow start and stop, and a longer stretch after.

    Any help you can provide is appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    1) depends on your riding position. Upright means you are using mostly legs. The more bent over you are the more the butt and back come into play.

    2) Do one long ride a week. Most weeks try to make it a little longer, usually about 10%. In between do as many rides as you feel like, but don't walk around hurting a lot. One thought is per week... a long ride, a hilly ride, a short to medium fast ride,
    and any short rides you feel like doing.

    3) Most skinny guys are skinny for a reason. You can try bodybuilding. And it will help, but your fate is to be skinny. Count your blessings.

    4) Cyclists should do a little exercise that is weight bearing. Jogging, hiking, weight lifting. Stimulates bone growth.
    Old Man Maine

  3. #3
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    Lift weights and put on a couple of pounds of muscle!

  4. #4
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Old Man Maine

  5. #5
    Senior Member camhabib's Avatar
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    Late, thanks a lot of the replies. I'll go take a look to see if the book store has that book, and if not just buy it off amazon. What should I be looking at for protein, or anything? I'm always afraid going into these vitamin shops, even as a biochem grad student, as I know how harmful some of these "ultra muscle builders" can be.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    You probably dont need a powerbar on a 10 or 20 mile ride, unless you don't eat enough real food before the ride. Real food would be healthier. Powerbars and their ilk are great sources of carbohydrates for use while riding but don't have the same nutrients, fiber, etc as real food.


    For hydration, water works well. If you are a salty sweater, you may need electrolytes for long rides (I need them if the ride is much more than 5 hours). I like to seprate my electrolytes and my calories sources so I can adjust each to suit the weather (heat requiring more electrolytes but not more calories).

    If your calves become tired, then they need some work. Try calf raises in the gym. You can also move your cleats back a bit. Don't move them too far, a few mm at a time.

    If you want to be a good cyclist, dont try to add weight, just strength. Upper body bulk will just slow you down on climbs.

  7. #7
    Respect Your Hill spindog's Avatar
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    Hello Cam,

    There are so many avenues that you can take for fitness gains. Be patient and stay consistent with your training as nothing will happen overnight.

    If you haven’t already, I think that one can really benefit from setting some specific goals (short and long term) which should both, be reasonable and attainable. You asked if it is better to do shorter rides or longer rides and also mentioned wanting to gain “some weight”.

    As far as what is better training for you, ask yourself where it is that you want to go with your cycling. Do you want to race, cycle centuries, brevets (distance series), perhaps branch out and do a triathlon (run, bike, and swim), or just general fitness …. And so on. A long term goal can be to pick your first event, if that is something you wish to do.

    Also take the time to assess how much time you can or are willing to commit to cycling, training, weightlifting, or any other activity each week. Having a good grasp on your goals and your schedule can help you decide how to approach your training regimen for maximum effectiveness. Do you live in an area that experiences the different seasons such as winter? If so, figure winter training into your training plans as that will be a great time to build strength and dial in your nutrition.

    Speaking of nutrition … be more specific than wanting to gain “some weight”. Is this weight to improve your strength, appearance, or both? Do you want to ride and look good (Lance Armstrong) or just ride good, who cares if you look emaciated (Tyler Hamilton), etc. Set a reasonable goal – I want to gain “x” amount of pounds by Christmastime … and of course, you can always adjust and readjust goals along the way.

    Have you considered getting a trainer or a coach that can work with you on the total package? Perhaps join a local club or team through a bike shop or other network ~ make new friends, training partners, find quality resources (coaches, sports nutritionist) to help you jumpstart your new fitness program.

    And finally, welcome back to cycling … make sure that you train within any limitations you might have if there are any lingering issues from your injury.

    Just remember that what works for one person, does not work for the next. Talk to alot of people, do alot of research, and really start to understand your body and how it reacts to your training, your eating, and your sleep and stress levels.

  8. #8
    Fast for a Fred JayhawKen's Avatar
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    Regarding the tired calves, do some searches on "ankling" and make sure your pedaling stroke is not partly or mostly the cause.

  9. #9
    Senior Member camhabib's Avatar
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    Spindog, I have had the same goal for the past 3 or 4 years - to get to 140lbs. This is not for aesthetic purposes, but more for health reasons, as for my height (5'10") 125lbs is just not an acceptable weight. I have tried several things (eating so much on a daily basis I felt like I was going to puke, seeing a nutritionist, etc) all to no avail. I would ultimately like to be able to compete, for pleasure purposes, in road races. I think I lack a lot of the stamina however, and need to work on that. I have been trying to bike for as long as I can without a rest, but after a while I just die out. It's funny tho, as I can give it an hour off, and jump right back on and ride like I hadn't been on the bike all day. I have thought about a trainer of some kind, but motivation and planning isn't my issue, it's more of just a results issue.

    JayhawKen, I looked up that term and did a little reading. If I understand it correctly, it would be having toe up at the top of your stroke and toe down at the bottom. I have been trying to keep my heel down the entire stroke and pulling instead of pushing. My bike was set up by an excellent fitter, and my foot is flat at the bottom of my stroke, not toe down. I think I may just have a serious flaw in the manor in which I'm performing my stroke.

  10. #10
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    If you want to race, just do it. You don't need to be a certain weight.

    Ankling is an old theory on how to pedal. I wouldn't spend much energy trying to learn how to do it. You do need to make sure that you are not pushing down on the upstroke, opposing the leg that's pushing down. Trying to keep your heels dropped all the time might be what's causing your calf problems.

    If you are riding 30 miles a day every day you may just be overreaching. Try having a rest day each week. And dont do the same kind of ride every day. You need to work on your speed and on endurance. Some rides should be short intervals, others long endurance rides at a moderate pace.

    There are plenty of books on how to train for racing. Friel's training bible is one of the more popular ones.

    Also look for a local race-oriented group ride.

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