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How long does it take to get in shape each cycling season?

Old 06-02-12, 06:04 PM
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How long does it take to get in shape each cycling season?

Last summer I started biking after several sedentary years. I quickly worked up to 20-30 miles but it took me a long time to get used to hills. In the fall I got a road bike and worked up to about 150-175 miles a week including some hills. Sometimes I felt really strong out there, other days it really wiped me out, but on the whole I felt that I was in pretty good shape.

Over the winter I did an hour on the trainer about 4 days a week. Hi cadence but no intervals. In March I started riding again--first off and on because of the weather--but for the last couple of months I've been riding or running about 4 days a week. My rides have been between 20-40 miles each and I've slowly worked up to five mile runs. I feel pretty good running but for some reason I am just dead on the bike. I feel super tired, my form is bad because of this fatigue, and overall I am not where I guessed I'd be after all of this biking and running.

My question... How long does it take to get back to a similar level of fitness from where you left of the previous season?
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Old 06-02-12, 09:03 PM
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It sounds to me like you built up to a certain point by last ... October? Then dropped to 4 hours a week for ... 6 months? And now you've attempted to pick up where you left off.

It doesn't work like that. You can't just pick up where you left off. It will probably take a couple months to build back up again. You may have to ease up for a week or two to let your body recover, and then start gradually building up again.

Next winter, try cycling outside once a week (in addition to your 4 hours a week on the trainer). If you got out for a good 20-40 mile ride once a week through the winter, you'll be in better shape come spring. You might also join a spinning class once or twice a week ... an intermediate or advanced one that will give you a good workout. That will help keep you in shape.

And do other sports like skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, running, etc. through the winter to use other muscles and do something different.


I try to maintain my fitness year round, as much as possible. I do ease up a bit for a couple months in early winter in order to rest and do other things. But once I started cycling outside year round (and also when I could do spinning classes), my springtime fitness level improved dramatically.

In the Randonneuring world, the first randonnees of the season happen very early in the spring (i.e. April in Manitoba). If I wanted to be able to do a comfortable 200K, I had to have a good fitness level early in the season.
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Old 06-03-12, 08:51 AM
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Thanks, Machka. Last year's rides were 35-60 miles. This year I started off at 20-30. My runs began at 1 mile and I worked up to 5 over several weeks. So I've definitely eased into it. Maybe I haven't been on the bike enough 2-3 days a week vs. 4-5 last year.
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Old 06-03-12, 11:53 AM
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I just commute all winter. I hate the rain but if those ice-head commuters in MN can do it, I'm too embarrassed not to. Minimum 18 miles/day.
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Old 06-03-12, 10:02 PM
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Same here i just ride through the winter but the mileage is less so it still takes time to get the mileage back up.
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Old 06-04-12, 03:56 AM
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I am in my 10th year back riding, and I find each year it gets easier to get back up to last years level. I do other things in the winter but still try to get out a few times a month all winter. But I too notice a drop off in the spring, and with this year being so mild and spring coming on so early, I went to hard too fast and had knee pain for a couple weeks where i had to back off. From what I have read, only increase mileage or time by 105 each week after a winter latoff. That means it will take a while to be back from where you were last fall. And for me, as I said, each year I notice improvement over the last year.
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Old 06-04-12, 05:11 AM
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Our winter is too severe to ride but I open every season in early April and close it on October. In March I go for the trainer 2-4 hours a week. My first trip in April is usually 80 km (50 miles). Then I recover my normal fitness through 700 km (440 miles). But The best fitness is reached after 1000 km (625 miles) of season run. I takes only 1 month. You can recover quicker every year. And all depends of workout you can afford.
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Old 06-04-12, 04:30 PM
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I ride year round, my mileage drops off in the winter, but I substitute some additional walking for exercise. FWIW I aim for so many hours of exercise rather than the miles. I always have a couple of days of "break in" on a long tour but by the 3-4 day I am back on my form, or as back on it as I am going to get.

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Old 06-04-12, 09:33 PM
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I just wipe the sleep out of my eyes and pack my panniers......30 minutes if I take my time......I'm touring,there is no break in period.......I'm old,everything hurts,just the way it is......get on bike and go......by the time I plan and train I could be dead......get on bike,plan and train on the go......get lost.....see new things and meet strange people.....Look at sunrise,GO THAT WAY.....Go have fun and howl at moon......follow empty beer cans back to civilization.....When cans turn from steel to aluminum,were getting within a days ride.....

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Old 06-04-12, 09:56 PM
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Happened to me last fall, horrible tendonitis in my left elbow meant I couldn't ride or golf. I could walk but three months off left me slow by the new years. Took 5 months to get back and 1000 miles around winter and spring weather in the Pacific Northwest. Summer is looking good!
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Old 06-05-12, 08:00 AM
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I ride year round also,mileage is probably more in the winter fore me around 200 - 250mi a week.
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Old 06-05-12, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mm718
Last summer I started biking after several sedentary years. I quickly worked up to 20-30 miles but it took me a long time to get used to hills. In the fall I got a road bike and worked up to about 150-175 miles a week including some hills. Sometimes I felt really strong out there, other days it really wiped me out, but on the whole I felt that I was in pretty good shape.

Over the winter I did an hour on the trainer about 4 days a week. Hi cadence but no intervals. In March I started riding again--first off and on because of the weather--but for the last couple of months I've been riding or running about 4 days a week. My rides have been between 20-40 miles each and I've slowly worked up to five mile runs. I feel pretty good running but for some reason I am just dead on the bike. I feel super tired, my form is bad because of this fatigue, and overall I am not where I guessed I'd be after all of this biking and running.

My question... How long does it take to get back to a similar level of fitness from where you left of the previous season?
This doesn't sound quite right to me. You shouldn't be super tired and feeling fatigued all the time. When you feel tired, that does not mean that you need to work out more or harder. Quite the opposite, you need more rest. It is said the the most frequent mistake cyclists make in training is both not riding easy enough and not riding hard enough. It could be that you are just pushing too hard all the time.

Take three days completely off. Try riding with a heart rate monitor (HRM), which will help you keep the effort down. You can also use a HRM to monitor your fitness and prevent overtraining. You can easily assess your training state by taking your morning resting and standing-resting HRs. Graph them in a SS or use an computer or online training log. Start now.
How to check for overtraining:
https://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/0410.htm
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Old 06-05-12, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by mm718
Last summer I started biking after several sedentary years. I quickly worked up to 20-30 miles but it took me a long time to get used to hills. In the fall I got a road bike and worked up to about 150-175 miles a week including some hills. Sometimes I felt really strong out there, other days it really wiped me out, but on the whole I felt that I was in pretty good shape.

Over the winter I did an hour on the trainer about 4 days a week. Hi cadence but no intervals. In March I started riding again--first off and on because of the weather--but for the last couple of months I've been riding or running about 4 days a week. My rides have been between 20-40 miles each and I've slowly worked up to five mile runs. I feel pretty good running but for some reason I am just dead on the bike. I feel super tired, my form is bad because of this fatigue, and overall I am not where I guessed I'd be after all of this biking and running.

My question... How long does it take to get back to a similar level of fitness from where you left of the previous season?
I suspect you may be suffering from overtraining syndrome and this could be a mental issue similar to a burn out rather than physical and happens a lot on athletes who train too aggressively, too fast and too soon. Some people quit the sport all together and I've seen the best top athletes be it runners and cyclists who completely burnt out and when they come back, they can't seem to overcome the psychological barrier that got them in those situation. I agree with Carbonfiberboy that your numbers don't make much sense. My advise to you is to back off your training and give yourself a couple days rest. Continue running as it seems like it's doing you some good, but don't go overboard and try to rack up mileage to compensate the lack of cycling. You see that while the body can take the abuse, the mind takes time to catch up. I used to be in your position running a number of ultramarathons and the load just burned me out. Took me a few years to get back into running again with a series of fun slow short runs.
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Old 06-05-12, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by pacificcyclist
I suspect you may be suffering from overtraining syndrome and this could be a mental issue similar to a burn out rather than physical and happens a lot on athletes who train too aggressively, too fast and too soon. Some people quit the sport all together and I've seen the best top athletes be it runners and cyclists who completely burnt out and when they come back, they can't seem to overcome the psychological barrier that got them in those situation. I agree with Carbonfiberboy that your numbers don't make much sense. My advise to you is to back off your training and give yourself a couple days rest. Continue running as it seems like it's doing you some good, but don't go overboard and try to rack up mileage to compensate the lack of cycling. You see that while the body can take the abuse, the mind takes time to catch up. I used to be in your position running a number of ultramarathons and the load just burned me out. Took me a few years to get back into running again with a series of fun slow short runs.
It's not really the mind, it's the glands that get exhausted. Our brains are just crummy computers swimming in a sea of hormones, which actually make most of our decisions for us. When our hormones are out of whack, we sense it as a mental problem. Introspection is no help at all.
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Old 06-05-12, 11:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
It's not really the mind, it's the glands that get exhausted. Our brains are just crummy computers swimming in a sea of hormones, which actually make most of our decisions for us. When our hormones are out of whack, we sense it as a mental problem. Introspection is no help at all.
Old thinking and training techniques emphasizes more on physical development rather than mental. Originally, we are conceived on this earth as mind and body are one. You'll probably hear a lot of new mantra about mind and body are unified or mind and body connection. What that means is that during any athlete development, the mind and body are developed together in tandem more so like martial arts training now. Research have shown that the mind is not just crummy computers swimming in a sea of hormones. Base training in which an athlete develops a base for cardiovascular development as well as the capillaries on a gradual easy base has equally to do with development a strong physical base as well as a strong mental discipline for further strength and interval training. Unfortunately, what happens all the time and I see this happen as I coach is that, people start to soon and too fast. Typically, they have a mission and it usually goes like I want to do an Ironman, a half century or a marathon by next year and this is coming from a guy/gal who has been sedentary all his or her life. Some succeed because they already have a strong mind (Type A personality?) to begin with and able to withstand the shock of intense training and actually enjoys it. Every athlete faces this during the mid-point of their training. The running group I co-coached with a few other coaches this year had 80 runners for a 6 miles run (10k race) and of all that even with the most conservative training program with walk and run routine placed in, the attrition rate was pretty high at more than 60%. It really saddens me to see this. The attrition rate is much less with experienced athletes. It's always been like that, especially for new athletes and most of the reasons is due to mental fatigue as the work load becomes more difficult. We even employed a sports shrink and he comes out during the reflex point to motivate them not to give up. The best the OP can do is determine what is his goal cycling wise this year and make it easily attainable. When the goal is modest, you invite the mind to actually enjoy the activity rather than reject.

Last edited by pacificcyclist; 06-05-12 at 11:40 PM.
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