In just two weeks of frequent riding, you can build enough of a base to challenge yourself with full-body, cardio-blasting workouts that will rival the most grueling exercise programs. For the best results, mix rides at high RPMs, which increase your heart's efficiency, with those at lower RPMs with high resistance, to build muscle. Together they'll benefit your body more than simply riding the same old route at the same pace. That's because intensity matters more than duration. According to a 2011 study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation that followed more than 5,000 people for an average of 18 years, men who regularly cycled at a high intensity lived 5.3 years longer than those who rode at a low intensity. "Cycling is the most metabolically efficient exercise, and it's easier on your body than running because it's non-weight-bearing," says exercise physiologist Chad Butts, a New York City-based coach and Category 1 racer who designed the three workouts in these pages to help develop novices. Get out there and do each of these rides once a week.
The Workouts: Get Fitter, Faster
1. The Workout: Climbing
Terrain: A ¾-to-one-mile-long hill with a 6 to 8 percent grade
Routine: Go to the bottom of the hill. Climb for four minutes at a steady pace. Mark the point that you reach; that's now the finish line. Rest for four minutes and repeat six more times. Each time try to reach your finish line—or at least 90 percent of the way there. Increase your rest to six minutes if four isn't enough, but stop the workout if you can no longer get to 90 percent of your goal.
Benefit: This four-minute cardio blast is one of the best ways to improve your cardiovascular fitness. It's also great resistance training, because propelling your body weight up an incline against the force of gravity stresses and strengthens lower-body muscles.