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
2. The Workout: Sprinting
Terrain: Slightly uphill or flat
Routine: Do an all-out sprint for 15 seconds. Ride for four minutes at a moderate speed and then repeat the sequence. Continue to sprint-ride until you've been out for one hour. As you improve, increase your sprints to 20 seconds and shorten your rest to three minutes.
Benefit: Repeating sprints engages muscle fibers from your abs to your shoulders and fatigues the large ones in your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. "They'll adapt as you stress them," Butts says, "and soon you'll be strong enough to hang with faster, more experienced cyclists."