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
3. The Workout: Endurance
Terrain: Flat and/or rolling hills; avoid
Routine: Wearing a heart-rate monitor, ride at 85 to 95 percent of your threshold with a fast cadence for 25 minutes. (To find your threshold, determine your average HR during the last 20 minutes of a challenging 30-minute ride.) Ride at a casual pace for five minutes, to recover, and then do another 25-minute session in the same zone. As you improve, try to stay above 90 percent.
Benefit: A challenging tempo workout like this one trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently by increasing your lactate threshold, which will pay dividends on longer-distance rides by allowing you to sustain faster speeds. "Give it a spirited effort—one just short of your time-trial pace," Butts says."And always be pushing and putting pressure on your gears. If it feels too hard, tough: Push through it."