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
Circuit Training for Cyclists
In addition to riding, all you need is 15 minutes of resistance work to get a full-body workout. Complete three circuits of these five body-weight exercises twice a week on the days you're not cycling. Take one to two minutes of rest between circuits but none between exercises. Add stretching and foam rolling to improve your range of motion.
Push-up: Keep your back and neck straight and lower your torso until it touches the floor. Complete 10 reps.
Single-Leg Squat: Stand with your arms extended in front of you and parallel with the ground. Lift your straightened right leg about six inches off the ground and keep your back straight as you lower into a single-leg squat. Descend until your knee bends to a 90-degree angle and then return to the starting position; complete 10 reps with each leg.
Step-up: Step onto a 12-inch-high surface with your right foot. Raise your body until your right leg nearly straightens, then lower and repeat; complete 10 reps with each leg.
Plank: Lower into a plank position, balancing on your forearms and your toes, and count to 60 seconds; maintain a straight back and an engaged core throughout the exercise.