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Beginning Competitive Cycling- Keys To The Kingdom

Updated on December 9, 2009

Getting into shape-the very beginning!

The absolute best thing to do starting out is to take an audit of your physical condition. You should have a physical exam to determine if there are any hidden health issues as you increase the intensity of exercise. This is particularly true if you’re over forty or have a history of medical problems, especially if there is a history of heart problems in the family tree.

     Next in the fitness audit is to determine your endurance quotient or Anaerobic Threshold (AT). The AT is the body’s breaking point. This is when you “run out of gas”. The less fit you are, the lower your AT is. You will improve by gradually increasing your AT until you go further and faster until you “hit the wall”.

     Your AT is related to your pulse rate. Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum recommended pulse rate during exercise.

Determining Your Pulse

The pulse can be calculated quickly:

1)      Place your index and middle finger over your heart, on your wrist artery, or on your neck artery.

2)      Count the number of beats during a ten second period using a stopwatch or second hand on a watch or clock.

3)      Multiply this number of beats by 6. This gives you your current pulse rate.

Minimum And Maximum

The minimum and maximum thresholds to safely build endurance while not exceeding your AT is between 65% and 85% of your maximum heart-rate (AT).




                 Minimum Threshold  Minimum Threshold

Age Group  (65% of Maximum)   (85% of Maximum)

   16-20              133                        170

   21-25              129                        166

   26-30              126                        162

   31-35              123                        157

   36-40              120                        153

   41-45              116                        149

   46-50              113                        145

   51-55              110                        140

   56-60              107                        136

   61-65              103                        132

   66-70              100                        128

   71-75                97                        123

Oxygen Debt

Listen to your body. It will tell you if you’re “going too hard”. It’s fine to be in moderate pain and breathing deeply, huffing and puffing. Back off if you grow weak or your breathing becomes labored or painful. Feeling rubber-legged and gasping for air is a result of pushing too hard. This means that you’ve crossed your Anaerobic Threshold. You are going from aerobic to anaerobic. You are no longer processing oxygen sufficiently to allow the muscles to function efficiently. You are creating an oxygen debt. Muscles, lungs, heart, and finally the brain will not work very long in an anaerobic state. This is when the body’s ability to process sufficient oxygen is overcome by the production of lactic acid by the straining muscles.

     The body is say you should “back off” a bit. The fitter you are the quicker you will be able to recover and repay this oxygen debt.

For the former sedentary person, 5 to 10 miles every other day at a pace to keep the pulse rate at least at 65% of maximum, for the duration of the ride, will bring noticeable improvement within a month.

For the athletic person, runner say, it would be very easy to start out at 10 miles or more, immediately.

As you get into a cycling exercise program, muscle tissue builds up and fat tissue burns off. There may be a “redistribution” of weight instead of a weight loss, immediately. When you can consistently handle hard 2 hour rides, weight will really start to come off.

Eat fuel, not fat. See Food For Fueling!

Give it time. Losing weight through regular, strenuous exercise, with good nutrition may take longer than a crash diet but the end results will be better.

     Taking the work-outs more seriously does not mean quitting your job or giving up your family. A respectable fitness can be attained through one to two hours of cycling per day.

     I can stay in good condition with 32 minutes of workout on most days with concentration on diet. A day or two per week I can ride with groups or push the intensity for harder workout days. It does little good to go out and push hard gears all the time. Pushing hard constantly will build bad form and slow your recovery to train another day.

Tempo And Intervals

     Focus on 90 crank revolutions per minute. This is the best exercise to practice. This is what your legs need to be doing, even in race conditions.

For basic conditioning training, you could, alternate your days with “tempo riding” and intervals.

     A 20 mile tempo ride could be two miles of warm-up focusing on 90 rpm, 17 miles at your threshold pace, and a mile cool-down at 90 rpm.

     A good one hour work-out with interval training could be 15 minute warm-up with low gears at 90 rpm. Thirty minutes of intervals could include two minutes of hard work-out at 75% to 80% maximum pulse rate, six minutes rest with a low gear and 90 rpm, and repeat the sequence four times. Lastly, cool down with a low gear at 90 rpm.

     It’s best to do the intervals on flat ground but the same can be achieved by attacking small hills of a half mile or three quarters of a mile (or so) every six or seven minutes during the interval portion of the work-out.

     These are work-outs for the two to three month “break-in” period. This will be a great foundation to “spring” into other specific cycling challenges.


1)      Vary tempo days with interval days. Steady speed work-outs alternating with days of interval sessions are the best for building stamina.

2)      Always train at between 65% and 80%  of maximum pulse rate. Lower than this is not real exercise; higher can be dangerous.

3)      Pedal at a cadence between 85 and 90 rpm. This has been proven to be the most efficient rate.

4)      Maintain a nutritious diet. A high performance car needs high octane fuel.

5)      Take longer rides on week-ends. Group rides will help you chart your progress.

A Typical Week

     Monday- Take a day off. This could be the day.

     Tuesday- One hour tempo ride

     Wednesday- One hour long intervals

     Thursday- One hour tempo ride

     Friday- One hour long intervals

     Saturday- Two hour group ride

     Sunday- Two to three hour group ride

Food For Thought

These can surely be suggestions as your work-week can vary as well as your age.

My week, at 60 years of age with about 40 years of cycling behind me, can be just a matter of maintenance during the week with the harder work-outs on the week-ends. This can be in winter or summer. Quite often I’m trying to recover during the week after going hard on the week-end.

My main thoughts go into riding 32 minutes every day and maintaining a great diet with supplements because we’re doing or wanting to do some extraordinary things with food that has been compromised.

You'll need Food For Fueling!


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    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      10 years ago

      Yo brother nomoretrucks! I'm a has-been that never was. You are a veteran of the road! You are self-sufficient. The woes of the tourist can be far more challenging than what I usually do. I've been caught in a tornado, etc. I know you've toured more and have had some serious adventures! God bless you brother!

    • nomoretrucks profile image


      10 years ago from scotland

      MD- you know what! i will do it for the the reasons i like most about it, because it makes me feel good. I dont really care about many rules- i never have. You had a lot of smash ups a while back but returning from that sort of pain (to embrace more pain)i would say you are not a bloke one should bet against!

      I got smashed up in my twenties doing semi pro motocross before began running out of bones to break- all in the persuit of a trophy that may be worth five quid and the adreneline of competition. That pic of you on mT Mitchel shows a fierce competitive spirit- not many can aspire to in this life and a love for poetry and music/ art and life to boot!. One well rounded character! I have recently found out two of my Uncles were in the Birkenhead wheelers and at least one of them took part in the Milk race(old uk tour) using Claude Butler bikes- kind of in the blood i guess.(i have very vague memories of them from them with bikes when i was about 4yrs old)

      Thanks for giving me an deep and interesting reply MD, im just going to ride from now on and listen to my body whilst loving the experience around me.I Appreciate your replies. Many thanks for your valuable time U.S.A. wheeler/bikey.

    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      10 years ago

      Yo Bro! Son, I was in an accident on the Assault on Mount Mitchell in 1989 (I think, half-himers). In that accident I lost a bike, clothes, helmet, Avocet speedometer/altimeter, and heart-rate monitor. I never keep up with my "training heart-rate" now. I should get an evaluation or do one on myself for the heck of it. As it is now - I have no idea. I know in my heart and head that I might blow my "pace" altogether if I go above "my threshold". It doesn't matter to me if I lose the pack from hitting the wall. If I do not try to keep up - all is lost anyway.

      My racing today is for "club rides" and friendly get-togethers.

      The reason is - races are put on for "ease" and spectators. It's easy to put on a criterium. Crits are stupid. I cannot understand being a race-car spectator at all. It does seem that stock car race fans want to see the crashes. They could save a lot of money by going to see bicycle criteriums. I hate them. I dn't have the money to replace bikes and parts. I'm no longer in the bike bus.

      I don't want to crash. I've broken both clavicles, most ribs, nose a couple times, hand, fingers, etc. I've planted my face into asphalt. Screw a crit! It's stupid. But that's what racing is in America. Even road-races resemble crits.

      My concern at this ripe old age of 62 is keeping my chainwheel RPMs up!

      Training is a dirty word. I hate the word really. Of course I have to ride my rollers on off days when weather is bad. I have to ride recovery rides.

      I have one day a week when I can go out on the bike and show my butt. I actually try to show my butt on two days in a week.

      But my life is like the "pros" really. I use all week to recover from one or two rides.

      People will often say, "My pulse was _____". The number is always high as heck.

      I remember using the heart rate monitor and mine never got to those levels. Is it cool to say the heart was way up there?

      If my heart rate was around 170 or so -I have limited time before I crash (figuratively speaking).

      Today I try to focus on breathing and, especially, exhaling when the poop hits the fan so to speak.

      I breathe, I try to keep up. If I sense it's too much I will back off a tad - maybe. It depends on the situation.

      I still race a bit. But if it's really a race- I don't care much for second or tenth or... It's all or nothing - sometimes.

      But- I'm 62 (61 and a half). Our stupid racing is mixed with other age groups. I have a beard and cannot be missed. I'm marked and the crowd will hide my bare faced opponents. Bike racing in America is stupid for my age group. I hope this helps. God bless you brother! I have to get ready to ride now! Yeehaw!

    • nomoretrucks profile image


      10 years ago from scotland

      Hiya Md. great hub- Ive been trying to get tech and find out a little more for pure endurance. Acording to your age/ beats chart and pulse calc i am 77 at rest and AT 173 max and tried a machine with a monitor to see what my heart gets up to. I did about 50+ hill climbing runs at average of 180 bpm and ride my bike outdoors at a pace which i always feel not- quite out of breath, just on the edge of panting. So long i i eat good(didnt up until now)- i feel like i can go all day like this. Some folk on cycling forums and such like say i am doing dangerous stuff training at 170 + for my age . It dont feel dangerous, it feels good. I am inclined to ignore what they say cause they are not on my bike! and dont feel as good as i feel when riding.They are competeing guys.

      You are a competitive guy but an older guy who would wup their arses, but i would guess your AT is way higher than blokes your age, would i be right in thinking its how you feel at a particular pace rather than hard n fast rules MD, i would be interested to know?

    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      11 years ago

      Thank you.

    • china ccycle profile image

      china ccycle 

      11 years ago from beijing

      1, healthy breathing theory

      To breathe this inside knowledge can be very large, I really going to discuss, research is not so easy, different sports have different breathing characteristics. And some good breathing method also need to develop the. (I long ago engaged in respiratory Jiuji worse, and now special focus in this area recovery) Why should we pay attention to breathing it? Man and nature, the combination of points, Aura is here! Qigong something I do not know, but people are not gas everything is not talk. The same two, eating the same meal, why a 10-km run on the tired Buxing Le, a run hundreds continues. The reason is that out here, high and low efficiency of energy conversion and breathing are inseparable!

      Simply to say that only sufficient oxygen supply in order to ensure the most thorough oxidation of the material to release energy! Muscle Dodo energy stored in ATP derived from muscle substance, but the amount of ATP is quite small, only enough to provide 8 second about consumption, when used up, the blood sugar will be converted to ATP for the muscle to re-use, but which arises a question as to whether it has sufficient oxygen, oxygen is not enough, a lot of sugar will produce a considerable less ATP (there are other ways into ATP). All, a reasonable way to bring a large number of breathing oxygen is particularly important for us to ride hoisting.

      In addition, what is the call into the alveoli are stimulated. Air pollution, dust, bacteria, and so will damage the lungs. A runny nose is a typical symptoms of respiratory tract infections. You ride the wind, cold air Mashimo respiratory tract, lung cavity, some reflection of the respiratory tract. Could be considered the nose to help breathing. Not Xuependakou, Zhang small port on the list. Nose hair, nasal cavity on the role of the air filter can also be warming the air. This will not be to stimulate the respiratory tract.

      Second, breathing experience of riding

      With regard to cycling as important as breathing. Ago, I like a fast ride up, hurry it is easy, after a certain distance from abdominal pain, then the conclusion is that breathing caused by some of the outside air into the mix with the stomach Suo Zhi. So I am particularly concerned for some time to breathe with the belly instead of the chest, the result is like a lot.

      When riding with the mouth breathing was, especially climbing, you do not think so his mouth was not OK. But do not let everyone eat breakfast Zhiqiu immediately after the big mouth breathing cold air, only to tell my friends riding on the road if the flat, nasal breathing normally meet, then do not have big mouth breathing. Also, I am referring to Ping Road, mouth breathing, in the mouth and nose down to avoid the limelight, automatic shrink carried out under the premise of the abdomen. For the uphill, you need big mouth and oxygen, as much as possible the mouth and nose using the term (not the same as waste), if it is cooler days, when, it is recommended to let the body warm up and then go out to look at. Mouth mouth naturally opened on the line, and tongue may be an appropriate roll-help heating gas.

      Respiratory Tips: No matter what type of situation (even if you are chanting), is very sensitive to irregular breathing.

      welcome my blog:

    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      11 years ago

      Hi Paul. I'd say you're not far off from being in the great shape you were. at 60 I, and you, have some "base". I focus on about 32 minutes a day and then try to mix it up a bit on Wednesday and Saturday. Of course this time of year we ride outside when we can. I will double up days quite often for the weekends. I like going hard on Saturday and a long slow ride on Sunday.

      Please let me know when you get a group ride together on a warm day. I'll come ride with you.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thanks for such a well written article on training. Just what I needed to get me back in the saddle after a long layoff. Miss riding with you.

    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      11 years ago

      Thank you for visiting here prettydarkhorse! It amazes me that you know a couple languages as you do. Keep them rolling!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      11 years ago from US

      hi Micky, wow, thanks for the journey and beautiful pictures too! Very nice information indeed, good exercise too, how are you today? Have a good day and thanks for reading my hubs too, hope you are doing okay today, Maita

    • Micky Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Micky Dee 

      11 years ago

      Absolutely. Thank you Dear.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent! I'd like to send a link to this to my cycling club and cycling team!


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