In my role as a club cycling coach, helping beginners and working with experienced riders also, I am often, often asked how long it will take to get fit.
Through my own experience and that of helping hundreds and hundreds of other cyclists over the past 10 years the 9 ride theory came in to being. It works on developing a habit, and maintaining frequency and consistency, the 2 watchwords for fitness success.
I can’t find anything scientific to specifically support this (!) but I and countless others have tested it on numerous occasions – and it actually works! There are physiological responses to the stimulus of exercise that account for the improvements.
When starting out or coming back after a break of more than 3 weeks (for any reason, holiday, illness, surgery, life etc) it takes 9 rides to get back on your game.
- Rides must be 1 hour or more in duration (rides less than 1 hour don’t count, although we won’t split hairs over a few minutes)
- Rides must be less than 7 days apart (ie more than once per week)
- if you have more than a week between 1 hour rides, you need to start counting from 1 again!
If you ride once a week it will take you 8 weeks to feel smooth and comfortable on the bike. In my experience, people who ride with this frequency often get frustrated with the slow progress, and end up giving up, if something gets in the way of your ride one week, you will be 2 weeks without a ride and you have to start again at 1. Repeated occasions of this happening are so frustrating that these people often think cycling is not for them.
If you ride twice a week it takes a month.
If you ride 3 times a week it takes just 3 weeks, 4 times a week, a fortnight. (4 times a week is often enough for most riders, and probably excessive for complete beginners at first)
The first 3 rides are uncomfortable, especially that first ride, your heart rate shoots up with any slight increase in effort, you feel tired and your muscles feel challenged.
By the second 3 rides you are starting to feel a little bit fitter, the routine of riding is settling, you will have the right kit, and wont forget your bottle, or shoe covers! Its still hard, but you find that you can begin to respond to changes in topography or react to the speed of the group.
By the 3rd 3 rides, things are falling into place. You are back in the rhythm of riding, or have found a rhythm if you are a newbie, you are getting fitter every ride, and hills, whilst they may not be easy (ever?!) become manageable, and if you are experienced you start to get little flavours of previous form and strengths, and all these feelings give you the impetus to carry on.
Most people find that by the 8th or 9th ride that they no longer need to count, and the journey to fitness has well and truly begun (again) . Happy Days.