Couch to 5k for biking?
August 20, 2012 9:45 PM   Subscribe

Is there an equivalent of the Couch to 5k program for biking?
posted by Proginoskes to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
posted by one_bean at 9:47 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

What are you looking to do?

The thread one_bean links is good if you want to ride a century, which is sort of the cycling equivalent of a marathon.

I don't know that there's an equivalent of C25K for cycling, because getting from 0 to "pretty comfortable" is a much lower learning curve than it is in running. Most people who are reasonably fit can ride a couple miles. Five isn't really that hard, especially if you're riding 2.5, stopping to do a task, and then riding back. In my experience, you don't really hit a wall until you get to 10-20 miles on a bike. And even then, it's really just that your butt's going to hurt. It's not like running where you get that "I can't go on anymore!" feeling.

How far are you looking to ride, and under what circumstances?

To me, it's much harder to adapt to riding in traffic (and various other unusual environments) than it is to develop physical endurance.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I freaking hate bike riding. I always figure it was because i was out of shape. This year I started running and getting in shape and even ran a half marathon.

I still hate biking.

That being said, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my bike has never been properly fitted to me ( a six foot female). Point being, try a well fitted bike because I think it may seriously improve your ability to bike.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:29 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

This summer I went from cycling a 12 mile round trip to doing 80 miles a day for a few days. It took me 4 weeks. I am not fit.

Get a bike that is comfortable. Get someone who knows these things, or a bike shop, to adjust the fit on your bike (handlebar stem, saddle, saddle height) so it is comfortable. Swap your tires for skinnier ones if you plan to do more than 20 miles in a go. I went to clipless SPD pedals and while I was initially skeptical, it really paid off. Get a widget to show you true mileage and your pace so you can gauge progress.

I went from riding in 6 mile blocks to 15 mile blocks, largely on the flat. Within that, I ramped up the intensity for a mile or so and then dialled it back. Then I built in some hills. A good guide is to aim for 50 miles with 500m of ascent and 1 or 2 stops as a 10k equivalent. Halve that, so 25 miles and 1 stop for a 5k. Provided you take decent breaks (10 to 15 mins) you will find that you can start doing bigger distances quite quickly. But the hills will burn, and losing weight and practice makes a big difference.

Over and above that: hydrate and feed regularly: in warm weather one water bottle per hour. Have an energy bar or a banana when you stop.

Get padded shorts.

Spin rather than push. Choose a high cadence and an easier gear. Save your power for hills, where it also pays to choose an easier gear ASAP rather than knackering your legs and having to get off.

As a couch to 5k equivalent 4 weeks should be ample.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

padded shorts? a century? This is nothing like the equivalent of a 5km run.

really what is the equivalent of a 5km run on a bicycle? the run takes about 30 mins but cycling is generally lower impact so you will probably need to push that out to about 40mins or 1 hour.

I think 5km run ~ 15km ride. I think you could follow the guidelines for the Couch to 5km Run program but multiply the distances by a factor of 3 and any times by a factor of about 2.

A few years ago I started using a bike for primary transport and just bought a random 2nd hand hybrid and started riding around town instead of using other transport for trips less than km.

I think the padded shorts and some of the talk above is rubish. Cycling really is pretty low impact. I regularly ride 14-15kms a day in jeans on my 3spd dutch bike.
posted by mary8nne at 1:06 AM on August 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

The padded shorts are worth it.

15k riding is rather an underestimate for being equivalent to 5k running. I used to commute 15k to work, and started doing it with no preparation at all. I have done a couch to 5k more than once.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:22 AM on August 21, 2012

With respect, mary8nne cycling is *much* lower impact. You'd be hard pressed, for example, to run 5km in jeans and casual shoes, which is the equivalent of your and many others' commuter rides.

Having done my a few 5km and 10km runs in the past, I'd say with some certainty that casual cycling sportives that are organised and positioned much 10k runs are typically 50 miles or so at the low end of distance and 500m to 1,000m of ascent. The [London] equivalent of the charity 5k runs are things like Sky's [flat] 25 mile rides around London - entry level rides for all shapes, sizes and ages.

In terms of preparation and fitness, 120-150 mile rides (the top end of most sportives) with a reasonable level of ascent are considered to be the equivalent of marathons. It is typically the ascent that drives up the fitness requirements, not just the distance. Riding a flat 50 or 60 miles sounds a long way but the main issue people will get is saddle soreness if their bike is vaguely ok and they get a short break or two.

In cycling, padded shorts remove the first thing people get uncomfortable with and are worth it. The running advice would be to get your gait assessed and buy proper running shoes. Even for 5km. Especially for someone starting out running 5km.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:25 AM on August 21, 2012

In any fitness endeavor the important issues are to make sure you're not doing something to harm yourself via bad technique or equipment, and then to adopt a rational and regular schedule that you can maintain your enthusiasm for.

So first order of business - bicycle shorts, helmet, a bicycle that fits you, with a saddle of reasonable quality, water bottle carriers and appropriate reflectors, lights and so forth. Many bike shops will do a fitting for you for a modest fee but you'd have to track down local cyclists for more info on that. It's not exactly rocket science and if you know what end of the wrench to hold and have a vague idea of what reasonable torque is, you can do it yourself.

After that, uh, ride your bike. As MuffinMan said, try for a lower gear and higher cadence (less strain on your knees, more cardiovascular workout) and work your way up. Finding someone to ride with is a good thing because it will help you maintain your schedule.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:55 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that people are missing here is that a big part of the Couch-to-5k thing is that it gets you into interval training, which is a quicker way to build stamina and such, and also a gradual and well-paced build up in how hard you're working. Yes, cycling is lower-impact, but talking about this approach being unnecessary? Maybe it's unnecessary if you're already reasonably fit. If you are in fact the implied couch potato, century training is a long way off, and it's a good idea to gradually work up your heart and your lungs as much as it is your legs.

The good part about that is that after getting your gear in order? A lot of the couch-to-5k stuff still works. The iOS app or one of the podrunner mixes intended for running can still give you good intervals. Start at a pace that feels comfortable and sustainable. Use the times instead of distances, and you can really do it with any kind of cardio activity.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:00 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure your bike fits you, get padded shorts, stay hydrated.
Ride more often. Your body will get used to it over time, but don't over do it.
Learn to spin, maintaining 80-100 rpms. It's much easier for your body to recover from heavy breathing (high cadence) than heavy movement from mashing on the pedals.
Go up and down hills often, working on maintaining your cadence, choosing an easy hill to start off with, then gradually working up over the course of a few weeks.
posted by Giggilituffin at 7:02 AM on August 21, 2012

I think the issue here is that we need to know more about your end goal, and what your tolerance is for buying special pants vs. being maybe a bit more hot and sweaty. I do fifteen miles a day just as my commute, in the New Orleans summer, and I do it in jeans and a tank top with a 30 pound bag on my back, on an old secondhand bike that I paid nothing for. That is not how a lot of people like to ride, but it works for me. What do you think would work for you?
posted by Scientist at 7:20 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

More specifically: do you want to get fit? Do you want to get very fit? What kind of condition are you in now? Do you already have a bike? Do you see yourself ever riding with a group, or in any kind of organized event? Do you see yourself riding primarily for utility or recreational purposes with fitness benefits as a secondary concern, or are you primarily interested in riding for the exercise alone and don't care if it's actually fun or useful except as a means to getting in better shape? There are lots and lots of valid ways to ride a bike and get in shape.

Are you specifically looking for a structured training program with intervals and a timer system that tells you when to increase/decrease intensity, designed for the purpose of getting a person from a sedentary state to one in which they have a regular and substantial exercise routine that can also serve as a foundation for a more intense and extensive fitness regime? Or are you just looking to ride a lot and get in better shape?
posted by Scientist at 7:31 AM on August 21, 2012

My goal is to become more fit and lose some weight. I've just recently purchased a bike after 20 years of not riding one. I am looking for some kind of structured plan because that seems to be what works best for me. I don't plan to ride with a group.
posted by Proginoskes at 7:36 AM on August 21, 2012

I don't have any recommendations as far as a schedule. But I started biking a lot this summer to get myself into shape, and a big thing that's helped is using the Strava app for my Android phone (also on iOS). It tells me how far I've gone, how fast I went for every ride. Additionally, climbing up the leaderboards on local segments (pre-defined stretches of road or trail) is a tremendous motivator. I highly recommend it.

I also always check to see the wind speed in my area before I head out.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:47 AM on August 21, 2012

It is hard to map C25k onto a bike program because any amount of running for the untrained is a dreadful experience that requires building up to it. Today you can ride a bike slowly for 15 miles and at the end you'll be tired and sore, but it can be done. Either you need a goal for a significant distance or to complete some shorter ride loop at a particular speed to make this interesting. I'm not aware of any training plan but I know that once you get started if you measure your speed or distance you will rapidly be motivated by improving on it.
posted by dgran at 7:51 AM on August 21, 2012

Look here.

If you do the first bit, and get some moderate hills in there, you'll get up to the equivalent of solid 5k running fitness. This assumes you have little cycling fitness at all. It is an 8 week plan and quite gentle. In honesty, though, lots of people can step up more quickly. I would suggest building some intensity early on in bursts and not just pootling along as if you're going to the shops.

"A cycle ride every other day should be attempted for the first 4 weeks and the mileage should be between 5 and 10 miles, there is no need to over stretch the ride by pushing a gear that is too difficult, or riding as fast as you can, this can come later.

From the outset you should attempt to develop your cadence, which is the speed at which your legs rotate (RPM), this will improve your aerobic capacity meaning your heart and lungs will grow stronger and be less stressed when cycling or exercising.

To develop your cadence you should select the gear that feels most comfortable when you are cycling on whatever gradient. If you can keep a steady RPM of around 60 - 70 most of the time this would greatly aid the speed at which you become cycling fit, and will increase your strength and stamina which you can then build on.

Before you know it you will find yourself being able to push harder gears while maintaining the same RPM. After you have become comfortable with your cadence and riding position, it will be time to start stepping up the mileage. For the next 4 weeks you should attempt to ride 15 - 20 miles 3 times a week, with a Sunday ride every other weekend of about 25 miles."
posted by MuffinMan at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

My goal is to become more fit and lose some weight. I've just recently purchased a bike after 20 years of not riding one. I am looking for some kind of structured plan because that seems to be what works best for me. I don't plan to ride with a group

The great thing about cycling that is not as true for running is that you can use it to get places. While you can cycle for fitness as a workout and only a workout, it's a lot more fun to use the bike as a form of transportation and to get the workout aspect as a side benefit.

So just... start riding to places.

Between two and five miles is probably a good place to start, especially if you haven't been on a bike in 20 years and will be riding on the street in traffic for the first time. Find somewhere between 2 and 5 miles from home that you want to go. Ride there and do whatever it is people do there. Then ride home. Keep doing this daily or every other day until the distance starts to feel like nothing.

Then start riding farther.

If you can't ride any farther (say there's nowhere good to go that is 10 miles away, or whatever), start riding harder. Is there a bridge you can cross? A hill you can climb?

My favorite thing about cycling as opposed to running is that you can build purpose into it. It's not just like, "go outside and be in pain for half an hour." You don't need to build elaborate carrot and stick routines to get yourself to do it, if your only goal is to get more fit and lose a little weight.

(Keep in mind, though, that weight loss is going to be pretty modest unless you're really racking up the miles or are a very severe couch potato. I spent a summer riding 15 miles or more a day, and I think I lost five pounds, total, over the course of the entire summer.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:08 PM on August 21, 2012

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