How often should I cycle to get fit?

Regular short rides are the fastest way to boost your fitness and improve your cycling performance

Virtually everyone who rides wants to get fitter. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, regardless of experience, most of the same rules apply.

Training is a controlled way of challenging our bodies, and regular training allows the body to adapt and get fitter. To keep progressing we need to keep increasing the difficulty of those challenges. This can mean riding further, or riding harder. However, without stressing your body with new physical challenges, your fitness will stop improving or even go backwards.

>>> Cycling training plans: go faster, get fitter, ride further

Improving your fitness requires the right dosage of training. It needs to be frequent enough to apply some stress, but be balanced and with enough recovery to allow the adaptation process to take place. Frequent short training sessions are more effective than infrequent long sessions. Over equivalent periods, interval sessions improve performance better than steady, continuous efforts.

If you only have three hours to spare per week you will be able to improve your fitness more with three one-hour sessions, or even several 30-minute rides, than just one long ride.

If you only ride once a week, you may be wondering why, despite your regular rides, you aren’t improving. That’s because, after just seven days without cycling, your body will start to lose some of the fitness gains you have made. To keep progressing and improving your fitness, you ideally need to be riding your bike every 2-3 days, even if it’s just a turbo trainer workout. The minimum you can get away with and still see significant fitness gains is three rides a week.

Watch: Five ways to eat for weight loss

Essential cycling training sessions

Cover off at least one of each of these rides per week and you’ll be on the quickest possible route to fitness.

Long Ride
60 minutes +

Long rides at a conversational pace are the bedrock for improving your endurance. At this pace your breathing is deep, rhythmic and regular, and should never feel strained or ragged. For these rides stick to flat or rolling terrain rather than hills. Focus on keeping a smooth high cadence, and use your long ride to get used to eating and drinking on the move.

This ride will train your body to get used to burning fuel efficiently. It will also help you to improve your riding posture and help you to get used to sitting on the saddle for extended periods of time.

Hilly Ride

Long gradual climbs are ideal for this session, or they can be done on the flat in a big gear or with high resistance on a turbo trainer. After a good ten-minute warm-up, pedal for five minutes at a pace that feels hard but controllable. You should be breathing deeply and only able to say one or two words at a time. Recover for one minute and then repeat. Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes at the hard pace per session. If you have more time, aim for ten minutes at the hard pace before your one-minute recovery.

These sessions help to improve your muscular efficiency and will make climbing feel easier.

Hard Ride
30-60 minutes

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to boost endurance, increase calorie burn and improve cardiovascular fitness. During the intervals you have to work very hard – it needs 100% effort – but the intervals are very short. After a good ten-minute warm-up, spend five minutes alternating between 30-seconds’ all-out effort and 30-seconds’ recovery. Pedal easily for five minutes and then repeat.

If you are very limited on time then just three sessions of HIIT training a week is the best way to improve your overall fitness.

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5 Reasons Summer Age Group Swimming Matters

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

By Katie Wingert, Swimming World College Intern.

The talons of USA, high school, and college swimming have entrapped many. But there’s nothing quite like traditional summer age group swimming. In a sport culture that elevates the athlete-celebrities and the notorious jocks, summer age group swimming has lasting value.

As the summer season kicks off around the country, here are just a few reasons why summer age group swimming has profound meaning:

1. Age group swimming is a sport for the whole family.

Swim instructor Jessica Raya assists Derek Muniz, 4, as he works on using his hands and feet at the same time during a class Monday at Thomas Pool. The swim classes, available to all ages and all swim levels, run every two weeks. (Photo by Daniel Cernero, Fort Hood Sentinel Sports Editor)

Photo Courtesy: 1 Windows

In a world where families often divide up to tote kids from one activity to another, age group swimming forms a stark contrast as a family enterprise. Kids from three to eighteen take the plunge, all in one place. From age group swimming, we learn to enjoy the legendary baked goods hand-crafted by caring swim parents. We learn to cherish the time spent with our families. Moms and dads volunteer, while grandparents line the pool deck, ready to buy their favorite young swimmers a sports drink or a walking taco.

Because of the family-centered culture of summer age group swimming, age group swimmers can end their careers recognizing the value and importance of family–a value that they can carry into whatever they do, whether that is swimming-related or not.

2. It keeps the older swimmers young.

Missy Franklin signing 2

Photo Courtesy: Franklin family

The big moments in age group swimming are not the fingernail-close finishes. The truly memorable moments of summer swimming include the six-and-under in crooked goggles, swimming her first lap without stopping; the coaches frantically screaming at their eight-and-unders to keep their hand on the wall until the touch during relay exchanges; and the ten-and-under who nearly misses his race because he is hiding in a tent with his buddies playing cards with a chin covered in doughnut powder.

Older swimmers have the chance to watch the wee ones and remember why they love swimming in the first place. Instead of beating themselves up over tenths of a second, like older swimmers do, beginning swimmers celebrate regardless of whether they drop a full minute or add a full minute to their 25-yard backstroke.

Older swimmers have the chance during practices to overhear the basic, reassuring directives to little ones struggling to put their faces in the water: “Blow bubbles…take a breath. Blow bubbles…take a breath.” The simple, daily joys of fledgling swimmers are enough to sustain even the most disillusioned of high-schoolers.

3. It forces you to keep your successes and failures in perspective.


Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Age group swimming shows you that loss to your teammate at a dual meet in torrential downpour really doesn’t define you. Neither does that candy bar you earned for winning your heat at an invitational when you were ten. The summer season does not last long, so we enjoy it while it lasts.

In high-stakes club meets, high school meets, and college championships, swimmers tend to feel pressure to constantly perform at their peak in order to measure up against competitors, to prove themselves, or to keep a scholarship. But swimmers who have survived years of age group competition understand that there is more to life than swimming, and that performance is less important than joy.

4. It makes you laugh.


Photo Courtesy: Julia Czentye

Each pool has memorable quirks. Who can forget those starting blocks rumored to have been made from recycled garbage cans? What about the pool that everyone knows is 23 yards long? After navigating such obstacles as two-and-a-half foot depth at the starting end, unheated water temperatures in the sixties, and outside lanes that suck you into the diving wells, age group swimmers emerge stronger and with a better sense of humor.

These are the same swimmers who are willing to laugh when their college coach tells them that, despite being a staunch sprinter, they need to fill a lane for a distance swimmer with the stomach bug. These swimmers aren’t fazed easily in the real world, either. They can laugh in the face of adversity and adapt to less-than-ideal working conditions, because they count themselves lucky to no longer be swimming backstroke in the sun without lane lines.

5. It builds character.


Photo Courtesy: Photo Courtesy: Kara Sekenski

Many of us remember the moment when we learned, as age group swimmers, to shake hands after a race, regardless of whether or not we were happy with the outcome. Many of us remember our first disqualifications, often accompanied by jokes made by overheated, hungry parents about making Dairy Queen excursions to “celebrate the DQ.” Each of us can recall the time a teammate lost us the relay race—or the time we lost a relay race for our team—along with the way our coaches made us high-five no matter what.

These kind of character lessons are relevant for more individualistic tiers of swimming, in which success is measured by achievement of individual goals, in which friendly competition too often ferments into bitter rivalry, and in which plateaus make up reality. The former summer age group swimmers can enter these tiers with hope of another possible reality.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Man escorted off M23 motorway after betting mates he could cycle from London to Brighton

Not the most scenic route, but certainly the most direct

Thousands of people cycle from London to Brighton each year, generally taking well-established routes, but one rider decided to mix things up a bit by taking to the M23 motorway.

The man ended up on the motorway on Saturday morning after making a bet with his mates that he could ride from London to Brighton.

Unfortunately he made a mistake at the junction between the A23 and the M23, taking the wrong road and finding himself riding down the hard shoulder of the busy motorway where he was picked up by police.

>>> UAE rider abandons Paris-Roubaix; gets stopped on motorway by police after getting lost riding to finish

“This chap made a bet with his mates that he could ride a bike from London to Brighton,” Surrey Police wrote on Twitter. “Safely moved off the M23 to continue on his way.

“The rider is not a regular cyclist and had made a bet he could ride a bike from London to Brighton but got confused at the A23/M23 junction.”

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Giant Defy 2017 range: Are the Advanced Pro and SL models worth the extra spend?

You’re looking at the Giant Defy range – the endurance focused model family that boasts a hint of zip. But should you splash out or go for the ‘basic’ Defy Advanced? We evaluate the differences

The Giant Defy range has always been created with endurance rides at front of mind. With three different frame options – the Giant Defy Advanced, Giant Defy Advanced Pro and Giant Defy Advanced SL – there’s a total of seven models with varying specifications.

Where once the range consisted of aluminium and carbon bikes, the Giant Defy line up for 2017 is exclusively carbon only and all models sport disc brakes. The compliant frame material and promise of effective braking in all conditions are both features that will bring smiles to the faces of all-weather riders looking to log the miles across the seasons.

The Defy places a focus on comfort – and as a result the geometry is designed around a slightly longer head tube and shorter top tube – this will place the rider in a more relaxed position to suit long days on the bike.

This said – there’s plenty of zip in the frames. Indeed, with Giant supplying Team Sunweb with their race winning bikes, the Defy Advanced SL is the team’s bike of choice for tough roads and one-day classics.

Read reviews: 

OverDrive Steerer and D-Fuse Seatpost

Across the Giant Defy range, you’ll find their OverDrive steerer – which is set apart by the use of oversized headset bearings and a tapered steerer to provide greater stiffness – 15 per cent better than a standard design, according to Giant. The Advanced Pro and SL models use the OverDrive 2 which the brand claim is 30 per cent stiffer than the original design.

All riders investing in a Defy will enjoy Giant D-Fuse Composite technology at the seatpost – which means the tubes are shaped to create a ‘D’ shape which dampens vibration to offer a smoother ride.

When we last tested the Giant Advanced Pro 2, the handling and agility stuck out to us as being particularly good – and it was noted that though the  frame’s geometry and compliance boosting D-Fuse seatpost lent it to endurance duties, it’s far from a complete armchair of ride.

If you want an aggressive, race first bike, you’d be best placed to look elsewhere or at Giant’s own Propel or TCR. If comfort is first on your lips, then perhaps the bike for you is the Specialized Roubaix with its front end suspension, or the Trek Domane and its adjustable IsoSpeed decoupler. The Giant Defy is a healthy compromise between the two camps.

If you’ve decided that’s what you’re looking for, then we’re here to help you differentiate between the level standards in the range.

Giant Defy Advanced

Beginning with the Advanced 3, the basic Giant Defy range shares the same frame as those higher up the ladder, with identical geometry and the brands ‘Advanced-Grade Composite’ material. Across all three models, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are used with 160mm rotors and 12mm thru axels secure the front and rear wheels for the best handling experience.

At this point the OverDrive steerer is provided, and at Advanced level the material is a hybrid, as opposed to the full composite OverDrive 2 found elsewhere.

In all cases, the handlebars and stem are Giant’s own Giant Connect, with a Giant Contact saddle in Neutral.

Giant Defy Advanced 3 – £1549

Giant Defy Advanced 3

Giant Defy Advanced 3

The Advanced 3 comes with Shimano Tiagra derailleurs, as well as a matching crankset with 50/34 chainrings and a Tiagra wide ratio 11-32 cassette.

A Shimano press fit BB features alongside Giant’s own SR 2 Disc Wheel Set and 25mm Giant P-SL 1 tyres.

Buy now at Tredz for £1549

Giant Defy Advanced 2 – £1775

Giant Defy Advanced 2

Giant Defy Advanced 2

Available as pictured above, or with a bold orange paint job, the Advanced 2 swaps Tiagra for Shimano 105 across the majority of the groupset, with the same gear ratios. The wheels are one step up, with a Giant PR 2 Disc Set.

Buy now at Tredz for £1775

Giant Defy Advanced 1 – £1999

Giant Defy Advanced 1

Giant Defy Advanced 1

At this level, Shimano Ultegra derailleurs sit alongside a 105 cassette, whilst the wheels and brakes remain at the same level.

Buy now at Tredz for £1999

Giant Defy Advanced Pro

Moving into the Defy Pro range, all three models enjoy an OverDrive 2 full composite steerer. Across the range, you’ll find Giant SLR 1 disc wheelsets. The tyres are tubeless ready Giant Gavia SL in 25mm and the bikes come with some tubeless sealant to keep you going.

Since we’ve moved up a rung, the finishing kit – handlebars and stem – are all Giant Connect SL and the saddle is the Giant Contact SL – representing a slight weight saving.

All three models feature Giant’s ‘RideSense’ – a new chainstay integrated wireless data transmitter that uses ANT+ to transmit wheel speed and cadence information to a cycling computer, saving you investing in a cadence sensor if you’re not getting this info via a power meter or other mode.  Some newer computers use Bluetooth only so it’s worth checking your capabilities.

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 2 – £2499

Giant Defy Pro 2

Giant Defy Pro 2

Kicking off the selection is the Giant Defy Pro 2, with Shimano BR-RS505 hydraulic disc brakes featuring 160mm rotors. Derailleurs, cassette and crankset are all Shimano 105, with 50/34 chainrings and 11-32 cassette.

Buy now at Tredz for £2499

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1 – £2899

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 1

The key change here is the use of Shimano Ultegra, and the brakes move to 140 mm rotors with Shimano BR-RS805 hydraulic disc brakes.

The wheels, finishing kit, and gear ratio all remain the same.

Buy now at Tredz for £2899

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 – £3875

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0

Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0

The biggest change represented by the price hike is the introduction of Shimano Ultegra Di2. Whilst all the frames are electronic shifting ready, at this level the bike comes with the system ready fitted.

Buy now at Tredz for £3875

Giant Defy Advanced SL

Top of the tree and available in only one iteration, so the SL (super light) creation.

The professional grade carbon features through the frame  and steerer, and the OverDrive 2 steerer is joined by a ‘MegaDrive’ downtime and ‘PowerCore’ bottom bracket shell. This additional stiffness means that this is a more race driven bike than the other horses in the Defy stable.

Giant Defy Advanced SL 1 – £3699

Giant Defy Advanced SL1

Giant Defy Advanced SL1

Where the Advanced Pro 0 boasts electronic shifting, though this frame is equipped to be set up so, it uses Shimano Ultegra in its mechanical form with BR-RS805 hydraulic disc brakes, 140mm rotors.

The same Giant Gavia SLR Tubeless tyres are used, with Giant SLR 1 Disc hoops.

Buy now at Tredz for £3699

Which model should you go for?

All of the Defy models will provide you with an enjoyable ride, if – albeit slightly more buzzy than most endurance bikes offer – comfortable ride quality is what you seek.

The more you favour a slightly more aggressive edge to your ride, the more likely it is you’ll be happier moving up the models. The Advanced Pro and SL’s OverDrive 2 steerer will provide that little extra kick when you want to smash it out of a corner or red the red line on a descent.

At the top end, the Advanced SL saves you a little weight thanks to the adjusted carbon layup – so it’s a bike to be considering if you’re at a point when the seconds really do make a difference to you – or if you plan trips abroad in search of long and laboured climbs.

For commutes, club runs and sportive duties, the basic Defy will probably tick your boxes – buy it might be worth upping the spend if beating your mates to the town sign is the difference between a good weekend and a bad one.

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Victoria Azarenka targets Wimbledon on return after birth of her son

Victoria Azarenka

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka is planning to play at Wimbledon as she returns to tennis following the birth of her son.

The Belarusian, 27, has not played since last year’s French Open in May. and gave birth to son Leo in December.

Wimbledon starts on 3 July, and two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka said she is “ready to start competing” and plans to play in a warm-up event.

“Leo kinda said he wants to see London and Wimbledon,” she said.