Improving basic fitness quickly

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  • Improving basic fitness quickly
  • rascal

    Been biking for years and although never super fit I suppose I had a reasonable level of fitness…or at least I did until I broke my collarbone in June. This resulted in just a handful of road and MTB rides over the last 4 months.
    My cardio level has gone through the floor after virtually no exercise and probably too much food and booze in that period. I can’t seem to catch my breath and feels like only one lung is working properly! Even riding on the flat is an effort never mind climbing – I hate it as it makes riding not enjoyable and makes me think I don’t want to do it which is hardly going to improve things!
    I used to night ride fairly regularly but as my collarbone isn’t 100% fixed I really don’t want to risk an off in wet muddy slippery conditions.
    I need to get fitter quickly but the riding is killing me at the mo. What’s the answer? I have a very basic turbo that TBH I hate using as it’s mind numbingly dull – not on Zwift etc. I’ve thought about joining a gym For cardio and some toning/strengthening and trying swimming to help with strengthening collarbone and general mobility. I realise it’s going to take a bit of effort but I have to do something to get back on track and enjoying regular biking again which I’m def not doing at the mo – cheers

    Been in similar situation (groin not collarbone) for getting on 4yrs (ffs) and found that (for me)low-impact cardio/aerobic is best achieved by rotation of:

    -Swimming laps
    -Foot-bike (grown up kick-scooter)alternating nights
    -Brisk walks around the block or up hills.

    All progress easily monitored by time/distance and as such easily increased incrementally as fitness-levels improve. I noticed swimming increases lung-capacity(?)/breathing-efficiency which in turn helps with other exercises. Bonus combi is foot-bike mostly downhill to indoor pool, then brisk walk home pushing bike. Indoor pool is perfect mood-lift for wet cold winter nights.

    Premier Icon lunge

    Run. It takes little time and gets you fit quickly. Start with couch to 5k, then go to your local parkrun.

    100% what Lunge said.


    I tore my Achilles 5 years ago – never did stretches properly during rehab so reckon running would be a nightmare.

    Premier Icon schmiken

    I’d agree with running. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier. Great for cardio and weight loss but the fitness doesn’t transfer directly to the bike.

    There’s a Parkrun at Dishley at 9 every Saturday morning and plenty walk it! The challenge is to go just a little faster every week.

    Mix it up with a regular road night ride, you’d probably enjoy it more than you’d think!


    I tore my Achilles 5 years ago – never did stretches properly during rehab so reckon running would be a nightmare.

    That’s why you’d follow something like couch to 5k, rather than hammering it and ruining yourself. Plus, do lots of stretches starting now

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash

    Couch to 5k plus lots.

    Damaged my shoulder in a crash back in June, and still can’t stretch comfortably to handlebars some days. Have been working on C25K the last couple of months, missed a couple of weeks after tweaking my calf and then a stinking cold, but now up to 25 minute runs on the penultimate week.

    It’s not quick and it’s not pretty, but I don’t seem to have lost any bike fitness, and I’m actually enjoying the running. Treating myself to decent trainers tomorrow and looking at the local Parkruns.


    I was thinking using one a though non-impact cross trainers would be a good way of doing non-bike cardio work but build it up til I could hammer it and get my breathing/lung capacity up again. Swimming meant to be good no? 🤔

    Swimming meant to be good no? 🤔

    Depends what you want, but you wanna do something that gets you back biking, swimming doesn’t do much for the legs IME.

    Spin classes, if done properly with a good instructor, are brilliant too..

    Running out for me too for a number of reasons. That’s why I chose a foot-bike because you get a similar workout to running (somewhere between cycling and running) without the same impact/joint damage, and unlike cycling it does more upper and core as well as legs. With faster weight-loss. It really is knackering at first, but fun. I have a prob with right achilles which means running and jumping is out, and also very little flexion in that foot, but am working on it slowly with so-far successful physio takes about 3 mins twice per day. 3x 15 reps per side/affected side.

    Like this (but without the step)

    Spin classes, if done properly with a good instructor, are brilliant too..


    Premier Icon nickdavies

    Get yourself a smart turbo and zwift,erg mode. You’ll be back in shape in no time and the zwift element makes it doable. I’m doing an hour most mornings and 2ish one day a week, races etc make it pretty fun.


    Nutrition – not a diet – look at very healthy diet cut out the crap (fast food, processed food, sugar and the booze), dont starve yourself, dont worry about weight loss just eat healthy full meals and you will see an immediate impact on fitness and energy and health.  (I am a recent convert!)

    Premier Icon chakaping

    I’d say just focus on whatever kind of intervals you can bear doing, maybe hill repeats on the MTB?


    My regular cycling buddy has gone back to running and it has made him even more antisocially fit then ever, especially as he has lost weight as well. Now he gets scolded quite often by the ride leader for shooting off the front.

    I would like to take up running but I have bandy legs and have never been a comfortable runner and I’d be terrified of injuring myself as cycling fitness allows you to overdo it.

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog

    Running is good. But in really simple terms, you have to find something you enjoy doing and stick with it. You say you ‘need to get fitter quickly but the riding is killing me at the mo’, but why do you need to do it ‘quickly’?

    I find the thing with injury and illness is that easing back into stuff works, you up the miles / time gradually and you soon forget that weird desperation that comes with being injured / ill / kidnapped by aliens.

    If you really want bike-specific, rapid fitness gains, investing in a smart trainer and something like Zwift or the Sufferfest give a lot of bang for the time buck, but you still have to be motivated to do it, which in turn usually means it being something you enjoy.

    Alternatively, if you’re wired that way, set some specific goals and use them for motivation. Could be anything from setting a PB on some Strava segment or peaking for an event:

    terrified of injuring myself

    There’s a lot of myths around about the mount of injuries caused by running, generally peddled by folk that have never stuck running long enough to make an informed decision.

    44yo, here, only been running for 22 months, started off with parkrun>10k>half marathons etc, this year I’ve taken to hill racing, doing the local series, and finished my 4th Ultramarathon on saturday.

    Best shape my previously dodgy knees and ankles have ever been in, I’d imagine it’s down to xthe ectra strength gained around joints by running.

    4 stone lighter too.



    I love swimming too might not do much for your legs but its good for fitness


    Week off work and ride 1000 km in Zone 2

    Best shape my previously dodgy knees and ankles have ever been in, I’d imagine it’s down to xthe ectra strength gained around joints by running.
    4 stone lighter too.

    I suspect that 25 kilos less impact mass is the reason.


    I’m not unfit. But I just started running too. Main reason, I really love running. Plus it’s very time efficient for family life. You can just nip out for a 30 min run around the block, and feel great.

    I did run before, but did the classic too much too soon. Bike cardio fitness is dangerous, you can just go run for an hour no problem, then boom you’re injured. I had loads of issues with my knees so stopped it, and kept to the bike.

    This time around I’m doing the coach to 5k. It’s very gentle progress, jog/walking. But I’m really determined to crack it this time and be able to run injury free!


    backstroke, breaststroke and crawl are all good for your legs if you use them properly. Try a float and do reps just kicking, or just place your arms stretched out in front of you and do it without a float, that’ll tire your legs out. If you’re collarbone isn’t quite right swimming might not be what you want to do just yet though. As said ^^ up there ^^ Just start running, gently at first.


    jogging is one of the quickest ways to gain fitness cos it so hard. I have maintained my ntb fitness and only run 1 mile 3 times a week on a treadmill. I also walk for about 30 seconds after 2 minutes of running.

    Premier Icon malv173

    If you can’t get out for a run, try skipping. You can do it at home, and it’s a ridiculously good workout.

    The mistake a lot of people make is to rush things. Getting fitter takes time. Your body has to adjust gradually. Keep cycling consistently and you will get fitter. Your body has to create more plasma, has to store more glycogen, has to get more efficient at burning fat, your muscles have to get stronger. It all takes time. Why rush it and risk injury.

    I suspect that 25 kilos less impact mass is the reason

    Which took 18 months to achieve, big improvements in the joints within weeks of starting running, particularly the knee that had a clean up ok. So your spidey senses are a bit shite, really. 😊


    I need to get fitter quickly but the riding is killing me at the mo. What’s the answer?

    Man up. Ride more. No pain no gain.



    Running – hard but so incredibly good for fitness and as PP mentioned super time efficient. Pop out for a 30 min run and you’re golden. Do it from anywhere, no specific kit needed except good trainers.

    Decent cycle specific spin classes (in london, Digme’s Perform or Perform Plus classes or Athlete Lab)

    Proper swimming e.g. so you’re actually working hard. Great for conditioning.

    Decent all day hike at a brisk pace with hills.

    Smart turbo if you want to invest.

    Premier Icon snotrag

    Spinning classes. BUT you must find a good one, not one full of gym bunnies and mincers. Lea Mills virtual classes are good too. Take your SPD shoes and clip in to the bike too.

    And then buy the Mtb fitness 12 week plan.

    BUT you must find a good one, not one full of gym bunnies and mincers.

    Matters not a jot who goes, it’s all down to how good the instructor is.


    Try contacting me and asking if I fancy joining you on a road ride you massive gimp.

    In all seriousness, I’m always up for company on the road bike, and I’ve not been out in months on it so I won’t give a shit how unfit you are.

    Should finish building the winter roadie this week / sat morning, then i’m golden.

    That Mad March Hare isn’t getting postponed again 😉

    Premier Icon downshep


    I’ve just done the mtb fitness 12 week plan. I’ve seen a big improvement in my general fitness, off and on the bike. I used to be a fairly keen runner until knee issues stopped me about 3 or 4 years ago (I’m 55) and I started to get a bit porky. The combination of weights and intervals really worked for me, improving strength and cardio fitness and helping me shed a few pounds. The exercises to correct muscular imbalances and improvement in leg strength has also had the surprising benefit of making my knees feel a lot better, to the point where I am considering a gentle return to running. Presumably because the muscles and tendons supporting them are a bit stronger. Win win.

    Premier Icon Northwind

    Another one for Couch to 5K here… Broke my wrist last november, had to take a few months off riding and once I was out of the habit I just never really got properly back in. Still decently strong but my cardio is a disaster so, running is pretty ideal. And biking as much as poss will bring back the bike fitness.

    I don’t exactly enjoy the running… I put some tunes on and that’s about all it’s good for. But I do like the really clear progression with the app I’m using, and Michael Johnson keeps telling me how awesome I am.


    I was listening to a training podcast this week where research seems to suggest that the “use it or lose it” mantra isn’t quite what it seems. There is some evidence that if you have at some time been fit or strong then the body remembers it and the muscle memory has a half-life of fifteen years. So basically if you’ve been fit/strong then it’s a lot easier to get back than to start from scratch – age and lifestyle notwithstanding.

    Running is good exercise as it also works the secondary muscles that support the joints in a way that cycling doesn’t. You also don’t get to coast, even the flats and downhills need work. The best bang for buck are hill reps, you only need do one session a week (if you do them properly then that’s all you’ll be able to do), running uphill is a lot less stressful on joints as well but whatever pace gets you feeling like throwing up will do. (I’m not selling them am I?)


    High intensity interval training has been shown to deliver the biggest benefits in the shortest time – we’re talking about a warm-up followed by 6 x 20 seconds maximum-effort intervals with a 1 minute recovery between. Hurts like hell if done correctly.

    Don’t do swimming, good for strength but shit for speed, couch to 5 and intervals on the bike, also enter an event for a bit of motivation, local CX or something low key but dumb male pride will push you a long way

    Surprised no one has mentioned BMX race tracks. You can usually ride a HT (26’er even better) on them as I do.

    I’m lucky enough to have an ideal, free, outdoor one near me. All weather hardpacked with huge tarmac berms, four straights with rollers, one table and doubles if you’re fast/skilled enough!

    I can vary my session by doing complete laps, half laps or just one straight at a time. It’s an intense and exhausting workout if you sprint and pump everything, as you go 100% from the first turn of the pedal till the lap/section is over. It’s bike skills and interval style fitness in one, win win!


    yeah the bmx track is a good one. It’s like lots of mini sprints and is good for the whole body muscles too ( esp good for upper body and shoulders ). Transfers straight onto the mtb for sprinting fitness and handling skills.Get’s you out of breadth quickly. Not sure if it’s any good for endurance on the mtb though.

    Premier Icon epicyclo

    Run – I’ll echo what others have said.

    The fartlek system makes it easy. What I’ll add is do it off road on irregular surfaces.

    Walk a bit first for warm up, break into a gentle run/jog and revert to a walk before you’re gasping.

    When you feel like running again run. Don’t try long strides, keep them short – like spinning on a bike. Rinse and repeat.

    Finish with a warmdown walk.

    Be kind to yourself, it works just as well. It may take a bit longer but you’re less likely to injure yourself, and you’ll be more motivated to go out if it’s not a sufferfest. Get hills into the equation as soon as possible but don’t run downhill until you’re properly run fit.

    In no time you’ll be running all the way.

    (All this assumes you’re running for pleasure and fitness, not training for races)


    rascal, how are you getting on?
    I’m in similar situation, I havent raced CX for 15 years, wanted to do it again this year.
    I did a lot of road miles over the summer.
    First race I was useless, last by a long way. I thought the racing would improve things, as, in the past, there was no better way of getting fitter than racing.
    But, it hasnt worked for me yet. Done 7 races now, and still in the bottom 3.
    On weekends with no races, I do a lap or 2 of Cannock, as fast as I can.
    I’ve cut down on what I eat, yet my weight has gone up!
    I’m going to start running this week. I think couch to 5k is a bit slow, so will just go out locally and do some jogging.

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