It’s tough to start a new exercise regimen, even tougher if you’ve been out of that loop for quite some time, and tougher still if your sport of choice has the potential to be extremely physically demanding. But one wonderful aspect of riding a bike as compared to less beginner-forgiving sports such as running, is that your level of effort and strain can be dialed down to a very modest level as you gradually build some base fitness. Telling a novice runner to “run easy” is almost laughable when you consider how hard running initially is even at the slowest of paces, but asking a cyclist to “ride easy” is actually a reasonable request regardless of his or her incoming fitness level.
To further illustrate cycling’s newbie-friendliness, even something as daunting as an assessment workout can be done in such a way as to accommodate the greenest of cycling newcomers or those beginning athletes with very little, if any, base fitness.
But first, it’s important for all riders to realize that an assessment workout isn’t a pass or fail affair, nor is it an “all-out”, gut-wrenching, vomit-and-fall-off-your-bike endeavor meant to deter new riders from gaining an understanding of where their current fitness lies. Rather, it’s a measure of current capabilities regardless of how high or low those capabilities are. We assess to understand where we’re at, to benchmark future progress, and to establish necessary training levels.
And even experienced riders fall well short of the mark on their initial foray into assessment workouts. Guessing at a proper pace for a couple 8-minute efforts (my recommendation for very new riders) or a 20-minute interval (use this protocol if you’ve had no luck with pacing during the 2×8-minute format but be confident that your endurance will carry you for a full 20 minutes) isn’t easy, but it becomes more manageable and more closely representative of your true capabilities each time you endure the work. Like anything, you can expect to improve with practice.
With all this said, some riders may still be wary of diving into an hour-long workout the day they first saddle up. And even though the total time spent working vs time spent resting during a 2x8min assessment workout is far less than 60 minutes, riders are still riding for a full 60 minutes which can be a tall order for anyone who hasn’t been on a bike in a long while.
For these riders, my recommendation is simple: ride, ride some more, & ride some more. Regardless of how long your first couple of rides are, make the next one a little longer and the next one slightly longer still. Before you know it, you’ll log that first 40, 50, or even 60-minute ride and you’ll feel much more capable of tackling your first assessment workout.
However you choose to approach your entry or re-entry into cycling, try not to take it too seriously and often remind yourself to enjoy the process. After all, we’re riding bicycles, this is supposed to be fun!