Training a cycling newbie

So, my wife (F45) has decided to start indoor riding. Apart from very casual outdoor riding (like 15 minutes to the beach or store), she is effectively a new cyclist, and new to any kind of formal endurance sports (apart from being my sherpa at events for years). She does some team sports and is generally active though, so is not totally ‘off the couch’ fitness-wise. Structured training is totally new to her. She has no race aspirations, and is interested mostly in riding to lose some weight and improve her general fitness level.

If she wanted to follow a training plan, I was going to suggest SSB I, SSB II, Build, repeat. But I was going to suggest that mostly out of lack of a better idea. Is that still a sensible approach for a newbie who is training for general fitness rather than an event?

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For someone new, with no major aspirations other than fitness and weight loss, I’d be cautious about jumping into “training”. A bit like getting kids into cycling, a focus on “fun” and general experience seems like a better place to start.

Suffering on a trainer without a definitive goal may well lead to burnout and distaste for something that should be much more than that for many people.

I’d lean towards casual and fun rides in small groups to start, with lots of discussion and teaching of the basics of cycling. Then, if the interest is there, a shift towards more dedicated training can take place.


I hear you. The challenge in this case is that she doesn’t really want to ride outside (we live in a big city that is not very rider friendly) and would prefer to ride indoors. So she wants something to guide her indoor riding. Despite her being used to watching me suffer on the trainer, I am worried about throwing her into a training program too.

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Personally, I would advocate just doing z2 stuff and start off ramping up 20min sessions one week, 30 the next, and so on. I think for a newbie, just getting more saddle time at first is key and I think regardless they’ll start to see fitness gains in a few weeks and then she can start to think about introducing higher intensity into the mix.

peloton app or Zwift. I wouldn’t bother training at all, until she shows interest in improvement. Like with kids, just ride.


I know this is the TR forum but this is exactly where Zwift shines.

No way I’d set someone up with a training plan right away. Let them have a bit of regular fun before you toss them straight into Type 2 fun.

SSB1 and 2 are fine for a beginner physically but it’s not what I would call fun.


I think you can throw someone on zwift, but if they are naturally riding at 40% of their FTP**, it’s still not a very productive ride, is it? I think that setting someone up in such a way that they are doing z2 and getting those benefits is something where TR can help, even if you’re not diving straight into SSB plans.

**I’m making the assumption that most folks probably go easier than they should because they really have no real feel for what’s really difficult. For a newbie, they may assume recovery is endurance, endurance is tempo, tempo in threshold, etc.

Asking someone with no riding experience to spend an hour on a trainer at a stretch much less 5+ hours per week is a huge ask. Its very unlikely someone starting cold is going to enjoy that. Your wife can physically handle structured interval training (anyone can at the right level and TR is based on FTP so that’s built in). But from a mental standpoint indoor trainer life focusing on structured intervals is an acquired taste and without some context and a goal of some sort it can be a mental challenge.

I’d start with a low volume with workouts between 30 and 45 minutes 3-4x per week and build from there. That’s plenty for basic fitness and better to be begging for more than dreading the workout.

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I want to emphasize this point. This is a really big thing, especially with kids and recreational riders. For HS MTB racing, it is heavily advised to not train or to hide training in group rides where the pace is controlled by the leader and not discussed. Formal training is frowned upon until they hit varsity/jv levels. The reason? losing interest, feeling left out, not part of the group dynamic, etc. You first need to captivate them with why they want to ride. Then if they see their peers racing, having fun, and going fast, and getting faster and faster, then they may want to dip into that. Only then, is it appropriate.

Motivation is a huge issue. Dump them into training and they will only see the chore, and not the joy.

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Since that is the case, I vote for Zwift, Rouvy, Peloton or other similar apps where you can “play” as much as get a workout. I’d be looking for something that is fun and distracting, and gives a workout along the way.

My wife just free rides in Zwift and has no desire to thrash herself like she see’s me do. Think about what your wife likes and try to give access to a workout that is something more than a pure workout on it’s own.


FWIW we all need to remember that you get about 100% of the health benefits of cycling by just riding in z2 for 45 minutes 4 or 5 times a week. You can get to about 90% on the race fitness scale by just randomly riding around at varying paces for 7 hours a week as long as some of that time is “hard.”

When dealing with newbies, disciplined structured training is awesome and should be discussed and recommended in the right circumstances but its the icing on the cake, not the cake. And its worthless if it makes someone quit.


If she wants to get better at cycling, jumping into SSB could be a great way to start. I’m a bit younger than your wife, similarly lacking in race aspirations and endurance sports experience, and I sort of hopped off the couch into SSBLV. It was hard and fun and super rewarding. Addictive really. Don’t underestimate a motivated newbie cyclist :laughing:

If she’s not interested in getting better necessarily, just wants to stay active, then any of the platforms that focus more on entertainment and less on suffering and aDaPTaTioN are probably a better bet.

All good feedback guys. Thanks for this.

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I’d suggest that those details are largely irrelevant, in the context of this specific case. There is no draw towards training to get optimal fitness. It appears the goal here is fitness and weight loss. Sweating details like zones and FTP percentages are what so many of us here do, but I think are worthless in this context.

The OP and their SO need an outlet to burn calories and work on general fitness. That can be done much more loosely and with more focus on not burying the person in needless details.

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don’t forget that Zwift has community led group rides, and group workouts as well, if she desires more company. finding the “right” group leader is important as well. i’v had bad ones and good ones. getting dropped is no fun, but hopefully they have the rubber band on now.


I hear you, but I think there’s always value in connecting something that connects with lay people (calories) and how more structured riding plays into that, even if it’s simple as showing the kj of a particular ride and that increasing one’s FTP and adjusting zones can allow someone to burn more calories per ride. I think for a lot of people it would be pretty eye opening how few calories they actually burn on a ride. Just looking at casual rides I do with my family, the kj are only in the neighborhood of 100 or so. I think people would normally assume they burned more calories on such an activity. Again, I’m real biased in my view of things, I just think whenever someone wants to get into using cycling as a form of exercise, especially indoors, there’s a tremendous opportunity to give them guidance, at least I would have loved a lot more direction when I started off a few years back.

My wife has little interest in riding, just training for health and fitness. So I gave her a dedicated setup with a Saris S3 next to mine, and her own TR account.

She’s terrified of cars, so her Cannondale Synapse 105 is permanently attached to the S3. She only rides on pavement when we’re on the tandem. I did recently get her into MTB, which she enjoys, but is taking it slowly.

Most of her workouts on TR are Z1/Z2: Dans (30 min), Pettit (60min), and Townsend (90 min). She’ll do a 60 minute sweet spot workout when she’s “feeling fat” (her words, not mine).

She tried Spanish Needle once. Her experience was expletive-laden.


Opportunity, certainly.

But we need to be careful not to place OUR interest and desires onto OTHERS, unless they show a real interest it that. I know I’d get a stern look and response if I tried to get my wife to even do an FTP test, let alone think about zones and related impact while doing her fun rides on Zwift.

What works for one person is not right for all persons.


You have no idea how much I have to bite my tongue with my wife who has aspirations to do sprint tris and does not want to hear my training advice lol It’s a hard life!

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Yup. Most often with first level partners and family, I find I need to stay clear, and ask for help from other friends and resources that are at least one step removed. I’ve seen and lived the “too close” relationship and “teaching” problems. Even if I am asked, I am careful about how and when I handle that stuff. :stuck_out_tongue: