QUESTION: I am a truck driver. I only get to ride one time in two weeks. How do I make that one time count to stay in shape? —Gil
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: I’m somewhat in that same situation myself lately. Some family responsibilities have limited the number of days I’m free to ride, so many weeks, I get just one ride in, and some weeks I get none. I was in good riding shape to begin with, so I’ve found that riding about 30-40 miles on those days — at a steady pace — seems to help me hold the fitness I have.
I suggest you try something similar. Don’t worry about intensity but try to ride as long of a reasonably paced ride as makes sense for your level of cycling. If you’re just beginning, look for a route that is mostly flat and limit the ride to 15 or 20 miles. If you’re an experienced cyclist, you might be able to go 40 or 50 miles. Long, steady rides build endurance and aerobic fitness, so as you continue to do these rides, even if only once every other week, you may be able to add a few miles and a couple of hills as you progress. Stop for a breather as needed.
As you begin, you may need to allow for an “ugly ride.” That’s my own term for the first ride I do after an extended time off the bike. I find that on that first ride, I don’t hit any of my usual expectations: I don’t go as far as I’d planned; I don’t feel invigorated by getting out on the bike; my average speed is embarrassingly low. But I’ve learned to accept that the first ride after a long hiatus will be like that — an ugly ride. But as long as I am able to resume riding more thereafter, my second ride is better and subsequent rides level out.
As an experienced trucker, you’ve probably already thought of this, but for any readers who haven’t, you can support your fitness between rides with some exercises, like jumping rope in the parking lot or jogging in place or doing some calisthenics.
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.