I’m not an expert. But, I think my experience is valid and useful. When I started cycling at first, back in 2005, I was way out of shape. I was 35 pounds overweight. I rode my bike uphill, about 3 miles, up a sleight grade, nothing crazy. But, I was slow, going 3.5 miles per hour. I thought I would die. But, it was a start.
Look, exercise is hard and it often hurts. But, if I am eating too much, I have to exercise. I have to burn calories. If I am overweight, I have to burn more than I take in. You can lower your caloric intake and eat less and lose weight without exercise, but that’s way harder.
Exercise is actually a natural appetite suppressant, at least for most of the time you are working out. Of course, working out make you hungry, too. But, if you work out hard, you can eat more. That is a great thing about taking a long bike ride. After three or four hours of riding, I have burned over 1,000 calories. It gives me a lot more room in my diet for the day.
Another thing that helps is that I enjoy cycling. So, I look forward to the exercise and that makes it easier to continue doing it.
So, my first suggestion is to pick a form of exercise that you like doing. The second suggestion is that you commit to a reasonable goal. At first, I committed to riding my bike 3 times a week, minimum, for 30 minutes each time. Eventually, I increased that to 4 to 5 times a week and 45 minutes to an hour each time. If I missed my goal, I just started over. I didn’t give up just because I missed the goal. That was key, I think.
Another thing that helped was that I met some people that cycled too. Initially, it was mountain biking, but I also met road bikers, too. And, they were faster and had more endurance so I wanted to train harder to be able to keep up with them. I did the same thing this year and signed up for the Tour de Foothills century so I would have a goal to shoot for. But, mostly, the people become a kind of support group.
For example, they told me about doing interval training as a way to get fit with shorter workouts. Or, when I started getting cramps during longer workouts, my friend Mike told me about eating Tums or drinking pickle juice to relieve them. (Mostly, today, I try to drink fluids with electrolytes while riding, or eating stuff like energy gels or Clif bars.) Mike has been an invaluable resource, actually. I have learned a lot about cycling in general from him. From bike fit, to good equipment, to good rides, he has a lot of information to share. It’s good to find someone who can help you out like that.
Interestingly, it also has occurred to me that my circle of friends in cycling has given me a big boost in the sense that I have raised my expectations. I ride with people who regularly ride 50 to 100 miles without blinking an eye. They go up and down mountains. This is way different than hitting a bike path a couple times a week or riding around the block a few times. I ride 25 miles and then see that they rode 50 and I feel like I need to ride more. So, I think that is a good thing to have higher expectations.
And, then, there is Strava. I have way too much fun with that. I can see my ride on a map, see the numbers, and all of that. Strava is fun. And, segments give you a way to track your progress. If you ride or run, you should use Strava.
Summing it up, pick an activity you enjoy, set reasonable goals, and find some people to support your activity and/or participate with you so you will stick to your goals and raise the bar for yourself as you improve.