Today’s question is about how to get back into racing shape after a long layoff and the resulting weight gain…

I have a question. I raced from 1994-2003 and when I stopped I was pretty close to cat 2 status. Then I got married, house, kid, second career and grad school all during which I haven’t done anything riding-wise. My time I spent on cycling I sacrificed for some other things but now it’s time to get back what I lost. Being a real rider. I really miss cycling and want to get back to riding enough so I could amybe think about racing. I’m 6’1″ 215 lbs (racing weight was 180-85, eesh!) What is step one? Lose weight and diet? weights? Just get back on the bike and ride? It’s cold here in Illinois so right now I’ll be doing stuff indoors. Any advice would be appreciated.

-Determined Drew

Hi Drew,

This is an interesting question for me, because I have been in a similar situation quite a few times, albeit on a smaller scale. But whatever the cause, it’s always a challenge to get back in the game, and it can be aggravating due to all the hard work it takes just to get back to the shape you were in. (I always tried to jump back in right where I was before and blast some hill intervals – big mistake!)

Being winter, this is actually a good time for you to get back into it. Here’s why…

Your initial goals will be lose weight and put some miles in your legs. The weight loss will come from weight lifting and diet changes, two things that go well with the winter weather. (You probably already know how hard it is to diet during the season and still maintain enough energy for big miles and hard training. So work on the diet now.)

Now when I say diet, I mean cutting out junk food and not eating too far in excess. You’ll probably still need a decent amount of food since you’ll be training, so don’t do any severe calorie restriction. Just focus on healthy, natural foods.

For weight lifting, I’d recommend doing some intense weight lifting. And I mean a real weight lifting program with heavy squats and deadlifts, lunges, overhead press, incline bench press, pull ups, chin ups, and dips. (You could even try the 5×5 program from to get started.)

A lot of cyclists would shudder at this advice, thinking they’ll gain a ton of muscle mass. But I think you’ll find that you shed a lot of fat and end up losing weight with this approach!

At the same time, you need to get your legs adjusted to the motion of pedaling a bicycle for hours on end, once again. After a long layoff, the tendency is to overdo it and end up overtrained, which is another reason the winter weather is good for you. By forcing you to ride an indoor trainer, you’ll be able to keep mileage in check. (Even the most motivated riders coming back from 5 year layoffs would have a hard time doing 4-8 hour rides indoors!)

I’d shoot for six 30-minute rides or three 60-minute rides per week, done at an easy to moderate pace. You can alter this each week, but I’d stick with the shorter and easier rides to get your aerobic base built up. The intensity in your training will come from the weight lifting. (And as the weather gets nicer and your legs get accustomed to the bike again, you can cut back on the weight lifting and gradually ramp up the intensity of your rides.)

Good luck! Just keep working hard and you’ll be racing Cat 2 soon enough!

1 Comment
  1. Solid advice here Levi. Thats more or less my current strategy after a lack of serious riding for several months

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