Cover off at least one of each of these rides per week and you'll be on the quickest possible route to fitness.
60 minutes +
Long rides at a conversational pace are the bedrock for improving your endurance. At this pace your breathing is deep, rhythmic and regular, and should never feel strained or ragged. For these rides stick to flat or rolling terrain rather than hills. Focus on keeping a smooth high cadence, and use your long ride to get used to eating and drinking on the move.
This ride will train your body to get used to burning fuel efficiently. It will also help you to improve your riding posture and help you to get used to sitting on the saddle for extended periods of time.
Long gradual climbs are ideal for this session, or they can be done on the flat in a big gear or with high resistance on a turbo trainer. After a good 10-minute warm-up, pedal for five minutes at a pace that feels hard but controllable. You should be breathing deeply and only able to say one or two words at a time. Recover for one minute and then repeat.
Aim for a minimum of 20 minutes at the hard pace per session. If you have more time, aim for 10 minutes at the hard pace before your one-minute recovery.
These sessions help to improve your muscular efficiency and will make climbing feel easier.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to boost endurance, increase calorie burn and improve cardiovascular fitness. During the intervals you have to work very hard – it needs 100 per cent effort – but the intervals are very short. After a good 10-minute warm-up, spend five minutes alternating between 30-seconds' all-out effort and 30-seconds' recovery. Pedal easily for five minutes and then repeat.
If you are very limited on time then just three sessions of HIIT training a week is the best way to improve your overall fitness.