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The Couch-to-8K Cycling Plan

Before I get started, I just want to acknowledge Cool Runnings Couch-to-5K Running Plan as the inspiration and source for this plan. Essentially what follows is a simple conversion of the Couch to 5k Running Plan into a plan someone can use to achieve something similar on a bike.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide a simple, structured plan to get someone up and off their couch and cycling for about half an hour three times a week. Ive called it the Couch to 8k Cycling Plan, but really the distance isnt too important - its the time you should be focussed on. The Couch-to-30-Minutes-Cycling-Plan just isnt that catchy though :). If your pace means you do 10k in 30 minutes, then this plan is your Couch to 10k plan.8K is based on someone cycling at a relatively leisurely pace - 16 kmph (10 mph). You might find that you start at that sort of pace, and increase it as you proceed, and that's great.

You will need:

  • A bike. Duh.
  • With a speedometer.
  • A place to ride.
  • Some sort of device to measure the passage of time (in seconds).

A quick note on number 3: Id recommend starting somewhere relatively flat. The first few weeks are about waking your body up and getting into a routine - no sense taking the chance youll discourage yourself. An exercise bike would be ok, but there's nothing quite like getting outside to really make you feel like you're doing something constructive.

The plan is, much like its inspiration, a very simple one, involving three rides a week. Each week the rides get slightly harder, and if you feel like a week was tough, repeating it is never a problem. The ultimate aim is to get you cycling for about half an hour, three times a week. How long you take to get there is entirely dependant upon what you are comfortable with.

In the same vein, if you find the plan easy, try to avoid skipping ahead. The worst thing you can do is push yourself too hard too fast. If you try something, and fail, or you injure yourself, that might put you off, and that's not the idea at all!

On With the Plan!

The plan is based on intervals, with the ultimate aim being to go cycling regularly (three times a week) at a pace that suits you - faster than a gentle family ride, but slower than your all-out sprint. Each run (at least in the beginning) involves cycling at one of two paces - a slower pace, equivalent in exertion to a brisk walk, and a faster pace. The faster pace should be strenuous, but if youre incapable of speaking, youre going too fast.

Ive set these paces at five and ten miles per hour respectively in the plan below, however these are a suggestion - try and find paces that suit you (and feel free to share what works for you in the comments!). The slower pace doesnt have to be half of the quicker pace, but the slower pace should be slow enough that you can catch your breath between the quicker sections.

Important! Make sure you warm up before each ride. A brisk five minute walk or medium-paced cycle should do the trick, and some stretches beforehand will reduce your chance of injury.

Week Ride(s) Detail
1 1, 2 and 3 Alternate 60 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 90 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
2 1, 2 and 3 Alternate 90 seconds of cycling at 10mph (16km/h) and 120 seconds of cycling at 5mph (8km/h) for a total of 20 minutes.
3 1, 2 and 3 2 repetitions of: 90 seconds at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
4 1, 2 and 3 2 repetitions of: 3 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 90 seconds at 5mph (8km/h). Then 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 2-1/2 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
5 1 3 repetitions of: 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
2 2 repetitions of: 8 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 5 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
3 20 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
6 1 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h). Then 8 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h). Finally 5 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
2 2 repetitions of: 10 minutes at 10mph (16km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 5mph (8km/h).
3 25 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
7 1, 2 and 3 25 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
8 1, 2 and 3 28 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).
9 1, 2 and 3 30 minutes at 10mph (16km/h).

What Next?

Once youve finished the plan, the idea is to keep cycling regularly for half an hour, three times a week. You can increase the time and/or distance, but 30 minutes of basic exercise like this is the minimum most people should be doing to keep themselves healthy.

Many people ride on weekends with local cycling groups, so you could join a friendly social group for a regular ride. You could also try some longer rides by yourself at the weekend - it's amazing what sites you find when riding a bike, that you wouldn't see from your car.