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The question: I signed up for a 80-kilometre cycling race. The most I currently ride is 15 to 20 kilometres. How should I train?

The answer: That is a fantastic fitness goal! You will have so much fun. In fact, I am somewhat envious. I love long-distance cycling, but I will have to live vicariously through you since my racing season is over for the year.

From personal experience, I highly recommend having an expert asses your seat and handle bar height. In order to stay injury-free when riding long distances, a biomechanically sound bike is essential. Also, invest in a good pair of padded cycling shorts. Trust me – they are a must.

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Since you currently ride 20 km, start by doing one long ride a week of 25 km. Gradually increase your distance each week. Every third week, do a medium ride the day before your long ride. The long ride increases from 25 km to 70 or 80 km. The medium ride is never longer than 40 km. Here's a sample training plan:

  • Week 1: long ride 25 km, medium ride 20 km
  • Week 2: long ride 30 km, medium ride 20 km
  • Week 5: long ride 40 km, medium ride 25 km
  • Week 8: long ride 50 km, medium ride 30 km

Do hill training once per week. Warm-up by cycling to a hill. Ride up the hill (which should take a minimum of three to five minutes) then turn around and cruise back down. Start by climbing the hill twice. Increase the frequency each week until you are doing eight consecutive climbs. Finish by riding home.

Like most cyclists, I have a love-hate relationship with hill training. I am sure you will feel similarly. Hill workouts burn, but in the long term they are worth it and will make you stronger.

You should also strength train twice per week and stretch daily. Pay particularly attention to stretching your chest, quads and hip flexors. Videos for these stretches can be found on The Globe and Mail website.

Trainer's Tip: After a long ride, stretching your upper body out feels amazing. Try my favourite chest stretch: Lie on a foam roller with the roller running lengthwise along your spine. Bring your arms over your head, palms up. While keeping your hands as close to the ground as possible, arc your arms toward your hips like you are making snow angels. Repeat 10 times.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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