AIDS Lifecycle - Ride to end AIDS

Nutrition & Hydration

Expert Nutrition and Hydration advice for endurance cyclists. Learn more

Training Safely

Resist the impulse to go "all out" in the beginning. Training for an endurance event like AIDS/LifeCycle must be done in small increments of increasing intensity. The great part about a slow training regimen is that you get to experience positive results without the risk of being burned out or incurring overuse injuries. Do not forget to build in time to allow your body to recover. Rest is as important as activity and is often overlooked when trying to manage a training schedule. Remember, your body has its own brain, and it will definitely let you know when you have pushed it too far.

AIDS/LifeCycle is not a race, but rather, an endurance event. Your goal is to train on a regular basis, increasing your mileage each week. Focus on gaining strength and endurance, and be sure to pace yourself and listen to your body. "Injury Prevention" should become part of your daily mantra while training. Pushing yourself too hard might make you susceptible to injury and will only take the enjoyment out of your experience.

Of course you will want to focus most of your training on cycling. Nothing will prepare you better than actually riding your bike. It is important to experience the feel of the road, the bumps, the wind, the uphills and downhills, cornering, stopping, mounting and dismounting. It’s also the best way to toughen and train that posterior region. There is no cross training that will help condition that area like time in the saddle.

With that said, cross training definitely has its benefits and it is recommended that you introduce variety to your total training program. There may be times that the weather won’t allow you out on the road to train or quite frankly, you'll just need a change of scenery. In those cases, choose an activity that is aerobic (gets your heart rate up). Most importantly, make it something different that you’ll enjoy. 

Cross training examples:

  • Swimming
  • Running or jogging
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Calisthenics
  • Jumping rope
  • Stair climbing
  • Spin class
  • Aerobic classes
  • Dance class
  • Roller blading

Most training or overuse injuries can be prevented by following a proper training program. Be sure to warm up and stretch those muscles before you use them in a workout. And don’t forget to stretch them again once you are finished.

Most of the injuries that require treatment on the event are related to knees, feet, ankles, tendons and muscle groups. To a lesser degree, we see sore necks and backs and some hand numbness. All of these are totally avoidable.

The single most important thing you can do to prevent most of these injuries is to have your bike professionally fit to you. An improper seat height alone can wreak havoc on knees, legs and Achilles. These types of injuries don’t just happen during one day of riding. It is the repetitive nature of cycling on an improperly fit bike that creates the injury. So one day you could be fine, and the next day, your knee is sore. This doesn’t happen during just one day of riding. Your body is resilient and will try to heal itself until pushed beyond its limits.

Do not push yourself past your own ability or endurance level. For example, you find someone you like riding with, but your average speed is 10 miles per hour (mph), while theirs is 15. Riding with someone who is slightly faster or more skilled than you are can be just the thing to help push you gently to that next level of performance. However, trying to keep up with a much faster cyclist will only serve to frustrate your cycling psyche and put your body at risk for overuse or over-performance injury. Your knees will be the first part of your body to let you know this wasn’t a good idea. The injuries that could occur will most likely stop you from continuing your training while you heal. That’s valuable time lost that you won’t get back.

Hill climbing is another area can cause problems even for the most avid of cyclists. Your wisest decision is to spin (use your easiest gears) up a hill. This expends far less energy than trying to "power up" those hills and your knees will definitely thank you for it. Powering up a hill might work for one or two days, but remember, you will be riding for seven days and over many hills. Here again, it is important to remember that AIDS/LifeCycle is a RIDE, not a race, and there is no prize for the Cyclist who reaches the top first.  Avoid those injuries--slow down and enjoy the scenery.

AIDS/LifeCycle is a challenging seven day ride. We want nothing more than for all the riders to enjoy their ride and complete as many miles each day as they would wish. In order to complete the ride without health challenges, you must prepare by training--not only by riding your bike, but also by preparing your core strength and muscle length. Note that if any movement is painful, you should stop doing that stretch/exercise and seek medical assistance for guidance. Pain is your body sending you a message and you must intepret that by relying on past experience or seeking the advice of a medical professional.

Why Stretch & Strengthen 

You must have good range of motion in order to prevent your muscles from tightening on the long days on your bike. If you are not familiar with effective stretches and your range of motion is already limited, it will make your days on the ride much less enjoyable. Similarly, you must have good core strength to maintain healthy riding posture all day on your bike. Otherwise, your core muscles will begin to let you down. As muscles fatigue, the body builds work-around patterns to continue pushing to reach your goals. These work-around patterns use secondary muscles to do the work of primary muscles and they can’t do that without causing more pain and tension in muscles and joints.

When to Stretch

Stretching before exercise is a good general practice. However, the stretches that will make the largest difference in your program will be those done after exercise. When the muscles are hot, like after exercise, they will stretch with less resistance and retain their new length much more efficiently than after a light warm-up or when cold. Stretching after exercise helps to avoid muscle soreness and directs the muscle repair systems in the body to strengthen the connective tissue of the muscles stretched. During training, the most important time to stretch is post-ride & at breaks. However, on the event in June, you should stretch every morning, at every Rest Stop & in camp when you arrive.

How Far to Take a Stretch

Stretching should never be painful. Only go far enough to feel “the edge of discomfort,” no further. If you're trying a new stretch and you don't feel the target muscle stretching, review your instructions and try again with careful attention to the details of form.

How Long to Hold Each Stretch

The Golden Rule of stretching is to always hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds. If you are having problems with a muscle group, hold all stretches for that group one full minute.


Please honor your body's natural goal of symmetry and stretch both sides of the body evenly with each stretch performed.

Download our
Guide to Stretching & Core Strength [12.5 MB .pdf]



It is a good idea for everyone to get checked out by their doctor before embarking on a serious training program to address any current or potential physical problems.

You should start by riding distances within your comfort zone.  Beginners, or those who haven’t biked in several years, should start by riding mostly flat terrain and very few miles. With each subsequent ride, you should increase your mileage in small increments, and gradually introduce more challenging terrain.

We recommend two to three rides a week at the beginning of the season, including one long ride, at your pace speed. This is the speed that you can ride comfortably for long distances and this will build your base endurance. One to two rides per week should be shorter and ridden at a brisk pace or on hills. As the season progresses, try to build up to riding (and cross training) four to five days per week. Increase your mileage incrementally for three weeks (ideally by about 10%), then cut back your training by almost half during the fourth week (your rest week).  On your fifth week increase your mileage using your third week as the base.

Your goal should be to ride between 150-175 miles per week by the end of May.  Additionally, you should try to do several back to back rides in April and May to get your body accustomed to riding consecutive days. Work up to riding at least 75 miles one day, then a minimum of 40-50 miles the following day. The more back to back rides you can do, the more comfortable you'll be riding seven consecutive days on the event.

It is important to do most of your training on the bike that you will use on the event. However, you can exchange an hour of ride time for an hour of cross training.

And don't forget to take some rest days. While it is important that you invest a good amount of time in training, it is equally important that you give your body a chance to recover between workouts. Take a minimum of one or two days off per week to avoid burnout, overtraining, and injury. You will probably find that by taking one or two days off per week, you come back to your bike feeling refreshed and energized.

Your last big weekend of training should be a full week before ALC begins. You should scale back the last week prior to the ride. Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet. Your body needs this down time to gear up for the big week ahead!

These recommendations are meant to be very general. Each person will do their best with a tailored individual plan. Please use your best judgment! Your Participant Representative will help you develop a plan that takes your goals, health issues, riding endurance, strengths and weaknesses into consideration.