Great advice so far - I second pretty much all of it!
If you're just starting out I'd just ride as much as you can. The simple act of cycling regularly will get you faster. If you want, sprint whenever you like (if you run, you should have heard of "fartleks") at random intervals - just that dose of speed should help.
Learn how to use your gears too, especially for hills. Oh, and while I'm at it - hill repeats are great for building strength.
I don't stretch before cycling - I hop on and warm up for 10' before doing anything hard. If it's an easy ride I'll spin slowly and gradually build up to a cruising speed. Afterwards I always stretch - calves, quads, ITB, hamstrings, hips. I have a pretty well ingrained stretching routine which covers everything and it feels really weird if I've not done it getting off the bike.
In God we trust, all others bring data.
- W. Edwards Demings
If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise.
Specificity, specificity, specificity.
The plural of "anecdote" is not "data".
- Frank Kotsonis
| current weight: 190.0