Riding a bicycle is an excellent way to get in shape. Cycling is wonderful for increasing your aerobic capacity, circulating your blood, developing your heart, and enhancing your respiratory system, all while you enjoy the scenery of your city or the great outdoors. With cycling, you always get in a great workout, especially for your lower body, primarily the quadriceps and gluteus maximus. Health experts have estimated that for a 200-pound male, cycling for one-hour burns around 900 calories when riding at a 14-16 mile per hour pace. That’s a lot of calories in only one hour!
To get started cycling, you don’t have to go out and buy the newest, lightest-framed bike from your local bike shop, which can be quite expensive. Just go out to your garage and dust off that old mountain bike, inflate the tires and adjust the seat, hop on and start riding. For those with unusual body shapes, properly fitting your bike can be important for reducing potential injury. Bringing your old bike into a cycling shop to have them measure and adjust things for a more customized fit may be necessary, which shouldn’t cost too much. Riding a properly fitted bike will maximize the transmission of energy from feet to pedals and ease riding while increasing your overall enjoyment.
If you haven’t cycled for a while, you will definitely want to begin slowly. Try riding for one or two 15-30 minute sessions per week, then gradually work your way up to one or two hour-long sessions about three to four times per week, and soon enough you’ll be on your way to enjoying excellent physical fitness. If you’re familiar with heart rate monitors, wear yours and strive to keep your maximum heart rate reading in the 60 to 75 percentile range, which has the greatest aerobic building qualities.
Although mountain bikes are great for exercise, some may want to ride a road bike, which is what the great riders in the Tour de France use. Road bikes are lighter and much more efficient than mountain bikes, which isn’t always a good thing if you’re simply trying to burn a lot of calories. Striving to be as fast as a New York City bike messenger, or working your way up to eventually compete in the Tour de France may not be your primary goals. Simply cruising around at a moderate pace on a heavy mountain bike, keeping those big quadriceps and glutes moving to propel the extra weight of a mountain bike, will actually burn more calories and improve your overall health.
But if you do want to increase your speed on a bike, riding “intervals” is a great way to build it, plus intervals will enhance the muscular development of your legs considerably. Intervals involve riding as hard as you can for, say one or two minutes straight, then backing off and cruising at a relaxed pace for about 5 to 10 minutes, then repeating the process. Intervals will build speed and improve your aerobic conditioning in no time, but remember that relaxing and pedaling at a nice consistent pace for 45 minutes to an hour still does plenty of good as well.
Taking an MP3 player along on your ride and listening to your favorite music can boost your energy levels significantly, or you can listen to a book on tape and improve your mind and body at the same time. Ex-president George W. Bush said one of his favorite activities after leaving the White House was riding his mountain bike while listening to his iPod.
Cycling also has a long and interesting history that can be studied for added inspiration, which will hopefully get you out on your bike more often. Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner, cancer survivor, and former triathlete has been a huge inspiration to many cyclists. Here is a passage from Lance’s book, It’s Not About the Bike: “I rode, and I rode, and I rode. I rode as I had never ridden, punishing my body up and down every hill I could find… The trick was not to climb every once in a while but to climb repeatedly. I would do three different climbs in a day, over the course of a six- or seven-hour ride… I rode when no one else would ride, sometimes not even my teammates.” Lance Armstrong can endure excruciating pain for extended periods of time on his bike, which of course keeps him at the highest levels of physical conditioning. Lance is a magnificent example of the elite level of fitness a man can achieve if only he works hard enough.
Riding a bicycle is also a wonderful alternative to driving a vehicle. You’ll get an abundance of exercise, cut down on fossil fuel usage, lower the number of traffic jams, reduce noise and air pollution, plus you are able to ride where larger vehicles cannot go.
There is a small element of danger involved with riding a bicycle, so always watch out for traffic and pedestrians and strive to be as careful as possible. Experts have estimated that for every “life year” lost due to injury while riding, there are about twenty “life years” gained due to the beneficial health aspects of cycling!
There are roughly one billion bicycles in the world at the present time, so get on one and start improving your health. And if you prefer to pedal indoors Cathe’s our first cycle video will be available this summer!
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