Pedal Power! - How to use your bike to transform your health.
Getting around is easier than ever these days. Buses, trains, cars, taxis, ‘ubers’, are just some of the many ways we can get from A to B more quickly, and with less fuss. But these super-efficient technology-driven transportation are also encouraging us to be more lazy. Whatever happened to getting from place to place through your own power, walking, running or cycling?
Thankfully though, cycling is becoming more and more popular again, in many parts of the parts of the world. Not only is cycling better for the environment, and faster than walking, it also provides you with a great workout!
Here’s everything you need to know to get you back on the saddle and into shape:
Cycling may not be suitable for everyone, so before you commit, it’s important to asses if it’s something you could manage. If you have knee problems, or other physical limitations, cycling might not be right for you. The good news is, there’s plenty of great exercises that are. For everyone else, let’s get going!
Firstly, there is some essential equipment you will need: A bike, a helmet, some reflective clothing, and some lights are the main priorities. There are many different kinds of bike for road, mountain, cities and countryside, so if you’re in any doubt about which you need, find a local bike store and ask an expert!
If cycling outdoors is not possible for you, you can also get fit in the same way using a stationary ‘exercise bike’ in your home or at the gym.
Set Some Goals!
Cycling is great for building stamina by improving your cardiovascular system, building strength & muscle and burning fat. But each goal requires different types of workout, so it’s important to first prioritise whether you’re looking to lose weight, or to build up endurance.
If you’re looking to get a great cardiovascular workout and build endurance and stamina, then your focus should be on riding longer distances. Aim to cycle as far as you can and for as long as you can, without worrying about going too fast. The important thing with cardio training is to keep a steady pace. This will build stamina in your muscles and strengthen your lungs.
Cardio workouts could also include variations in incline, if you live in an area with plenty of hills, which will further challenge and improve your cardiovascular capacity.
Your target should be to increase your distances each time you ride, and once you are comfortable cycling for long periods, keeping a steady pace and not stopping, then perhaps you can work on improving your speed.
If you’re aiming to pedal-away some fat and build some solid muscle, then cycling can also be a great way to do that, but a slightly different plan is needed.
The best way to burn fat is to workout in short, but intense, bursts. This means cycling shorter distances or for less time, but focussing on a much faster pace.
A great way to do this is through interval training. This involves keeping an average pace for five minutes at a time and then switching quickly to the fastest you can possibly go, maintaining that for one to two minutes, then reducing back to average pace. You could aim for five to ten ‘sets’ of these intervals in a workout.
The intensity of this workout and the changes in speed put strain upon your muscles which enables them to adapt and grow, and you’ll soon achieve noticeable change.
An intense workout such as this also burns maximum fat, as your heart-rate will remain high for a while and you’ll be burning fat even after you finish exercising!
Interval training is perhaps best suited to flatter terrain with fewer inclines, to allow for consistency across your intervals and prevent your workout being too difficult.
Other Benefits of Cycling:
Saves the planet
Helps you sleep
Improve your heart health
Get more energy
Making time for a Cycle Workout
The great thing about using your bike to work out, is that it doubles as a vehicle for transportation. Why not cycle to work, or to the shops or to see friends? Whenever you have a short journey to make, you’re presented with an opportunity to workout, so be sure to make the most of it!
You can also incorporate cycling into your vacation plans, or get your family involved and enjoy fun outings at the weekends. Even the weather doesn’t need to stop you from fitting in a workout, stationary bikes are common in most gyms and are just as good as the real thing, cycling really is a simple and easy hobby to enjoy anytime, anywhere, any weather!