As you know, the bicycle is very versatile. Not only can you ride to the corner store to get milk, but you can also ride over 3,000 kilometers to win a prestigious race like the Tour de France!
Okay, so you’re not quite ready for the Tour, but you are looking to develop a more systematic approach to cycling to increase your fitness. Here is what you need to know about bicycle exercise.
Basic Fitness and bicycle Exercise Principles
Like any other sport, there are some important things you need to remember – not only to prevent injury but also to get the most out of your efforts:
- Stretch after any prolonged exercise.
- Make sure to include a proper warm-up and cool-down phase to your workout.
- Eat properly to fuel your body.
- Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s rest – a rested body is at its fullest potential!
- If you are exercising for longer than 60 minutes, make sure to bring food and/or a sports drink.
Why Warm Up Before Your Bicycle Exercise?
Many people skip the warm-up and cool-down phase of their workouts. This is a big mistake, and these people risk injury. But there’s more: cycling is about more than getting blood to the muscles you plan on using and “pre-lubricating” your joints by getting the synovial fluids flowing.
The warm-up is your chance to mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to do. A warm-up is simple – nothing more than 5-10 minutes of cycling at a very easy tempo.
And a Cool-Down Too?
Yes! The cool-down phase to cycling is very important – especially so for very hard workouts. After a sustained period of exertion, coming to a sudden stop may cause dizziness. You don’t want to be getting dizzy when you’re on your bike!
Just like a warm-up, a cool-down is 5-10 minutes at a very easy tempo. This allows your blood flow to recalibrate itself, and your heartbeat to slowly come back to normal.
Different Bicycle Exercise for Different Results
Depending upon your goals, try to fit in a cycling workout 3-5 times a week. If you are training for a particular event, cater your training to this event. However, if you are just looking to increase your fitness in the offseason, focusing on accumulating kilometers through longer, slower rides.
Did you know...?
Did you know that interval training can help you burn more calories in less time?
Recent scientific studies have shown that interval training, where you pedal as fast and as hard as you can for a short period of time, rest for a short while and then repeat the process, is highly effective at burning calories because it drastically elevates your metabolism. Include some interval training in your cycling workouts to shrink that waistline.
Long Slow Distance: a longer ride (1-3 hours) at a slower tempo. This is essential for acclimatizing your body to the endurance aspect of the sport of cycling. Incorporate at least one long slow ride into your schedule every week.
Tempo or Interval Training: These rides usually last 1-2 hours. Although the pace is slower overall, work in periods of 30-60 seconds where you increase the tempo to a more difficult level. This accustoms your legs to pedal at a fast tempo.
Hill Training: Hill training is a good way to mix up your training, but does not interest everyone! It is more difficult, and the benefits may not seem readily apparent unless you plan on cycling in a hilly or mountainous region. Nonetheless, it is a challenging way to increase your fitness and proficiency with climbing!
Sprinting: People underestimate how fast you can go on a bike - but you don't get fast by riding slow! On your next ride, practice a few intervals where, for 10-20 seconds, you sprint as hard as you can. This is great training for racing, but also helps your body get used to the muscular burning of lactic acid, a by-product of muscular effort.
Useful Training Aids for Bicycle Exercise
Bike riding for exercise is a great way to get fit. Training with others will help you improve, but sometimes it may be hard to find time to meet with a training partner. In these instances, you may want to consider training with a cycling computer or heart rate monitor.
A great aid for bicycling as exercise is a cycling power meter. Get here all the details.
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