With the first rays of spring sun, many rush to get their bicycles from the back of their garages and use as the main vehicles of transportation. However, aside from its convenience in bigger and smaller cities alike, cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise, effective for reducing risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
In the past decade, biking to work increased by 60% in the USA alone. In this fast-paced, hectic world, it represents one of the most time-efficient ways to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. It is not only fun for people of all ages, it is also budget- and environmentally-friendly.
The reasons behind its popularity and the benefits
As already mentioned, cycling is a low impact activity, meaning that in comparison to other forms of exercise, it is the cause of much less injuries. Unlike some other sports which require you to have athletic predisposition, you don’t need to have high levels of physical skill to ride a bicycle.
Many professionals, as well as recreational cyclists highlight the fact that this activity allows you to go your own pace. At first you can do it at a low intensity, and over time, it may become quite a demanding workout routine.
As you pedal, you are using all the major groups of muscles, and as a result, itbuilds up your strength, stamina and aerobic fitness. You are breathing deeper and your body temperature increases; it activates your lungs, heart and blood vessels, making them all workout at the same time.
When you get off the bike…
If your commutes are long, or you’re a professional cyclist looking to up your game, bear in mind there are exercises that have to be done after you get off the saddle.
Keep the core tight
Although you are mostly using your leg muscles, it doesn’t mean your core strength should be neglected completely. A strong core promotes good posture, and it is extremely beneficial for those who often ride uphill. With this in mind, incorporate plank exercise into your weekly (if not daily) routine, and you’re bound to feel the difference in a week or so.
Strengthen your triceps
If the roads you cross give you jolty ride experience, the back of your arms can hurt. To prepare your triceps for any kind of road, try the following exercise: sit in front of a bench with your legs straightened and close together. Bend your elbows and grab the bench with your hands. Then push yourself up with your hands to the point where your elbows are straight. Then go back down again, but don’t sit – let your behind graze the floor. Repeat that as many times as you can, then repeat three times with 75% of your maximum strength you used the first time around.
Do you remember to stretch every time you get off your bike? Admit it – the answer is no, thus if you’re a regular cyclist, it’s highly likely your hamstrings are tight. To ensure you stay flexible, we recommend incorporating at least one or two yoga sessions in your weekly schedule to warm up your muscles and allow for safer stretching.
Don’t forget about the cardio
In order to increase your cardiovascular fitness, it is advisable to include intervals into your cycling routine. However, note that if you’re a commuter, this exercise might not be applicable for when you’re on your way to work, so you’ll have to practice on a stationary bike. Start hard, while you’re still fresh, by giving your 80% for one minute; next minute, take it a bit easier, with 40% of the maximum effort you feel you can give.
Keep your back strong
If you’re a regular cyclist and take a lot of long rides, in time you might experience a lower back pain. The reason behind it is simple – your back gets tired because it is not strong enough. This is why professional cyclists perform weighted row movements regularly at the gym, or even at home. What are the best kettlebell exercises and how to perform them correctly, you can read in this article.
Know when to rest
Whether you are a professional or a commuter, it’s advisable to take at least one day off every week. Although at first it might seem counterintuitive, the rest is actually the only way to get stronger. How come? When you train hard, microfibers in your muscles break down, and when they rebuild they become stronger. But if they are not given enough time to do so, the entire process will be slower and less effective.
Be careful what you eat
All of the above mentioned exercises will be in vain if you don’t regulate your eating habits. By feeding your body well, you will help the microfibers rebuild faster. Never, under any circumstances, should you skip a meal; on the contrary – ensure you have a snack or a regular meal every 3 to 4 hours. There should always be vegetables, fruits and protein on your plate.
Finally, a cliché, but it’s one for a reason – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You cannot expect to get the best out of your cycling routine if you are under-fueling the session. That’s why we recommend a yogurt smoothie, a slice of toast or a half of banana sandwich, since these sit well in your stomach in the morning.
Feeling pumped for your next ride? Share your cycling habits and routine with us!
- How Cycling Can Help You Get Fit – And Stay That Way - April 11, 2017