Pedal away to fitness

Getting on your cycle regularly may not get you where you want to go faster than a car; but it would definitely protect you against a wide range of illnesses, and also make you feel better. When done properly, cycling is an effective and enjoyable form of aerobic exercise.

Benefits:

  • Cycling can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
  • The indirect health benefits include reducing serious injuries caused by falls in older people, osteoporosis, and hip fractures.
  • Optimum results are achieved when cyclists are breathing heavily but are not out of breath.
  • This exercise continues to burn fat even after the workout ends.
  • A few scientific studies suggest that exercising for 20 minutes at 55 to 65 per cent of aerobic capacity, as in riding briskly, elevates metabolism for 20 minutes after stopping. That means that a 20-minute, brisk ride burns fat for 40 minutes.
  • Cycling has been proven to reduce stress and depression and relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Must-haves:

An exercise bike is a great machine to use for aerobic and strength training workouts. Whether you are using a bike at a gym or one that you own, there are several ways to enhance the spinning experience. For one, having the right gear with you will make your cycling workout much easier.

  • Keep a bottle of water, a hand towel, and a gel bike seat cover with you for a cycling workout. It is important that you stay hydrated throughout your workout, so never workout without water on hand. It is also a good idea to drink a glass of water prior to working out for additional hydration.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, making sure that your pants are not too loose or else they could get caught in the bike.
  • Wear athletic shoes that are geared towards bicycling.

Right position:

Your body positioning is important because if it is not correct, you could get injured unnecessarily.

  • When you stand beside the bike, the seat should line up with your hip joint.
  • When you sit up straight on the bike, the handlebars should be far away so that your arms are extended but your elbows are not locked.
  • Never slouch over the front to support yourself during a workout. You should be sitting up straight, with your shoulders back and your abdominal muscles tightened.
  • The middle of your foot should be planted on the pedals, and you should strap your feet in securely, but not so tight that your circulation is cut off.
  • As you pedal, keep your feet parallel to the floor.

Misconceptions:

Many people think that cycling is only for hard-core fitness enthusiasts, but in reality, exercise cycling is for everyone. It is not nearly as hard on the joints and many people with arthritis and knee problems can strengthen their muscles and joints with a carefully designed exercise cycling regimen.

If you have trouble exercising, you should consult a qualified trainer or a physiotherapist.

Starting out: 

“Make sure you always stretch for a minimum of five minutes before and after your workouts”.

When you are just starting out, don’t push yourself too hard. Try for a solid, steady-paced thirty minute on the bike three times a week for the first couple of weeks. As you begin to get more comfortable, you can increase your speed and the resistance level, and you can gradually work up to hour-long sessions.

Variations:

Turn on some dance music while you cycle so that you have a beat to keep up with. For increased calorie and fat burning, cycle with the interval method: pedal at a normal pace for a few minutes, then go at a high-intensity pace for a few minutes, then back to normal for a few minutes, back to intense, and so on.

Try cycling by getting up from seat, it replicates uphill cycling and along with aerobics it also helps in strengthening of leg muscles.

Many people think that cycling is only for hard-core fitness enthusiasts, but in reality, exercise cycling is for everyone.

By Y. RAMAKRISHNA
Sports Biomechanist and Sports Performance Enhancement Specialist
FitnessOne Group India Ltd.