Cyclists who compete, whether road racing or mountain biking, are some of the fittest bikers in the World. Many of these top cyclists have at-rest pulse rates of less than 30 beats per minute, which is more than half that of the rest of us.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be this fit to enjoy cycling. You do have to have a moderate degree of personal health, ie. no underlying health issues. If in doubt, talk to your Doctor.
So why bother with cycling at all, isn’t it just for athletes? Er, no. It’s about getting out in the fresh air, spending time with friends & family and getting healthier so we can enjoy a longer, and happier, life. All it takes is a few gentle bike rides at a gentle pace, and you’ll soon be wanting more. Start with a short two to three mile bike ride, it’ll take you no more than 20 mins. Twenty minutes is the least amount of time we’d recommend. Once you feel comfortable with this, step it up to five miles and then slowly build this up.
Give yourself goals, a particular distance or amount of time, a particular hill or incline, a route or circuit. Once strong enough, or confident enough, why not do a charity ride? These are often set on routes that are aimed at being achievable for all levels of cyclist.
Cycling v Running
Many people start running, well jogging, when they first think about getting fitter. Bad idea. When runners need to gather their breath, they stop. But when a cyclist runs out of puff, the bike acts as a seat, which means the cyclist can keep going, albeit at a slower pace, or even by stopping pedaling for a few moments. This rests the muscles for a brief time.
Running downhill puts tremendous pressure on the feet, ankles, shins & thighs. Cycling downhill is fun and takes very little effort. For those with a little more experience, this article on how to ride a downhill corner at speed may be of interest.
Another reason we choose cycling over running is that we hate shin splints. Bikes as a supportive platform to your body, taking the strain of your whole body weight, which reduces the risk of running based injuries like shin splints.
Cycling Makes You Feel Younger
It’s true, cycling strips back the years and makes you younger, well, certainly feel younger anyway. Cycling helps with muscle fitness, circulation of blood around the body and helps you to lose weight. Research done by the British Heart Foundation shows that cycling at least 20 miles per week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists. This means that cycling reduces stress, which helps you feel fitter, healthier and younger. According to Sharp, the National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Prevention, cyclists who cycle on a regular basis, can enjoy a fitness level equivalent to being 10 years younger. Hey, so it is true!
Benefits of Cycling
Cycling is primarily an aerobic activity, that drives large amounts of oxygen into the body, and one that strengthens the heart & lungs. These work together to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. They work like this; the lungs expand to intake as much oxygen as possible, the heart beats faster to transport this oxygen around the body. A strong heart and powerful lungs are the building blocks of general fitness.
Cycling just a few miles per day helps you develop your muscles, no not into popeye sized muscles, just healthier versions of what you had before. The primary muscle groups developed by cyclists are; the upper thigh muscles (quadriceps), the backside muscles (gluteus maximus) and to a lesser extent, the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus). Whilst leg muscles become stronger, they do not necessarily become obscene, so you don’t need to worry about unsightly leg muscles, just beautifully toned ones or for women, shapelier.
Cycling helps with weight loss, it increases energy levels and helps the body to burn fat. This article highlights how many calories we burn cycling and this one is a guide to energy drinks and foods for cycling.