Cycle Your Way To Weight Loss
By Scott Haywood
Of all the possible exercises there are to help you lose weight, cycling is one of the best.
If you want to lose weight and are looking for the perfect exercise, or if you’re looking for a great calorie burning exercise to add to your exercise repertoire, this article is for you.
We’ll tell you why cycling is so great and what it can do for you, what you’ll need to get started and provide helpful hints that will help you to cycle effectively and safely for the rest of your life.
The benefits of cycling
Cycling has many health benefits, particularly for those that want to lose weight. Here are just some of the great aspects of cycling:
o Cycling is one of the easiest aerobics exercises to start with because it offers a very wide range of training intensities, including very low levels of intensity.
o Cycling is a non-weight bearing exercise so it is easy on the joints, muscles and tendons.
o Cycling burns a lot of calories (more than 500 per hour at a moderate pace for someone weighing 80kgs).
o Cycling can be a relatively inexpensive activity to participate in.
o Cycling can be a very social activity and is easily performed in a group or with family and friend.
o Cycling can be done indoors or outdoors.
o Cycling provides aerobic training (for the heart and lungs), resistance training (for leg muscles) and isometric (static) resistance (for the arms and other muscles in the upper body).
o Cycling can be done relatively safely at almost any age.
o Cycling is a perfect cross-training exercise for running, swimming, skiing, etc and can add variety to any exercise program.
o Cycling is becoming safer as state governments and local city councils invest in dedicated bike tracks and designated bike lanes on city and country roads.
If you want to lose weight, there are many reasons for you to consider cycling as part of your daily exercise regime.
Here are just 10 of the great things cycling can do for you:
1. Help you burn excess calories and lose weight.
2. Improve your cardiovascular fitness and gain more energy.
3. Help you avoid lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
4. Help you to increase your exercise intensity in a slow and controlled manner.
5. Help you combine exercise with spending time with your partner, children or friends.
6. Help you meet people (by joining a cycling club for example).
7. Help you add variety to your current exercise routine.
8. Help you combine exercise in the fresh air with exploring new places and enjoying new scenery.
9. Help you tone, strengthen and shape the muscles in your legs, bottom and arms.
10. Provide you with exercise that is easy to build progression (faster and/or longer rides) and intensity variation (varying your riding speed and distances) into.
What you need to get started
One of the greatest things about cycling, is how easy and relatively inexpensive it is to get started (assuming you can ride a bike of course and even if you can’t that is not an insurmountable problem).
Of course there are those of us who really get into cycling and spend a small fortune on fancy equipment, but for those who just want to get started and lose weight, here’s a list of the absolute essentials you’ll need as well as the optional extras you should consider to make your riding more enjoyable.
Here’s what you’ll need to start outdoor cycling:
o A bike!
o A bike helmet.
o Spare tubes, tyre levers and a bike pump.
o Water bottle and water bottle cage for your bike.
o Sunglasses and sunscreen.
Although classed as optional extras, if you can afford them we recommend you strongly consider:
o Bike shorts (called knicks) with a good quality chamois sown into the seat.
o Bicycle gloves with padded palms.
o Speedometer (to monitor your distance and speed).
o Heart Rate Monitor (to help you regulate your intensity).
o Mobile phone (to call help if you ever get into trouble).
Helpful hints for effective, safe cycling
Here are some helpful hints to help you get the most out of cycling:
o An inexpensive bike with few features is OK to get started but we recommend as a minimum you get a bike with quick-release wheel hubs so you can get the wheels off easily without a spanner when you get that inevitable puncture during a ride.
o Getting the right sized bike for you is very important so visit your local bike shop first and ask them what the right sized bike for you is.
o There are many types of bikes available from road racing bikes to pure mountain bikes and all sorts in between. Which style of bike is best for you depends upon where you are going to ride the bike, whether you want comfort or speed and how much you have to spend.
o For those of you wanting to ride just to lose weight and will do most of your riding on sealed roads and bike paths, we recommend a hybrid bike with road tires. Hybrid bikes tend to have slightly wider wheels than pure road bikes and have a much more comfortable upright riding position.
o Setting up your seat height is very important. You know your bike seat is at the correct height when your leg has a slight bend in it at the knee when the corresponding pedal is closest to the ground. If you buy your bike from a bike shop, make sure they adjust your seat height for you.
o When it comes to bike costs, be prepared to pay more for bikes that are lighter in weight and have better quality fittings like gears and levers, etc.
o Make sure the helmet you wear fits your head properly.
o Of all the possible places to scrimp and save money, we recommend that this isn’t one of them – your helmet is by far the most important piece of cycling equipment you’ll own.
o Generally speaking, be prepared to pay more money for very light helmets with superior ventilation properties.
o We highly recommend that you avoid buying a second hand helmet and that you buy your helmet from a reputable seller who will make sure that your helmet fits properly.
o Modern bike helmets are specifically designed to absorb a great deal of the impact in an accident and crack or break in the process. If your helmet is subject to a reasonable impact, take it to a reputable dealer for checking and possible replacement.
Spare tubes, tyre levers and bike pump
o Unless you’re just riding around your block a few times a week, you’re going to need some spare tubes, a pair of tyre levers and a bike pump.
o The most important things about spare tubes are that you carry at least two of them and that they are the right size for your bike.
o Tyre levers are essential in helping to remove and replace your tires from the wheel rims. Only being small, these levers can easily be carried in a bum-bag or in a specially designed carry bag that fits at the back of your bike seat.
o Always carry a functional bike pump that has the right connection for the valves in your tubes. Most bike pumps have racks that allow you to attach the pump to the frame of your bike for convenience.
Water bottle and water bottle cage for your bike
o Always carry plenty of water with you when you cycle.
o Most bikes have room for two water bottle cages on the inside of their frame.
o For very long rides, consider buying a hydration pack that is essentially a backpack especially designed to carry water. These packs typically carry between 1 and 3 litres of water.
o While cycling drink small amount of water often and never go longer than 15 minutes or so without taking a drink. Because it makes you sweat, cycling makes your body use and lose a great deal of fluid which must be replaced to avoid dehydration.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
o When cycling outside always wear sunglasses and sunscreen unless it is very early in the morning or late in the evening.
Bike shorts (called knicks)
o Although easy on the body as a whole, cycling can be hard on your backside initially (but it soon gets a lot better the more you ride – if it doesn’t consider buying a softer, wider seat for you bike).
o Modern cycling shorts have a chamois sown into their seat which provides extra padding between you and the bike seat and helps wick moisture away from your skin keeping you dry and helping you avoid chafing.
Bicycle gloves with padded palms
o Believe it or not, one part of the body that can do it tough while cycling is the hands. Padded bike gloves can help reduce the pressure on the hands, particularly on longer rides and for the small amount they cost are well worth it.
o Speedometers are great at monitoring the speed and distance of each ride and some even estimate the number of calories burned during each ride.
o By keeping an exercise diary, you can use this valuable information to gradually increase your cycling distances and speeds as well as track your fitness progress.
o Because speedometers use the diameter of your bike wheels as the basic unit of measure to calculate speed and distance, we recommend you have your speedo fitted by a reputable bike dealer to make sure the information you’re getting is accurate.
Heart Rate Monitor
o These really are optional extras, but if you can afford one, we highly recommend you buy and use a heart rate monitor while cycling.
o While a basic speedometer can help you monitor speed and distance, these can be influenced greatly by things such as strong winds and steep hills. Heart rate monitors help overcome the inconsistencies of these outside influences and are the perfect tool to measure your exercise intensity.
o Again, these are obviously an optional extra but for safety’s sake we always carry a mobile phone when cycling – if you or a riding partner are ever involved in an accident or just can’t make it home on time as promised, it’s very reassuring to know that you can easily get in contact with someone using your mobile phone.
Here are some tips to make your riding safe and effective:
o Consult your doctor before starting cycling or any new exercise program.
o Start slowly and keep distances short initially and slowly build up your distances and then speeds.
o If riding on a shared path, warn walkers and other riders when approaching from behind using your bike’s bell.
o Use hand signals to indicate that you intend to change lanes or turn corners on your bike.
o Obey all traffic signals when riding on public roads.
o Make riding fun by including friends and perhaps stopping for a drink and snack along the way or afterwards.
o Change your riding route for variety.
o Mix your riding distances and intensities for maximum long term weight loss and fitness.
o Seventy percent of your riding should be done at an easy to moderate intensity (60 – 80% of your maximum heart rate).
o Ride the right sized bike and make sure your seat is at the right height.
o Drink regularly when riding.
o Use indoor cycling when raining or to compliment your outdoor riding.
o Stick to dedicated bike paths or designated bike lanes wherever possible.
o Listen to your body; if you need to take a break during your ride take it.
o Plan your route and communicate it and your estimated ride time to your partner or someone else so they know where to look if you are delayed for any reason.
Of all the possible exercises there are to help you lose weight, cycling is one of the best.
If you want to lose weight and are looking for the perfect exercise, or if you’re looking for a great calorie burning exercise to add to your exercise repertoire, cycling may be for you.
Now you know why cycling is so great and what it can do for you, what you’ll need to get started and keep cycling effectively and safely for the rest of your life there’s only one thing to do. Give it a go. Cycling is sure to help you become a happier, healthier you.
Scott Haywood is the editor of Australia’s leading weight loss and healthy lifestyle website weightloss.com.au. Weightloss.com.au is a free weight loss resource and weight loss products guide.
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