Whether your fitness routine calls for a visit to the gym or some fresh air, cycling is great way to burn some calories, tone up your muscles, increase stamina… and have fun too!
Cycling has been a popular form of exercise for many years. It can be tailored to your fitness goals and personal interests. These days, I notice a trend with gyms that offer spin classes that are so energetic with music and bright lights that you won’t even notice that you’re doing a high impact cardio workout! On the other hand, cycling can be a low impact exercise if you just want to go for a leisurely ride outside. There are endless possibilities of how you can progress a bike workout in order to elicit a desired response from your body.
How you choose to ride is your choice. You can ride a stationary bike in a gym or at home with the intention of building muscle and burning calories. You could choose to incorporate fitness into your daily commute and make cycling your mode of transportation to get you to or from work. Or you can make it your weekend recreation activity of choice to enjoy with the entire family.
Cycling a great option if you want to burn extra calories, build muscle or improve your overall cardio fitness level, and is an excellent exercise choice for both elite athletes and beginners. Whatever your personal choice or fitness goal, I believe that finding a way to make cycling a part of your healthy active lifestyle could lead to many wonderful health benefits.
Here are some tips on how you can tailor your ride to suit your goals:
There are several factors that go into how your body burns calories when you exercise. To keep it simple, I will share that two of the most important factors that fit into the equation of how much energy you will expend:
1: Duration of the exercise
2: Intensity level
Finding a perfect balance between these two factors will take practice. You want to ride at an intensity that suits your current fitness level, but still pushes you out of your comfort zone. You will also need to figure out a time commitment that’s achievable. If you want to achieve the best possible results start listening to your body and become your own coach. Always strive to create the most pleasant experience that you can.
Slow and steady
Riding a bike is a low-impact activity, making it a perfect choice for days when you want to give your joints a rest; but don’t let the term ‘low-impact’ trick you into to thinking that cycling is an easy choice. If you’re new to exercising, I recommend starting out with a nice steady ride at a moderate intensity level. Try an intensity level (RPE or rate of perceived exertion) of about 6-7 with duration of about 45-60 minutes.
Speed it up
If you want to shed a few extra calories as you become comfortable with cycling, consider increasing your intensity level by adjusting your speed. The faster you cycle, the harder your body has to work and the more energy it will expend. You can speed it up to an RPE of 7-8.
Mix it up
Interval style training on the bike is great for burning calories and improving your cardiovascular fitness level. Alternating between periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity is a perfect challenge, especially when you are short on time. Shorter rest periods make the workout more intense.
If you want to build muscle and give yourself an increased challenge, add some hills to your bike ride. If you are outdoors, look for hills with a good incline. The steeper the hill, the more effort and power your muscles will exert. If you are on a stationary bike, play with the resistance until you find a level that is difficult but still allows you to keep the wheel moving at a good pace. Just beware—if you push too hard, you risk putting too much pressure on your knees, and riding with poor form is never a good idea.
Stretch out your ride
If you wish to improve your endurance you will have to stretch out your ride. The duration of your ride is relative to your current fitness level. I personally would consider 90 minutes or more an endurance ride, but if you’re new to cycling maybe 60 minutes is your starting point for endurance. Build up your distance and duration over time, and aim to push yourself a little more each time. To avoid boredom, use all or some of my riding suggestions throughout your long ride. Add in varied terrain/resistance, alter your speed and enjoy spending a little extra time on your workout.With warm weather, approaching it’s the perfect time to give it a try!
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.