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Cycling 2017 -- I'm Off!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The weather here in PA has been exceptional this week and I've been able to ride my bike 3 times! I love, Love, LOVE riding my bike. It doesn't matter that, right now, it hurts my butt and that my legs feel like concrete because the muscles are sore and, oh, so tired. It feels like flying even though I'm no where near as fast or as strong as I once was. And it provides such a sense of freedom.

I can't wait to get back to that level of riding again. And I will!

I know I have to be patient because winter isn't done with us yet. But Spring will be here soon and I want to be ready to roll, so it's important that I stick with my program of fueling my body and exercising to get healthier and stronger.

In the meantime, I'm doing my homework.

I know that cycling is a great way to lose weight, based purely on personal experience and that personal knowledge is backed up by everything I've read.

There are a multitude of reasons to ride:

First, cycling is a low-impact exercise, great for people who need to protect their joints.

Cycling promotes all-around fitness. It provides aerobic, resistance, and isometric training. It strengthens your muscles, especially the hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps and, in turn, the increase in muscle mass boosts the metabolism. Ride a bike consistently for an extended period of time and you will have toned, strengthened, and shaped the muscles in your legs, arms, and butt and strut your summer wardrobe with pride come summer.

There is minimal risk of injury with cycling, as long as you wear a helmet; drink lots of water (at least once every 15 minutes during a ride); equip your bike properly with a bell/horn, reflectors, and/or lights; and follow traffic rules of the road.

Another benefit is that when you ride outdoors, you get a dose of vitamin D (don't forget your sunscreen!)

A big plus is that cycling is flexible. You can be an indoor, stationary rider, if that suits you. Or, if you're an outdoor rider, you can get also get a “trainer” and ride indoors in bad weather (riding outdoors is always my preference).

Another way in which cycling adapts to fit almost everyone's fitness style is how you do it. If you're like me - someone that likes to compete with yourself for better and better times/distance and is very focused - you can ride alone. Or, if you prefer camaraderie and socializing, you can also go on a group ride with friends or join a cycling club. If you're into high tech, there is a free cycling app called Strava that you can download to your phone which is a social network for cyclists/athletes that will map your route and track your speed, along with a bunch of other stuff.

Even if you don't make bike riding your primary form of exercise, it can still be a good way to supplement your workouts by using it as a cross-training exercise for running, swimming, etc. It's also a great way to add variety to any fitness routine or program, which is important because, so many times, people give up because they're tired of doing the same old same old.

Finally, cycling provides other health benefits. It reduces your resting heart rate, as well as your blood fat levels and blood pressure, while lowering your risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Tips for getting started:

1. Prepare yourself to ride. That means being prepared for any emergencies that might crop up. You should carry a basic tool kit that includes a pump (which I've actually had to use) and a spare inner tube. Wear bright clothing to make yourself more visible, especially if you ride in an area with high traffic. Make sure you know and FOLLOW the rules of the road for the community in which you’re traveling. Always wear a helmet that fits you. Finally, always make sure someone knows your intended route and estimated ride time so they know where to look for you in case of emergency.

2. Start small. Ride for 30 minutes, 3 days a week and gradually increase. Try to compete against yourself by riding a little further or faster than the ride before every time you go out.

3. Make sure your first rides are easy. Use the gears that are easy for you to pedal in and ride at moderate pace. You'll use the harder, grind-it-out gears later.

4. Incorporate intervals. Research shows that, if you spend most of your time at a steady pace you burn fewer calories. And, even if you feel like you're riding at a consistently high-intensity throughout your ride, there is actually a diminished effort. Intervals of high intensity pedaling, interspersed with recovery times, allow you to maintain higher power outputs during hard efforts and accumulate more time at those higher outputs and, thus, over the course of the ride burn more calories. As an added bonus, using intervals, that higher calorie burn continues even after your ride.

5. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated, especially in summer. You should have a drink about every 15 minutes or so. Dehydration can happen quickly and before you know it, you could be out on a ride, feeling dizzy, weak, and a little confused. Next thing you know, you''re down and out. So, drink, drink, drink!

6. Vary your route to prevent boredom and stay interested. In my neighborhood, I could ride around the same blocks every day, in a circle that measures exactly one mile, over and over again. It would be easy to keep track of distance ridden that way, but I'd never make it past the second ride out of sheer boredom. I love to ride outside my immediate neighborhood and in the local park. I've ridden along the Lehigh River up in the Pocono Mountains for PA. What a beautiful ride that was! I can't wait to do it again! I've also ridden in Mannayunk (yes, near where the Mannayunk Wall of cycling fame is) and out toward Valley Forge National Park. If you look around, I'm sure there are some great cycling trails near you.

7. Cycling is a great exercise for weight loss, especially if coupled with proper nutrition. Dietary recommendations won't be a surprise: reduce intake of pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes while eating lots of veggies and lean protein, like chicken or fish.

Here's a nice little tool for calculating calories burned during a ride:


All you have to do is enter your speed, weight, and duration of your ride, then click the "calculate" button.

Here's a sample cycling workout I found while poking around the internet.

6 minute: warmup
1 minute: fast pedal, spinning in a light gear, as fast as you can
1 minute: recovery spinning
1 minute: fast pedal
1 minute: recovery spinning
(5) 2 minute at maximum intensity, with 2 minute recovery spinning between each
6 minute: recovery spinning
(5) 2 minute at maximum intensity, with 2 minute recovery spinning between each
8 minute: cool down

Total time: 60 minutes

Books on my reading list:

“Bike Your Butt Off” by Selene Yeager & Leslie Bonci (I just started this one)
“Ride Your Way Lean” by Selene Yeager
“Pedal Away the Pounds: A Guide to Cycling & Weight Loss” by Adam Farabaugh, Lee Agur, Mandy King, and Josh Friedman

I'm very happy to be "back in the saddle again". I've had my current bike and gear for about 8 years now and I've decided that, come Spring, I'm going to treat myself. I plan to be riding along the Lehigh again this Summer and it's going to be on a new bike (along with some new accessories, of course). I hope some of you will join me on my riding adventures.

Live Lightly!

PS -- If you're new to riding, expect a good bit of soreness in your butt -- at least, until you lose a little weight and build up your endurance.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • EDWARDS1411
    783 days ago
  • TAMIP62
    I ride every day now and I love it. I bought one of the trainers like you showed above, and put my street bike in it, and have used it all winter. I did get out once during the last week of gorgeous 70 degree weather (in Chicago, wow), but winter is back... even so... thanks to that awesome indoor trainer, I can still ride.
    785 days ago
    Awesome tips! Thank you!
    785 days ago
    I'm with you! The butt soreness is always brutal at first, but before you know it, you've adjusted! Are any of those books somewhat entertaining? I just started (again) The Noncyclists' Guide to the Century. Ride On!
    785 days ago
    I used to love biking. Love that feeling of flying too. Think I need to pull my bike out and see what kind of shape it is in.
    785 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    785 days ago
    Awesome blog! So glad to be back in the saddle. Can't wait to see where our legs and lungs take us!
    785 days ago
  • NHES220
    Glad you were able to get out riding in the early Spring weather! I was able to get out running a couple of days. Sure beats the treadmill or track to actually get out in the fresh air, hit some hills, and a change of scenery. I have a bike too and the hubby and I like to hit the trails in the summer. Good for you for treating yourself to a new one. Enjoy!
    785 days ago
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