There’s nothing like getting out into the fresh air and on the open road to fire up your fitness routine. And what better way of doing this than cycling? This all-round body workout has become hugely popular, with around 43 percent of the population owning a bike. Not only that but approximately 740,000 people cycle to work in great Britain alone. There’s no denying that this super sport is great for fitness and stamina, but just three hours of biking a week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 50 percent! It’s also worth knowing that by replacing a car trip with a bike trip, you save around 200 grams of CO2 per kilometre, which makes cycling good for you and the environment!
Convinced? Well if you’re thinking of taking up two wheels, here are some top tips to help you get started.
1. WHAT YOU NEED
The most important thing you need to get your hands on is a bike, and this can also be the most confusing thing to buy. Consider first of all where you intend to ride your bike. Will it be cross country, or on busy city streets? This will affect the type of bike that you need. Also think about your height and if the bike fits you.
Stand over the frame with both feet flat on the ground. You should have a couple of inches clear between the top of the frame and your crotch. Mountain bikes tend to need a bit more space, so allow for an extra half an inch to an inch.
2. GETTING STARTED
If you’ve no experience of cycling then start small. Set a low mileage goal that is achievable, for example you might aim for between five and eight miles each time. You can then add on a bit each week. Choose a route that isn’t too complicated. Leave challenging hills for when you’ve more experience and you’ve built up strength and stamina. Ride often so that you get used to your bike, but also make sure you have rest days as your muscles will need time to recover.
Keep hydrated. Take a bottle of water with you and sip regularly every 10-20 minutes. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbs will also help increase energy levels and reduce recovery rates for longer bike rides..
3. TRAINING PLAN
If you want to improve fast as a beginner cyclist you need to introduce structure and routine into your workouts. Start with a simple three-week training plan as outlined below, and then increase the levels of intensity and the frequency with which you train for a more challenging workout.
This workout will build up strength and stamina and help you go for longer cycle rides. Repeat the schedule for three weeks, adding on extra minutes and mixing up your speed and intensity where-ever possible.
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu fri Sat
1 hour ride Rest 45 mins Rest 45 mins Rest 45 mins inc. hills
After three to four weeks move on to this training pattern.
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
2 hour ride Rest 60 mins Rest 60 mins Rest 45 mins inc. hills
4. WAYS TO KEEP MOTIVATED
• Make cycling a habit and part of your daily routine either by cycling to and from work, or going out for regular bike rides in the evening and on weekends.
• Stick to a programme and have regular cycling and non-cycling days.
• Mix up your route and make it fun. Combine city and country routes and explore your local neighbourhood.
• Get friends and family involved. Encourage them to join you and make your bike ride a social occasion, as well as a workout.
• Sign up to a charity bike ride and give yourself a long term goal to aim for.
Consistency is key if you want to improve your cycling skills and become lean and toned. It’s better to introduce small changes into a regular programme and increase the amount of time you train gradually, than doing a week of extreme cycling in a bid to get super-fit…
5. INDOOR CYCLING WORKOUTS
Indoor training boosts aerobic activity and can help improve your abilities as a cyclist from climbing hills, to building stamina over a long distance. Short sharp bursts of training work better indoors so try these mini workouts which incorporate intervals of fast pedal activity with spin easy periods.
• Start by using an easy gear and doing four fast pedal intervals. Give yourself a recovery period of one to two minutes between intervals.
• Pedal for four to six minutes easy.
• Do 10 intervals of one minute on, one minute off portions. When you’re ‘on’ exert yourself as much as possible, and when you’re ‘off’ pedal easy.
• You can make this workout more challenging by adding in more intervals at the end.
• Start with five minutes spinning at low intensity
• Alternate between legs for 30 seconds each time, the remaining leg can be clipped or unclipped and resting on the chair. Do this for four to five minutes.
• Alternate between a seated climb for three minutes, then recovery for one minute with easy spinning. Do this for six sets, the last two or three reduce the time of the climb to two and then one minute.
• Practice standing climb for three minutes.
• Spend four to six minutes in recovery, easy spinning.
It’s important to be visible particularly if you’re going to be riding in traffic, either in the early mornings or evenings. Invest in bright colours and reflective gear and always ensure that your headlights, both front and back are working. Stay visible in traffic by positioning yourself 50cm from the kerb. This is called the Primary Position because you’re going with the flow of the traffic and car drivers are forced to over take properly.