If you’re looking to get fit and lose some weight, cycling may just be the exercise for you. Going on bike rides sure beats spending all your time in the gym, and it’s so fun you won’t even realise you’re working out!
Unlike many types of repetitive exercise, cycling does not cause any damage to your joints, in fact it does the opposite. It’s a low impact sport and strengthens your hip muscles, hamstrings, glutes and quads; the stronger these muscles are, the easier it is for you to burn fat.
Cycling improves your health
So, how exactly can cycling improve your health? That’s easy! There are many benefits to be had from hopping on a bike, including:
- Cycling is an exercise which can be maintained for a long period of time without your leg muscles getting too tired. With this your heart and lungs get a great workout- excellent for improving your cardiovascular fitness levels.
- With this great workout your heart and lungs will be able to transport oxygen around the body more effectively; which is the key to a high level of fitness. Your resting pulse rate will decrease as will your blood fat levels and blood pressure. These factors combined will reduce your risk of heart disease.
- It only takes 30 minutes, 2-3 times a week, for cycling to help with all other aerobic exercises; it will reduce the chances of you having to stop your activity to get your breath back and improve your weight loss.
How much cycling do you need to do?
A 10 mile bike ride will turn into a great hour out of the house, rather than a chore to lose weight, in no time. Now, you’re probably wondering how hard these rides need to be in order to reach your goals effectively.
Ideally, training needs to be short and intense (like interval training). As your rides get more intense you can tap into your anaerobic system for energy (this will also give your body a metabolism boost). Interval style training works out your short term endurance, or your aerobic engine, the bigger the size of this engine the more you will see your overall fitness improve.
A typical interval workout could be 5 minutes pushing through close to maximum effort with 5 minutes rest, repeated 1 or 2 times to begin. You build up over the weeks to no more than 25 minutes of accumulated hard efforts.
Complement with weights
It’s a good idea to use weight training to compliment cycling workouts. Lifting weights is one of the best forms of anaerobic exercise to burn fat. Try to stay away from weight training legs on days close to cycling workouts, as it usually takes a while to recover from leg day!
So, if you are looking to get leaner, the key is to combine long and slow (endurance) rides with harder, more intense workouts. Adding the weight training in also gives an added benefit. It’s important to work your anaerobic system as it will work to improve your metabolism; after a hard anaerobic workout your metabolism remains high for a good few hours. Meaning, you can even burn fat while you sleep!
Remember to have rest days so your body can recover, recovery is key! Using the anaerobic metabolism requires rest to build leaner muscle, if you don’t rest it won’t work and you will just end up exhausted.
Watch what you eat
As with any training plan it is important to eat right to compliment the exercise; if you want to lose weight then the plan is simple; you need to burn off more calories than you consume. Try to avoid foods high in saturated fat and instead fuel your exercises with slow burning carbohydrates, such as whole grain pasta’s and bread, as well as eating lean proteins, for example chicken and turkey.
Remember that it is not good to starve yourself! You need to have enough energy in order for your workout sessions to be effective. Not having enough fuel in your body will lower your performance and you may even start to drop in muscle mass rather than fat.
Rides to burn fat
An easy way to burn fat more effectively is to head to the hills! Climbing hills burns a lot of calories, quickly! They are also good for working your core strength and building a chiselled upper body. Find a climb that takes around 10 minutes and do a series of three climbs up it, alternating between standing and sitting. Standing raises your heart rate, so you burn more calories, and also builds more strong lean muscle in your shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
If you’re really looking to lose some serious pounds then you need to hit it hard! Yes this is easier said than done, but if you gradually work your way up to more intense exercise you will definitely see and feel the benefit. A lot of research has shown that high intensity sprint cycling helps you get lean, mean, and fit fast! Just 30 seconds of high gear, full throttle sprinting is enough to increase levels of human growth hormone to a massive 530% (human growth hormone is what helps to build lean muscle and burn fat). Just two weeks of interval training on alternate days is enough to boost your fat-burning ability by 36%, so it might not take as much effort to reach your goals as you initially thought.
Build it in to your normal day
Probably the easiest way to exercise, without fully realising the effort you’re making, is to commute by bike. Make an effort to pedal from one place to another, even if it’s not a long trip – it all makes a difference. Commuting to work may turn into a more enjoyable experience and you’ll be rid of that spare tyre in no time! In fact, one study found that the average bicycle commuter loses 13 pounds in the first year, and that’s without even changing diet habits or doing additional exercise.
Now you have a few facts and tips to help you, hopefully you can get well on your way to reaching your goals and getting fit and healthy!