If you’re one of those people who leisurely pedals around the block or on a flat stretch of scenic road, you’ve probably been pedaling for pure pleasure. Riding a bike for pleasure is a good form of aerobic exercise. But unless you come up with a “push yourself” plan, you probably won’t lose much weight.
I really get tired of hearing people say, “No pain, no gain!” But the old adage is true when it comes to riding a bike for weight loss. As you increase the distance or speed of your bike, you’re bound to feel some soreness in your leg, hand, wrist, and butt muscles, even some soreness in your throat and lungs, as your body tries to accommodate. their increased oxygen demand.
HEALTH TIP: Stretching exercises before exercise are helpful in preventing injuries!
PREPARING YOUR BIKE…TO LOSE WEIGHT
Your first concern will be equipping your bike. If you need an excuse to buy a new bike, this is a great opportunity! I went from a 3-speed bike for pleasure riding to a 24-speed bike for more engaged exercise. Once I learned how the different gears worked, I was very grateful for the added speeds. They make my commute quicker and hills much easier to handle.
We found the guys at the bike shop to be very helpful and concerned with our unique cycling needs. Instead of simply guiding us to the most expensive bike available (as I expected), they asked us how far we’d ride, if we were looking for speed or pleasure, and if we’d ride paved roads or dirt roads. When you honestly share your goals and level of experience, sales associates can find you exactly what you need. They want you to be successful in your cycling adventure!
Some state laws require bicycle lights. But if you’re going to be riding anytime from dusk to dawn, common sense dictates that you have lights on your bike. These little accessories are battery operated and last a long time. There are a variety of lights to choose from. My tail light has different blink rates and is designed to make my bike visible to cars approaching from both the rear and the sides. Check the brightness before you buy one. Install the light where it makes the most sense.
We were slow to buy a speedometer and odometer unit for our bikes, but once we got serious about losing weight and getting in shape, this feature became a “must have.” You simply can’t keep track of your progress without knowing how far and how fast you’re driving.
If you already have a bike, take it to the bike shop for a safety inspection every season. They should check the gears, tires, and brakes to make sure everything is working properly. They can adjust your seat to suit your height and adjust the handlebars to suit your reach, making your ride more comfortable. If you’re lucky, they might even clean and polish your bike!
If you want to save money in the long run, you can find books and videos that teach you how to take care of your own bike. It’s always a great idea to know how to change your own flat tire and adjust a loose chain.
Another essential is a bicycle pump. Ask your bike dealer how many pounds of air pressure you should put in your bike tires. Check the tires every time you’re ready to ride! We guess the air pressure on a summer day and live to regret it. We biked to the pool, not realizing one tire was over-inflated. As we cooled off in the water, the scorching sun was rapidly expanding the air in the tires – one tire blew out while in the parking lot. The day in the sun was not so much fun, once the pool closed and we had to wait for a truck to take us home.
HEALTH TIP: Talk to your doctor first and get his or her approval before increasing your physical activity rate!
STAY COMFORTABLE ON YOUR BIKE
Sitting for long periods of time on a bike seat can cause pain, discomfort, and even serious blood circulation problems in avid cyclists. At your local bike shop, you’ll find a variety of bike seats made specifically for your comfort and health. Salespeople at our local bike shop encouraged us to try new seats on our bikes for a few days. My husband found the split seat more comfortable for him, while I opted to keep my old gel seat. Someone has even invented seats that look more like a bird perch than a bicycle seat!
HEALTH TIP: Get off the bike seat and walk around every 25 minutes or so to get your blood flowing to important and unmentionable parts of your body.
Think about your clothing… you don’t have to have padded cycling shorts and special clothing to start cycling. There are actually fabrics scientifically designed to wick sweat away from your body in the summer and prevent you from getting hypothermia in the winter. But for now, just wear layers of comfortable sportswear.
Make sure your clothing isn’t so tight that it makes you miserable trying to pedal. But they shouldn’t be loose enough to get tangled up in the bike chain either! If you overheat, take off a layer. If you’re cold, add a layer. Wear light or bright colors to allow drivers to see you easily.
It really helps to have a small pannier rack on the back of the bike. Mine looks like a little rack over the rear tire. It has two bungee cords to keep any load securely attached to the bike. I have used it to carry a small picnic cooler, shopping bag, or extra clothes.
I had the bike shop put a water bottle holder on the bike under my seat. I can grab a quick drink on the go or pour some water on my pulse points to cool down a bit. Take small sips of water as needed during your bike ride, rather than gulping down large gulps.
A helmet is almost essential. Life is full of dangers and riding a bike has its part. Be smart. Wear a helmet. You can buy a cool rearview mirror for your helmet. The mirror helps you see when it’s safe to turn and allows you to check for traffic behind you.
I recommend wearing sunglasses, both for the sun and for the bugs! At certain times of the year, the air is full of flying insects. Having a small bug in the eye is a painful event. For contact lens wearers, take a contact lens case and lens cleaner on bike rides for that very reason. Someday you’ll be glad you did!
HEALTH TIP: Shake your hands down frequently to get the blood flowing and to prevent pain or numbness in your arms and hands.
DEVELOP A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN
You’ll want to keep track of your daily diet and food intake, your weekly body measurements and weight, as well as your miles and cycling time.
The http://www.OpenFitness.net website is a great way to track your progress. It’s very easy to use: just type in the information you want to track. As the only fitness community website of its kind, you’ll find it to be a fantastic motivational tool that will print out charts and graphs to show how much progress you’ve made in a few days, a week, or a month.
Track food, vitamin, and supplement intake. Thousands of foods have already been analyzed by experts for the amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates and protein. Simply select the foods you ate from a dropdown function and the daily total is calculated for you. Make sure you don’t exercise when you’ve just eaten or when it’s almost mealtime. Both times they will slow you down.
No matter how humiliating it is, measure your arms, legs, chest, waist, neck, hips, and thighs once a week. The software tracks your weight and body measurements. The thrill of seeing those same inches disappear in the coming weeks will be worth it. It’s especially impressive seen as a graphic!
Consider investing in an instrument that actually measures body fat; there are inexpensive caliper-type instruments that measure fat by pinching it, or buy a set of bathroom scales that cost more but calculate body fat painlessly.
Try to ride 4-6 days a week. When you map out your weight loss plan, your short-term goals will change as you change. You will quickly develop endurance for longer distances. As fat turns into muscle, your speed will increase. Every week, try to increase your mileage or your speed.
You know how far you’ve been able to ride, so far. Start keeping track of the exact route you are taking, the total mileage and the time it took you. Make notes in your records for special circumstances. Did it get dark outside so you were forced to cut your trip short? Did highway crews dump a layer of gravel on your normally paved road?
How was the weather? Was it dangerously hot? It was windy? The wind can be your friend or your enemy. When the wind is behind you, your ride is a breeze…but coming from any other direction, be prepared to huff and puff. Accept any length of time as a job well done and just get the ride done!
Finally, add an upper body workout three times a week. Riding a bike exercises your legs, but to keep the rest of your body fit and tight, you’ll need to exercise your upper body as well. The website http://www.openfitness.net, created by a certified personal fitness trainer, has great features that allow you to design and track this part of your fitness program as well.
Riding a bike is a fun and inexpensive form of aerobic exercise; it’s good for every part of you. But be warned: you’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe for the slimmer, more beautiful body that emerges!