As the winter cold begins to recede and signs of spring emerge, we need to plan our bicycle training schedules. Physical fitness has numerous perks. Aerobic strength provides a good measure of our health, fitness and flexibility, all of which are substantially important to a healthy heart. This generally requires a regular aerobic workout that over a period of time builds the power of our legs and arms. Making our hearts work harder triggers quicker body fat burning and also optimizes our oxygen efficiency. Biking is one of the finest forms of low impact aerobic exercise there is, scientifically proven to be superior to running or the gym for decreasing high blood pressure or treating lower-risk cardiovascular ailments, and is recommended by such august bodies as the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Biking increases our endurance and flexibility, stimulates our libido, reinforces joint support muscles, enhances our listening and memory capabilities, keeps us in good shape, lowers stiffness and pain, boosts our ability to carry out everyday jobs, eases sleep conditions and improves our sleep, increases our self-confidence, aids us in feeling more positive, strengthens our immune systems, and in general just makes us feel excellent.
Being outdoors and in the fresh air improves our Vitamin D uptake, and biking allows not only this, but the dopamines induced by cycling country lanes aids those of us prone to bouts of depression, while all of us without exception will experience that fantastic feel-good high (and natural painkiller) which without fail follows exercise. You’ll actually be smarter after a bike ride too, scientific fact!
Yet it’s not just about working out. Our nutrition is just as important. Make sure we consume sufficient calories, check our protein intake (such as fish, meat, beans and lentils – which will additionally help to reduce our appetites), good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) which reduce cholesterol versus bad fats (saturated, as found in meat and processed meats), and ensure we’re taking the right vitamins and mineral supplements to ensure we do not deplete our body’s resources. We should rather enhance its capacity to handle the physical challenges we face. But don’t overdo the eating as some of us are inclined to do in the name of exercise… Our body will burn roughly 40 – 50 calories per mile we ride. A fitness tracker which estimates calories burned may be useful. Remember after exercise our bodies release hormones which induce hunger and eating, thereby avoiding the reduction of our stored body fat instead. If seeking to lose weight, we must accordingly reduce our calorie intake; but don’t overdo it, otherwise our next ride will become significantly harder due to lack of energy and stamina. After the initial energy boost brought about by consuming carbs, be aware that large amounts will lead to feeling lethargic and therefore less inclined to exercise.
Dehydration, even a very small amount, will lead to a dramatic reduction in our performance, so be sure to take in sufficient fluids when riding. A good method to assess our fluid intake needs is to weigh ourselves before and after say an hour’s ride; if we have lost 500 g in weight, this means we need 500 ml of water/fluid to replace this. Avoid caffeinated drinks if you suffer from hypertension or heart problems; otherwise, some studies reflect a slight enhancement in performance output and focus with a small (1 – 3 mg per Kg of body mass) intake of caffeine.
Biking fitness also involves our confidence mindset and mental abilities. It definitely helps to use affirmations and visualize our outcomes in terms of how we will feel after our rides, how we will push ourselves without pain or discomfort, and without too much effort. Set measurable goals and most importantly, reach these without placing too much pressure on ourselves to do so too quickly. Many champion cyclists will say, “It’s all in the mind”… Riding alone takes a lot of self-motivation. Try to team up with a riding buddy if possible. Group riding helps increase mental focus. If you can conceive it, you can achieve it. And keep in mind, visualizing and focussing on say the next signpost or village might work in getting us through the pain barriers and smashing those goals in ways unimagined.