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How to make cycling a workout

Guest writer Valerie Ježková

There is no denying that exercise is important. However, most traditional workout routines can be long, arduous, and downright boring. If you are a cycling enthusiast, though, these lackluster regimens may be well behind you. This is because you can actually turn cycling into a workout!

In case you are curious about how to make this happen, then you have come to the right place. Here you can learn all the tips and tricks that you need to know to get the very most out of your cycling. Let’s get started!

How Cycling Benefits Your Health and Fitness

It doesn’t matter if you want to get healthier, lose weight, or boost your fitness levels – cycling can help with it all. One of the main advantages of associated with this activity is the stimulation of your cardiovascular system. This includes heart, lungs, brain, and circulation. It essentially counts as aerobic exercise.

Believe it or not, cycling also builds muscle. Yes, you may be sitting down, but during the power phase of your cycling, you are using important muscles in your buttocks, thighs, and calves. And, during the recovery phase, you are using your hamstring muscles as well as your flexor muscles in your hips.

That’s not all, you can also build up your core during cycling. This is because you use your abdominal muscles to stay upright. Since you rely on your arm and shoulder muscles to hold the handlebars and steer, these get a workout as well.

Even your bones can benefit from cycling! For instance, when you push on the pedals, you are engaging in a resistance activity. In doing so, your body pulls on the muscles which, in turn, tug on the bone. This helps to build up bone density.

Now that you are aware of the benefits, let’s move onto how you can turn cycling into a proper workout:

Finding the Right Bike for Your Workout

If you think that any kind of bicycle will offer you the same kind of workout, think again. Every bicycle type has been designed to perform a particular function on a specific kind of terrain. As such, you aren’t going to get similar results with different kinds of designs.

So, how do you know which one to choose?

Well, this does depend on several factors. First of all, what kind of terrain are you preparing on cycling on? Now, if you will be mostly on paved roads and smooth terrain, road bikes can seem like the most obvious choice. They are sleek and don’t demand as much effort to provide you with high performance.

cyclist on road bike
A road bike may be sleek and fast on flat terrain, but be aware of your back position.

At the same time, this bikes do encourage a rather uncomfortable riding position. You have to lean slightly forward, making it a bit more difficult to balance. Thus, this bike may not be ideal if you suffer from back problems or are concerned with safety.

Then, there are the mountain bikes. These are great for heading off-road or if you are looking for more intense activity. The trails that are typically associated with mountain biking also ensure that you engage your core a bit more too. So, if you are looking for a great leg and ab workout, this is a great bike to go with.

cyclist on CHANGE folding MTB
A good off-road mountain bike (MTB) is designed for rugged terrain.

If you want the best of both worlds, then hybrid bikes would make sense. They are more or less a cross between road and mountain bikes. This makes them more versatile. Hybrid bikes are great if you are just starting out and are still building up your cardio.

cyclist with folding hybrid bike
A hybrid bike combines mountain bike handlebars with a lighter fork and road-ready tires.

Of course, to make it easier to lug bikes around, consider a folding bike–or better yet, a full-size folding bike like the two bikes above. This makes it far easier to head to new and fun destinations, without needing a car rack, while also getting your workout in.

folded MTB on boat
This folding bike on a boat is the same model as the MTB above.

Now, if you live in a cold climate but still want to go cycling during winter months, it may be worth it to you to invest in a fat tire bike. As the name suggests, these bikes are outfitted with very large tires, making them easy to cut through snow and rougher terrain.

fat tire bike
Fat tire bikes have wider tires on wider wheels and are perfect for snow or loose sand.

However, not all fat tire bikes are capable of grappling with the same kind of terrain. As cyclingglobal.com explains it, the type of tires used on the bikes matter quite a bit as well. For instance, bikes with studded tires are particularly good at tackling smooth and frozen surfaces.

The ones that aren’t studded will not work as well on such terrain. Instead, they work well on rough terrain that has seen snowfall, but isn’t completely iced over.

Of course, these bikes do more than just help you tackle tricky terrain. They also have a reputation for helping you burn fat and calories, while also building muscle. So, if you find that you fitness levels drop off during the year, then this bike could solve that problem for you.

Focus on Heart Rate for Optimal Results

Many cyclists are confused about how they should cycle to improve their fitness levels. Some mistakenly believe that it is about speed. In reality, though, it is more about how much you are engaging your cardiovascular system.

This, in turn, means that you should focus on keeping your heart rate up as much as possible. The higher your heart rate, the more efficient your workout. To keep track of this, you should consider investing in a heart rate monitor. On a similar note, make sure to pick long trails that aren’t interrupted by traffic, people, or dead-ends. All of these things can cause you to pause your ride, causing your heart rate to drop.

Build Up Endurance with Longer Rides

Looking to build up endurance? Then focus on longer rides. This will teach your body to use up energy more efficiently and to push itself for longer. To begin with, try for rides that are around an hour long at moderate speed. To really kick things up a notch, though, you should be aiming for two hour rides.

Climb for Strength Training

If you want to engage in strength training, then seek out elevated terrain that you can climb. At the start of your training, you can focus on gentle, long hills and slowly build up from there. However, the steeper the climb, the more you have to engage your muscles. As such, you will be training and building up your muscles at a better rate.

Utilize Interval Training for Weight Loss

In case your goal is to lose weight, then you should consider interval training. This means that for about 30 seconds, you should be cycling at your fastest possible rate. At this point, your heart rate should go up to as high as you can get it.

This period then needs to be followed by 2 to 3 minutes of rest. Once this interval is over, go back to cycling at top speed for 30 seconds again. Then, cool down with a recovery phase. In the beginning, you may not be able to do this for too long. As your body gets used to the intensity, though, you should be able to engage in interval training for up to an hour or so.

Add Challenges By Heading Off-Road

If you are mostly biking on roads or paved trails, you may not feel like you are getting enough of a workout. In this case, it could help to try out mountain biking. This is because it can give you a better full body workout.

As mentioned, with mountain biking, you automatically begin to rely on your abdominal muscles more. Not only are you trying to maneuver across trickier trails, but you also have to maintain your balance. As such, you get a more thorough workout.

These are all the guidelines that you need to turn cycling into a workout. While there are some technical aspects that you need to figure out first, it is quite easy to get an adequate workout with your bike. So, regardless of whether you are trying to lose weight, improve fitness, or build muscle, you will find that this is an excellent option for you.

Valerie Ježková
Flatbike guest writer



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