By Marius Bezuidenhout
Fitness Through Cycling
Visiting a cycling shop to purchase a bicycle, or joining the local cycling club may be your first step toward fitness through cycling. The advantages of cycling as an exercise medium of choice include the low level of impact cycling has upon your knees, as well as the enjoyment that one gets out of it. Indeed cycling is unique as a sport in that it takes you out into the countryside and allows you to step outside of your busy schedule to enjoy the scenery of your area, all the while giving you an excellent workout.
Of course cycling can be done with the aspiration of winning the Tour de France, or simply to enjoy a Sunday morning spin around your chosen cycling route. Training and equipment for cycling thus logically vary in accordance to your individual needs. Most importantly you should wear a good cycling helmet, complying with safety standards and fitted properly to your head. Next a pair of cycling shorts will give you some welcome relief over a ride longer that fifteen minutes or so.
Consult your doctor before you begin any exercise regime. Once you are sure of your health and ability it is useful to set out a training schedule. For beginners, or those who are looking more to simply ride for fun, it may be a bit of a turn-off to have to adhere to a schedule. In this case it would be better to simply ride when you feel like it, although it is advisable to keep track of what distance and time you spend on each outing. This will allow you to monitor your progress, as you will inevitably end up riding more distance, and covering it faster.
If you are looking to progressively develop your fitness, it is advised by many coaches to work in four week cycles. For the first three weeks you do a little more each week, and in the fourth week you do substantially less in order to recover. When beginning the second 4 week cycle, begin with a workload roughly equivalent to that of the previous cycle's second week. In this way you build up your training until it is at a level which is adequate for achieving the goals you set yourself. At this point you need to maintain your training, but remember to rest adequately so as not to burn out your body.
Do not neglect to feed your body, you will use a lot of energy on your training ride, which is best restored within an hour after you complete your training. If you are looking to slim down, then eat slightly less than what you burnt off, but this is best done with the assistance of a coach, which will be discussed below.
Finding time to train can be difficult if you are working, some people complement their weekend riding with indoor cycling sessions. These can be done at home on an indoor trainer or you could visit a gym with a spinning studio. Intense work can be done in a short amount of time on an indoor trainer, while longer endurance rides can best be done over the weekend.
If you are considering taking your cycling more seriously it may be worthwhile to consult your cycling club or cycling shop in order to find a coach. A coach will give structure and guidance to your exercise regime and have you systematically improving your cycling.