It’s a very common scene. You’re walking or driving from place to place and you see the cyclists doing their thing. You think that someday soon you’re going to join their ranks. There’s plenty of good reason to. It’s one of the most accessible ways to get fit, at first glance. That’s not entirely untrue, either. But if you really want to peddle your way to better health, then you better be prepared for it. Just like every kind of regime, it requires discipline and a degree of research on method. These are a few things you need to start preparing.
Why you want to
Beyond the fact that it’s accessible, there are plenty of good reasons you should cycle to consider and get you motivated to actually invest some time and money in it. For one, it’s one of the single best cardiovascular exercises for burning fat. It’s also good for building muscle, from your legs to your core, back, and arms. But it’s also one of the easiest exercises to stick to once you get past the initial barriers. It gets you out in the open air, exploring new terrain, and serves as a perfectly legitimate form of transportation, too.
Get the right bike
All those reasons to get motivated can fly out the door if you get the wrong bike. The most important thing about choosing a bicycle is making sure that you choose one that fits your frame. Too large and it’ll be harder to control which isn’t good for your safety. Too small and your frame will be too tensed up when you’re trying to use it. Beyond size, however, you need to consider the kind of routes you want to cycle as well. If you’re sticking to the city and mostly using the bike for a commute, you want a hybrid bike over a mountain bike. If you want to get into racing, then a road bike might be better. Choose the bike to fit the environments you’re most likely to tackle.
If you want to just do it casually, then sure, you can dress however you want on a bike. If you want to take it seriously, however, you’re going to find that denim really isn’t a good choice. Bike shorts might look a little silly when you first start, but you’re going to be thankful for the fact that you don’t have to deal with all the chafing and feeling each and every bump through the shorts. You want the kind of clothes that let you keep comfortable no matter the weather, too. You don’t need thick winter jackets because the exertion will heat you up enough, what you need is waterproof cycling jackets strong enough to keep the wind and rain to making the ride too miserable.
Learn good posture
Cycling might seem like one of the easier exercises to get into, but as with any exercise, repeating the same motions for a long time is going to put some strain on you. It might be very tempting to take it easy and slouch on the bike, but bad posture technique is only going to make you tire easier and is going to exacerbate the aches and pains that come after the cycling’s done. Learning the right posture and handlebar placement is going to make it a lot easier to cycle for longer. It’s a good idea to adjust your grip on the handlebars from time to time, just to avoid the risk of RSI that can come from riding too stiffly, too.
Give yourself goals
When you first start, it can definitely be a punishing experience. Especially if you’re using cycling as a means to get back into fitness, the first few tries might not only be painful but discouraging in just how little you’re actually able to cycle in one go. But it does get easier as time goes on. One of the ways to make it easier to see it through and get to that point is to effectively measure goals. Give yourself routes to time yourself on and endurance records to consistently break. Every time you get on the bike, you’ll get closer and closer to your goals. Seeing that can be just the motivation you need to stick to it.
Get into the community
One of the benefits of cycling is just how great it is for mental health, not just physical health. It’s a great stress buster and being in the outdoors plays a role. But perhaps the biggest reason that it’s so good for our minds is that it can easily become a very social hobby. There are cycling communities all over, as you can see from places like the David On Bike website. These bicycle nuts are often parts of cycling groups as well. If you’re feeling that you could use a little more motivation to keep it fresh and keep going, then find the groups in your area. It’s well established that having some company is one of the best ways to get you more motivated to work out.
Of course, if you’re cycling on the road, there’s more than your fitness to be concerned about. Road accidents happen all the time and if you think that cyclists are at less risk from them, then that ignorance will only put you at more risk. Safety gear like a crash helmet is a start and a legal necessity in some parts of the world. But awareness is what is going to save the day. Learn proper road positioning and situation awareness, giving way to cars and other vehicles in the safest way possible. If you’re cycling when it’s dark, then make sure you have reflective gear on both you and the bike to make you a lot more visible to drivers on the road as well.
Take care of the bike
As well as your safety, getting into cycling is going to require a bit more concern for the constraints on your wallet, too. Bicycles might seem simple, but they’re a vehicle and like all vehicles they require some looking after if you want to keep them in good condition. It’s a good idea to learn the anatomy of the bike and develop a regular maintenance schedule as shown at Bicycle Habitat. Otherwise, your bike won’t only be worse on the road, it can be more dangerous if vital parts like the brakes aren’t working. They’ll be even more expensive if you neglect them so much you have to replace several parts of them entirely.
Keep the nutrients up
Exercise is only one side of the equation, of course. You have to eat right to support any workout and that’s no different from cycling. For one, never take your bicycle out unless you have easily accessible water or a sports drink. Plenty of people get dangerously dehydrated by thinking they can push themselves extra hard but have nothing to keep fueling the body with. Eating before and after training means that you’re fueled for the journey and also that you’re getting the vital protein and vitamins the body needs to maximize the recovery process. Otherwise, if you skip out, you’ll feel those hunger pangs and cramp up more during the journey, then spend longer off the bike because you need more time to get back in good condition. Too long in recovery can very much negate the whole benefit of a good cycle.
Cycling really is one of the better forms of exercise out there and when you take it out of the gym and on the road, it has even more to offer. It’s a hobby that can easily become a lifelong passion, so don’t delay and set wheels to road as soon as you can.