Recently, I've fallen in love with biking. It's fun and invigorating, builds stamina and increases cardiovascular endurance. Plus, cycling develops leg muscles without stressing your joints.
Fitness benefits aside, what I like most about biking is being outdoors and enjoying the open air and scenery.
As I do with most sports, I decided to see how far I could push myself and entered my first 40 km (about 25 miles) bike race. Training for the race required spending more time in the gym on the stationary bike and treadmill to build my endurance and doing leg exercises with weights to build muscle. I also increased my outdoor cycling in terms of speed and endurance by about 10 percent each week in order to reach my race performance level.
Although I was a "middle-of-the-packer" in my first race, I loved it. The strong camaraderie among bicyclists made the event enjoyable and inspirational.
You don't have to race to have fun and get fit in this sport. If the idea of biking appeals to you, let me offer some suggestions for getting started.
- Choose a good bicycle. And don't forget to buy the right biking gear: a safety helmet (they aren't always fashionable but they can save your life), comfortable biking shorts and shirt, and a good pair of sunglasses.
- Get to know your new bike. Understand the various gears and how to use them. For example, if you want to burn fat and take pressure off your leg muscles, you'll want to pedal at a faster pace, using lower or easier gears.
- Start with shorter rides until you get used to your bike. Just like any exercise, you'll want to start bicycling at a moderate pace. Ride about five to 10 miles at first, and don't try to break any speed records. Any ride that's more than 30 minutes and pushes you into the aerobic zone is beneficial.
- Settle on a speed that lets you keep a steady pace. As you improve, you can set a goal of reaching 12 to 15 mph on the road.
- Bring a friend or consider joining a biking group. Ask around at your local bike shop to find a group at your skill level.
- Be creative and change your scenery. Pick some new neighborhoods, or take advantage of bicycle lanes around your town to ride roads you might not ordinarily drive.
- Don't forget to take a basic tire repair kit and a small first-aid kit with you when you ride. You don't want a flat tire or scrape on your knee to ruin your trip!
- Stay hydrated! Always take your water bottle (and don't forget to wear sunscreen).
Once you've built up your skills and endurance, you may want to consider bike touring. It's is a great way to see the country and to challenge yourself by riding through all sorts of terrain.
So start taking advantage of a sport that offers fitness, friendship, competition and just plain fun.