Cycling is a great way to get fit, but make sure you're up to speed on the basic skills before you head out on a big spin
By Paudie O'Donovan
WE need to renew our love affair with cycling –a love that begins for many of us in our childhood but somehow gets lost en route to adulthood.
And with a cycling epidemic sweeping the country at the moment, there’s never been a better time to hop on the bandwagon and get involved.
The Wild Atlantic Mizen Charity cycle organised by West Cork Emergency Services takes place on Saturday, July 8th and presents a good focus for those looking to embark on a training schedule.
But regardless, light exercise is the way to remain healthy and one of the best forms of exercise is cycling. Here are some of its benefits:
Cycling increases muscle tone
It improves general muscle function gradually, with little risk of over exercise or strain. Because it is low impact it strengthens leg muscles and is great for the mobility of hip and knee joints. You will gradually begin to see an improvement in the muscle tone of your legs, thighs, rear end and hips. Cycling is a also a good way to build stamina and is very effective in doing so, because when we cycle we tend to go little further each time we go out and our stamina increases without us realising.
Cycling improves cardio-vascular fitness
It makes the heart pound in a steady manner and helps improve cardio-vascular fitness. Studies have shown that cycling to work will increase cardiovascular fitness by 3-7%. Cycling uses the largest muscle groups the legs, raising heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness.
Cycling eats up calories
Cycling is a good way to lose those unwanted pounds. Steady cycling burns approximately 300-400 calories per hour.
It’s hard to believe that slow cycling burns more body fat than going fast. Since it helps build muscle, cycling will also boost your metabolic rate long after you’ve finished your ride.
Cycling is an activity that involves the whole body. Therefore, arm-to-leg, feet-to-hands and body-to-eye coordination are improved. It can also help to reduce stress and depression and improve wellbeing and self esteem.
Last week I talked about what type of bikes are available and now I want to go through cycling gear and basic skills.
Kit: You will need a helmet, glasses (optional), cycling jersey, cycling jacket (hi- vis) cycling shorts (something with a good comfortable chamois) padded gloves and cycling shoes. You can pick all of these up at your local bike shop or on-line.
Over the next few weeks I will go into most of the gear individually but for now the jacket or jersey should have a pocket in the back so you can carry nutrition, mobile phone, tools, money and even a spare tube. These spandex jerseys may be tight fitting but show off every ripple of body fat but they definitely increase your aerodynamics and do not flap around in the wind.
Pedals: This is one of the first things to decide on. There’s the option of flat pedals but if you are serious about cycling you will have to “clip in.” These are called cleats and require cycling shoes to suit. This cleated system increases the efficiency of your pedal stroke and they create a more balanced use of the three main muscles used in cycling which are your quads, hamstrings and glutes. However they take getting used to until you get the hang of releasing your feet in an emergency.
Basic Cycling Skills: This is most important of all. If you don’t know the basic skills then you are not only a danger to yourself but to others as well. You need to know how to signal, how to ride in traffic, how to pass other cyclists and pedestrians and the cycling rules of the road. I also think it’s important that you know how to handle a bike before getting on the main roads. Things like emergency stopping, riding with a partner and evasive steering. Some of this stuff requires time on the bike and learning on your first group ride or on a busy street isn’t the right place.
Start Slow: Even if you’re in good shape, don’t rush in. The program below is for the beginner who wishes to do the 65km route of the WAMCC. Biking utilises different muscles than other exercise and it may take time for your body to get used to the new routine.
A gradual increase in speeds is an important aspect of fitness cycling.
Cycling can also be strenuous to the body and the key towards successful cycling is to be patient and not to be hasty when it comes to increasing your limits.
Wild Atlantic Mizen Cycle Training Programme
Week 2: Monday, May 22nd - Sunday, May 28th
Monday - 10/12k Cycle
Tuesday - Rest
Wednesday - 10/12 Cycle
Thursday - Rest
Friday - Crosstrain
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - 15/20k Cycle
Total cycled this week 35/44k over three cycles
• Paudie O’Donovan is a qualified neuromuscular
physical therapist specialising in pain relief and improvement
of mobility/flexibility. He is masseur to the Cork senior football team and runs a
sports injury clinic at Quarryvale, Coolnagrane, Skibbereen.
Contact: 086-2339618 or follow him on Facebook