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Bike Riding for Weight Loss – Tips for Beginning A Bicycling Plan
If you’re one of those people who leisurely pedals around the block or through a flat stretch of scenic road, you’ve probably been riding for pure pleasure. Riding bicycles for pleasure is a good form of aerobic exercise. But unless you develop a plan to “push yourself,” you probably won’t lose much weight.
I’m really sick of hearing people say, “No pain, no gain!” But the old adage is true when it comes to bikes for weight loss. As you push your cycling distance or speed, you’re sure to feel some soreness in your leg muscles, your hands, wrists, and your derriere– even some soreness in your throat and lungs as your body tries to accommodate your increased demand for oxygen.
HEALTH TIP: Stretching exercises before exercise is helpful in preventing injury!
PREPARE YOUR BIKE… TO ROLL OFF THE WEIGHT
Your first concern will be to equip your bike. If you need an excuse to buy a new bike, this is a great opportunity! I went from a 3-speed bike for leisure riding, to a 24-speed bike for more involved exercise. Once I learned how the different gears worked, I was very grateful for the extra gears. They make my ride faster and the hills much easier to handle.
We found the guys at the bike shop to be very helpful, and attentive to our unique cycling needs. Rather than just steering us toward the most expensive bike available (as I expected), they asked how much riding we’d be doing, whether we’d be going for speed or leisure, and whether we’d be riding on paved roads or dirt roads. When you honestly share your goals and level of experience, the salespeople can match you with exactly what you need. They want you to succeed in your cycling venture!
Some state laws require bicycle lights. But if you’re going to ride anytime from dusk to dawn, common sense dictates that you have lights on your bike. These little accessories run on batteries and last a long time. There are a variety of lights to choose from. My taillight has different blink rates, and is designed to make my bike visible to cars approaching from both the rear and the sides. Check brightness before buying one. Install the light where it makes the most sense.
We held off on buying a speedometer and odometer unit for our bikes, but when we got serious about losing weight and shaping, this feature became a “must have”. You simply cannot track your progress without knowing how long and how fast you are riding.
If you already have a bike, take it to the bike shop for a safety inspection each season. They should check the gears, tires and brakes to make sure everything is working properly. They can adjust your seat to fit your height and adjust the handlebars to fit your reach, making your drive more comfortable. If you’re lucky, they might even clean and polish your bike!
If you want to save money in the long run, you can find books and videos that teach you how to take care of your own bike. It’s always a great idea to know how to change your own flat tire and adjust a loose chain.
Another must have is a bicycle pump. Ask your bike dealer how many pounds of air pressure to put in your bike tires. Check the tires every time you get ready to ride! We guessed at the air pressure one summer day, and lived to regret it. We rode bikes to the pool, not realizing that one tire was too full. As we cooled off in the water, the hot sun quickly expanded the air in the tires-one tire blew as it sat in the parking lot. The day in the sun was not so much fun, at one point the pool closed and we had to wait for a truck to take us home!
HEALTH TIP: Talk to your doctor first, and get his blessing before you increase your rate of physical activity!
STAY COMFORTABLE ON YOUR BIKE
Sitting for long periods of time on a bicycle seat can cause pain, discomfort and even serious circulatory problems in avid cyclists. At your local bike shop, you’ll find a variety of bike seats made specifically for your comfort and health. The sales people at our local bike shop encouraged us to try new seats on our bikes for a few days. My husband found the split seat to be more comfortable for him, while I chose to keep my old gel seat. Someone even invented seats that look more like a bird’s perch than a bicycle seat!
HEALTH TIP: Get off your bike seat and walk every 25 minutes to get the blood flowing to important unmentionable parts of your body.
Think about your clothing…you don’t have to have padded cycling shorts and special clothing to start cycling. There are actually scientifically engineered fabrics designed to wick sweat away from your body in the summer and prevent you from getting hypothermia in the winter. But for now, just wear layers of comfortable sportswear.
Make sure your clothes aren’t so tight that you’re miserable trying to pedal. But they shouldn’t be loose enough to get tangled in the bike chain either! If you overheat, take off a layer. If you get cold, add a layer. Wear light or bright colors to allow drivers to see you easily.
It really helps to have a small cargo on the back of your bike. Mine looks like a little shelf over the back tire. It has two bungee cords to keep any cargo securely attached to the bike. I’ve used it to carry a small picnic cooler, shopping bag or extra clothes.
I had the bike shop attach a water bottle to the bike under my seat. I can take a quick sip while I ride or pour some water on my pulse points to cool down a bit. Take small sips of water when needed during your cycling, rather than swallowing large gulps.
A helmet is almost a must. Life is full of dangers – and cycling has its share. Be smart. Wear a helmet. You can buy a cool rearview mirror for your helmet. The mirror helps you see when it’s safe to turn and allows you to keep an eye on traffic coming up from behind.
I recommend wearing sunglasses – both for the sun and bugs! At certain times of the year, the air is thick with flying insects. Getting a tiny bug in your eye is a painful event. For contact wearers, carry a contact case and lens cleaner on bike rides for just that reason. One day you’ll be glad you did!
HEALTH TIP: Shake your hands down often to get the blood flowing and to prevent pain or numbness in your arms and hands.
MAPPING A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN
You’ll want to keep a record of your daily diet and food intake, your weekly body measurements and weight, as well as your cycling miles and time.
The website http://www.OpenFitness.net is a great way to track your progress. It’s very easy to use – just type in the information you want to track. As the only community fitness website of its kind, you’ll find it a great motivational tool that will print out charts and graphs to show how much progress you’ve made in a few days, weeks or months!
It monitors your food, vitamin and supplement intake. Thousands of foods have already been analyzed by experts for the number of calories, fat, carbohydrates and proteins. You simply select the foods you ate from a pull-down feature, and the daily total is calculated for you. Make sure you don’t exercise when you’ve just eaten or when it’s almost meal time. Both times will slow you down.
As humiliating as it is, measure your arms, legs, chest, waist, neck, hips and thighs once a week. The software monitors your weight and body measurements. The thrill of seeing those same inches melt away in the coming weeks will be worth the effort. It is especially impressive seen as a graphic!
Consider investing in an instrument that actually measures body fat – there are cheap tweezer instruments that measure fat by pinching yourself, or buy a set of bathroom scales that cost more, but calculate body fat fairly painlessly.
Try to ride 4-6 days a week. When you develop your weight loss plan, your short-term goals will change as you change. You will quickly develop endurance for a longer distance. As fat turns to muscle, your speed will increase. Each week, try to increase either your mileage or your speed.
You know how far you have been able to drive, so far. Start keeping track of the exact route you take, the total mileage, and the length of time it took you. Make notes in your records for special circumstances. Did it get dark outside so you were forced to cut your ride short? Did the road crew dump a layer of gravel on your normally paved road?
What was the weather like? Was it dangerously hot? Was it windy? The wind can be your friend or your enemy. When the wind is behind you, your ride is a breeze… but coming from any other direction, be prepared to take a breather. Accept any time as a job well done and just take the ride!
Finally, add upper body training three times a week. Cycling works your legs, but to tone and tone the rest of your body, you’ll also need to exercise your upper body. The website http://www.openfitness.net, created by a certified personal trainer, has great features that allow you to design and track this part of your fitness program as well.
Cycling is a fun, inexpensive form of aerobic exercise – it’s good for every part of you. But be warned – you’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe for the slimmer, more beautifully fit body that emerges!
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