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Cycling is a great way to burn calories, tone your muscles, increase stamina and have fun, too.
If you want to burn calories, build muscle or improve your overall cardiovascular fitness, cycling is a highly effective form of exercise. It’s one that you can work into your daily commute, enjoy on the weekends or do at the gym anytime. Whether you choose to ride a stationary bike or actually hit the road, here are some tips to help you tailor your workout and achieve your goals.
The duration and intensity level of your workout will help determine how you burn calories. Finding the right balance between these two factors will take practice. You want to ride at an intensity that suits your current fitness level, but also pushes you out of your comfort zone. You’ll also need to figure out a time commitment that’s achievable. If you want to get the best results, you’ll have to listen to your body and become your own coach.
Riding a bike is a low-impact activity, making it an ideal choice for days when you want to give your joints a rest. But don’t let the term ‘low-impact’ trick you into to thinking that cycling is an easy choice. If you’re new to exercising, I recommend starting out with a nice steady ride at a moderate intensity level. Try an intensity level of about 6-7 with duration of about 45-60 minutes.
Taking it slow is especially important, if you’re a true beginner or are just starting back after a long time off. I truly believe that easing your body back into exercise with a low to moderate intensity level is a good idea. Shocking your system with an intense ride on day one may just stop you from coming back for more.
Increase your intensity level by adjusting your speed. The faster you go, the harder your body has to work and the more energy you’ll expend. Speed it up to an intensity level of 7-8.
Interval training on a bike is great for burning calories and improving your cardiovascular fitness level. Alternating between periods of high and low intensity offers you a challenge, especially when you’re short on time. Shorter rest periods make the workout even more intense.
Add some hills to your ride for increased resistance. If you’re outdoors, look for hills with a steep incline so your muscles will exert more effort. If you’re on a stationary bike, experiment with the resistance adjustment until you find a level that’s difficult but still allows you to keep moving at a good pace. Just keep in mind that if you push too hard, you risk putting too much pressure on your knees, and riding with poor form is never a good idea. A good thought to keep in mind if you’re on a stationary bike is to imagine you’re on the road. Ask yourself ‘Would I be able to peddle up a hill without falling off?’ If the answer is no, reduce the resistance a little. Indoor cycling should be as close to road biking as you can make it.
If you want to improve your endurance, ultimately you’ll have to ride for a longer period of time. Your duration should be relative to your current fitness level. Ninety minutes or more is an endurance ride, but if you’re new to cycling, 60 minutes is a good starting point. Build up your distance and duration over time, and aim to push yourself a little harder each time. To avoid boredom, use some or all of my riding suggestions throughout your ride.
Samantha Clayton is responsible for all activities relating to exercise and fitness education for Independent Herbalife Members and employees. Through in-person training sessions, educational tools and materials, and her blog (www.discovergoodfitness.com), she ensures that the important role of exercise as part of a healthy, active life is understood by all. She also helps create, organize and promote employee fitness programs and activities as an integral part of the company’s corporate wellness program.
A native of Liverpool, England, Samantha initially worked as a consultant for Herbalife for two years and led the Herbalife24-Fit program, the company’s first comprehensive fitness training program and DVD series.
Before joining the corporate ranks, Samantha was a professional athlete. She represented Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay events. Prior to the Olympics, she won two medals in the Olympic AAA trials – a silver medal for the 200m and a bronze for the 100m – as well as a silver medal in the 4x100m relay during the European Junior Championships in 1997. Her personal records include 11.40 seconds in the 100m and 23.02 seconds in the 200m.
Samantha is a personal trainer and group exercise coach through the American Fitness and Aerobics Association (AFAA) and International Sport Science Association (ISSA).