Bicycling for Weight Loss – Tips for Starting a Cycling Plan
If you’re one of those people who leisurely pedals around the block or over a flat stretch of scenic road, you’ve probably been pedaling for the sheer pleasure of it. Riding a bicycle for pleasure is a good form of aerobic exercise. But unless you plan a plan to “strengthen yourself,” you probably won’t lose much weight.
I really get tired of hearing people say, “No pain, no gain!” But the old adage holds true when it comes to biking to lose weight. As you increase the distance or speed of your bike, you are bound to feel some soreness in the muscles of your legs, hands, wrists, and buttocks, even some soreness in your throat and lungs, as your body tries to accommodate its increased demand for oxygen.
HEALTH TIP: Stretching exercises before exercising are helpful in preventing injuries!
PREPARING YOUR BIKE…TO LOSE 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 committed exercise. Once I learned how the different gears worked, I was very grateful for the extra speeds. They make my commute faster and the hills so much easier to ride.
We found the guys at the bike shop to be very helpful and caring about our unique cycling needs. Instead of simply guiding us to the most expensive bike available (as I expected), they asked us how far we would ride, if we were looking for speed or pleasure, and if we would be riding paved roads or dirt roads. When you honestly share your goals and experience level, sales associates can find you exactly what you need. They want you to succeed in your cycling adventure!
Some state laws require bicycle lights. But if you’re going to be riding anytime from dusk to dawn, common sense dictates that you have lights on your bike. These little accessories are battery operated and last a long time. There are a variety of lights to choose from. My tail light has different flash rates and is designed to make my bike visible to cars approaching from both the rear and sides. Check the brightness before you buy one. Install the light where it makes the most sense.
It took us a while to buy a speedometer and odometer unit for our bikes, but once we got serious about losing weight and getting fit, this feature became a “must have.” You simply can’t track your progress without knowing how far and how fast you’re driving.
If you already have a bike, take it to the bike shop for a safety inspection every season. They should check the gears, tires, and brakes to make sure everything is working properly. They can adjust their seat to fit your height and adjust the handlebars to fit your reach, making your ride 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 care for 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 you should put in your bike’s tires. Check the tires every time you’re ready to ride! We guessed the air pressure one summer day and lived to regret it. We biked to the pool, not realizing that one tire was over inflated. As we cooled off in the water, the blazing sun was rapidly expanding the air in the tires – a tire blew out while in the parking lot. The day in the sun was not so much fun, once 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 approval before increasing your rate of physical activity!
STAY COMFORTABLE ON YOUR BIKE
Sitting for long periods of time in a bike seat can cause pain, discomfort, and even serious blood circulation problems in avid cyclists. At your local bike shop, you’ll find a variety of bike seats made specifically for your comfort and health. Salespeople at our local bike shop encouraged us to try out new seats on our bikes for a few days. My husband found the split seat more comfortable for him, while I opted to keep my old gel seat. Someone has even invented seats that look more like a bird perch than a bicycle seat!
HEALTH TIP: Get off the bike seat and walk around every 25 minutes or so to get your blood flowing to important, unmentionable parts of your body.
Think about your clothes… you don’t have to have padded cycling shorts and special clothing to start biking. There are actually fabrics scientifically 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 clothing isn’t so tight that it makes you miserable when trying to pedal. But they shouldn’t be loose enough to get caught in the bike chain either! If you overheat, take off a layer. If you’re cold, add a layer. Use light or bright colors to allow drivers to see you easily.
It really helps to have a small rack on the back of the bike. Mine looks like a little rack over the rear tire. It has two bungee cords to keep any load securely attached to the bike. I have used it to carry a small picnic cooler, shopping bag, or extra clothes.
I had the bike shop put a water bottle holder on the bike under my seat. I can have a quick drink on the go or pour some water over my pulse points to cool me down a bit. Take small sips of water when necessary during your bike ride, rather than gulping down large gulps.
A helmet is almost essential. Life is full of dangers and riding a bike 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 is safe to turn and allows you to watch traffic behind you.
I recommend wearing sunglasses, both for the sun and for the bugs! At certain times of the year, the air is full of flying insects. Having a small insect in the eye is a painful event. For contact lens wearers, take a contact lens case and lens cleaner on bike rides for that very reason. Someday you’ll be glad you did!
HEALTH TIP: Wave your hands down often to get the blood flowing and to prevent pain or numbness in your arms and hands.
MAKE A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN
You’ll want to keep track of your daily diet and food intake, your weekly body measurements and weight, as well as your cycling miles and time.
The http://www.OpenFitness.net website is a great way to track your progress. It’s very easy to use: just type the information you want to track. As the only fitness community website of its kind, you’ll find it a fantastic motivational tool that will print charts and graphs to show how much progress you’ve made in a few days, a week, or a month.
Tracks food, vitamin and supplement intake. Thousands of foods have already been analyzed by experts for the amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Simply select the foods you ate from a dropdown function and the daily total is calculated for you. Make sure you don’t exercise after you’ve just eaten or when it’s almost time for your meal. Both times will slow you down.
No matter how humiliating it is, please measure your arms, legs, chest, waist, neck, hips and thighs once a week. The software keeps track of your weight and body measurements. The thrill of seeing those same inches disappear in the coming weeks will be well worth it. It’s especially impressive viewed as a graphic!
Consider investing in an instrument that actually measures body fat; there are inexpensive caliper-type instruments that measure fat by pinching it, or buy a set of bathroom scales that cost more but calculate body fat painlessly.
Try to ride 4-6 days a week. When you map out your weight loss plan, your short-term goals will change as you change. You will quickly build stamina for longer distances. As fat turns to muscle, your speed will increase. Every week, try to increase your mileage or your speed.
You know how far you’ve been able to ride, so far. Start keeping track of the exact route you are taking, the total mileage, and the time it took you. Make notes in your records for special circumstances. Did it get dark outside so you were forced to cut your trip short? Did road crews dump a layer of gravel on your normally paved road?
How was the weather? Was it dangerously hot? It was 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 huff and puff. Accept any length of time as a job well done and just finish the ride!
Finally, add an upper body workout three times a week. Riding a bike works out your legs, but to keep the rest of your body tight and fit, you’ll need to work your upper body as well. Created by a certified personal fitness trainer, the website http://www.openfitness.net has great features that allow you to design and track this part of your fitness program as well.
Bicycling is a fun and inexpensive form of aerobic exercise; it’s good for every part of you. But be careful: you’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe for the slimmer and more beautiful body that emerges!