Cities across America are adding bicycle lanes to public streets in an effort to make room for the growing number of cyclists out on the roads. Cycling is rapidly growing in popularity, and its growth is no surprise when you consider the health benefits of cycling. Cycling—whether on an indoor bike, out on the road or riding your favorite trails—burns fat, reduces stress, builds strength and improves cardiovascular health. With such amazing benefits, why wouldn’t you want to jump on a bike?
We talked with Cooper Fitness Center Cycling Expert and Instructor, Marianna Clement, to learn about the benefits of cycling and cycling safety tips.
Health Benefits of Cycling
Cycling is a low-impact sport and is easy on the joints. Unlike running, which requires a constant pounding on your joints, cycling removes the pressure from your joints and places it on your large muscle groups of the lower body. “Reducing the impact on your joints is beneficial both mentally and physically; especially for those who may no longer be able to run or do other high impact activities,” said Marianna.
Cycling has numerous health benefits, including:
Strengthening your heart
Creating neuromuscular and strength adaptations
When you hop on a bike, you can count on an intense lower body and core workout. “Cycling will work your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves, as well as your core muscles. The stronger your core is, the more power you have to push with your legs,” Marianna explained.
Training Tips for Cycling
If you are cycling to improve fitness, aim for a minimum of two cycling workouts per week and as many as four or five per week, depending on your own fitness level and the other workouts you are doing. “It’s good to mix things up,” said Marianna. “If you’re concerned about overall fitness and working your entire body, break up your workouts with activities that work the whole body.”
The length of a cycling workout depends on your overall goal. When cycling for fitness, plan on an hour-long workout. Most indoor cycling classes run 45 minutes to an hour. If you are training for a race, your workouts will likely be two to five hours or longer.
Cycling Safety Tips
“Having the right gear for cycling is huge,” said Marianna. The must-haves for cycling include:
A well-made helmet that fits correctly
A comfortable pair of bike shorts
A good pair of shoes
A pair of shoes with cleats that allow you to clip into your bike are ideal, but not necessary. The ability to clip in and out makes your pedal stroke much more efficient, explains Marianna.
Hydration is also essential for cyclists. Bikes are usually equipped with one or two cages to hold water bottles, so all you have to worry about before a workout is making sure your water bottles are full and on your bike. Aim to drink at least one bottle per hour of exercise.
Find friends or a cycling group to ride with. Riding in groups gives you camaraderie and is safer than riding solo. While many cyclists enjoy the solace of riding alone, in the event of a flat tire or an accident, having another cyclist nearby is important. When you are out on the road, drivers are also more likely to see a group of cyclists than an individual.
Always carry a phone and a form of I.D. with you when you ride. It is best to be prepared for an emergency, just in case.
What to Expect From a Cycling Class
Many indoor cycling classes, including the classes taught by Marianna, are a simulation of a road workout and include adjusting cadence and intensity to simulate riding on hills and in wind. Some cycling classes will incorporate things like quick jumps, pushups and weights into an indoor workout—but these exercises don’t necessarily translate to an outdoor workout, Marianna explained. The key is to keep it simple. Outside, your choices are flat roads, hills, tempo and speed intervals—these components can all be incorporated into an indoor cycling workout.
“I want everyone to come in to my class and enjoy themselves,” said Marianna. “More than anything, I want everyone to be moving every day. Whether you’re a beginner or an elite cyclist, I want you to get a great workout and feel good about yourself when you leave.” To benefit both beginner and elite cyclists, an indoor cycling instructor can provide options to every workout so each individual can scale the workout to suit his or her preferences, fitness level and training goals.
Tips for Beginner Cyclists
If you’ve never ridden a road bike before, starting with an indoor cycling class will allow you to get a good feel for cycling without some of the challenges that come with road biking, such as staying balanced.
You should also be prepared to be slightly uncomfortable, said Marianna. “You can adapt to being uncomfortable, but you can never really expect a bike saddle to be completely comfortable. You just get used to it.”
Be patient with yourself in the beginning and know that nerves are normal. When you decide to take your cycling workout outdoors, don’t be discouraged when you fall. Every cyclist—even elite cyclists—has fallen at some point.
“Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Enjoy yourself and give yourself some leeway, especially in the beginning,” said Marianna.
Cycling at Cooper Fitness Center
Cooper Fitness Center offers a variety of indoor cycling classes at all times of the day. Instructors range from professional and competitive cyclists, such as Marianna, to group exercise specialists. Every instructor brings something different to his or her class.
For more information about cycling at Cooper Fitness Center, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832.