Over the last decade or so, low intensity aerobics / LSD (Long Slow Distance) training has fallen out of favor with what seems like the vast majority of the fitness and bodybuilding community. And not without reason. Both research and long time exercisers’ own experiences strongly suggest that not only does shorter, more intensive workouts save a lot of time, but can also more effective when it comes to both losing and getting fitter. From our current standpoint, shorter and harder sessions seems more effective than the longer, “drawn out” ones.
For me, though, the one overriding, real world rule of exercise effectiveness is this: The most effective exercise is that which actually gets done. And there is no almost no exercise that is easier to get done than that which you get on a good push bike. It really doesn’t matter how great that early morning guerilla cardio session down at the gym was if you didn’t make it out of bed before it was over and done with. Getting a bike, however, works for almost everyone, because most people will actually use it. More than a few end up using it a whole lot.
Last year I bought a racing bike, the first one I’ve owned in about a decade. To be honest, it was my best purchase that year. It gets used almost every day for shorter rides, and on weekends – at least if the weather is good – I go for longer rides out to the beaches or to nearby towns. Sometimes alone, sometimes with good friends. On these longer rides I always bring two largish water bottles to ensure that I stay well hydrated, and I usually wear a helmet too, unless I plan to only ride at more, well, “recreational” speeds in safe areas. The bike computer is also super important to me: If you haven’t used one before or don’t do much bicycling, you will get shocked as to just how easy it is to run up seemingly huge numbers on that thing, and most people – me included – find that very motivating. Case in point: An admittedly stingy friend of mine who also bought himself a new bike last year decided that he did not want the spend the extra money on a bike computer. I thought that was silly, and suspecting that his bike would get more use if he could easily log his distances and speed, I decided to buy him a cute little CatEye computer for his birthday in January, telling him that he better have it in use for his first ride this spring, or else. He complied, and took his bike out for the years first ride in march. Now, only two months later, he has more than 700 kilometres logged on that thing, and is super excited about what his numbers will look like when he puts the bike in storage before winter (and 700 kilometers is nothing – it’s what a Tour De France competitor will do in two days). It’s pretty cool to think what an inexpensive gift like a bike computer can do; I now know that my friend’s bike is used a lot more than it would have if the only motivation behind its use was to save money on petrol.
Some benefits of bicycling:
- Possibly the easiest exercise to get done in the world. Cycling is fun You can exercise in the time that you otherwise would have spent stuck in traffic jams on the way to work. And never mind saving money on petrol: exercise is a lot better for your blood pressure than traffic jams is.
- Aside from walking, it’s the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation that we have. You could help save the environment by getting fitter and having fun. Not the worst idea I ever heard.
- Bicycling is economical. yes, you really can save money by using a bike instead of your car or public transportation.
- It’s a low impact form of exercise. Unlike running, for instance, it probably won’t kill your knees somewhere down the road (as long as you stay on the bike at high speed, of course…).
- Joining a cycling club is a great way to meet other fitness enthusiasts. Meeting new people is fun, and meeting people whose company could be a great aid in forming even better health- and fitness supporting habits is even better.
And to make a point before I finish off: Don’t rag on cycling. Think you can’t get super fit on a bike? Then have a look at stuff like the top cyclist’s lactate thresholds and resting hear rates. Or better yet, measure your own after a few months of riding up hills. It works. And the best part: it’s even fun and easy to get done.
So get a bike. Or two (I did, I now have a hybrid as well). Find the one that suits you best (whether that is a racing bike or a mountain bike or both – or whatever). And don’t forget a bike computer (or two bike computers for your two bikes!) You will get fitter. You’ll burn more fat. You’ll save money that otherwise would have been spent on petrol, public transportation and possibly extra car maintenance. You’ll get more sun and fresh air too, and now that we know that getting enough sun is vital for both health and fat loss, that should be good news (just don’t ever get sunburned). You’ll also have a lot of fun. So trust me on this, get a bike – a good one. Just ride on safe roads and wear a helmet, and the only regret you’ll have is that you didn’t buy one sooner.