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It's time to take out our bikes


Written by:
Birgitte Nymann ( www.nymanns.dk )
Author, speaker and educator within Exercise, health, nutrition and motivation. Concept – and seminar developer at Pro Academy, Denmark. Educated and trained in sport from University of Copenhagen.

The last snowflakes have been gone for a long time and the temperature is on its way up, to a more pleasent level for outdoor activities. The roads are passable again and cycle paths are ready to welcome the cyclists again. The more bright days invite us to outdoor activities - and the energy is also greater now as it stays light longer when you are going home from work. Therefore, we have all possible reasons to dust our bike and get out to exercise, sweat, take deep breaths, get fresh air into our system and get red cheeks.

Many of us have a bike in our basements, garden shed or in the back yard. Fx. Denmark, are known for all the cyclists that transport themselves around in the larger cities. But the bicycle, even though it is not the latest model, can be used as an exercise tool – of a good kind. To get exercise and challenge to heart and lungs, the latest equipment is not required, only that your body is challenged. It might be that you cannot bike on your old ”garden gate” as fast as you can on the aerodynamic carbon fibre frame, but you can get the same physical challenge. Even though you ride slower, you must work harder to get there, so you can reach the same level.

Why bike?

  • You exercise your fitness, strengthen heart, lungs and circulation.
  • It is easy and simple to work with
  • Can be performed every where and at any time a day
  • Cycling is not as stressing for weak joints as for example running, but it is as good for the fitness
  • It can be performed with others, like the family
  • You are out in fresh air and get light on your body

Cycling is gentle

Compared to other types of exercise, cycling is on top of the list as regards exercising heart and circulation. Actually, cycling can in exactly this are compete with for example running, even in a gentle way. Cycling is a gentle stress that do not cause strong shocks through the body. Therefore, joints and muscles are stressed less, which is an advantage if you have injuries, if you have not exercised for a long time, are overweight or have a bad back.

Get started properly

Even thought you don't have the ambition of becoming a professional cyclist, the bicycle can be both a means of tranportation and your own private outdoor gym. Prepare yourself and the bicycle to your new habbits. A cycle helmet is a must, there are many smart models today, so there is no excuse. Buy a breathable waterproof suit, so that days with rain do not give the occasion of staying home.

And then, just go outside in the open air. You might start by cycling to and from work. If you live far away, ride your bike to the train, preferably some kilometres every way. Ride your bike in bad weather as well. If your bike ends up in the basement again, you risk spoiling your good intentions. If you are dressed properly, and your body can breathe even though the rain is kept outside, the trip will not be unpleasent even though it's raining.

As you and your bike get more and more used to one another, you can take on more cycling trips. Begin with a longer trip in the weekend, it is more fun in good company. Take a trip in the nature, maybe stop at an attraction on the way or take a break and get a cup of coffee. It is all about that you set off and give yourself time to enjoy nature, the fresh air and the exercise. If you have a child that can sit in a bike chair, take the child with you and choose some excursion goals that he/she can have the pleasure of.

For the sake of variety, you can place your bike on the back of your car, and drive a bit longer. Leave the car and go for a wonderful ride.

Variety is the key to progress

When the first introductory manoeuvres are over and you are almost used to the cycling trips, the exercise will become even more effective if you vary it from time to time or week to week. Repeating the same type of exercise at the same intensity week after week, gives decline rather than progress.
There are different ways of changing the exercise like for example:

1 Speed:

Ride at a higher speed than normally for 5-10 kilometres. It should not be much higher than your normal speed, but just slightly higher so your pulse rate goes up. Then ride at a lower speed for the same amount of time to recover, and then put your speed up again.

2 Interval training:

Turn up the speed even more, but now only for short periods of 1-2 minutes, between lampposts, from town sign to town sign or another short distance. The main rule is that the break (where you cycle at a normal speed) must be twice as long as the hard work, to prevent accumulation of lactic acids.

3 Hill riding:

Find a hilly area to exercise in once in a while, or find a hill to ride up and down of a couple of times. It can be a hill that is already on the way, where you repeat it for 3-4 times as a kind of interval training.

Better shape

Cycling involves especially all the greatest muscle groups in the lower part of the body. They are some of the body's greatest, namely the front thigh muscles and the seat muscles. Therefore, it is great exercise. Great muscles that work are energy swallowing cells that love fat and sugar .

When your shape improves, a long series of improvements happen in the body like for example:

  • Increased oxygen assimilation
  • Healthier heart and circulation
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Reduction of muscle tensions
  • Higher metabolism
  • Reduction of overweight
  • Reduced tiredness
  • Increased energy
  • Stress reduction
  • Increased motivation
  • Increased health awareness
  • Reduced depression
  • Increased life quality
  • Prevention of type 2 diabetes
  • Prevention of heart and blood vessel diseases
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