For years we’ve watched the Danes lead exemplary lifestyles thanks to their national cycling obsession. As the cooler weather hits, there’s never been a better time to mimic their healthy habit.
Whether alone or with a bike buddy, cycling is a great activity for all ages. As a means of getting around, it’s cost-effective and contributes to a greener environment. With so many benefi ts, it's no wonder Cycling Australia has pledged to increase the scope of its programmes by putting in place new initiatives to provide opportunities for all cyclists, regardless of skill level. Alexandra Bright, CA’s national participation coordinator, says cycling is an ideal health and fitness option. “It’s a low-impact activity, making it perfect if you have low fitness levels or sore joints. You can cycle by yourself, with a friend, or in a group, making it a social outing as well.”
The physical pay-offs are huge, too, as it improves your overall cardiovascular fitness, and strengthens the muscles in your legs, hips and butt. In fact, it also works your arms, core and back muscles, particularly if you take on a few hills.
Like most exercises, cycling is also a fantastic stress reliever. “It develops a strong mind; whether it’s by riding up a hill, pushing yourself to ride that little bit further each time, or by taking a new route or path and exploring new territory,” says Bright. “The idea is to translate this mental strength into your life, and you’ll find that your ability to manage diffi cult or stressful life situations will improve.”
Developing your cycling skills is very important to ensure that you can safely negotiate your way on your bike ride, and to maximise your enjoyment. To improve fitness or lose weight, Bright suggests riding at a low intensity for extended periods of time, for example a road or mountain bike ride from 30 minutes to four hours. But if you’re new to cycling, ease your way in with a short ride on flat terrain close to home. As your confi dence grows, so too should your sense of adventure. Build up to longer rides, and challenge yourself with hills and undulating terrain. “To build strength and improve your fitness further; ride for longer, alternate your gears to make pushing the pedals harder or easier, ride hillier routes, or alternate standing and sitting in the saddle when climbing hills,” adds Bright.
Cycling outdoors might not be for everyone, but that shouldn’t stop you from reaping the benefits. Matty Clarke, cyclist, triathlete and programme choreographer for indoorcycling. com.au, says that opting for an indoor spin class is perfect for those who want to have consistency in their training and avoid the variables of the great outdoors such as traffic or adverse weather conditions.
Spin classes offer a broad range of physical and fitness benefits. It’s a low-impact activity that allows cyclists to tailor workouts to their needs. “It’s self-regulating, even in a class that’s choreographed from beginning to end, so it’s presented with a structure that’s safe, effective, motivating and fun – the participant can actually regulate the workout themselves,” says Clarke.
Having inpidual resistance on the bike is an added spinclass bonus that allows each cyclist to gauge his or her own workout. And for a completely well-rounded session, Clarke suggests combining your riding time with off-the-bike exercises: lunges and squats help build strength; planks are perfect for core stability; hip flexor stretches ease the pressure in an area that’s predominantly loaded while cycling (not forgetting other areas such as hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and calves); and always work in some form of postural release, opening the chest to decompress the diaphragm and take in air.
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