Coach’s Corner: Getting Back on a Bike
Springtime kicks off biking season, an excellent cardiovascular activity that can also help you prevent cancer by getting at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity and staying a healthy weight. For adults who have shied away from biking for years, take advantage of the Spring season to go out for a ride.
AICR’s fitness expert Mary Kennedy, MS, worked with Duncan Warden, MSc, USA Triathlon Certified Coach, to answer some of the most common questions we get asked about biking.
Q: I was thinking of starting biking. Is riding a bike a good exercise option?
A: Biking is a great workout option for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:
- Improves overall health: Like other aerobic activities, biking offers a host of health benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer along with diabetes and other chronic diseases, reducing levels of stress and improving sleep.
- Helps you achieve or maintain a healthy weight: Relative to other activities, biking burns a lot of calories. A 150-pound person will burn approximately 540 calories per hour biking at a moderate pace; 680 calories at a vigorous pace.
- Easy on the joints: Biking is a low-impact activity. It does not stress weight-bearing joints (e.g., knees, ankles) which makes it a great option for people with arthritis or general joint pain. It is also an excellent cross-training option for people who primarily participate in weight-bearing activities (e.g., running) and want to give their joints a rest.
- Great for the environment: If you swap your car for your bike a few times each week – a trip to the post office, a visit to a friend or a commute into work – you will help improve both your personal health and the health of the environment.
Q: I haven't biked since I was a kid. Is getting back on a bike really as easy as the saying goes?
A: While your body may always remember how to ride a bike, your skills are probably a little rusty. Coach Warden suggests a little practice before you head out to the open road. His advice: “Go to a big empty parking lot to practice your starting, stopping, shifting and turning skills. Once you have gained some confidence, look for bike path or a quiet road with a nice, wide shoulder to continue your training.”
Q: Do I need to buy an expensive bike or special equipment?
A: Here are the three essential items you need to get started biking:
- Helmet. It’s an essential piece of safety equipment. Don’t consider getting on a bike without one that fits your head properly.
- The right size bike. A bike doesn’t need to be expensive, but it must “fit” so you can control it properly.
- Pair of bike shorts. Bike shorts make riding much more comfortable. They are padded, which helps your “seat” deal with the bike seat.
Coach Warden suggests going to a local bike shop for help selecting your equipment. If you are buying a new bike, ask your sales person to show you how the shifting works, as it is likely different from what you remember as a kid.
Q: Is there anything else I need to know?
A: No. Once you have the right equipment and skills, a bike workout follows the same rules as any other workout: warm-up at a slower pace for the first few minutes, cool-down for the last few minutes, and push yourself at a moderate-to-vigorous pace in-between. And most importantly, have fun!
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