5 Ways To Keep Better Fit For Cycling
Date Posted:28 December 2017
Do you remember learning how to ride a bicycle? It’s a common hobby among children and adults alike, almost a rite of passage of growing up. However, to some people, it’s more than that. Cycling grows as a sport, both recreational and competitive, every year, so there’s a good chance you might be considering getting into cycling yourself.
But what does that entail? Starting a new hobby or sport is said to be the most difficult part, but maintaining and even improving your skill in the area is rarely any easier. If you’re looking for ways to start or improve your cycling skills, it’s important to keep this in mind. There are two areas to focus on to improve your stride: your food intake, and your workout. Within these areas, here are five steps, in no particular order, for better cycling.
Fuel Up Before The Ride
When you go for a ride, you’re burning glycogen – a form of glucose, or sugar. These come from carbohydrates, which can range anywhere from veggies and fruits to grains. However, not all carbs are created equal – you certainly don’t get the same nutrition from a donut as you would from a banana. Think of it this way: all carbs are on a scale from simple to complex. The closer to nature the carb is found, the simpler it is to digest. Simpler carbs provide a quicker energy source, but more complex carbs provide a more controlled and sustained energy source.
And of course, WHEN you fuel up before the ride matters as well, so you’ll want to start fueling up two or three hours before the ride, with food that’s high in carbs and low in fat. This includes whole-grain cereal or bagels, and fresh fruit. Whole grains work better as an energy source than simpler grains, because they release glucose into the bloodstream at a slower level (instead of a quick spike, also known as a sugar rush) and thus make a more controlled energy release.
Recover After The Ride
After your ride, your energy sources are naturally depleted, so you’ll want to replace those glycogen stores not long after you hop off the bike. (Don’t let me confuse you on glycogen and glucose. Just remember – all glycogen is glucose, not all glucose is glycogen.) With this in mind, you should focus on two things in your post-workout meal: replacing your energy levels, and building your muscles up for your next ride.
Most experts agree that natural fruit smoothies are a great way to recover your energy, ideally with a scoop of whey protein powder mixed in. Since you’ve basically just shredded your leg muscles by cycling, protein will rebuild your muscles quicker and stronger, to better equip them for the next ride. If it’s food you’re looking for, white chicken – preferably grilled, roasted, or baked – is an optimal source of lean protein.
Another drink is surprisingly effective at cycling recovery: chocolate milk. Recent research shows that chocolate milk provides the optimal ratio of carbs to protein for post-cycling recovery. Although chocolate milk contains simple carbs, which are more commonly found in candy and sugar-loaded desserts, it’s considered an efficient and cheap way to refuel.
Don’t Skip Leg Day
When it comes to your actual workout, strength training is a great way to build your muscles quickly. And of course, no other category stands near the leg muscles as the most important area to work out, so it’s important to know what muscles to actually, you know, WORK OUT. Below the knee you have the calves; above the knee are your quadriceps (front of thighs), hamstrings (back of thighs), and gluteus maximus (your butt muscles).
When it comes to exercises, the squat and the lunge stand above all others. Both are simple enough to understand. In a standard squat, you hold weights in a standing position, bend your knees and push your hips back so your butt goes just below your knees, and stand back up. In a standard lunge, one leg is forward, the knee bent, and the other leg behind the torso. There are various muscles worked in both of these exercises, and countless variations on these as well. Calf raises – holding weight and standing on your toes, are popular and important for your calves.
Work Out Other Stuff Too
Of course, your legs are certainly not the only things you work when cycling, and it’s important to work out your other muscle groups as well. Your core muscles – abdominal and back – are useful for maintaining the bicycle’s balance, and your upper body muscles – mainly shoulders and arms – are used for stability and further balance to the bicycle, and its rider.
Cycling is an aerobic sport, which means it’s relatively low-impact. However, prolonged low impacts, especially to the leg joints and muscles, can create damage to these areas, and more. Because of this, it’s important during the actual cycling training to strengthen these parts of your body through controlled usage. The most recommended way to do this is…
In the fitness world, there are plenty of strategies that people claim will help lose weight, to various degrees of success. However, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is considered not only a generally reliable way to improve your athletic endurance. In its simplest form, it’s form of interval training that involves alternating intense exercise – in this case, cycling – with lower-intensity recovery periods. Due to its malleable nature (you can change the period lengths and intensity levels) once you get used to it, you can easily change the workout to suit your needs.
All of these methods are, of course, ways to improve your cycling skills once you get started. However, they’re more than this: they’re lessons in self-improvement. If you’re serious enough about cycling to use the aforementioned methods to improve your skills, then it will become than simply a hobby to you. Your physical self-improvement will become a lifestyle. You’ll WANT to do what it takes to better at what you love. And who doesn’t want that?