The Joy of Biking Outdoors

Feel stuck in the cycling studio? Shift gears into the great outdoors.

Welcome to autumn -- the perfect time to go biking outdoors. Bicycling is one of the best cardio workouts you can get. Plus, it strengthens your lower body (think thighs, hips, and buttocks) and improves your balance.

You don’t need a special bike. If you already have one, use it. If you’re in the market for a new ride, choose one that gels with your fitness goals. 

"Road [or long-distance] biking builds greater endurance, while mountain biking [or BMX] strengthens more of your core and upper body," says exercise physiologist Scott A. Weiss, DPT. He was part of the U.S. Olympic sports medicine team in Beijing and Athens, Greece.

Before you get going, make sure your bike is the right fit. "Most bike shops have experts who will help you get the right-size bike and adjust it to fit your size and body type," Weiss says. He suggests these bike workouts for a different spin on your routine.

VO2 Max Bike Workout

Start with 10 to 15 minutes of easy pedaling. Then pedal fast for 3 minutes. Go back to light pedaling. Repeat. Shoot for three to six speed intervals per workout. Do it on a flat, smooth road.

Power Training

Start by pedaling in a low gear at an easy pace. Then add a 10-second all-out sprint. As you sprint, shift into a higher gear (or two). Work hard and really go for the burn at the end of your sprint. Return to light pedaling for 1 to 2 minutes. Aim for five to six sprints. As you get better, you’ll need less recovery time between sprints.

Hill Training

Find a nice slope (about a 6% to 10% grade). Start about 100 yards before the hill. Pedal faster as you get closer to the hill. When you reach the bottom of the hill, shift your bike into a high gear, stand up in the saddle, and go fast to the top. Pedal back down the hill in a low gear. Rest for up to 5 minutes. Repeat four to five times.

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Spin Cycle

Add power to your workouts with tips from Weiss.

Get up. To burn 10% more energy, lift your behind off the seat and pedal out of the saddle. Try it anytime, anywhere. Bonus: Standing up in the saddle makes biking an even more powerful weight-bearing exercise, helping to strengthen the bones in your legs.

Go with the flow. Don’t just push the pedal down hard. Pedal with fluidity. Push and pull with your calf and shin muscles to keep those muscles working.

Head up. Keep your head up as you pedal -- this helps bring more oxygen into your lungs. "Think of a dog howling. To get full air into their lungs, their chins are usually up."

Weigh in. The right positioning and weight is important. When you’re on your bike, try to put about 60% of your weight on the saddle and 40% on your handlebars.

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WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 06, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Scott A. Weiss DPT, LATC, CSCS, FACSM, exercise physiologist.

The American Council on Exercise: "Bike + Mountains = Excitement + Challenge."

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