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Fitness Basics: The Exercise Bike Is Back

It's time for another look at an old fitness favorite.

Staying Motivated

The nice thing about having a stationary bike at home, says Magee, is the convenience and freedom. She loves to hop on her bike to watch the 30-minute sitcom Will & Grace. She tries to get through the entire show, commercials and all, before getting off.

"I've literally done (my workout) with my nightie on sometimes," says Magee.

Calabrese is not opposed to the idea of watching television or reading a magazine for distraction, though she concedes your workout may not be as intense. "The research on reading or watching television while cycling shows that the intensity tends to be lower," she says, "but people tend to work out longer."

Watching I Love Lucy reruns isn't the only way to motivate yourself, says Calabrese. She suggests:

  • Finding a partner -- a friend, spouse or significant other -- to exercise with. This will give you accountability and help you stick with a routine.
  • Journaling. Write down your workouts a month in advance, or at least a week ahead, says Calabrese. If you have to miss one, reschedule it immediately.
  • Having a purpose to every workout. "One day could be strength, another recovery, another speed," she says. "Use different programs if the bike has them." Or integrate 10 to 15 minutes on the bike with some strength training, she says. Use the bike as your warm-up and cool down on a strength-training day, and before you know it, you've gotten in 10 minutes on the bike on an off day.
  • A change of scenery. Though it might be 40 degrees and raining outside, you can be transported to the South of France with the click of a button. You can buy cycling videos that offer beginner to advanced rides with scenery and a variety of challenges you can see right in front of you, says Calabrese. Collage Video offers these videos through its catalog and Web site.

Eskola recommends that people who are new to exercise or to stationary bikes start with very modest goals. "Just getting on the bike and going for 10 minutes a day and gradually increasing the time -- that's all a beginner's goal should be," she says.

And don't despair if your motivation wanes.

"Even for those who are active, it's hard to exercise at home sometimes," says Eskola. "I had a bike at home and I didn't use it. I'd go out for a run but I didn't get on that bike."

If you know you're likely to do the same, instead of buying a bike, join a health club and use its bikes. Do whatever it takes to get and keep you moving.

Ready, Set, Go!

Whether you use a stationary bike at home or the gym, Calabrese offers these tips for getting the most from your workout:

  • Make sure the bike fits you properly. Talk to the merchant from whom you bought your bike, someone at a bicycle store, or a trainer at your gym to be sure the seat height is correct and you're not sitting too far away from the handlebars.
  • Keep your upper body relaxed, shoulders away from the ears.
  • Sit lightly on your seat, using your abdominals to support your back.
  • Know your equipment and how to be safe. Learn how to adjust the intensity and change program options.
  • Start slowly. Build up to longer or more intense workouts.
  • Have the right gear: Buy a pair of padded shorts or a gel seat for added comfort.
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Reviewed on March 17, 2006

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