In last week’s blog, Biking 101 Part 1, I discussed ways to determine what bike is best for you and some gear I typically don’t head out the door without. This week, I want to talk about how you can get the most bang for your buck, as far as your exercise routine is concerned. Biking can be a great cardiovascular workout, but if not done at the appropriate intensity, it can be a less productive form of exercise.
Bikes were initially created as a mode of transportation. The first official chain-driven bikes date back to the late 1800s and were produced with the goal to get from point A to point B quicker while using less energy. Be sure to keep this thought in mind as you relate cycling to exercise.
Intensity and duration are key
To get the most exercise from your bicycle, as with all cardiovascular exercise, the intensity and duration are the key components to alter. Generally speaking, biking at an 8-12 mph pace is considered moderate intensity; less than 8 mph is considered lower intensity, and greater than 12 mph is vigorous. However, it is not as cut and dried as it may seem.
It’s not just about speed—a lot of variables can also play into the intensity: the type of bike, terrain features, and weather are just a few examples. For example, if you bike up a high-grade hill on a mountain bike, into the wind, you will work harder than the same person biking up a moderate-grade hill on a road bike with no wind.
Too often, people go for a leisurely bike ride around town, which is still better than doing nothing, and consider it moderate to vigorous activity. To see the greatest results, you should be working hard enough to get your heart rate elevated for a prolonged period of time, ideally 10 minutes or more.
For more ideas on how to vary your intensity, you can apply the same rules of HIIT that we talked about this winter. Adding hills, riding for longer periods, and throwing in short bouts of high-intensity pedaling are all ways to optimize your time on your bike. As always, please consult your physician prior to taking on any new exercise routine.
Then, get out and ride!