I love being active.
I know that this may be one of those generic statements at which people tend to be puzzled. But, I really do mean it when I say I love being active.
Exercise can be difficult for me, mostly because I often find myself unmotivated to get up and go. As a graduate student, I also have a hectic schedule. I work part-time, take graduate level classes, conduct psychology and communication research projects, and teach introduction courses in both basic and interpersonal communication.
When do I have the time to work out the way I want to?
This summer, I actually took my dusty bike off the racks in my parents' garage and brought it with me when I moved for graduate school. I was excited that I was going to finally take up biking again. As a kid, I spent many, many hours riding around the neighborhood. I had such an enthusiasm for biking.
I have not been on my bike for seven years. Seven years. That's a very long time. I tried picking it up a few years ago, but I just did not have the endurance to go for a long ride.
After several years of working out in college, I have better endurance. I love to walk and go for long hikes. But, I was still afraid that I'd be unable to ride very far and that it would take a few months to build up my endurance on my bike.
One day a couple weeks ago, I pumped up my tires, and I sat on the bike, anxious to see how I would do. I was a natural. The saying "it's like riding a bike" rings true to me. I took off and rode 18 miles down the biking trail in town. I was so excited to finally be riding like I used to, so many years ago.
Not only am I now feeling much better, but my endurance is slowly increasing, and I'm losing weight. I never thought that riding a bike could burn so many calories, but it can definitely help you get into shape, and rather quickly.
What are all of biking's benefits?
Keeps you toned all over. According to Women's Health Magazine*, biking keeps you toned. Not only do you burn plenty of calories, but your quads, glutes, and calves are being toned. Your cardiovascular system is also working at full speed when you're on the bike as well. You will be toned, inside and out.
Boosts energy levels. Biking can also make you feel more energized during the day. When I go on long bike rides, I never feel fatigued. A study conducted at the University of Georgia at Athens and published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics* revealed that biking can improve a person's energy levels by about 20 percent and can decrease fatigue by 65 percent. The neurotransmitter dopamine is released, and thus a person instantly feels more energetic.
Little pressure on joints. My knees and back do not hurt like they do when I perform more rigorous activities. Going for long walks and hikes can sometimes be challenging for people who have arthritis or other joint problems. My knees have been bad ever since I was in middle school, and my family has a long history of back problems. With biking, I don't have to worry about feeling overly sore or dealing with aching joints. There is relatively no pressure on your ankles or knees, as long as you keep your weight properly distributed on the bike. You also have to make sure you keep your knees at a 25-degree angle and make sure your seat is adjusted so it's comfortable for you to ride.
Reduces stress. Exercise in general keeps your stress level down. I feel a high (similar to the famous runner's high) every time I ride my bike. It's exciting, especially when I can pedal fast down a straight section of the trail. With the wind in my hair and my heart pumping, I feel like I'm flying down the trail. I always feel so much happier, toned, energetic, and optimistic after a long ride.
Burns a ton of calories. You can burn up to 500 calories riding for 60 minutes, according to Prevention*. If you go at a moderate pace (12 to 14 mph), you'll be shedding the pounds in no time. I lost a couple pounds already, and I am ready to shed many more. It's not only mentally exhilarating to go out in the fresh air, but your physical body will also feel fantastic by the end of your first week.
Cost effective. Bikes are relatively inexpensive, and getting a good one can mean keeping it for a lifetime. I have had my bike for about 11 years now. It was first my mother's bike, but when I outgrew all the kid ones (I stand at 5' 8" and have since the end of middle school), I took it as my own. I recently spent a decent amount of money to get it tuned up so I could ride it safely. Bikes can last forever with relatively little maintenance (unless you ride it constantly throughout the year; then it's advisable to get it tuned up every two years or so, just to be on the safe side).
I want to eventually work up to riding about 100 miles a week. I also want to ride with friends and be able to ride in charity events like the MS 150. I hope to be able to bike somewhere on vacation, or better yet, ride my bike up to the top of Mount Evans in Colorado.
Grab a bike, and let's ride.
*Puetz, T. W., Flowers, S. S., O’Connor, P. J. (2008). A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults with persistent fatigue. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77, p. 167-174.
*Mattheis, C. (n.p.). 7 reasons to start bike riding. Women’s Health Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/bicycle-fitness.
*Yeager, S. (2013, June 17). Time to take up bike riding. Prevention. Retrived from http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/benefits-riding-bike.