What are the benefits of biking? And how do you get started. That’s all coming up in today’s “Fitness Friday.”
Each week I will be interviewing a new person about a new form of exercise. I’m talking to runners, crossfitters, yogis, zumba trainers, and more. Don’t think of this as a comprehensive guide to any one thing. Rather, this is an overview to get your excited about the possibilities and some information to get started.
Note: Please remember that fitness is personal. You should always check with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you’ve been pretty sedentary before. The opinions expressed here are those of the people I interview… and they are just that: Opinions. Be smart with your health.
An Overview and Benefits of Biking
Today I’m happy to welcome Arwen Rogers to talk about biking. Arwen is a long-time friend and an amazing biker, runner, and yogi. I’m so happy she’s here to give some tips and advice for anyone who’s been interested in hopping on two wheels in the name of exercise and FUN!
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Arwen Rogers and I began training for longer bike races 5 years ago because of my brother, Jake. I had watched him train for long distance road bike events and mountain bike races and always felt like I wanted to do something impressive. I started biking for recreational as a kid and loved biking to the local swimming pool in the summer. It was such an adventure to be able to bike all over town! As a teen I didn’t bike much, but when I was in college, Jake began training for LOTOJA and I was so amazed that I wanted to start taking the longer rides.
LOTOJA is a 206 mile bike race, and my mom and I were Jake’s support crew. Giving him food and water at checkpoints along the way, fighting traffic lines hoping to beat him to next aid station, and seeing the intense focus of each rider pushing through the impossible made me wonder if I had that kind of stamina. So I began riding with him to train for my first 100 mile bike ride, ULCER (Utah Lake Century Endurance Ride).
Jake kept telling me, “If you can bike comfortably for 50 miles, then you are ready to ride 100!” This statement sounded crazy to me at the time, but I learned that it is true! The human body is capable of amazing things, and all it needs is baseline aerobic training, determination, proper hydration, and nutrition.
I currently train with a coach, James Lawrence, who is a World Record holder for completing the most full Ironman races in one year. He did 30 in 2012! You will find his story very inspiring. My coach is preparing me for my first half Ironman in November.
What are the benefits of biking?
Biking improves everything!! It strengthens your legs and core, improves cardiovascular endurance, helps maintain a healthy positive outlook, and gets you to meet really cool people who do amazing things. Sweat and endurance bond a friendship in a unique and enduring way. Biking is a great choice for many people because it is a non-impact sport. Runners who are injured often take up biking as a great way to stay in shape without the impact of pavement.
Is there any reason someone should NOT begin this type of exercise program?
You should always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, but I can’t think of anyone who shouldn’t ride a bike! I saw a man with one leg competing at Ironman World Championships this year and he was biking faster than I can! Start biking instead of driving to work or doing errands. You will be amazed at how much you appreciate the scenery and how exhilarated you feel just biking to the grocery store! Get in touch with the world again and feel the wind on your face! I promise you will want to ride longer once you start just getting connected to your muscles.
What tips would you give beginners?
- I recommend getting a friend or family member to start riding with. Nothing is more fun than talking on a ride.
- Get a bike that fits you well.
- Fall is a good time to buy from your local bike shop or online because that is when the season is winding down and this year’s models will be reduced in price to make way for the new rides next year.
- Check your local listings because people are selling good bikes all the time and you can get a good deal.
- Always carry water and easily digestible food for rides longer than one hour.
- Proper hydration with a sports drink and eating small 100-200 calorie snacks every 45 minutes will keep you from fatiguing or cramping.
What sort of gear or products does someone need to start?
Gear makes the experience more enjoyable. Consider your goals and the seasons. Here are some ideas to get you started:
I repeat: Get a bike that fits you well! Good biomechanics are essential for avoiding injury, and local bike shops will be happy to help you find the proper fit and adjust the bike for you. Next, determine the type of bike that will suit your needs. Do you want an easy, comfortable ride for recreation or do you want a bike built for speed and racing? Cruisers or mountain bike styles allow you to sit more upright and may feel more comfortable for the recreational biker. Road bikes, triathlon bikes, and cycle-cross bikes will put you in an aerodynamic position which takes some training to get used to. Bikes can range in price from $200-$5000. There are even more fancy high-end bikes, but I find that if you get into racing expect to spend $700-$1300 for a good solid road bike.
You will be outside in all kinds of weather, so proper clothing and layers will keep you happy on the bike. I know people who ditched their cars and bike year-round. With the right clothing you can bike in any weather. Rainy bike rides are really fun! Lycra is your new best friend. It helps prevent chafing, improves heat and sweat transfer, and makes you look fast! Bike shorts come with a padded chamois (pronounced “sham-ee”) to help provide padding for your saddle muscles. Mention chamois butter to any biker and they will smile and tell you more than you ever wanted to know! The polite word on that is that it prevents chafing. . . . Moving on! Depending on whether you want to get into longer races or not, buying a bike jersey with deep pockets sewn on the back will help you carry your bike nutrition without needing a backpack.
Bike shoes are designed to clip to your pedals. This improves your power transfer because you can push down with the quads and pull up with the hamstrings to get a smooth, strong, fast cadence. A lot of people (including me) are initially terrified of being clipped to their bike. I like Speedplay Lite. They are super easy to clip in and out of. When you get pedals and clip-in shoes, practice riding on a grassy field as you learn to clip and unclip. You may fall down as you get used to it, so the grass will be a forgiving landing!
My mom still prefers regular pedals and her tennis shoes. That’s ok too, but you get better speed, efficiency, and work your muscles more evenly if you clip in. FYI I only forgot to unclip ONCE. I was at a full stop at a traffic light and I wasn’t paying attention and forgot to unclip. I fell on my side and started laughing because it didn’t hurt at all. I was surprised and felt a little stupid, but all was well! Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, all you have to do is click your heels and your shoes will detach from the pedals very easily.
Be sure to wear a helmet! I got mine for about $30 and you can spend a little more for aerodynamic designs, but basic gear is fine too
Some of the brands I like for hydration can be found here, here, here, and here. Brands I like for nutrition can be found here, here, here, and here. Of course you can make your own, too. Seriously, I love taking pureed fruit on a ride! A little bit of protein helps on the ride too, and definitely drink a recovery shake after the long rides to rebuild your glycogen stores.
What is your cost per month to keep at it?
Biking takes some investing initially, but good gear lasts for years. I still have my original shoes and pedals and have only replaced one pair of bike shorts. The cost per month once you get the big purchase out of the way is about the price of your “groceries.” Once you have your clothes, shoes, helmet, gloves, and bike, you are really just paying for food to keep you going.
Are there any resources that you would recommend to help those who are interested in starting and learning more about the benefits of biking?
You can check out my Facebook page, which I have made to answer questions about proper recovery methods, yoga/stretching for athletes and dancers, movement meditation, and conditioning classes I teach in the area. I also write conditioning and nutrition plans. Just contact me on Facebook and tell me what your fitness goals are. I also recommend visiting Active.com for advice, plans, and race links. RaceTri.com is a great resource of triathlon race opportunities.
I love to bike because I feel like a kid again: biking around town, having adventures, eating candy, and making lasting friendships.
Thanks, Arwen! Who here bikes? What would you add? What benefits of biking have you seen?