Experience Plus!

Bicycle Tours Since 1972

Experience Plus - Bicycle Tours since 1972

The Health Benefits of Bicycling

by ExperiencePlus! - Tuesday, July 27, 2010 training

Our book review this month includes a summary of everything in our Reading Room that we’ve prepared over the years that addresses fitness, training, bicycling for health, and training for a bicycle tour.  There is a lot in our web site that might be of use to anyone determined to get fit, lose weight through cycling, and adopt a healthier life-style.  Send this on to those friends of yours who are taking their first bicycle tour this year!

Why Ride a Bicycle?

Here’s a list of “The Health Benefits of Cycling” by Joe Friel, a nationally-known author and personal fitness trainer (note that this is Joe’s short list).  Joe maintains that bicycling for personal health:

1. Promotes a Healthy Heart
2. Improves Blood Chemistry, including HDL, “good” cholesterol”
3. Lowers Blood Pressure.
4. Decreases Risk of Cancer.
5. Builds Stronger Bones.
6. Reduces the Chance of Diabetes (now at epidemic levels in the US)
7. Promotes Greater Muscle Strength.
8. Reduces Stress.
9. Decreases Chronic Pain (arthritis, back pain, and more)
10. Improves digestion, lung function and joint flexibility

Further Reading from Joe Friel:

Cycling Past 50 and The Cyclist’s Training Bible

by Joe Friel

How to lose weight and get healthy for better bicycling:

Rick Price’s Experiment with dieting and exercise to lose weight resulted in my losing 40 pounds in about 6 months just two years ago.  This isn’t quite as impressive as Mike Huckabee, Governor of Arkansas and Republican contender for President, who lost 100 lbs over a year’s time in 2003/2004 – but it worked for me.

Andrew Weil, in his book Eating Well For Optimum Health: The Essential Guide to Bringing Health and Pleasure Back to Eating, taught me that I had “frugal genes” that tended to “hoard” calories.  Read my review here.  So I decided to try the Atkins diet.  My experience in losing 40 pounds is described here.

Many of you will have tried these diets and others including the South Beach Diet and Joe Friel’s The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance.  In the end I’m not sure that the diet you decide to follow makes any difference.  Surely some are better than others, but just paying attention to what you eat, reading the food labels, and being conscious of your diet and exercise regime is what is critical.

Yet it is important that we, as adults, understand basic nutrition and that we pay attention to what we eat and how much exercise we get.  A year after I wrote about Andrew Weil and my experience with the Atkins diet, I received in the mail a book called Live Thin, Live Long: A doctor’s guide for losing weight, keeping it off, staying healthy and living longer, written by Dr. Richard A. Uhlig.   I’ve just reread this book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in low carb diets and healthy living.  It is available in a second printing (BookSurge Publishing; January 23, 2007).

How to Prepare for a Bicycle Tour:

A Bicycle Tour Training Program (Prepared by Joe Friel)

We’ve worked with Joe Friel, one of the top personal trainers and cycling coaches in the field, to develop simple guidelines to help you prepare for your bicycle tour.

Joe’s training programs are geared to satisfy several criteria for people:

1) Under 50 years of age;

2) Over 50 years of age;

3) Who currently do little physical activity;

4) Who exercise moderately;

5) Who exercise a lot.

They are also broken out by tour difficulty based on our 101 through 401 rating system.

These training programs follow a 12-week step-by-step training program.  The good news is that these training regimes are pretty easy to follow.  But just like the diets described above, they won’t do you any good if you don’t follow them.

Engaging a Personal Trainer to Train for your Bicycle Tour

Have you ever thought about engaging a personal trainer?  When I prepared for our six-week bicycle tour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey I followed a personalized training program that Joe Friel (of Ultrafit) prepared for us.  I wasn’t able to follow it for the full 16 weeks that Joe recommended, but I did about 12 weeks of training.

In this program I received an automatic training ride suggestion every day.  The program was tailored to my specific schedule with longer rides planned for the weekend.  The weekday rides were never more than 60-90 minutes long and were quite doable during spring (with late afternoons to cycle).

The regime recommended by Joe was very similar to the training programs we make available to you for our tours.  So if it is just a schedule of rides you should look at those.  If you want more tailored guidance you might consider signing up for a specific program.

Joe Friel and his colleagues at Ultrafit train endurance and elite athletes.  If that doesn’t describe you, surely there are dozens of personal trainers in your community (and hundreds online), so you might consider one of them.

Just down the street from our Fort Collins office, Colleen Broersma operates Fitquest, Inc.  Colleen is a personal trainer.  She has lots of experience and credentials (Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, Spinning Instructor, Yoga Instructor, and Breathing Coach).  She has six “spinning” brand bicycles in her studio and conducts small group training programs inside during the winter and out on the road as spring comes along.  Her pitch is that she can help you:

• shape up

• lose weight

• eliminate pain

• improve function

• enhance performance

• train for a specific event

Colleen’s market is mainly people over forty who want to either get in shape or stay in shape.  Indeed, I met her through friends and customers who work with her to keep in shape through the winter – (these folks are also preparing for our Coastal Tuscany Tour next May).

Colleen offers online training services if that interests you:  http://www.fitquest.org/online-training.php

The point here is this: somewhere out there – in your town or online – is a personal trainer who can help you get fit and stay fit whether just for your general health or for a specific event, bicycle tour, or charity ride.

Try searching the following on Google today “Small Group & Personal Training Services [your town]” and you’ll be surprised at the number of personal trainers out there who would like to work with you!

Have fun!