Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bike Fitness

It's my fourth week training for bicycle touring, and my fitness is definitely improving: both my cardiovascular fitness, and my muscle strength. Before I started this "program" I wondered whether I could get a Crossfit-style workout on the bike: variation, big movements, intensity. the answer in general, is yes. Especially if you live in the hills.
  • Riding up hills gives intervals of very high intensity with periods of rest. If I push a big enough gear, it's a great leg workout. It's as intense as running sprints.
  • I work all the big muscle groups in the lower half of my body. Even when trying to keep a high pace on the flats, I work my abs and lower back in order to keep stabilized.
  • You can do intervals on the flats if you push the pace high enough.
  • We change our route every time we go out so we will get a different type of workout: Long and flat one day, hilly and short another, working skills in the park another.
  • We take days off in between where we do nothing.
Of course, the obvious muscle group that is missing is arms. Eventually, I will work in some arm exercises after a ride when I can handle it. But you'd be surprised at the level of arm strength needed for descending, so the arms don't stay completely unused.

Bicycle touring does not equal fitness necessarily. One can ride from town to town at a leisurely pace, and drink a bottle of wine and a huge pasta dinner each night. But if you keep the intensity up, vary the route so that you work in some hills, and watch the diet, it can be a great way to keep in shape, and see some of the country besides.

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