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Friday, May 2, 2014

Memphis cyclists can improve their abilities and performance in cycling, both on and off their bikes

Memphis cyclists can improve their abilities and performance in cycling, both on and off their bikes
By:  Michael G. Lander
Cycling is growing in popularity in Memphis with many people discovering
many more places to ride than ever before.  With that, Memphians are
also finding that the city is becoming more biker-friendly and that cycling
is one of the best ways to get into and to stay in shape.

It might come as a surprise to some people that becoming a better cyclist has almost as much to do with what you do off of a bike as it does with what you do on it.

Even though riding hard and riding often is absolutely necessary to improving your skills, abilities, and performance on a bike, this is only a part of what is needed in order to take your cycling to a much higher level.  There is a whole lot more that you can and should do in order to enhance your capabilities.

The first step in any quest to take cycling up a notch should begin with an honest assessment and evaluation of yourself.  This means determining the shape and condition that you find yourself in.  For some, they may find themselves as being fit and trim and are active and exercise regularly, but for the majority of us, we often turn to cycling because we are not that way and we hope that it will help us get there.

Whether or not we look to cycling to help us with getting into shape and losing weight, it is not something that we should expect that we can do by cycling alone.   As most people soon discover, at least when it comes to weight loss, it takes a combination of exercise and a proper diet, with adequate nutrition, before you will see significant results, but once you do, it will substantially increase your performance and what you can accomplish on a bike.  


 Whether indoors or out, one of the best ways to improve abilities and
performance in cycling is to ride as often and with as much effort as you
can put into it.

If you are battling your weight, in Memphis, you are not alone.  Our city has one of the highest levels of obesity in the country and this was highlighted yet again in a recent article, dated April 17, 2014, in USA Today. 
To check your own body mass index (BMI), click on this link to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website.

As necessary as it is to maintain, repair and to fine-tune your bike, it is also vitally important to do the same for your body.  Getting in shape means working out, which can be done at home, the gym, or in a health and fitness club.  Here is a link to the top 10 health or fitness clubs in the Memphis area.  There is also places like the Kroc Center where you can go to work out.

When doing this, your focus should be on strengthening your legs and core muscles, which are those that are located in your trunk and torso, (minus the arms and legs).  Some of the core muscles that you should work to develop include the abdominus (abs), obliques, lower back.  Below that, you should concentrate on firming up the gluteal muscles (glutes), the inner & outer thighs and calves. 

When exercising and strengthening these muscles, you should be doing more than just doing crunches and sit-ups, but should also include squats, lunges, push-ups, oblique twists & reaches,  plank & side plank exercises, one that is known as "the superman," and others.  The Mayo Clinic and About.com are two excellent websites that provide detailed step-by-step instructions on these exercises.  There are also a couple of great articles from bicycling.com entitled "Here's how to train the most important muscles for cycling" and "The best gym workout ever - Here's how to burn fat without being bored to tears."

In addition to these, you can incorporate weights and balancing balls into a workout regimen, but when it comes to weights, the idea is not to bulk up, but to firm up.  You may also want to consider Yoga & Pilate's since these can stretch and strengthen your muscles and can give you an alternative way to work out.

As with any work-out routines, it does not offer as much of a benefit to you if you do not do it with frequency or sufficient intensity.  It may seem clich√© to some people, but there is a lot of truth in the phrase of "no pain, no gain" and you not expect to not hurt.  When you don't feel it, it is usually a sign that you are not working at it hard enough.


Time spent on a bike is one of the best ways to get better at cycling, but it
can be extremely beneficial to spend some time working out at the gym
with special emphasis on the core muscles and the legs.  When working with
weights, the idea should be to get firm instead of trying to bulk up.

Other than strength-building, it is equally important to improve your cardiovascular system either through aerobic (cardio) activities like running or workouts on gym equipment like a treadmill or elliptical machines.  More than just about anything else, though, running is probably one of the most helpful things that cyclists can do to improve their cycling.  It offers some cross-training benefits by not only strengthening muscles in the legs and lower torso, but it is also is one of the best aerobic workouts that you can do.

Besides time on the seat of a bike, cyclists can improve their performance with a combination of things that include time in the gym, or by doing aerobic activities other than cycling.  This, however, should not be a substitute to time spent on a bike.  The most progress, though, comes with cycling and especially when the riding is done as often and with as much intensity as you can put into it. 

Ultimately, there is no workout that is any better than that and nothing can compare to the overall healthy lifestyle that can come from doing what it takes to become a better cyclist.

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