Adding an exercise bike to your arsenal is an excellent decision. Aside from having access to a low-impact aerobic workout any time, you get a myriad of other stationary biking benefits. These include stress reduction, cardiovascular fitness, longer life expectancy and a healthier, slimmer you! But the key to gaining these advantages is to pedal the right way. Read on and follow these tips to make the most of your equipment.
1. Adjust for Comfort and Efficacy
Power is key to maximising stationary biking benefits. And if you’re not comfortable in your bike fit and position, you cannot generate optimum power. Worse, you’ll even put yourself at risk of muscle fatigue or injury. Good thing exercise bikes, no matter the model, are adjustable. All you need is to check and correct these essential contact points:
- Bike seat. Upright bike seats usually have an adjustable height. On the other hand, you can slide recumbent bike seats forward or backward. But no matter the bike type, your legs should have a slight bend, and your knee should not overextend as you pedal.
- Saddle angle. For bikes with an adjustable saddle, make sure to keep it at a neutral angle. Adjust it if you’re straining your legs or glutes or if you’re sliding forward while pedalling.
- Handlebars. Reaching for the handlebars should not strain your neck or back. If it does, align them with your saddle, then adjust accordingly. Keep in mind that proper positioning is different with a spin bike, where your body will be leaning forward more.
- Resistance. First-timers tend to think that a high level of resistance means a better workout. However, if you cannot pedal fast enough, your heart rate does not go up either. So, start low, then crank it up as you go.
- Location. The best place for your stationary bike is on the first floor or in the basement if you have one. Either spot stays at the ideal temperature for a good exercise routine no matter the season.
2. Wear Proper Stationary Biking Gear
Donning proper bike clothing may not be your priority since you’ll be cycling indoors. While that’s true, wearing the right gear will keep you comfortable and safe. Bike shoes, for example, will protect your feet from stress and allow you to pedal harder when needed.
You should also wear stretchable bike shorts or leggings for ease of movement. It’s best to have an indoor training shirt made of moisture-wicking fabric, too.
3. Stretch and Warm-Up
It’s hard to achieve the benefits of stationary biking when you cannot handle extended cycling workouts. After all, muscle soreness is the ultimate fitness party pooper. So, before you hop on the bike and start pedalling, make sure to do some dynamic stretches first. This tip applies to all, whether you’ve been bike riding regularly or have not worked out for some time.
The goal of warm-up exercises is to prep your body, loosen the muscles and enhance your range of motion. It’s somewhat similar to warming up your car engine. It should take about 5 minutes or so, and your choice of exercises is up to you. You can include lunges, leg swings, trunk rotations or resistance band exercises, for example. Then, do slow pedalling for another 5 minutes.
After your exercise session, remember to breathe and stretch for a few minutes to bring your heart rate down as well. During the cool-down phase, focus on the arm, core and leg muscles you’ve used for pedalling.
4. Watch Your Form, Pace and Cycling Duration
Once you start bike riding, it’s crucial to maintain your proper form. Keep your back straight (except for spin bikes) and hold the handles, especially during intense exercise. Your cycling speed is up to you, but it should match your fitness level.
If you’re a beginner, pick a comfortable pace and keep your workout time to 30 minutes. You can switch to 1-hour routines five times per week when you’re ready. Some exercise bikes also have pre-set programmes that you can use. For optimum stationary biking benefits, avoid overexerting yourself and choose to progress gradually.
5. Keep Yourself Preoccupied and Hydrated
The problem with biking outdoors is that you have to be mindful of your surroundings, incoming cars, crossing pedestrians and more. But with indoor cycling, you can stay busy while burning calories. Listening to music, watching TV or reading a book can surely make your daily physical activity less tiring. These healthy distractions also keep you motivated.
However, gaining stationary bike workout benefits is no good if you do not keep yourself healthy throughout. So, make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after cycling. Ideally, drink about 2 cups of water 3 hours before your routine. Then take a cup after warming up and another cup every 20 minutes of exercise. If you are cycling for weight loss, use your smartwatch or chest strap to monitor your heart rate, too.
6. Progress to HIIT
To make the most of stationary biking benefits, switch to high-intensity interval training or HIIT. This type of training applies to any other equipment like treadmills. It works by combining light and high-intensity exercise in short intervals. This way, you keep your heart pumping at a safe rate while giving your body time to recover.
You can do this by starting with a 15-minute warm-up. Follow it up with light pedalling for a minute, then pick up the pace for 30 seconds. Keep alternating light and powerful pedalling about five times before cooling down for 2 to 3 minutes.
Some cyclists also pattern their training after the 80/20 rule. Here, you allot 80% of your time to lower-intensity exercise and the remaining 20% to moderate or vigorous-intensity exercise. A 2013 study even showed that this rule increases cyclists’ power and overall performance.
Make Stationary Biking Fun
It doesn’t take much to make this indoor equipment one of your favourites for working out. With proper adjustments, form and training programme, you can effortlessly reap all those stationary biking benefits. To make your sweat sesh even more productive, why not combine it with strength training? Spice it up with these beginner chin-up bar exercises!