When I was a child we lived on the side of a very steep hill or mountain depending on whether you were speaking to my father or me. Although my older brother was given a bike, we girls were not allowed to learn to ride after I fell the first time my father took me out to learn to balance on a two-wheeler.
My sister and I, tomboys to the core, found other sports to participate in, but I always thought we were losing something as we watched our brother and his friends flying around the neighborhood on their Schwinns. Now, if you saw our family biking on the Cape or Martha’s Vineyard or in Bermuda, you know that something has changed, but not until I taught our son how to ride at the beach when he was quite young.
On that day, I mounted a bike for the first time and my husband ran with me until he let go and I peddled down the lane feeling the wind in my hair, and hearing my son and husband shout congratulations. That day was the first of many happy days with family and friends on vacation outings. It was also the beginning of our family love of those two-wheelers. Today, our daughter is a tri-athlete. Her bike is not her red Schwinn of childhood, but her style remains the dogged “I can beat anyone on the block or at least try,” that we saw as she navigated trails and neighborhoods.
So, is this a good sport for you to go back to after years of rust have ruined your old bike? The simple answer is a resounding “yes”. It has been called a full cycle sport. As a child you love it because it is fast and gives you some sense of freedom. We then reject our bike for different types of action and transportation.
The skateboard, skis, boogie boards, and other sports that adults shun become important to our pre-teens and teens, and then wonder of wonders, biking once again becomes part of our lives. The kiss of death to that beloved bike is, of course, the learners permit. When a drivers license comes, the end of a close relationship with a bike can’t be far behind.
Around America, biking has become the second most popular public outdoor activity. Some say we want to recreate a happy memory of our childhood. We say, we know that biking is an excellent way to exercise with the perks of those memories that keep us young. People who bike say that it’s not exercise; it’s fun.
The benefits of biking are easy to list.
- It is a good aerobic exercise
- It is easy to start up
- It increases stamina and endurance
- You get more cardiovascular exercise with less strain on joints and back muscles, especially for people who are carrying extra weight
- You can sight-see and exercise at the same time
- On long rides, you can burn large numbers of calories and work some of the largest muscle groups in the body. Muscle burns fat, so there goes that extra tire around your waist.
- Biking is an excellent cross-training exercise without stressing the joints. Make sure you read our articles on other exercises, stretches, and body sculpting.
The cons include cost for a new bike, which is certainly higher than walking or running. There is also the possibly of falls due to adverse conditions, falls, and collisions. Be prepared for sticker shock and all of those extras that you will just have to have. A touring bike will cost upwards of $250 without those padded seats, water bottles, safety helmets, tire tool, patch kit, spare tire tube and pump, and an entry-level mountain bike will cost $500 without all extras.
The truth is you have to have the helmet and repair kit before you get started. Who likes to bike? Biking is a great equalizer, and appeals to people who like groups and who like to exercise alone. Mountain biking appeals to those of us who want the thrill of a varied terrain and changing conditions. The increase in biking over the years is obvious with the number of biking trails that have been carved out in parks in city centers as well in the country side. If the straight and narrow is not your cup of tea, look for ramp parks used by bikers who like to defy gravity.
Hybrid and comfort bikes are the most popular for the average recreational biker. Both bikes have horizontal handlebars like a mountain bike, but you will be sitting upright. A hybrid has larger wheels and thin tires like a road bike, while the comfort bike has smaller wheels and thick tires like a mountain bike. Regardless of the bike you want to purchase, please have the bike fitted to you. That means going to a bike shop you trust and having a professional help you. When we fitted our daughter with her tri-athlete bike, it took more time than we had allowed.
We just didn’t know all of the facts. After 3 hours, we had a bike, petal attachments, a seat, protective gear, repair kit, special shoes to attach to the bike, gloves, etc. What do you get for the money in a new bike? Our old bike probably weighed 25 pounds. New bikes are made of aluminum and you can actually pick them up. If you ride often, consider clipless pedals and specialized riding shoes. These will cure sore and burning feet that can occur on those long rides. Also upgrade that seat for happier miles on the bike. Just our luck and yours also, the July, 2002 Consumer Report has an article on Bicycles: Deals on Two Wheels, page 20. So if we inspire you, the freshest of information is waiting for you in this prestigious magazine.
For the maximum cardiovascular benefits, experts recommend that you bicycle 30 minutes in duration at least three times a week. If you’re out of shape, begin slowly. Limit initial rides, whether it’s outside or inside on a stationary bike. Start with a 30-minute ride one day and a 30-minute ride the next; you can sneak up on fitness without overdoing it. This is a full body workout. Do start out on flat ground, peddling briskly. To make biking a truly aerobic sport, you will need to move your legs twice as fast as you would during a brisk walk. As you get more comfortable you will be able to maintain your target heart rate during your bike ride.
We found some suggestions to help you get ready for biking. This includes using dumb bells to strengthen your arms and legs as well as your abs and back muscles. Look at our body sculpting article for suggestions.
To get you in the mood to exercise, it’s time to look at the progression toward change including taking care of yourself. James Prochaska, author of Changing for Good noted that successful people who changed their lives had a specific pattern of behavior. We thought that you might use this to help get yourself motivated to begin an exercise program. It is not that you don’t know that you have to exercise. Diet, exercise and medication are the three pronged approach to control diabetes and we all know this.
Not exercising has made us a country where our children are becoming obese at an alarming rate, and we adults are even more overweight. With this comes cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So go to your doctor and get cleared to begin an exercise program. Get a trainer, or join a gym that has people who know diabetes and its long and short-term complications. Get guidelines from your health care team on what they expect from you and how to cope with any injuries, hypoglycemia, etc. Put your medical alert jewelry on and keep it on. Make sure you go to experts to get fitted with the proper equipment and go for it.
Prochaska’s approach is called the “stages of change” model and it is easy to understand. Read on, so that you can begin. We want to hear if it helps you motivate yourself or family to change. Use it to begin controlling your blood glucose levels also.
Stage 1: Pre-contemplation:
This is the stage where you have not yet decided to change. You know that exercise is healthy and will help you control your diabetes, weight, and make you feel better, but it just isn’t the best time to begin. Now think about how dangerous your lifestyle is. “Your couch can kill you” is a tip Prochaska shares. Make a list of the pluses and minuses of exercise. When the pluses outnumber the minuses, you are ready to move on.
Stage 2: Contemplation:
You have thought it through and intend to make the change to exercise within the next month. Now is the time to begin to plan for that change. Don’t worry; you don’t have to do anything yet-just plan. If you back slide; you have moved too fast. Go back one step and look at what’s preventing you from moving forward and promise yourself that you’ll overcome these obstacles.
Stage 3: Preparation: Make yourself a plan.
This means you decide if you will bike or swim, walk or jog, or take yoga or kick boxing. Draw up a contract with yourself. Set a goal for this month, one for several months from now, and one for the year. Make sure you include a reward for every goal you meet. Develop a contingency plan as part of this over all contract with yourself. Finally, make a public commitment. I really like this part of Prochaska’s stages. It’s hard to do, but we all want to keep the respect of those we love, so just telling others of our contract with ourselves to improve our health is an excellent motivator.
Stage 4: Action: Put that plan into action.
Make your home a place that reminds you of your plan. You can leave yourself notes, have your clothes out and ready for you, have your rewards set and remember those long terms goals we with diabetes, all have. Mine includes being alive and healthy enough to help when our newly wed daughter and her husband start a family. Remember, that we all back-slide, but with your changes, you will have years to practice your new healthy lifestyle.
Stage 5: Maintenance:
Once you have exercised for 6 months you know you can do it, so it’s time to examine how well you are doing. Learn what will help you continue and learn from your mistakes. Look at the benefits of exercise in terms of ability to exercise without huffing and puffing, and that awful red face. Note your increased balance and flexibility and your ability to keep going all day long.
Stage 6: Termination: You did it.
You are not a couch potato any longer. Pat your self on the back. You are a success and we will have you here every month for years to come. We congratulate you. Let us know if this helps. We always like to know if what we send your way is of benefit.