Many of us have the intention of shedding a few pounds and improving our fitness by getting out on our bikes, but more often than not that first outing never actually happens.
Cycling is a great way to lose weight steadily and healthily while toning up and generally becoming healthier, all at the same time – and it's fun, too! So, if you've been talking about losing weight for a while now – or even if the thought has only just crossed your mind – it's time to stop thinking about it and start doing it. Today. Why wait?
Below is everything you need to know to get you hooked on the idea of pedalling your way to a healthier you. And if by the end of this article you're still not convinced, check out Total Women's Cycling's Cycling Calorie Counter and be amazed at just how much money you'd save cycling to and from work, how many calories you'd burn each day, and how much CO2 you'd curb by not taking your car out.
The Benefits: Why Cycle?
While many types of repetitive exercise cause damage to your joints, cycling does just the opposite. As it's a low impact sport, cycling actually strengthens your hip muscles, hamstrings, glutes and quads rather than weakening them, and the stronger these muscles are, the easier it is for your to burn fat, so you could burn as much fat cycling than you would jogging.
Cycling strengthens your hip muscles, hamstrings, glutes and quads
Your body will also continue to burn calories for a good while after you've locked your bike up for the day. You'll still be burning calories – without realising – while you shower, have dinner, and watch TV.
How great is that?
First Things First
So you've decided you want to lose weight cycling, but how do you go about getting started? First of all, you've got a few decisions to make:
- Do you want to cycle alone, with a buddy, or as part of a club? All of these methods can work, you just need to choose which is right for you. Some people are more comfortable cycling on their own at first until they build more confidence in their riding. Others find that riding with a friend or a club gives them the motivation to get out there and stick to their training plan.
- When will you fit cycling in to your busy schedule? The easiest way to incorporate a daily cycle session into your routine is to start commuting to and from work by bicycle. If you can get to work without having to go on a motorway and there are showers in your office, this is a great option. But if this isn't practical you'll need to decide whether you are going to get up early and cycle before work, or if you'd prefer to ride in the evenings.
- Are you ready to cycle outdoors, or would you prefer to start inside? Generally it's best to just get straight outside and cycle, but if you don't feel comfortable doing this right away, why not sign up to a spinning class or buy a bike trainer-stand that allows you to use your bike inside until your confidence and fitness levels have increased and you're ready to go outdoors?
- Do you want a trainer? Sometimes getting a trainer is the only way to ensure you'll stick with your cycling programme and ride no matter how you feel or what the weather's like, but this can be an expensive option. If you can't afford a trainer or would simply prefer to go it alone, draw up a training schedule instead and keep a diary of your progress and achievements so you can see how well you are doing.
Set Yourself a Goal (And Stick To It)
Having a deadline looming over you is always a pretty solid motivator, so the best way to ensure that you stick to a training programme is to give yourself a goal. Although it may be tempting to make your goal weight-loss specific, it's much healthier (and more fun) to choose a distance- and fitness-related target instead.
Pick a cycling event that's currently out of your ability and sign up for it
The most common advice you'll hear is to pick a cycling race or event that's currently out of your ability and sign up for it. As long as you've picked one far enough in the future – although not too far – and you're not aiming to achieve the impossible, you'll totally be able to complete it, because once you've signed up and paid the fee you don't have much choice but to knuckle down and train.
Be sure to tell your family and friends that you've signed up for the race or event too, perhaps even get them to sponsor you for charity. They can help keep you motivated, and the date won't be able to slip by unnoticed if you decide you don't fancy it any more!
No More Excuses
We all do it. You wake up in the morning, look out the window, see rain and think, "Naaah, I'll get the bus today." But if you're serious about wanting to lose weight cycling, you can't make these excuses anymore. Come rain or shine, you're going to have to pedal.
If motivation really doesn't come easy to you and you have to battle with yourself each morning to leave the car keys behind and grab your bike lock, try some of these tips. They may seem slightly extreme, but weight loss is all about tough love, I'm afraid!
- Stop carrying cash, and if you live in London get your partner or housemate to look after your Oyster card and contactless payment cards for you. If you don't have a way to pay for a bus or train ticket, you won't be able to get on one. Cycling home it is then.
- Each time you give in and take the car to work use TWC's Calorie Counter to see just how much money you've wasted in doing so. However much it is, deduct that amount from your weekly 'fun budget' and when you're at the pub on Friday night, sipping a tap water rather than a large glass of white wine, you'll be wondering if that cheat day was really worth it.
- If you've been driving so much because of your hatred of rain that you've now diminished your fun budget completely and have calculated that you won't be able to go out again until 2020, buy yourself a bike trainer-stand so you can make up your cycling hours inside in the dry.
- Or, if you're really serious about getting out on the road, be drastic: sell your car and delete all the taxi numbers on your phone while you're at it.
Slowly But Surely
Don't be disheartened if you don't see instant results from your efforts. Losing just one or two pounds a week is perfectly normal and a healthy, safe speed at which to be losing weight. The important thing is that you keep this weight off, and that means you need to keep cycling.
Losing just one or two pounds a week is perfectly normal
Remember that cycling causes you to strengthen and build muscles. So just because your weight hasn't changed, that doesn't mean your body shape and health hasn't.
Persevere – you will get results.
Choose The Right Gear
Before you set out on your mission to lose weight cycling, it's important that you have the right bike and cycling gear for you. If this is your first training bike it could be a good idea to arrange a professional bike fitting to ensure that you're as comfortable as possible on your new wheels.
Whatever you do, don't buy your bike online on a whim
Whatever you do, don't buy your bike online on a whim. Instead, go to a local specialist bike shop where you'll be advised on what type of bike is right for you.
As you lose weight you may find yourself needing lighter tyres so that you can work on improving your speed and agility, so a return trip to that helpful bike shop will also be a good idea a few months down the line.
You'll also need to invest in some comfortable, well-fitting and breathable cycling clothes, and get some waterproof ones while you're at it too. Chafing is not fun, and nobody wants to be constantly adjusting their jersey at every set of traffic lights. So read the reviews and choose your clothes wisely – you'll be surprised at how much difference to your ride comfortable clothing can be.
Diet And Nutrition
Of course it will be no surprise to you that if you want to lose weight you'll need to make some changes to your diet, as well as to your cycling schedule.
Although popular, fad diets are definitely not the answer to keeping weight off long-term, and neither are crash diets. All you need to do is eat a healthy, balanced diet and take care to keep hydrated and control your portion size.
It's a good idea to introduce more protein into your diet
It's also a good idea to introduce more protein into your diet to keep hunger at bay and kick start your metabolism into action. Try to eat a hearty and nutritious breakfast within 40 minutes of waking up, and a protein-filled lunch or dinner within 30 minutes of completing a cycle ride.
If you cut out sugary snacks, avoid junk food, drink plenty of water and make healthy food choices, you will see the weight falling off you as you make your way towards smashing your cycling goal.