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Push the pedal

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise. Dev Goswami & Gargi Bansod tell you about the benefits of the sport, what precautions you need to keep in mind and where you can pick up some cool cycling gear in the city…

Remember those years when summer holidays used to mean cycling expeditions and when running errands was fun because we got to ride a cycle? As we grew up, first bikes then cars replaced our beloved cycles and now who has the time for this slow mode of transport? We do accept that cycling as a means of transport is both illogical and impractical, but consider cycling as a way to improve your health. Not convinced yet? Read on to find out how cycling benefits you and where you can go to in the city if you decide to take it up.

The benefits
Cycling is one of the best ways to get fit. From physically benefiting your body parts to improving your overall health, cycling can help you in a number of ways. Here’s a list of its benefits:

Cycling is perhaps the ideal exercise for your heart since the intensity ensures that anyone from any age group can do the exercise. Just like walking, moderate cycling makes your heart stronger by giving it a daily workout. Studies have shown that it also reduces your risk of heart attacks by around 50%.

Immune System
Any moderate aerobic exercise will help strengthen your immune system and cycling falls under this bracket. Apart from this, cycling is also known to increase the activity against tumour cells and so helps combat illness caused due to tumours.

You might wonder how cycling is related to your back, but the fact is that the movement of your legs simulates the muscles in your lower back, which is the region where slipped discs are most likely to occur. In particular, cycling stimulates the small muscles of the vertebrae which are difficult to affect through other exercises, helping reduce the likelihood of back pain and other problems.

Joint protection
Most people have a misconception that too much cycling can end up hurting your joints — especially your knees. But, cycling is especially good at exercising your joints without harming them as the joints are relieved from having to support your body weight during this period. Also, the circular movement of cycling assists the transport of energy and other metabolic produces to the cartilages, reducing the likelihood of arthritis.

Shedding weight
Just like any other physical activity, cycling helps you lose weight. However, what makes cycling more beneficial is the fact that it not only burns fat but also raises your metabolic rate. The fat loss in cycling is the protective kind and regular cycling in your youth trains your body to use up your fat reserves and keeps cholesterol levels optimum this prevents excessive weight during adulthood.

Though cycling is a moderate form of exercise, it still plays a role in increasing your overall stamina. However, keep in mind that leisurely cycling every day will not bring about a noticeable difference in your stamina levels. Instead, include a few days where you cycle at a faster pace and for a longer distance.

Reducing stress
Yes, cycling actually helps reduce stress and it is not just because any kind of exercise helps with your mental health. Cycling gives most of us the pleasure and satisfaction of riding a bicycle and the convenience of it ensures that you don’t have to stress about including cycling in your day-to-day life.

Cycling might seem like a harmless activity. But, for your safety, there are a few precautions that you must take to avoid harming yourself:

  •  Just like with any other vehicle, always check the brakes and the air in the tires. While the brakes will help you avoid accidents, the air is important since a flat tire means that you will be utterly exhausted with dragging your bike to a point where you can repair the flat.
  •  Water is very important while cycling. Drink a cool glass of water before you begin cycling as this will lower your body temperature before you begin. Also, carry a bottle of water along with you.
  •  Rest frequently throughout your journey. Cycling in the heat will put you at a risk of heat exhaustion. So, find shady areas to rest and let your body cool down.
  •  As far as traffic precautions are concerned, your cycle should have neon or bright coloured lights placed at the front and back to ensure that others on the road are able to see you easily.
  •  Lastly, even though it is a moderate form of exercise, it is possible that you will over exert yourself and feel faint. If so, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Cycling workouts
No, we don’t mean a set of exercises done while riding a bicycle. Cycling workouts are pretty easy to perform and mostly deal with the speed of your pedaling.

  •  Before you start exerting your body, it is important to warm up by cycling leisurely for around 10-15 minutes. This prepares your heart for the exercise ahead and loosens up your muscles.
  •  If you ride a cycle with gears, set your gear to the highest level (where you will have to pedal more to move fast).
  •  Select a time range of around 20-30 seconds or higher (only if you are comfortable with it). For this time period, ride as fast as you can. But, do keep a lookout for any pain signals your body might send.
  •  Once you finish the set, slow down, but do not stop. Slow down just so that you can catch your break and have a few sips of water if need be. Ideally, you should slow down for around 10-15 seconds.
  •  Repeat the same process again.
  •  The number of times your repeat the process and the time period for which you ride fast depends on your stamina and you can gradually increase both over a period of time.
  •  For added resistance apart from just the gears, you can also opt to cycle up a slope.

If you are an amateur cyclist and are too shy, scared or nervous to cycle around the streets all by yourself, don’t stress. We tell you about a few clubs and online forums in the city that you can join to meet many other cycling enthusiasts and make cycling a fun activity.

Social network for cyclists
Cyclist.in is a one-stop guide for all new and old cyclists in India. You can get updates about cycling events in the city, read blogs and interact with fellow cyclists, and know which routes to take and avoid. You can also share pictures of your latest cycling trip and get information on the latest bikes and accessories.
Website www.cyclists.in

Cycling federation of India
If you want to take up cycling as a serious sport, The Cycling Federation of India offers training and courses for cycling. Through them, you can participate in national cycling events. It doesn’t end just there. If you succeed at these events you will get the chance to represent India at an international level too.
Website www.cyclingfederationofindia.org

Diaries of a cyclist
The Mumbai Cyclist is a blog which reports of the cyclist’s expeditions in the city. You can follow them and join the group of cyclists on weekends to cycle along their route for the day and be introduced to many cycling lovers.
Website www.mumbaicyclist.blogspot.in

Choose your routes
Now you sure must be wondering, in an overcrowded city like Mumbai, is there even place left to cycle anymore? Cycling along the stretches of Marine Drive and Carter Road early morning or late evening is a good option. However, if you wish to choose a different route you can check out this website www.mapmyride.com/routes for the best possible routes to suit you.

Cycle Chalao
An initiative by two university students, Raj Janagam and Jui Gangan, Cycle Chalao is Mumbai’s first bike-sharing system. Cycle Chalao — which translates into ‘ride a bike’ is an effort to encourage people to pedal their own transport, rather than opting for a cab or auto rickshaw. In and around Mulund, they rent out bikes against students’ college ID cards through subscriptions. A bike ride costs just `3.
Contact www.cyclechalao.com


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