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Bike Riding for Weight Loss – Tips for Beginning A Bicycling Plan
If you’re one of those people who casually pedals around the block or across a flat stretch of scenic road, you’ve probably been riding for pure pleasure. Riding a bicycle for pleasure is a good form of aerobic exercise. But unless you make a plan to “push” yourself, you probably won’t lose much weight.
I’m really sick of hearing people say, “No pain, no gain!” But the old adage is true when it comes to cycling for weight loss. By increasing your cycling distance or speed, you’re sure to feel pain in your leg muscles, hands, wrists, and derriere– even sore throat and lungs as your body tries to meet your increased demand for oxygen.
HEALTH TIP: Stretching exercises before exercise are useful in preventing injuries!
PREPARE YOUR BIKE…TO ROLL OFF THE WEIGHT
Your first concern will be equipping your bike. If you need an excuse to buy a new bike, this is a great opportunity! I switched from a 3-speed bike for leisure riding to a 24-speed bike for more dedicated exercise. Once I learned how the different gears worked, I was very grateful for the extra gears. They make my ride faster and the hills much easier to handle.
We found the guys at the bike shop to be very helpful and concerned about our unique cycling needs. Instead of simply pointing us towards the most expensive bike available (as I expected), they asked how long we’d be riding, whether we wanted speed or leisure, and whether we’d be riding on paved roads or dirt tracks. When you honestly share your goals and experience level, the sales staff can offer you exactly what you need. They want you to be successful in your cycling endeavor!
Some state laws require bicycle lights. But if you’re going to ride anytime from dusk to dawn, common sense dictates that you have lights on your bike. These little accessories are battery operated and last a long time. You can choose between different lights. My tail light has different flashing rates and is designed to make my bike visible to cars approaching from both the rear and the side. Check the brightness before buying. Place the light where it makes the most sense.
We’ve been holding off on buying speedometers and odometers for our bikes, but when we got serious about losing weight and getting in shape, this feature became a must have. You simply cannot track your progress without knowing how far and how fast you are driving.
If you already have a bike, take it to a bike shop for a safety check every season. They should check the transmissions, tires and brakes to make sure everything is working properly. They can adjust your seat to fit your height and adjust the steering wheel to fit your reach, making your ride more comfortable. If you’re lucky, they might even clean and polish your bike!
If you want to save money in the long run, you can find books and videos that teach you how to care for your own bike. It’s always a good idea to know how to change your own flat tire and adjust a loose chain.
Another must have is a bicycle pump. Ask your bike dealer how many pounds of air pressure to put in your bike tires. Check your tires every time you get ready to drive! We hit the air pressure one summer day and lived to regret it. We rode our bikes to the pool, unaware that one of the tires was full. While we were cooling off in the water, the hot sun rapidly expanded the air in the tires – one of them had a flat tire while standing in the parking lot. A day in the sun wasn’t so much fun, after the pool closed and we had to wait for a truck to take us home!
HEALTH TIP: Talk to your doctor first and ask for his or her blessing before increasing your rate of physical activity!
FEEL COMFORTABLE ON THE BIKE
Prolonged sitting on a bicycle seat can cause pain, discomfort, and even serious blood circulation problems in avid cyclists. At your local bike shop, you’ll find a variety of bike seats made specifically for your comfort and health. The salespeople at our local bike shop encouraged us to try out the new seats on our bikes for a few days. My husband found the split seat more comfortable for him, while I decided to keep my old gel seat. Someone has even invented seats that look more like a bird seat than a bicycle seat!
HEALTH TIP: Get off your bike seat and walk around every 25 minutes or so to get the blood flowing to important unmentioned parts of your body.
Think about your clothes…you don’t have to have padded cycling pants and special clothes to start cycling. There are actually scientifically engineered fabrics designed to wick sweat away from your body in the summer and protect you from hypothermia in the winter. But for now, just wear layers of comfortable sportswear.
Make sure your clothes aren’t so tight that you’re miserable trying to pedal. But they must not be loose enough to get tangled in the bike chain! If you get too hot, take off a layer. If you get cold, add a layer. Wear light or bright colors so drivers can see you more easily.
It really helps to have a small trunk on the back of the bike. Mine looks like a little shelf above the rear tire. It has two bungee cords to securely hold the load on the bike. I’ve used it to carry a small cooler for a picnic, a shopping bag or extra clothes.
I told the bike shop to attach a water bottle holder to the bike under my seat. I can take a quick sip while driving or pour some water over my pulse to cool off a bit. Take small sips of water when needed while cycling, rather than large sips.
A helmet is almost mandatory. Life is full of dangers – and cycling has its share. Be smart. He wears a helmet. You can buy a cool mirror for your helmet. The mirror helps you see when it’s safe to turn and allows you to see traffic coming from behind.
I recommend wearing sunglasses – both for the sun and the bugs! At certain times of the year, the air is thick with flying insects. Getting a tiny bug in your eye is a painful event. For contact wearers, bring a contact case and lens cleaner on your bike ride for this very reason. One day you’ll be glad you did!
HEALTH TIP: Shake your hands down frequently to get blood flowing and prevent pain or numbness in your arms and hands.
MAKING A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN
You’ll want to keep track of your daily diet and food intake, weekly body measurements and weight, as well as your cycling miles and time.
The website http://www.OpenFitness.net is a great way to track your progress. It’s very easy to use – just type in the data you want to track. As the only fitness community site of its kind, you’ll find it’s a fantastic motivational tool that will print charts and graphs to show how much progress you’ve made over a few days, weeks or months!
Monitors intake of food, vitamins and nutritional supplements. Experts have already analyzed thousands of foods regarding the number of calories, fat, carbohydrates and protein. You simply select the food you ate from the drop down feature and the daily total is added up for you. Be careful not to exercise when you have just eaten or when it is almost meal time. Both times will slow you down.
As humiliating as it is, measure your arms, legs, chest, waist, neck, hips and thighs once a week. The software tracks your weight and body measurements. The thrill of watching those same inches melt away in the coming weeks will be well worth the effort. It is especially impressive when viewed as a graph!
Consider investing in an instrument that actually measures body fat – there are cheap caliper-style instruments that measure fat by squeezing you, or buy a set of bathroom scales that cost more but calculate body fat fairly painlessly.
Try to ride 4-6 days a week. When you map out your weight loss plan, your short-term goals will change as you change. You will quickly develop endurance for longer distances. As fat turns into muscle, your speed will increase. Each week try to increase either your mileage or your speed.
You know how far you have been able to ride so far. Start tracking the exact route you take, the total mileage and the time it took you. Make notes in your records for special circumstances. Did it get dark outside and you were forced to cut your ride short? Did the road workers put a layer of gravel on your normally paved road?
What was the weather like? Was it dangerously hot? Was it windy? The wind can be your friend or your enemy. With the wind at your back, your ride is light…but coming from any other direction, be prepared to blow and blow. Accept any length of time as a job well done and simply complete the ride!
Finally, add an upper body workout three times a week. Cycling puts stress on your legs, but to tone and shape the rest of your body, you’ll need to exercise your upper body as well. The website http://www.openfitness.net, created by a certified personal fitness trainer, has great features that allow you to design and track this part of your fitness program as well.
Cycling is a fun, inexpensive form of aerobic exercise—it’s good for every part of you. But be warned – you’ll need to buy a whole new wardrobe for the slimmer, fitter body that emerges!
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