Fitness and Fun: Bicycling's Best Kept Secret

Fitness and Fun: Bicycling's Best Kept Secret
Courtesy of League of American Bicyclists

Have you ever noticed that you don’t see bicycles advertised on television?

You’ll see ads for health clubs, home fitness equipment, and workout programs, but you won’t see a single commercial touting bicycling as a form of fitness.  Late night and early weekend hours are filled with infomercials making dubious claims about every 10-minute workout and slider/strider/glider/rider you’ve never heard of, but you won’t hear a single word about bikes.

Why is this?

Personally, I think it’s a conspiracy.  While I have no proof (which makes me no less credible than any other conspiracy theorist), I have a strong suspicion the bike industry wants you to try the latest fitness fad.  They’re just waiting for you to discover firsthand that it's next to impossible to attain a professional fitness model’s physique with machine-assisted sit-ups or jumping up and down in front of your TV for ten minutes a day…

It’s a calculated risk on the industry’s part, to be sure.

You may become so disheartened by the spent-the-money-tried-it-and-it-didn’t-work cycle that you may give up on exercise completely.  Or you may not have any money left in your budget to buy a bike (which is a little more expensive than three easy payments of $39.99).  You may come to the realization that following a rigid nutrition plan and mustering the daily motivation and self-discipline to achieve the implied results are just too stressful to warrant the effort.  You may even begin to believe that exercise is ineffective and fitness products are just a gimmick.

Meanwhile, that one truly effective, easy-to-operate, and fun-to-use piece of exercise equipment hangs in your garage, is covered with dust in your parents' basement, or is just waiting for a test ride at your local bike shop.

If you take a minute to think about it, there probably was a time in your life when you were more physically fit and you didn't have to schedule time for dedicated exercise.  Maybe you played organized sports.  Maybe you played outside with your friends and siblings.  Or maybe you just rode your bike everywhere you needed to go.

That's the beauty of a bike, every time you ride it you're exercising!

Whether you're riding at a leisurely pace with your kids, taking a 10-minute trip to the library, heading out for an afternoon on a regional rail trail, or competing in a triathlon - each time you hop on the saddle you're starting a workout.  Easy workouts burn body fat for fuel.  Intense workouts strengthen your heart, lungs, and legs while still burning body fat.  How many calories you expend, how much fat you burn, and how much stronger you get is a function of how hard you ride and how long you go.

And you get to do all of this outside in the fresh air!

You can't smell blooming wildflowers running on a treadmill at the Y.  You can't see a family of deer grazing in a meadow dancing in your basement.  You can't squeak in your daily cardio workout as you drive your car home from work.

There is a reason that the basic form of the bicycle hasn't changed since the safety bicycle emerged in 1885; it works.  The saddle and handlebar suspend your upper body weight while each pedal prevents your toe, heel, ankle, shin, and knee from absorbing any impact with the ground.  Effectively, you are running on the pedals.  With gears to increase or decrease resistance from the wind, hills, and uneven surfaces, you can go farther and faster on a bike than you can on your own two feet.

A bicycle gives you complete control over your workout.

As far as achieving the ripped physique of a professional fitness model, that won't happen by bicycling, either.  But that "look" isn't the definition of fitness - just the perception of fitness we've been sold by the fitness industry.  You don't have to look buff to be fit and you shouldn't have to work out in an intensive manner to reclaim your personal health.

You just need to get out there and move.  What better way to move than on a bicycle?

As National Bike Month moves forward, use this opportunity to start riding your bike for fitness.  Ride with your kids on Bike to School Day this Wednesday.  Ride to honor those who can no longer ride next Wednesday during the Ride of Silence.  Ride to work on Bike To Work Day, Friday the 18th, if you can't ride the entire Bike to Work Week that begins next Monday.

And if you already ride, use this month to introduce or re-introduce family and friends to bicycling (after you sign up for the National Bike Challenge, of course).

With no TV commercials, the bike industry is counting on our word of mouth.  Let's share cycling before someone gets the crazy idea to put Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley in a bicycling infomercial...

Keep riding and be safe!


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