Summer Fitness: Cultivating the Six-Mile Smile

Summer Fitness: Cultivating the Six-Mile Smile
Late spring scenery along the Paul Douglas Trail in Hoffman Estates

Six miles.  Thirty minutes.  Three hundred plus calories.

A simple half-hour bike ride at a moderate pace will take you on a trip of six miles and burn over 300 calories.  Half of those calories will be provided by stored body fat.

Getting one’s recommended daily allowance of exercise is as easy as riding a bike!

No, it’s not the latest, greatest, state-of-the-art, revolutionary, hip, happening, fitness sensation that’s sweeping the nation.  It’s low-key and hype-free.  It works without extensive instruction and it’s so simple even a child can do it.

Isn’t simple what we’re all looking for?

The beauty of bicycling is that the moment you start pedaling, you begin getting into shape.  A moderate pace – 10 to 12 miles per hour – puts you into either your fat burning or aerobic heart rate zones (60 – 69%, 70 – 85%, respectively).  A half-hour ride each day can burn over 150 calories of body fat (depending on your age, weight, intensity, and cycling conditions).

There is no need to step foot inside a health club on a beautiful summer’s day.  There’s no reason to pop in a DVD and attempt high-speed calisthenics while warm sunlight streams through the window.  With the smell of fresh flowers and the touch of a gentle breeze on your skin, why  remain inside to climb a stair stepper, run on a treadmill, ride a stationary bike or do whatever-the-hell-you-call-that-motion on an elliptical trainer?

It’s time to emphasize the “out” in your workout.

For many, identifying a safe, nearby place to ride is the main hurdle to embracing fitness by bike.  Fortunately for all of us, Google Maps provides an overview of area rail trails, bike paths, bike lanes, and on-street routes designated as safe by fellow cyclists.  Just click the bike icon under the “get directions” option and your cycling options magically appear in green.

All it takes to begin your summer fitness quest is a bike and a route with a radius of three miles.

Ideally, that route would run from your front door to the library, the convenience store, the park, the pool, your office or any number of places you would ordinarily drive your car to.  How great would it be to run errands and get in your workout simultaneously?

If that’s not possible, look for a local forest preserve.  Many sites feature limestone or paved trails that loop their scenic grounds.  Here are quick links to preserves in Cook, Lake, Du Page, and Kane counties.

Don’t forget about our regional rail trails like the Fox River/Prairie Trail, the Great Western Trail, the Illinois Prairie Path, the Green Bay Trail, the Centennial/I & M Canal Trail, The Old Plank Road Trail, and the Robert Mc Clory Trail.  In the city you also have the Lakefront Path, the Major Taylor Trail, and the North Branch Trail.

Each of these trails can be found on Trail Link – the free Rails to Trails Conservancy site.

Once you’ve found your ideal route (or routes), you’ll quickly discover that your six-mile jaunt will become the highlight of your day.  It won’t seem like a workout at all.  You’ll have successfully tricked your body into exercising while your mind believes it is in full-on fun mode.  You’ll return from your workout with a grin on your face – the six-mile smile.

Feel free to ride farther, if you like...

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Keep riding and be safe!


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