In the past decade or two, cycling has boomed into an enormous sport around the world. Whether this is due to better broadcasting or influence from inspirational figures… or a combination of both, who knows.
All I know, is that the experience in and around the sport for many aspiring fitness fanatics or leisure athletes is very positive!
There are three main reasons for this in my humble opinion.
Cycling for Fitness
The main reason that can resonate with enthusiasts is the fitness element. Cycling, especially within the sphere of triathlon, is the easiest and quickest to get better at due to it’s non load bearing nature.
You can quickly do a lot of cycling without the injury risk that you might see when starting to run… not to mention the general pain and effort element it takes to put one foot in front of the other… This isn’t the case whilst cycling. If you get tired running, then you will have to stop, slow down, or walk. When cycling you can simply freewheel, and this doesn’t induce the feeling of failure or lack of ability that you might feel if you stop or walk. Because you’re keeping up momentum by freewheeling and rolling forward, it’s almost a form of mental trickery!
Cycling is also not as skill based as a sport such as swimming or running. Yes, of course there are plenty of skills to pick up as you get better… but if we are just talking about getting out of the door for your first swim/ bike / or run, then cycling is by far the easiest.
You’re able to measure the improvement easily! This can be in different forms, from the most basic being how fast you complete a Strava route, all the way to having a power meter or turbo trainer, and comparing your power to your heart rate values. This is unbelievably satisfying and can be seen week in week out.
These combined allow you to remain consistent and therefore motivated to continue and improve. Especially if you end up joining others.
Cycling to be Social
You’ve gotten into the routine of going for a ride, and now you’re seeking others to pitch yourself against or just be social with.
As previously mentioned, you can easily manage the effort… as long as your friend isn’t ‘half wheeling’ you and pushing the pace. Therefore it should be more than possible to sustain a conversation. You can talk for hours and hours on end, shooting the breeze, talking over many topics that you wouldn’t necessarily cover.
This allows you to have a great social interaction with whomever you’re out with, whilst getting a great boost in fitness. We are social creatures after all… we need and crave this interaction.
Not only that, it’s a great way of learning. It’s like a healthier version of going down the pub or bar with your friends… you’re talking about anything from fitness, to holidays, to politics… topics are vast… and they change dependant on who you’re with!
Looking back at the fitness and social benefits, there is no surprise that there are huge benefits to be had regarding mental health.
Getting fitter and healthier in your body definitely helps the mind focus and have more clarity. Not to mention the endorphins that are released when exercising!
Many cyclists won’t credit cycling as a form of therapy, let alone notice the benefits it’s having for their mental health. But as mentioned prior, being able to talk to someone for hours on end a good number of times a week can help you unload. Sort of like a therapist.
Anything that you need to get off of your chest, you can!
And the best thing about it… the parties involved won’t remember half of what you’ve spoken about… so you’ll come home feeling 10x better after speaking about something that had been weighing you down, without knowing that that’s what was happening, and still not being able to recall what it was after the ride!
This obviously has it’s for’s and against’s … but at least it makes you feel better in that moment!
So what next?
It’s worth noting that the barrier to entry for cycling isn’t as convenient as that of swimming or running… you need a bike at the very least. But that shouldn’t stop you getting involved as and when you can.
Whether it be joining a gym to get on a static bike trainer, joining a bike club where they meet for social rides on weekends, or joining a team that can help you get your fitness to be where you want it to be, there are plenty of options to use cycling to your benefit.
If you liked this article, do check out this video for an insight into what that could look like!