If you’re thinking of getting back onto the bike again, it’s important to be aware of the repercussions. Don’t panic, cycling side effects are all good.
Mountain bike devotee Aoife Glass shares how picking up cycling had some rather pleasing side effects.
It could be said, that I've never been sporty, or at least, what I would have considered sporty. At secondary school; netball, hockey, tennis – I hated them all. It was that bad, I used to bunk off PE lessons by forging my Mums signature (sorry Mum).
Cycling Side Effects: I’ve Got the Cycling Bug.
When I try to remember what motivated me 5 years ago to start cycling, I have an awful feeling it was probably mostly financial. Having the ability to spend all my salary for the month in the first week after payday, seeing friends meant either breaking out the bike, or walking. Running was also an option, but I had absolutely zero interest in that.
What struck me about cycling was the fact that once I’d put in a few pedal strokes, I kept moving even when I wasn’t turning the pedals. So when I first started, I could pedal for a couple of strokes, freewheel for a bit, and so on. Before you know it the distance is covered. That doesn’t work with running; once you stop moving your feet, you just stop. Depressing.
I was also a bit tubby, deeply unfit, stressed at work, feeling blue a lot of the time and generally not a happy bunny. So I borrowed my brother’s old bike, dusted off an old and extremely uncool mushroom-shaped helmet, and off I went on my wobbly way. Little did I know how quickly the cycling side effects would start to kick in.
Cycling Side Effects: What Happened Next?
I wasn’t riding every day, maybe just two or three days a week with the occasional week off. But I started to notice that the proportion of pedalling to freewheel time was increasing. Within a few months, I could pedal most of the way in to work, no problem.
Not only was I getting faster, my clothes started to get a little looser on me. I didn’t weigh myself on a regular basis and I wasn’t counting calories, though I found that when I rode I tended to fancy eating healthier food anyway. It felt amazing being able to fit into beloved clothes I hadn’t worn for a couple of years. A massive justification for my garment hoarding tendencies.
There were interesting and rewarding anatomical moments, like one day in the bath when I noticed that my upper arms were changing for the better. They were certainly thinner, there was considerably less bingo wing, and I had developed lovely muscle tone – I’d no idea that slender ‘guns’ would be one of the many cycling side effects. My waist also became more defined; lots of torsional stress through my body had worked wonders on my obliques, or whatever they are called. All I know, is that I can now totally rock the vintage 50’s high-waisted pencil skirts.
Overall, I lost over two stone in two years. Less ‘get in shape for summer’ more ‘get in shape for next summer’ but hell, it worked and worked far better and for far longer than any half-hearted attempt at weight loss I’d made before.
Another brilliant thing about cycling is the fact that you don’t have to be going flat out for it to work. It’s perfectly possible to pootle along at a sedate pace for it to be doing you masses of good. I certainly wasn’t breaking a sweat on most of my early rides, though I have developed a taste for speed these days.
Best of all, it was so simple and easy to fit into my day; I went from basically zero exercise, sat at a desk most of the day, to a good 3 hours of steady exercise over a week, building it up from there, purely because I enjoyed doing it.
Cycling Side Effects: The Maths Bit
All of these calculations are rough and based on my own experience, but to give you a feel for how I dropped 2 dress sizes, here’s the explanation.
Two stone of weight equates to about 49,000 calories. On average, from cycling to work a couple of days a week, I burnt about 470 extra calories per week over those two years. Cycling at an easy pace for about an hour burns about 290 calories (if you’re 11 st 6 lbs) so I didn’t need to do that much cycling in a week for it to make a massive difference cumulatively. As time went by, eating healthily and cycling more often meant, hey presto – a size 16 became a consistent size 12.
Cycling Side Effects: How am I doing today?
I still ride, more than ever in fact. Commuting, mountain biking and soon road riding too. I’m probably the healthiest I have ever been, and I’m really enjoying it. By my own admission, I’m not yet an athlete, but I’m doing pretty good for me. I get a small kick of pride when I’m fastest off the lights or when I make it home safely in record time. I’ve even started doing other exercise so I can get better at this cycling lark – who’d have thought that was ever going to happen?
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