New Year, New Gains: 10 Resolutions That Add Big Rewards to Your Life
Here we go again. Another January where we vow to eat less, lose weight, and quit a bunch of bad habits in the quest to turn a new leaf in the new year. How ‘bout we change it up this year? Instead of quitting this and giving up that, make 2019 the year you try adding and gaining a few things that will ultimately help you achieve your goals.
Here are 10 to choose from. Pick a few that work for you, or go all in. Either way, you’ll be glad you did.
The biggest barrier to riding is time. If only we could make more hours in the day, right? Well, we can’t literally make more time, but we can definitely find more time. Because cycling is such a preparation-heavy sport, the easiest way is organisation. Try these ride prep tips to buy yourself more time to ride.
• Lay out your kits. Organise your cycling clothes when you do your laundry. Lay out all your kits for the week, including socks, gloves, and whatever else you’ll need. When you want to ride, it’ll all be ready and you won’t burn time hunting for your stuff.
• Prefill bottles. Fill some bottles with your favorite mix and stash them in the fridge, so you just have to grab and go.
• Stack your time. Time management is a huge asset. Instead of trying to squeeze everything into a busy day and not really doing anything satisfactorily, stack your time so maybe you take a day off and work longer one day to get caught up enough to get out on time and go a little bit longer the next.
Want to lose weight, boost your endurance, get faster, and feel stronger on your bike? Add high intensity intervals to two rides each week. You don’t have to make those rides longer or carve out special time. Just slip ‘em in. The intervals themselves can be super short. Micro-intervals are maxi-effective.
A study in PLOS ONE reported that men and women who performed three 20-second full-gas high intensity intervals on exercise bikes three times a week for six weeks boosted their muscles’ mitochondria (the energy-producing furnaces in the cells) and increased their endurance by 12 percent. They also improve insulin sensitivity, burn off health-wrecking belly fat, and help you maintain lean muscle mass. “Even highly trained cyclists can make greater gains when they swap volume for intensity,” says HIIT researcher Martin Gibala, PhD, of McMaster University in Ontario.
Try 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off:
* Warm up for 10 minutes
* Perform interval set: Push as hard as you can go for 30 seconds. Pedal easy for 60 seconds. Repeat four times. After the final interval, pedal easy for four minutes.
* Repeat the entire sequence two more times for a total of three interval sets.
* Cool down for five minutes.
Our muscles get tight and our connective tissue loses its elasticity over time, especially if we frequently forget (ahem) to stretch. “You can lose up to 15 percent or more of your range of motion and not even know it…until something starts hurting,” says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, orthopedic surgeon and best-selling author of the FrameWork series of books. “Cyclists are particularly susceptible because they spend so much of their time flexed forward both on their bike and sitting during the day,” he says. Eventually, you can lose the ability to fully extend your legs, which diminishes the potential power you can put into each pedal stroke. Do some foam roller moves whenever you’ve settled down to watch your favorite show. In one study, soccer players who rolled out their lower body muscles significantly improved knee and hip range of motion.
Cyclists can be creatures of habit. Same routes. Same training rides. Same, same, same. That can lead to riding ruts and lack of progress, or even a little backsliding. Resolve to expand your repertoire this year. Try mountain biking. Go on a gravel ride. Go on a neighbouring town’s shop ride. Try cyclocross. Hop on a fat bike. Go bikepacking. Ride a Gran Fondo. Pick at least one type of riding or event that you’ve never tried and make this the year you expand your horizons and go for it.
Do you use your bike mostly for recreation, training, or racing? Make this the year you add more functional riding. You don’t have to commit to commuting to work every day or even most days. But look at the trips you take and the errands you run on a regular basis. All those little bursts of exercise add up to major health benefits. In one study, people who commuted an average of 10 kilometres a day by bike had a 24 percent lower risk of premature death from any cause. A study that followed more than 18,000 premenopausal women over 16 years found that even five minutes of riding a day can help minimise weight gain overtime. By adding commuting to your usual riding routine, you get bonus benefits.
There’s nothing like a goal to keep you motivated. Set one big goal this year and make it SMART: Specific (I want to ride a century), Measurable (I’ll increase my long ride mileage by 16 kilometres each week), Attainable, Relevant (pick something you want to do, not something you think you should do), and Time-bound (make it close enough to put some pressure on you, but not so close that it’s unattainable). Then give every ride a goal, such as working on climbing, practicing eating on the bike, dialing in hydration, or riding with a group as stepping-stones to help you achieve that goal.
Supplement your cycling with strength training this year. During adulthood, we start to lose our powerful type II fibres that help us out-sprint our friends and kick it up punchy climbs. We also lose muscle efficiency, which means it takes more energy to do the same amount of work. Research shows that strength training helps you gain and maintain both power and efficiency, which will help you feel stronger and fresher in the saddle on even long rides.
In one study, riders boosted their leg strength by nearly 18 percent and improved their efficiency by more than 16 percent after just three weeks of performing lower body resistance training three times a week. Strength training also helps improve your lactate threshold, boosts your metabolism, and improves your body composition. Can’t swing three days of lifting? Research shows you can still make significant gains going twice.
The beauty of cycling is that you can share it with others. There’s always someone you can learn from, be inspired by, or someone who just makes you laugh as the kays spin by. This year, make it a goal to expand your cycling circle and find a few new friends. The more riding buddies you have, the more people you can call on to help get you out the door on those days you’re feeling unmotivated to get out and ride.
This sport is built for making memories. Whether it’s completing your first gravel grinder, mixing it up in a cyclocross race while rain pours from the sky, or just going on a giant Saturday brewery tour with friends, you can create memories that will tug on your heartstrings when they pop up on your Facebook feed five years from now. Plan at least two or three special rides this year where the goal is to fully bask in the greatness that is cycling and the cycling community. And take plenty of pictures along the way.
#HappinessWatts are a thing – a very important thing. We ride bikes because they’re fun. Sometimes we forget that and let performance goals bring us down. This year, make it a goal to add some joy to every ride. Feeling slow? Then put your computer in your pocket and embrace the chill zone, giving yourself permission to stop and have an espresso and take a few Instagram shots. Feeling super strong and fresh when the group is tranquillo. Give yourself permission to do your own thing and conquer some climbs. If you always keep joy in the mix, the rest will follow.