When many people think of dieting, their attention will typically turn towards completely cutting out any ‘bad’ foods or eating less. In reality, these two options could ultimately cause more damage than good; by cutting yourself off from some of your favourite foods you can create a negative stigma towards weight loss efforts and dieting, and as for skipping meals or going hungry, you are ultimately ignoring the needs of your body by denying it of energy and nutritional intake.
Instead of cutting down on your food intake, try eating balanced and filling meals throughout the day - sometimes a diet consisting of eating more food than usual can actually help with weight loss, depending on the nutritional properties of your meals, of course! Skipping meals like breakfast and lunch will badly affect your body’s natural cycle and demands with a skipped breakfast being linked to overeating later on in the day, which for many people (myself included) usually means chocolate, biscuits and ice cream! Filling out your day with substantial meals helps the body release a natural amount of energy throughout the day in slow releasing intervals. This is all vital when it comes to cycling and maintaining a peak performance in regards to exercise in general.
Let’s face it, you’re not going to hop onto your bike after two weeks off and immediately be ready to complete the Tour de France. Unfortunately our bodies don’t quite work like that, and you’d have needed months and maybe even years of training before you’re ready to take on substantial marathons like that! But not to worry, endurance and stamina can very easily be developed over time with little to no attention. The best way to start your journey is to measure your rides. How far can you travel in a set time? Can you achieve that time consistently for a week? If so, then great, now expand your distance and aim for that time once again! Keep setting yourself targets and keep pushing yourself!
It’s important not to throw yourself too much into these practices - make sure you’re comfortable and are able to reach those distances in that time with little stress or determination. Also, don’t stretch yourself too far; if you’re struggling to achieve a certain distance in a specific time, then don’t be ashamed to go down a level again - perhaps you just weren’t ready to move up just yet and there’s no harm in sticking with a set distance for a few weeks and solidifying your time. Once you’ve improved that time a few times, go back up to the next target and try again. By setting targets and consistently timing yourself, you can assess your performance levels and your stamina improvements over time which will make for a very rewarding experience over time!
It’s not exactly surprising that more sleep equals more energy! But it’s not always practical for everyone to sleep for 8+ hours every single night, so if you’re someone with a particularly busy schedule, or perhaps just a night owl, then allow yourself to have at least 2 or 3 early nights every week. Even if you only manage to get 5 hours sleep for half the week, try planning an 8 hour snooze the night before you’re thinking about heading out for a ride as cycling will demand high energy use, and the difference between a 5 hour sleep and an 8+ hour sleep is huge!
If you have struggles with sleeping, try various activities and practices that can help your body prepare itself for a long night’s sleep without any disturbances or insomnia. Try getting in the habit of eating a few hours before hitting the hay, and put off from having caffeine and sugary treats immediately before sleeping as your body is going to be experiencing a rush of energy that will make it far more difficult to settle down. Yoga is another great habit to add to your schedule to benefit your sleep - simply Googling a few tutorials for bedtime yoga will help you clear your mind and body of any stress or tenseness that can sometimes play havok when trying to get to sleep. Do not underestimate the importance that sleep can play in your life, especially when it comes to exercise routines and performance!
While this is strongly linked to the endurance side of cycling, boosting your cardiovascular levels can help with a variety of different things such as stamina, oxygen and blood flow and digestion. Small workouts that demand a short burst of intense exercise alongside the correct cool down methods can be relatively quick, rewarding experiences that will go hand in hand with your cycling performance. One method could be to sprint a ¼ mile (or any distance you want), jog the way back and sprint again - doing this without long breaks will improve your heart’s reaction to intensity spikes and means it can handle more strenuous cycling far better than usual.
Like with sleeping, yoga is another avenue to explore when it comes to cardiovascular health, and how focused attention on your breathing can help in the moment when you’re out on your bike. Far too many cyclists do not pay attention to their breathing and end up running themselves into the ground as a result of their lack of breath, which yoga can allow you to concentrate on how to intake oxygen effectively in an exercise situation when your heart rate is elevated. Weight training works to the same effect, with muscle and heart rate control being a shared aspect of both lifting and cycling.
If you’re treating cycling as just a way to lose weight then you’re not getting the most out of your experience. Holding cycling simply as a form of exercise can lead to putting it off, treating it as a chore or just not enjoying yourself. Look at cycling as a variety of things - as a form of therapy, as a way to relax, as some ‘you’ time if you want to listen to music or a podcast, or just as a way to experience the great outdoors. Getting in the right mindset before committing to a cycling schedule will go a long way in allowing yourself to maintain an interest and want to cycle regularly.
Cycling can be whatever you want it to be, just make sure it doesn’t get stale. Switch up your cycling patterns so some days you work on pushing yourself to beating targets and personal bests, and other days go at a slower pace, taking in your environment and treating it as a leisurely activity. Try different routes too in order to keep your journeys new and offer different experiences. There are many different ways you can keep your cycling experiences interesting and fresh, it’s just all about creating a positive outlook towards your cycling rather than treating it as a chore.
Creating a healthy lifestyle to go with a cycling schedule can help you see the results of your work sooner than usual. Cardiovascular exercises and healthy sleep patterns can help massively towards your cycling performance, and eating healthily and smartly will allow your body to use it’s stored energy effectively and efficiently when cycling. Cycling should be a pleasant and rewarding experience, and by following these tips you’ll soon see the benefits of focusing on different lifestyle aspects and the impact they can have on your cycling performance and enjoyment.