Why we love cycling

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 There are so many reasons to get back into cycling – or try it for the first time – get started with our top tips

Jumping on a shiny new steed and pedalling off into the sunset is a glorious feeling – you just can’t beat it! But if you haven’t saddled up for a few years, you may be wondering where to start or why to bother. Don’t worry! We caught up with Gareth Turner from Cyclebeat (cyclebeat.co.uk) to chat about the benefits of life on two wheels and how you can get back in the race.

Slim cycle

Jumping on your bike is a fantastic way to blitz calories and trim down. ‘Cycling is a great way to lose weight and a brilliant way to burn calories – you can burn around 500 calories an hour cycling and sometimes much more,’ says Gareth. ‘Cycling can also have the added benefit of increasing your metabolism – even after the ride is over.

And it’s a great option for working out on your commute. Think about it – you can get your workouts in on the way to and from work and cancel that gym membership altogether if you want! ‘And, because it is a non-weight bearing exercise, it’s a lot easier on the joints than something like running, so you can do it more often,’ says Gareth. Sounds good to us!

It’s also a great toner, working your lower body hard, which – thanks to this focus on the bigger muscles in your body (bum and legs!) also burns fat. ‘Cycling helps to tone your muscles and works your calves, thighs and bottom, while also giving your shoulders and arms a workout, too,’ says Gareth.

Healthy heart

Cycling is not only bags of fun, and a great way to stay in shape, it’s good for your heart, too. ‘Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness,’ explains Gareth. ‘And the British Heart Foundation says that cycling regularly can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50 per cent.’

Mind matters

And getting on your bike could have benefits for the mind, too. ‘It’s not just the body that sees the benefits, as cycling is believed to reduce stress, anxiety and provide a sense of wellbeing,’ says Gareth. A cycle home after a long day is a great way to shake off your worries.

Wheely wheely fun

Whizzing around on a bike gives you a great sense of freedom and there are so many types of cycling, and types of bikes, you can try. ‘Cycling can be very varied and fun – try mountain bike trails, exhilarating downhills, BMX and road biking with amazing views,’ says Gareth. Plus it’s one of the few workouts in which you can have a good gas with your mates, too! Have you every tried catching up over a quick swim or disco rave class?! ‘Cycling can be very social by riding in a group and also with the family – everyone can get involved,’ adds Gareth.

Bikram yoga

Image result for Bikram yogaHeard about Bikram yoga? Read our top tips for surviving yoga in the heat

If you like your exercise hot and sweaty, then you’ll love Bikram yoga. Not only does this class boast the usual benefits of yoga like improved flexibility and mood, but it’s also great for the metabolism and gives you a serious muscular endurance workout. There’s got to be a reason why there are so many adoring fans worldwide. If you want to take on the hardcore yoga class, check out our top tips for surviving your first class…

What is Bikram yoga?

Bikram yoga is 90-minute yoga class developed by Bikram Choudhury. It consists of a series of 26 postures. Easy, right? Not when the room is set to 40.6°C – the standard temperature for which Bikram yoga is practiced. Don’t forget a towel!

Why would I do this to myself?

There are a range of benefits to doing Bikram yoga, from helping with weight loss and boosting metabolism to improving bodily pains and depression. During your session you will be exhausted and constantly wiping away that sweat, but as your session comes to an end, you’ll actually feel better than you did when you walked in. You will have worked your body and pushed yourself to its limits, and as a result you’ll feel rejuvenated and restored.

Top tips
  • Stay hydrated. This doesn’t mean chugging a litre bottle of water when you’re walking in the studio door. Drink around 2 litres of water throughout the day before your session. And post-Bikram make sure you restore your electrolytes and rehydrate.
  • Don’t eat 2 hours before the class. A full stomach can be very uncomfortable in the heat. You don’t want to be hungry either, so a small snack might be okay, but you just have to experiment and see what level of food intake is right for you.
  • Show some skin. You are going to sweat, just accept it. So you want to wear light breathable clothing. Don’t be afraid to show some skin, yoga is not competitive – it’s about challenging yourself.
  • Let it rain. As you sweat throughout the class, try not to constantly towel yourself off. Sweat is your body’s way of cooling you down, so embrace it.
  • Come back. The first session is particularly hard as your body won’t know what to expect. But make sure you come back for your second class – that’s when the fun really starts! Be patient and enjoy yourself… and the sweat!

6 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE

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Too shy to work the weights room? Here’s how to beat your gym fears!

We’ve all been there – ready to smash the latest TRX class or finally get to grips with the Smith machine only to lose our nerve when a group of super-fitbies hit the gym floor. It’s a common scenario, with a survey by Sport England showing that 75 per cent of women want to be more active but fear being judged for their appearance or ability. The aim of the viral This Girl Can campaign is to quash those worries and show it’s OK to jiggle or sweat while you work out. We at H&F couldn’t agree more, so – to ensure you don’t retreat to your ‘comfy’ workout zone – we asked the experts how to beat confidence demons.

1 CONQUER THE CHAOS

People who plan feel in control – over 80 per cent of workers claim that being organised improves their performance. The same goes for gym goers, so ask an instructor for a workout plan and watch your gym confidence soar.  ‘Before you walk in the door, make sure you know exactly which exercises and weights you’re going to use,’ agrees Scott Laidler, top trainer at scottlaidler.com. ‘You’ll feel far more comfortable when you know exactly what you’re doing.’

2 BEAT THE GYM CROWD

If you’re not ready to train with the rest of the gym crowd, consider hitting the weights room during off-peak times when the gym’s quieter. ‘I often train clients that are self-conscious very early in the morning or last-thing at night,’ reveals health coach, Joshua Silverman (@silvermanhealth). ‘This helps them to build confidence and start feeling more at ease in a gym environment.’ Off-peak memberships are cheaper, too!

3 KEEP IT IN PERSPECTIVE

Don’t be afraid to be a newbie. Remember that everyone started somewhere – yes, even Mrs Bodybuilder was a beginner once upon a time. ‘So many people have a perception that they will not be fit enough to go to the gym,’ adds Gillian Reeves, national group exercise manager at Virgin Active. ‘There’s really nothing to worry about, as there are lots of different people at the gym and no-one minds if you can’t touch your toes or run a mile!’

4 PUMP UP YOUR PLAYLIST

Music makes people feel powerful. Research in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that heavy-bass tracks makes athletes feel empowered. ‘Pick a good playlist that will help you to focus on your workout without being distracted,’ says Silverman. ‘Make exercise your “meditation time” – an hour that is all about you. By doing this, you’ll lose your inhibitions and forget to worry about what anyone else is thinking.’

5 DITCH THE SWEATPANTS

A good excuse to go shopping – buying new gym kit can do wonders for your confidence. ‘No end of people sidle into the gym wearing an unflattering old T-shirt to cover up their body,’ explains Silverman. ‘Believe me, investing in clothes that make you feel more comfortable and confident will make all the difference to how hard you work out.’ Just remember to keep comfort in mind – new clobber won’t boost your confidence if it’s too tight, bright or daring!

6 FIND A FRIEND

Feeling really out of your comfort zone? Don’t go to the gym alone. ‘Sometimes, being alone can be quite intimidating, but training with a friend will give you confidence,’ says Tyrone Brennand, founder of Be The Fittest (bethefittest.co.uk). ‘Training with a buddy will also help you to push more, as people often train harder when they see their mate working their socks off!’