As beginner to exercise cycling, you should focus on creating longer, rather than harder, workouts to help you build your cardiovascular stamina and muscular endurance so that you can do more-intense exercise routines in just a few weeks. Trying to make up for lost time with frantic pedaling and high heart rates can backfire if you're in a fitness program for the long haul.
When you begin an exercise-bike routine, even if you're doing it for weight loss, your goal is not necessarily to burn the most calories during the time you work out. The longer you can exercise while you're putting in cardiovascular and muscular effort, the more stamina and endurance you'll build. Stamina and endurance help you exercise for more minutes, not just at a harder pace. Subsequently, the more you can exercise, the more calories you'll burn as you improve the capacity of your heart, lungs and muscles to do more intense work later. Make longer workouts your primary goal in the beginning, adding five minutes to your routine every third or fourth workout.
Beginners should exercise in the so-called вЂњfat-burningвЂќ zone, or at a target heart rate of approximately 50 percent or 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is a pedaling pace that makes you breath harder than normal but not panting, gasping for breath and sweating hard. If the exercise bike has a heart rate monitor, use it to maintain your pace throughout your ride. To calculate your target heart rate range for exercise, first determine your maximum heart rate. Women should subtract 88 percent of their age from 206. Men can subtract their full age from 220 to get a general range. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.50 and 0.60 to get your target heart rate range in beats per minute. A 35-year-old male has a maximum heart rate of 185 and a target heart rate range of 93 to 111 heartbeats per minute. A 35-year-old woman will multiply 35 by .88, then subtract 31 from 206 to get a maximum heart rate estimate of 175. Her target heart rate range for a beginner workout would be 88 to 105 beats per minute.
Stepping It Up
As you build your cardio and muscle strength, start increasing your exercise time. If you try to raise your heart rate and find that this prevents you from adding five minutes to your workouts, slow down and focus on workout duration, rather than intensity. After two weeks of exercise, work at the high end of your target heart rate range, which is still a beginner pace -- don't shoot for an aerobic workout until you're ready to go the distance at that pace.
To add variety to your workouts, change the resistance settings on your exercise bike. Pedaling against higher resistance raises your heart rate while you build more muscle. Pedaling faster against less resistance will raise your heart rate and reduce muscle fatigue as you pedal longer. Stand on the pedals to change your stroke and muscle use, and add dumbbells while you're sitting for an upper-body workout and bigger calorie burn. After you're comfortable riding for 15 minutes or longer for each session, add 30-second bursts of higher-intensity pedaling, followed by a slower, low-resistance recovery for 60 seconds or so to build cardio capacity.
Start with some dynamic stretching before you get on the bike. These are stretches that move your muscles quickly and gently, rather than holding them in one place like static stretching does. Jog in place, raise your knees high, kick your butt with your heels, skip and make a swimming motion with your arms. Do this for several minutes as you raise your heart rate. Perform a steady-state ride, maintaining your target heart rate. Finish your ride with five minutes of progressively lower pedaling against little or no resistance to bring your heart rate and breathing back down to their normal levels. Get off the bike and stretch your muscles, holding your stretches for 20 seconds each.