February is heart health month, so it’s a perfect time to try Ultimate Cycle—the cardio craze that gets your heart pumping.
If you’ve ever driven up Baldy Road and passed buff bikers with carved calves, you know that hard-core biking whips riders into top shape. Ultimate Cycle works because it mimics real mountain bike riding.
You may not get fresh air, but you don’t have to wear a helmet or funny, form-fitting gear either. The hill never gets so steep you have to get off and walk. In fact, you are in complete control: to decrease intensity of the workout, simply turn a dial. Your instructor calls out encouraging words as you huff and puff through the course; the beat of music keeps you energized; and fellow riders make you feel part of a team. It’s fun. And you don’t have to worry about taking a tumble and scraping your knees. Or running into mountain lions for that matter.
If you’ve never tried indoor cycling, you may think it silly. Well, how does burning up to 500 calories in a 40 minute session sound? Yep, pumping a bike indoors can be a remarkably effective way to drop pounds. If you pedal fast and furious, you will lose more weight than if you just coast along, of course. But one of the advantages of our bikes is that is that they allow you to work at your own level and pick up pace as you get stronger. Take the class regularly for a few weeks and you will keep getting better and better . . . . and thinner and thinner. Plus you will be working your heart, making it stronger and stronger.
All you need to get started are some basic tips:
- Come to class a few minutes early the first couple of times to have your instructor help you adjust the handle bars and the seat. You need to know how to make it fit you correctly. You want to avoid putting too much pressure on your knees or lower back to avoid injury.
- Always bring a towel (Sweat? you bet!)
- Bring a water bottle. Industrial size. Or maybe two.
- If you feel yourself becoming addicted, invest in a pair of padded shorts. No, you don’t have to wear the whole expensive Lycra outfit like the macho mountain riders, but padded shorts might just make the whole experience more comfortable.
- Start out slowly and work your way up. Building up gradually is the most important rule. If you overexert yourself the first time, you may not come back. And that would be a shame, because spinning is one of the most effective aerobic workouts there is. Not only does it get your heart racing, it also great for toning your quadriceps and outer thigh muscles. And you want those killer calves, right?
- If at any time the class seems too intense, just pedal more slowly, take the tension down, or take a break. Do not be embarrassed. No one cares. Really.
- As with any exercise, talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have health issues. You do not want to overtax your heart, your knees, your back, or anything else.
- Let your instructor know if you are having trouble with the resistance knob or the general technique. She will be more than happy to help.
- Keep track of your heart rate as you go to make sure you are not overtaxing yourself . . . and to track your improvement over the weeks.
Fitness experts agree that a varied routine is best. Shirlee’s has tons of cardio options. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Hop on a bike and give it a spin. Your heart will thank you for taking care of yourself. Who knows . . . you might end up in such tip-top shape that by next Valentine’s Day you can jump on a real mountain bike and conquer Baldy yourself.