The less expensive models let you figure out your own recumbent exercise bicycle workouts. You get the bike. You can set a resistance level based on what’s available. And that’s it.
The more expensive models have computer programs of predesigned programs. They may be a Ride Through a Park or Pike’s Peak. They have some type of alterations of difficulty.
That sounds great, but I question whether you need it.
If you’re a serious competitive cyclist, you know a lot better than the manufacturers how you need to work out. Or your coach or trainer does. So, you don’t need me. Follow their advice.
After that, it depends on your fitness goals. Depending on your age, weight and current physical condition, you may have ambitious goals to use your bicycle to get into great shape.
Or you may simple want to strengthen your leg muscles and your Core (abdomen and lower back) muscles. Plus, keep your heart pumping.
Many people don’t care so much about physical fitness, except they wish to burn calories so they lose weight.
My mother rode a recumbent exercise bicycle after she had both her knees replaced because of arthritis. Her doctor recommended that for her to regain strength in her knees after the surgery.
One of the wonderful things about indoor stationary recumbent exercise bicycles is that they can accommodate all these people.
The Two Main Types of Recumbent Exercise Bicycle Workouts
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The exercise bicycle manufacturers can program a thousand variations, but here are the two types:
This refers to your body to keep for extended periods of time. Generally, endurance means:
* Less intense
* More repetitions
* Steady state
At any one given moment you may not even be breathing hard, but over time the benefits accumulate.
It’s often referred to as aerobic. That means that how well you take in and use oxygen while you’re exercising affects your performance.
“Cardio” refers to endurance training even though it’s also applied to classes where people may be exercising fast.
The best endurance athletes, such as worldclass marathoners, are in such wonderful condition that they can “jog” twice as fast as you or I could sprint.
That doesn’t mean they’re not endurance athletes. It just means their heart, lungs and muscles are in great condition.
26.4 miles of slow jogging (all but the best) or even walking for two to eight hours.
People who sit in a recumbent exercise bicycle for an hour or so and slowly cycle while watching a movie are using their endurance.
Benefits of Endurance Fitness:
* Slower heart rate because your heart and lungs are more efficient. This keeps you functioning better throughout the day.
* Your muscles are more efficient, and you can use them longer.
* You can keep going longer without fatigue.
* It increases your baseline metabolic rate or BMR. This is a LOT more important for losing weight than the calories you burn while actually cycling. Your body adapts to that, which is why the conventional dieting advice is not working,, but that’s another blog article. Still, by resetting your BMR higher, you ratchet up the calories you burn daily just by living.
* By using your muscles you resist sarcopenia. That’s the tendency of older people to lose muscle mass as they grow older. When you get weak and frail, that’s when you’re at most risk.
* By burning off glucose stored in your muscle cells, you lower your insulin resistance. This reduces your diabetes or the risk of it.
* Decreases high blood pressure
Risks of Endurance Training
The enthusiasts sometimes forget to mention this, but exercise is stressful to your body. That’s why it works, in face.
The stress of a workout tears down your muscles. Your body repairs them, and in the process makes them stronger.
Therefore, subjecting your body to reasonable and controlled amounts of stress is healthy.
But too much stress is . . . stressful. Not healthy.
Athletes live longer than most people, but are NOT the longest-lived people. When you hear in the news about the oldest person alive, it’s invariably a nonathletic woman.
Jack LaLanne was the longest-lived fitness guru or athlete I know of. He was 96 when he died of pneumonia. If he’d consented to go to a doctor and taken an antibiotic, he might still be alive.
Still, if he hadn’t insisted on working out two hours every day, even on the day he died, but had rested instead especially when he must have felt bad, he might not have caught the pneumonia.
Cycling for much over 30 minutes (yes, I’m including marathon runners) dramatically raises your body’s level of inflammation.
Therefore, if you wish to keep cycling longer than half an hour, I suggest keeping your effort down. Following the Maffetone Factor:
This refers to how much you draw on your muscles’ power and energy for just a short time. It’s all-out, 100% effort.
* More intense
* Wide range in effort
It’s the 100-meter dash in just over 9 seconds.
The breath Usain Bolt takes just before the start takes in oxygen, but it does him no good during the race. 9 seconds is not long enough for that oxygen to go from his lungs, into his blood and down to his legs.
Therefore, sprinting is anaerobic exercise.
This requires more strength and power. Right away.
High Intensity Interval Training
The basic sprinting workout is now called high intensity interval training or HIIT. Some call it by their own names: PACE or burst. It’a also called Tabata after the coach of Japan’s men’s hockey team who helped bring it back to popularity.
When I was a kid on the track team, it was wind sprints.
When I was a kid on the swim team, it was called simply interval training, but we didn’t know that term. It was simply brutal.
And, although it was supposed to be high intensity, that’s just not possible when you’re swimming a total of a thousand yards or more.
We started off doing 20 fifty-yard swims on the minute. That means we’d swim fifty yards, then rest until one minute elapsed.
So, in theory, the faster you swam, the more time you had to rest.
Well, that’s true. But the effort to swim five seconds faster took far more effort than you recovered during five extra seconds of rest.
So, really, it was closer to training for endurance than for speed.
Except for the week before the championship. Then we’d do just a few repeats, and get five minutes or so rest. Which meant we were supposed to do them at close to racing speed.
Health Benefits of HIIT
* Increased fat loss (including dangerous visceral fat) over endurance training
* Increased gains in muscle tissue
* Increased aerobic capacity
* Lowers insulin resistance
According to Izumi Tabata, the former hockey coach who’s done a lot of research on this, four minutes of his HIIT program is as good for your heart and health as exercising for 45 minutes four times a week the traditional cardio way, running or cycling.
However, Tabata’s HIIT consists of 20 seconds of all-out sprinting, following by 10 seconds of a slow cool-down. Repeated 7 more times.
So you sprint for 20, rest for 10. Eight times, for a grand total of four minutes.
And if you do that properly, you’ll be plenty exhausted. The shape I’m in today, I wouldn’t even attempt it.
And that’s despite my doing less stress HIIT workouts. I like to run for 60 seconds, then walk for four. Four times. That may not sound hard, but those four 60-second periods are plenty tiring, believe me.
Of course, Tabata was working with young, Olympic-level athletes — not you and me.
Also, he did not have even though well-conditioned athletic young men do it every day. Just four days a week.
Most people should allow at least 48 hours to recover. I run my workouts three times a week at the most.
Basically, HIIT does everything good for you that exercise is supposed to do, but faster and with a lot less time.
If you’re a busy executive or entrepreneur, you probably love the idea of getting in shape in 20 minutes of cycling three times a week instead of an hour a day five days a week.
The Risks of HIIT
Because it’s a lot more intense — you do deliberately drive your heart rate up to close its maximum capacity — it’s riskier. Consult with your doctor.
And because you are sprinting all-out, you have greater risk of injury.
Even on an exercise bicycle, if you’re pedaling away at 100 miles per hour, you could strain or tear a muscle. Certainly your risk is a lot higher than if you’re cycling at a more sedate speed.
(You can lower this risk a lot by warming up thoroughly first, but that’s not total protection. I’ve strained leg muscles several times.)
So, I’d have to say a lot depends on your current condition and your goals.
I do realize that many people — elderly, obese, with severe physical limitations or injuries — just want to remain active.
I see the appeal of sitting in a recumbent exercise bike and pedaling while watching a movie.
You won’t set any world records, but you don’t care. You’re burning calories, strengthening your leg muscles and improving your heart health.
All while fitting exercise into your current lifestyle.
And without risking injury.
You may be attracted to the undoubted benefits of HIIT. You can change the variables all you want.
I would not even attempt the 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off eight times of the Tabata program.
But I can sprint for around 60 seconds and rest/walk for four minutes. Four or five times.
I can also sprint for 30 seconds and rest/walk for two minutes. Eight or ten times.
You may find another variation suits you better.
Just remember — to do HIIT right, you CANNOT watch TV or anything else while sprinting.
That requires your maximum mental and physical focus. Or you’re not doing it hard enough.
Your only thinking should be, “More, harder, faster, I can do it, oh how much longer? I can’t do it, yes I can, not far now, just a little more — ”
Check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise program.