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Cycle yourself fit: cyclist Paul Coats talks through the benefits of turbo trainers

Cyclist and pharmacy lecturer Paul Coats discusses the benefits of cycling, and how a simple 20 minute spin on a turbo trainer can get you fit.

It’s been a few weeks since my evening talk at Glasgow Outdoor Experience. My focus was on cycling, and importance of getting on your bike through the winter! (view the full video here). With Glasgow being warmer and drier than Paris over the winter months, and recent data showing you’re more likely to be in a car accident than a cycling one, there’s no excuse NOT to get on your bike!

What cycling can do for you

Cycling is such a good form of exercise (especially if you’re on the wrong side of 40 like me!) It’s good for cardio and easy on muscles and joints (as unlike running, cycling is non-weight bearing). Just a few rides a week are enough to boost your metabolism and help weight control.

Temperature and rainfall graphs comparing Glasgow and Paris

In the talk I gave at GOE, I demoed some numbers based on the typical 20 minutes cycle ride to and from work, equating to around 500kcal per day. That’s 2500kcal per week based on just 5 days! That’s a significant number when you consider that 1lb of that stuff around our waist is the equivalent of about 3000kcal excess weight. (Remember that phrase ‘a minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’?)

So what’s a turbo trainer?

During the Alpine Bikes talk, we covered a lot of ground: clothing, lights, security… and for those who were unsure of cycling in the dark – indoor trainers (commonly referred to as turbo trainers).

I’ve had one since I started cycling seriously, around 30 years ago. Turbo is a great way to get a fantastic workout without all the ills of traffic, pot holes, wind, rain, and frankly anything that distracts you from either the workout or the pleasure of cycling.

Cycling accident data across Scotland

The trainer can be such a versatile tool, used by elite athletes to novices and fun riders. There are a plethora of models to buy which fit the needs and purse of everyone. With some simple planning, you can add cycling into your weekly routine all year round. I’ll look at what’s available in detail over the next few weeks.

Where do I start with the turbo trainer?

I’d suggest dropping into your nearest Alpine Bikes store. Have a chat with the staff, bring your bike and have a demo ride on a trainer.

When you start on the turbo, it’s important to be self-aware of your effort when cycling (or when doing any physical activity for that matter). As I mentioned earlier, cycling is non-weight bearing, so unlike running it’s relatively easy to get carried away and overdo things. I guess we all know the difference between snail’s pace and a sprint. But in-between can be a little trickier to gauge! There’s a lot of fancy gadgetry out there that can help you determine your effort levels, but the minimum is a simple pulse meter. I’ll talk more about gadgets in the coming weeks.

Weight loss goal infographic

So what should you do on the turbo? That depends on you – where you’re at with your cycling, and what you want to achieve. Is weight loss on the list? Do a short ride each day to contribute towards a lower weight. Do you want to firm up your lower half? Improve your fitness levels for an event or challenge? There are a number of basic sessions you can do on the turbo. Personally, I use PowerPoint to generate some sessions and have this on the computer and big TV… don’t forget the music and a massive fan either! The latter is very important if you want to stay comfortable (and avoid a pool of sweat).

In the coming weeks, I will post some indoor turbo sessions to challenge you to beat the winter blues. Any requests or questions? Get in touch with me on Twitter. Until next time, here’s a turbo session to get you spinning!

About Paul

Paul Coats has been cycling since age 13, racing at both national and international level as an elite category road cyclist. A British Cycling Federation road coach, he's also lecturer of pharmacy, physiology and pharmacology at the University of Strathclyde. Catch him at his regular turbo trainer classes for South Lanarkshire Council, or tweet him right here.

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