3 Cycling Fitness Myths You Should Believe
In today’s world, many fitness myths are created in order to sell merchandise or workout plans. Famous celebrities get behind these myths and say you need massive amounts of protein to build muscle, or that doing sit-ups will give you a six pack in 4 weeks. You know these are gimmicks, however in the confusion of identifying these fitness myths, some truth is labelled mythical as well. So, to clear things up, here are some cycling fitness myths that you can begin to believe.
Many of these mythic truths are applicable to other areas of fitness as well.
Cycling Fitness Myth #1-Cycling cant build muscle
Actually, cycling can build muscle, mostly leg muscle, but muscle none the less. If you cycle up a hill, you are not only using your cardiovascular system, but your muscles as well. It takes a lot of power to maintain good cadence up a 10%+ gradient. The more you cycle uphill, the faster you’ll go. This is due to strength gained through an increase in muscle mass.
The force you exert on the pedals comes mainly from your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. After you’ve put in a few miles on your bike, you will notice a firming of these cycling muscles due to the formation of new muscle mass. Muscle is heavier, and more dense than fat. So when you feel your muscles becoming denser, it’s an indication you’ve broken muscle fibers through exercise, in this case cycling. You then rebuild your muscles with nutrients in the anabolic state.
“The anabolic state is where your body assimilates nutrients in order to repair and rebuild muscle tissue.”
The anabolic state is where your body assimilates nutrients in order to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Consuming healthy and abundant nutrients through food helps your muscles thrive in an anabolic state. This helps you quickly build stronger and more dense muscles. If you under consume calories after a workout, you risk remaining in a catabolic state, and losing strength and muscle mass.
So we can see its obvious cycling can build muscle. A simple way to realize this would be to look at the top professional cyclists. They have huge legs from years of intense cycling training. If cycling can’t build muscle, then they should have skinny legs.
Cycling Fitness Myth#2 -The Fat Burning Zone Wont Make you Faster
When you exercise in the aerobic zone with sweet spot training, your are in the fat burning zone. This is where you are relying on your cardiovascular fitness to move you along, more than your muscular strength. So you will be breathing hard, but be able to speak, and you will be sweating, but not burning out.
Increasing the intensity of aerobic exercise, like cycling up a hill, can put your body into the anaerobic zone, where your muscles begin to form lactate and muscle fibers begin to tear. Things like weightlifting, sprinting and interval training rely on the anaerobic zone. However, cyclists spend the majority of their time increasing their endurance in the so called “fat burning zone”.
Learning to pace yourself over long distances means staying in the fat burning zone
To get faster over long distances, cyclists work on increasing their FTP, or functional threshold power. FTP is how much sustainable power you can output for one hour. The higher your FTP is, the easier it will be for you to sustain a higher power output for longer. Working on long, sustained efforts in the aerobic zone or “sweet spot” can raise this FTP level. This makes steady state cardio in the “fat burning zone” quite effective for endurance athletes.
While steady state cardio, or sweet spot training, might not make you sprint faster, it will make you faster over long distances. Your body becomes more efficient at assimilating carbohydrates over long periods of time, and your muscles convert sugars into glycogen for energy more efficiently. So if you want to get faster at cycling, spend some time in the fat-burning zone, or “sweet spot”.
Cycling Fitness Myth#3 -Mind Isn’t Really Over Matter
Being comfortable with suffering is a part of cycling. Pedaling up a hill with your heart thumping and your legs screaming is a masochistic pleasure that many do not understand, except endurance athletes. Cyclists, marathon runners, and other athletes thrive in the place where most people’s subconscious is afraid of going. Through the overcoming of challenges, athletes confirm their strong will, earning self respect and an endorphin boost.
Cycling is a good way to get a boost of endorphins, feel that natural high!
The more accustomed we are to being in a place of discomfort, like that of cycling up a hill, the easier it becomes. The activity itself doesn’t become easier, but by regularly repeating intense physical challenges, your mind becomes accustomed to it. We can begin to understand pain, and make friends with it. We can be comfortable in the feeling of our own fitness, and enjoy the feeling of pushing yourself further, going faster and beating your PR’s.
Being comfortable and relaxed while performing an intense physical activity is a difficult thing to achieve. However, there are many forms of mediation used by athletes that prove the power of the mind to overcome a physical challenge. Qigong meditation or “moving meditation”, focuses on repeating a mantra, or imagining things like birds or angels to help distract you from the pain of an intense workout.
By controlling your thoughts and breathing patterns, you can trick your mind into thinking your lighter and faster. This diminishes your attention to fatigue, relaxing you and putting you in “the zone”. This power of the mind to minimize fatigue and increase performance through meditation is proof that mind really is over matter
Become comfortable with pushing yourself on the bike and at the gym, its the only way for you to grow. Establish goals for your fitness, aim to smash your PR’s both on the hills and in the gym. You’ll realize the fun of bringing your body into peak fitness, and have the body and mind of an athlete.