Healthy Lifestyle

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Learn how to increase cycling stamina

Cycling is a great recreational activity and a fun way to stay in shape. Some people bike to work to save money and reduce fuel consumption, while others ride to give their bodies a demanding cardiovascular workout.

Whether a cyclist aspires to compete in the next Tour de France or wants to keep things a little more local, taking steps to improve stamina is a great way to make the most of a bike ride. Riders who improve their stamina will likely witness marked improvement in their cycling performance as time progresses.

Stamina is the body's ability to endure extended periods of exercise. For example, a person who is new to physical activity may tire after a relatively brief workout. However, the more that person exercises, the more he or she builds strength and stamina, which will lead to longer workouts. The same thing applies to cycling. At the beginning, cycling more than a certain number of miles may be difficult, and changes in terrain can make things even more challenging. By following a consistent training regimen that builds stamina, cyclists will refine their performance and push their bodies further.

Increasing cycling stamina is not necessarily about making the legs stronger, although that will help. Increasing cycling stamina involves getting your body acclimated to regulating energy exertion so that it will not get fatigued early on. Anyone who has to exercise for long durations, whether hikers, marathon runners or triathletes, will train to develop stamina. For cyclists, here is how to begin.

* Set a realistic goal. Newcomers to the sport will not be able to ride dozens of miles without any feelings of fatigue. Establish a weekly goal that gradually increases your total mileage traveled, revising these goals as you feel yourself getting stronger and more fit.

* Gradually increase biking minutes. In addition to increasing the distance you travel, start increasing the number of days you ride in a week. You may soon find yourself riding several days per week, and doing so for extended periods of time. A good rule of thumb is to increase your distance and speed by around 10 percent each week if you're training for a race or working toward a challenging goal.

* Throw in a long ride once a week. Schedule a weekly long bike ride, perhaps two to three hours of sustained riding, to challenge your body. Concentrate on the time spent riding, not necessarily how fast or hard you're riding. According to John Hughes, director of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association, you can gradually add more long rides as you become more comfortable.

* Train with others. Riding with others can keep you motivated and provide a healthy dose of competition to push you further.

* Take care of your body. Trevor Fenner, co-founder of Road Bike City, says you must pay special attention to your dietary intake to improve stamina. You may need to increase carbohydrate intake, and staying hydrated is essential. Eating pieces of banana or energy bars while riding may also help sustain energy levels.

* Plan for rest. Injuries can result when you push your body too far. Have days during the week when you rest and recuperate. If you ever are weak or in pain, stop cycling and take time to recover.

These tips can be heeded by riders of varying abilities, whether you are training for a race or simply want to get more out of recreational cycling.