Why Cycle-Touring Is Good For Your Legs

Since I got back from a spontaneous hitching trip from Armenia to England and back, my mind has been on the problem of keeping fit. Like an awful lot of us, I’m destined to spend my time (for the next few months, at least) in a city. More than half of the world’s human population now live in urban environments. With this comes the threat of the sedentary lifestyle, and the declining levels of fitness and health with which we’re now becoming increasingly familiar.

Luckily, some of my favourite bloggers have been busy pinning up fragments of what is becoming a simple fitness regime, along with plenty of motivation (although some of the chubby-cheeked photos from my university days do that job very well!). It couldn’t come at a better time. I was very much inspired by a good friend of mine who became an Ironwoman a few weeks ago. She went to incredible efforts to train for a course like that. Because of her, I’m now running several mornings a week, and I cycle everywhere, but this isn’t enough on its own.

One recommendation that caught my attention was a site simply entitled ‘One Hundred Push Ups’, which prescribes a thrice-weekly 10-minute workout to get you doing a hundred consecutive press-ups after a mere 6 weeks. The basic idea is to do five sets of press-ups three times a week, gradually increasing in number each time until you hit the satisfying-sounding target number of One Hundred. I took the test to see where I’d be starting from, and dutifully knocked out a rather average twenty (proper) press-ups before my arms gave up. In six weeks time, apparently, I’ll be able to do five times this number. We’ll see…

There are three sites in this network, the next being named ‘Two Hundred Sit-Ups’ (stomach crunches, really, rather than the back-breaking PE-lesson versions of yore). The formula is the same. I got down on the floor to see where I was at, and managed a not-entirely-unrespectable thirty-four before my stomach muscles seized up. Another element of my fitness routine on the chart for the next six weeks — nice.

The final site is — you’ve guessed it — ‘Two Hundred Squats’. I figured I should do a bit better with these, having only stopped cycling about three months ago. According to the site, the average person can do between twenty-six and thirty-five before collapsing in heap of jelly, whereas more than fifty is branded ‘excellent’. Well, I got to two hundred and nine before scanning the room for a heavy object to hold to make it more difficult. I grasped a conveniently-placed vacuum cleaner to my chest and continued. After three hundred squats clutching the hoover I figured I’d done enough for one day. So I guess all that cycling did something permanent!

It would be pointless to do these routines just for the bragging rights alone. Behind the numerical targets lies a simple way to restore respect to our bodies and remember what they’re capable of and what they evolved to do. While it might be slightly sorry to imagine a grown man in his living room embracing a household appliance whilst performing three hundred deep knee bends, the point is that when you feel the urge to head for the hills, you aren’t stalled by the thought that your body won’t be able to keep up — and that’s going to be my goal for the next few months. We’re all capable of getting fit and staying that way, so why not give one of these challenges a go?

5 Responses to “Why Cycle-Touring Is Good For Your Legs”

  1. Andrew Welch

    It might be worth noting that 300 hindu squats with a hoover is not recommended for beginners. In addition, I find that if you fully bend your knees during the process, it over stretches them, so be careful with that. Hindu squats are a good and very convenient way to do exercise on the spot, if you can’t get organised or have the time to go outside. Personally I’ve started running again first thing in the morning, which I love doing, mainly because it’s a mental effort to motivate myself, but it’s pretty easy to slump out of bed, throw shorts on, grab mp3 player, drink water and leave house. Simplicity is good. Minimal preparation — e.g. fixing bike or travelling to gym in car, to get you procrastinating or creating excuses.

    Reply
    • Tom Allen

      Agreed about the knee issue. It’s the equivalent of having your saddle too low on a bike. The site linked to in the article recommends squatting until your thighs are about parallel with the floor, rather than going all the way down, for the same reason you said.

      I also agree about the simplicity of the morning run — it’s also the perfect time to roam around the city streets, when everyone else is either asleep or a child going to school.

      Reply
  2. Fearghal

    Here Here, nice post :)
    Funnily, the main thing I’m missing from home at the moment is my regular run.
    I’m planning, but we’ll see if anything comes of it, to start the sitting and pressing up daily so I can pair an appropriate chest and stomach with my new athlete’s quads rather than the current ones borrowed from a pidgeon and bar fly respectively.
    Cycle touring does indeed do magical things for the pins I don’t understand why more people aren’t pulling their bags for travel around the world on a bike.

    Reply
  3. Alastair Humphreys

    How did you get on with these?

    Reply

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