People who consider going on bike tours often ask: “What kind of physical condition do I need to be in, and how can I accomplish this?” This article is primarily aimed at very busy people who don’t have a regular exercise regimen due to work, family obligations, business travel, etc.
The very simple answer to the opening question is as follows: one should participate in 45-60 minutes of aerobic exercise at least twice, but preferably 3 times per week until the bike tour starts.
That being said, the next logical question is: what kind of exercise should one do? Some suggestions are discussed below, and much more valuable information can be gleaned by looking at the many resources offered by our friends at About Aerobics . This site can really answer all your training, diet, nutrition, equipment, and other questions. They even offer resources for people to set up a personal training program.
First of all, if you don’t normally follow an exercise regimen, you might want to start out in some sort of group program at your local gym, for example. Many companies now bring in fitness trainers for aerobics classes during lunch hour as well, so if your employer offers that, you have a good option to exercise more and eat less. Overcoming inertia and getting started can be the hardest part of the overall effort. Many people even become almost religious about their exercise habits once they get started and find a program that works for them.
Here’s an example of something one can do: we live in Colorado, and it’s not always easy to get a bike ride in during the winter or even spring months when the weather is often blustery. Our local gym offers spinning classes, and that is an excellent option to train for your bike tour. Spinning is done on a stationary bike with adjustable tension, and classes are led by an instructor, usually to music. It takes a few sessions to get used to, because most beginners are not accustomed to “standing up” on the pedals for 4-5 minutes without sitting down. One should start slowly, sit down and take it easy if necessary, and forget about being macho in front of the group. Normally after about 3-4 sessions, you'll learn to pace yourself properly while endurance improves. The next thing you know you'll be able to keep up with the group. Expect to burn from 500 to 700 calories in a 45 minute session, as the classes can be intense. It is also useful to wear a heart rate monitor if you have one and track your pulse during the session. In addition, part of the program is several minutes of stretching after the class, which is something most people neglect. For beginners, my advice is to come early and get a good warm-up. You can learn more about spinning by clicking on this URL.
Another aerobic group exercise option is jazzercise. Jazzercise is popular in most locales, and it’s normally not hard to find sessions that fit your time availability. As always, the hard part is getting started. Search the About Aerobics site to find out more detail regarding jazzercise.
Of course individual aerobic exercises abound as well, including swimming, running, and various machines which are found in any good gym these days, even in hotels. Anything that will help you get your heart rate up for awhile will benefit your bike tour training.
Here’s an important point, however: no matter what type of aerobic exercise you choose to do, it’s absolutely necessary to get outside and put in some miles on a bike. Even if you spend a good amount of time on a stationary bike at home or in the gym, the feeling of riding outside is different, and you need to get used to that before your bike tour. Check your tour itinerary and determine the longest day of riding that you will encounter. If these distances are not specified, contact your tour operator and ask that question. If you can ride that amount of miles at home in training, then you will have no problem whatsoever on your bike tour. You’ll have all day to do those miles on the tour, and you will be stopping often along the route.
One of the side benefits of bike tours is that they motivate people to get active and get into shape. You’ll enjoy the beauty of the countryside much more if you’re in good physical condition. Being outside on a back road, perhaps in a foreign country, smelling the flowers or the crops or the fresh bread, and greeting the locals you encounter, are all much easier and more pleasant if you’re not gasping for breath. And after successfully riding 20-30 miles and enjoying a busy day of shopping, sight-seeing, and exploring new vistas, you’ll feel you’ve earned a fabulous dinner and a great bottle of wine. Bonne route!
Walt Ballenberger is founder of Beaux Voyages , which provides active tours in France including bike tours in various regions of the country, and Tour de France bike tours. He has lived and worked in France and speaks the language fluently.