Fitness Basics: Exercise Bike (cont.)

You can also look in the classified ads or ask local retailers about used and reconditioned bikes. Talk to friends as well, says Calabrese.

Can you convert your outdoor bike? If you already have an outdoor bike, says Calabrese, consider buying a cycle trainer or set of rollers. Trainers essentially let you convert an outdoor bike into a stationary one by elevating and mounting the back wheel and removing the front wheel. Rollers are for more experienced riders because you have to balance your back wheel on them to ride. Both are easy to store when not being used.


"I've literally done (my workout) with my nightie on."

Should you go recumbent? Recumbent bikes, which became popular about a decade ago, tend to be favored by seniors or those needing a rehabilitation tool. "They're comfortable and non-impact," says Calabrese.

But don't mistake that for easier, she warns. "When you're upright, you've got weight and gravity on your side. When you're lying back (recumbent), you have to do almost more work to turn the crank."

Whatever bike you choose; make sure you feel comfortable with it. Try it out in the store, with the shoes you'll be wearing. And ride for more than a few seconds to make sure it stays comfortable. You may even ask the retailer for a trial period to test the bike in your own environment.

Staying Motivated

The nice thing about having a stationary bike at home, says Magee, is the convenience and freedom. She loves to hop on her bike to watch the 30-minute sitcom Will & Grace. She tries to get through the entire show, commercials and all, before getting off.

"I've literally done (my workout) with my nightie on sometimes," says Magee.

Calabrese is not opposed to the idea of watching television or reading a magazine for distraction, though she concedes your workout may not be as intense. "The research on reading or watching television while cycling shows that the intensity tends to be lower," she says, "but people tend to work out longer."

Watching I Love Lucy reruns isn't the only way to motivate yourself, says Calabrese. She suggests:

  • Finding a partner -- a friend, spouse or significant other -- to exercise with. This will give you accountability and help you stick with a routine.
  • Journaling. Write down your workouts a month in advance, or at least a week ahead, says Calabrese. If you have to miss one, reschedule it immediately.
  • Having a purpose to every workout. "One day could be strength, another recovery, another speed," she says. "Use different programs if the bike has them." Or integrate 10 to 15 minutes on the bike with some strength training, she says. Use the bike as your warm-up and cool down on a strength-training day, and before you know it, you've gotten in 10 minutes on the bike on an off day.
  • A change of scenery. Though it might be 40 degrees and raining outside, you can be transported to the South of France with the click of a button. You can buy cycling videos that offer beginner to advanced rides with scenery and a variety of challenges you can see right in front of you, says Calabrese. Collage Video offers these videos through its catalog and Web site.

Eskola recommends that people who are new to exercise or to stationary bikes start with very modest goals. "Just getting on the bike and going for 10 minutes a day and gradually increasing the time -- that's all a beginner's goal should be," she says.

And don't despair if your motivation wanes.

"Even for those who are active, it's hard to exercise at home sometimes," says Eskola. "I had a bike at home and I didn't use it. I'd go out for a run but I didn't get on that bike."

If you know you're likely to do the same, instead of buying a bike, join a health club and use its bikes. Do whatever it takes to get and keep you moving.

Ready, Set, Go!

Whether you use a stationary bike at home or the gym, Calabrese offers these tips for getting the most from your workout:

  • Make sure the bike fits you properly. Talk to the merchant from whom you bought your bike, someone at a bicycle store, or a trainer at your gym to be sure the seat height is correct and you're not sitting too far away from the handlebars.
  • Keep your upper body relaxed, shoulders away from the ears.
  • Sit lightly on your seat, using your abdominals to support your back.
  • Know your equipment and how to be safe. Learn how to adjust the intensity and change program options.
  • Start slowly. Build up to longer or more intense workouts.
  • Have the right gear: Buy a pair of padded shorts or a gel seat for added comfort.

Originally published April 4, 2005.
Medically updated March, 2006.


SOURCES: Kim Eskola, MS, ACE-certified fitness instructor and trainer; assistant fitness director, Little Rock Athletic Club, Little Rock, Ark. Kelli Calabrese, exercise physiologist, ACE-certified personal trainer; president, Calabrese Consulting LLC. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, consultant, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic.

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Last Editorial Review: 4/5/2005 2:49:53 PM