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Commuting for Fitness

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Commuting for Fitness

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Old 02-01-12, 08:59 PM
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mvallejo
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Commuting for Fitness

Hey all-

Thinking about commuting again and wondering how great of a workout commuting can be. I have a Trek 7.3 FX and usually haul about 10-12 lbs worth of stuff either on my rack or in a backpack. My work is about 9 miles away, my commute is relatively flat (one way more downhill, other is obviously more uphill), it takes me about 35-40 minutes each way, and I average about 12-18 mph depending which way I'm going.

So... how good of a workout do you think I'm getting? Have you found commuting to be a good workout?

I'm 5'8 and 150 lbs and am no mean in bad shape. I would like to drop about 10 lbs but mostly tone up. In addition to this commute 4 times a week, I plan to lift weights at night at least 3 times, as well as mountain bike about an hour and a half on both Saturday and Sunday.

So what do you think? How have you done? What works for you? I'm sure others would like to hear any success stories you may have as well.

Thanks!
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Old 02-01-12, 09:38 PM
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swwhite
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I am thinking that commuting is not as much of a workout as one might hope. Recently I tried a little jogging just to see how it feels, and the results were disappointing. Now that the weather is cooler, I am trying to push myself a bit on the way to work just a little more exercise.
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Old 02-01-12, 09:43 PM
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Riding 9 miles eight times each week might not do much for you but a lot less than that has done wonders for me. I'm a bit taller and started at almost twice your weight.
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Old 02-01-12, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
Riding 9 miles eight times each week might not do much for you but a lot less than that has done wonders for me. I'm a bit taller and started at almost twice your weight.
AS the saying goes,"Something is better than nothing."
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Old 02-01-12, 09:59 PM
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If you view commuting by bike as primarily a way to exercise and lose weight, you may find that you don't stick with it if you don't see results quickly. By all means try it, but try not to make it a means to an end...make it an enjoyable part of your day, with the added bonus of getting some exercise. If you lose those last 10 pounds (btw...are you trying to make some of us jealous?), then great! But if not, you'll still have made a great decision and hopefully had some fun!
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Old 02-01-12, 10:33 PM
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Commuting by bike is going to help your fitness much more than sitting on your ass driving. Unless you replace the time you would bike with something like swimming or other exercise.

I think biking to work will help you "tone up". Remember that biking uses different muscles than running. I find running to be a lot harder than biking. When I run, I don't stop, but with biking, I stop pedaling if I feel winded or need a break. Running doesn't quite work that way.

My commute is 8.5 miles each way. Doing that four days a week was beneficial, but adding in a 25-30 mile weekend ride helped improve my strength.
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Old 02-01-12, 10:58 PM
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I have a short commute, about 4 miles each way, without much elevation change (going in, drop 140 ft then go up and down a bridge then climb 40 ft). The only way I've found to get any exercise is to push hard, try to cut my time down, race buses and lights. I can get my heart rate up that way, but only for 10 minutes. It is better than nothing, but I think it burns at best 300 calories a day. About a bagel's worth. But getting to work awake and ready to work, even if sometimes damp, and saving $200/month in parking or $120/month in bus fare, is nice. I save a bit of gas too, cars get atrocious mileage on such short trips. If your car is rated 20 mpg city, in a cold start 4 mile trip in cold weather, it might struggle to get 15 mpg.
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Old 02-01-12, 11:28 PM
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Commuting as a workout depends on a few factors. One is the intensity. Sometimes I push myself when I ride. Green lights are opportunities to accelerate hard and hills mean I just have to pedal harder. If I feel it in my legs when I'm done I know I had a good workout. But sometimes commuting is just to get me there... I"ll coast down the hills or use easier gears when climbing.

Another factor is the duration. When my commute was about 25 minutes I didn't lose an ounce. I actually gained... and it wasn't all muscle. But last summer I moved and my commute time doubled. Since then I've lost 10lbs in 6 months. I'm sure if I kept a better check on my diet it would have been more.
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Old 02-02-12, 07:55 AM
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It sounds good to me. That's 90 mi/wk, ~7 hrs commuting, ~3 hrs on weekends, plus strength training (~2-3 hrs). It depends on your goals. Give it a few months. If it's not enough consider lengthening your ride, either home or to work. You don't have to lengthen it every day either. Again that will depend on how you are doing and what your goals are.

As far as losing weight goes, it's been said before, diet rules when trying to lose weight. Exercise is more important when your primary goal is becoming fitter. Balance is everything and I can't talk either. I need to lose about 10lbs myself.
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Old 02-02-12, 08:15 AM
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There seems to be too strong of a perceived correlation between weight loss and fitness. There two are certainly related but you CAN have one without the other. If you are riding for over an hour a day, every day, you are almost definitely in fair physical condition at worst. Fitness comes not from having a specific workout routine and killing yourself in the gym. It comes from a certainly lifestyle, and the lifestyle of those that choose to ride their bike 20+ miles a day is certainly conducive to improved health whether or not you lose those 5-10 pounds.
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Old 02-02-12, 08:17 AM
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Commuting can be a great workout. Like anything else, it depends on how you do it. If you noodle along at a slow pace, you aren't getting as much of a workout, but it's certainly better than driving a car to work. If you push the pace, I would argue that commuting can provide more of a workout than a typical recreational or group ride. That's because you are carrying much more weight and starting/stopping more frequently. When I started bike commuting, I was already in the habit of riding after work on the weekdays for exercise. So I initially didn't increase my total mileage by much, but went from riding about 20 miles/ride around the neighborhood (or in spin classes) after work to riding 10-12 miles/ride twice a day commuting. I saw no drop-off in my fitness from commuting. In fact, my fitness improved and I also lost weight -- particularly as I increased my commuting frequency and distance.

When commuting regularly, you also need to factor in recovery/tempo rides like you would for any training regime. If you ride hard every day, your performance is likely to decline rather than improve due to burnout.
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Old 02-02-12, 08:53 AM
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9/10 mi each way is my commute and it works fine for me. I usually ride as fast as I can while staying safe. I agree that adding some weights would be good too if you want strength/toning. Cycling is mostly cardio/fat-burning afaik.
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Old 02-02-12, 09:03 AM
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If a 9 mile commute every work day isn't enough, throw on some panniers, baskets, front rack, and go grocery shopping a couple of times a week, or changing out your current set of tires to a higher rolling resistance version.
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Old 02-02-12, 09:14 AM
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I have been riding my bike around town for years, but never had a long commute until last spring (7 miles each way). I have never been much into exercising but riding the same route every day provided a kind of benchmark. Every hill was a daily challenge. Every stale green light was a sprint. It definitely helped having a bicycle computer to monitor my progress. I wore a jersey and mountain bike shorts with a chamois so I could change into fresh clothes for work. It helped that the majority of my route was long uninterrupted stretches on a popular bicycle artery/scenic drive.

As far as fitness goes, I definitely lost about 10 pounds and gained a more defined abdomen.
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Old 02-02-12, 09:36 AM
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i lost about 70 pounds in my first year of bike commuting (i had A LOT to lose), and have plateaued since then. i'm still slightly overweight and could stand to lose more, but i ride ~600 miles/month on average, and have maintained where i'm at for years, so i'm good with that. if i wanted the last stubborn pounds to go away, i'd have to attack it from a restricted diet perspective, and i'm just a hard core believer in the notion that life is way too damn short to restrict yourself exclusively to rabbit food (not that salads, and carrots, and cucumbers are bad or anything, but sometimes my soul just needs a cheeseburger).
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Old 02-02-12, 09:39 AM
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Pluses and minuses. You are more revved up when you land at work, feel rejuvenated when you get back home. But you get hungrier during the day, start searching for a fatty muffin around 10am, eat a bigger dinner.
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Old 02-02-12, 10:28 AM
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mvallejo
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Wow, tons of great stuff here all. Thanks for the responses.

To answer a question above, for me the fitness aspect is an added benefit. I want to commute because I love to ride my bike. I plan to ride hard and by keeping around an average of 15 should be a pretty good pace I would think, especially considering the major uphill portions of my rides home.

Along with some light weight lifting at night and tiring weekend mountain bike rides, I think I'm setting myself up pretty well here.

Thanks for the thoughts all, definitely appreciated.
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Old 02-02-12, 10:40 AM
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I was the exact same size as you when I started commutting on my new bike last year 11 months ago. I only have 5 miles to work one way and I do that 5 times a week and 60 miles on saturday (30 miles each way part time job). I looked at the short distance as a sort of time trial and constantly try to beat my last time. I also watch everything I eat and take vitamins from gnc along with tri-flex for the knees. I have lost 20 pounds with effort but I also never slack off which is hard with 3 small kids. The way I did it was push myself when I thought I couldn't like going to 20mph from 18 or 22mph from 20 an so on. You can get faster its all in the mind!
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Old 02-02-12, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by mvallejo View Post
I would like to drop about 10 lbs but mostly tone up.
It should be great cardio conditioning and your legs will definitely shape up. I don't know about losing weight.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:11 PM
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I'm with most of those above. I ride a 8.25 mile one way distance to work, mostly flat, a few traffic lights to play with and some bike lanes on the highway. I have been working on speed. Yesterday on the way home, my top speed was 25.1 and I managed about 17.3 average over the 16.5 mile round trip distance. I have been hard on a weight loss plan, and as of noon today, have lost 18.9 lbs in the first month. No small amount of that weight loss I attribute to the bicycle commute. Yes I watch my carbs and keep daily calories around 1000-1100 a day most days. But it is the workout from the bike that is making the difference. Push hard on the commute and watch your fitness improve over the months...

Tractor Tom in Okeechobee, FL
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Old 02-02-12, 12:19 PM
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In addition to commuting, I generally ride a long 50-60+ mile ride most weekends. After I started commuting, my typical weekday ride was about 10 miles on each leg of my commute, compared to about 20 miles when I used to ride after work from home. In other words, I was riding 10 miles twice daily compared to 20 miles once daily. That change had no adverse effects on my performance on weekend rides. I was initially concerned that the shorter but more frequent commuting rides would lower my fitness, but it seemed to make me stronger. Like I said, commuting daily is tough work. You are carrying more weight, stopping and starting more often, and riding in more adverse weather conditions. Commuting makes you tougher.
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Old 02-02-12, 02:20 PM
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I'm 48 years old and started commuting a year ago. Last year I lost thirty pounds and went from hanging on to one of the slower groups in my club, to riding with, and doing some long pulls in the fastest group of the club. I also placed third in a two man team time trial riding with a 22 year old. Commuting has changed my life dramatically.
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Old 02-02-12, 09:22 PM
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I started commuting and riding my bike everywhere when I was 15. I also started touring, club riding and racing a year later. I raced at a high level, did triathlons for a while and have several cross country rides under my belt. At age 57 it's commuting that's kept me going.

I found that racing made me fit, very fit, as did long distance touring but commuting and transportation riding is what, over a lifetime has been the healthiest choice I could ever have made. Racing can be very taxing to the body, it can be all consuming of time and for a balanced lifestyle it can be counterproductive at times. It's hard to stay at competitive fitness but commuting is a pressure free way of staying healthy for many years.

9 miles each way (18 miles RT) and a total of more than an hour of exercise per day 5 days a week is excellent. Getting nearly 100 miles a week in on a regular basis combined with a few fun rides on weekends or evenings when it suits you will keep you in very good shape. When I was racing I was doing anywhere from 250 to 700 miles in a week and it can be taxing, you are subject to injury and overtraining and the litany of ailments that go along with that.

A good solid round trip of almost 20 miles a day is ideal in my book if you're in it for the long haul. And it will give you the base you need to get really fit in a pretty short period of time should you choose to amp it up a bit.
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Old 02-02-12, 11:36 PM
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To add one more element to the discussion think: MENTAL health. I ride 8 mi. one way with a one-mile 6% grade going UP on the way home. I often refer that hill as my "best friend". I can be very frustrated with my job when I'm at the bottom (I'm a high school teacher) but most days I've worked it out of my system by the time I've reached the top.
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Old 02-03-12, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by hilltowner View Post
To add one more element to the discussion think: MENTAL health. I ride 8 mi. one way with a one-mile 6% grade going UP on the way home. I often refer that hill as my "best friend". I can be very frustrated with my job when I'm at the bottom (I'm a high school teacher) but most days I've worked it out of my system by the time I've reached the top.
The mental health piont is where I'm at in my commute. Looking for a route that will take me close to 10 miles one way for a total of twenty a day. Better lifestyle and fitness level.
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