WHY I CYCLE, AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO!

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My cycle journey began when I was 19 years old. I had been teaching group fitness classes for a year, was training for my first fitness competition and trying to be a professional dancer. Oh to be young. That summer I decided to tryout for the Houston Rockets Power Dancers. I made it to the finals and was so confident I was going to make the team. We had our first practice with the veteran dancers and we were asked to freestyle across the court. I decided to go first as I was feeling really good. I made it all the way to end and finished with a center leap. As I landed on my right leg, I collapsed to the floor and heard a loud pop. My leg immediately began to swell all the way down to my toes. I had never felt pain like that before in my life. The trainers ran over to me as I was lying there crying hysterically. They carried me off the court and got me ice for the swelling. The next day I went to get an MRI and was informed that I had completely blown out my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The anterior cruciate ligament is one of a pair of cruciate ligaments (the other being the posterior crucaite ligament) in the knee. The two ligaments are arranged in a crossed formation. The term cruciate translates to cross. This name is fitting because the ACL crosses the posterior cruciate ligament to form an “X”. It is composed of strong fibrous material and assists in controlling excessive motion. This is done by limiting mobility of the joint. The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four main ligaments of the knee, providing 85% of the restraining force to anterior tibial displacement at 30 degrees and 90 degrees of knee flexion. The ACL is the most injured ligament of the four located in the knee. 

I was devastated with the news. I had scheduled surgery for 2 weeks later as I had to wait for the swelling to go down as well as for my bone to heal which had fractured with the tear. I remember looking at the images from my MRI before my surgery and the inside of my knee looked like confetti. This was one of the most difficult times in my life. The surgery was quick but the recovery was not. It took me almost a year to rehab my knee. Within that year, my dad and my brother had signed up to do the Houston BP MS150 and ride their bikes 180 miles across the state of Texas raising money and awareness for multiple sclerosis. My mom and I were at the finish line cheering them on and I remember feeling so amazed and proud of their accomplishment. I told my dad I wanted to do the ride with them the following year when my knee was better. I began taking cycling classes at my gym to not only continue rehabbing my knee, but to begin my training for the ride. I was blessed to have one of the best coaches in the business lead my classes each week and she encouraged me to lead classes myself. And as they say, the rest is history. 

Here are my top 10 reasons why you should join me on the bike:

  1. Cycling is low-impact. After tearing my knee I had to take on more low-impact workouts especially if I was going to continue teaching other high-impact group fitness classes. Cycling has constantly been the one thing I've done over the years that didn't bother my knee. Scientists compared groups of long distance runners to cyclists and they found the runners suffered 133-144 percent more muscle damage, 256 percent more inflammation and 87 percent higher DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Having been a runner myself and completed 5 half marathons, running is no longer a part of my fitness routine as it has always resulted in pain in my knee or other areas of my body. I've developed plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and peroneal tendonitis. These days, I stick to the bike and yoga. Namaste. 

  2. Cycling promotes weight loss. The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, calories out must exceed calories in. You need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Based on weight, gender and intensity, you can burn anywhere between 400 and 800 calories in one 45 minute class. I LOVE to eat, and I choose to eat good to feel good. I know that if I teach or take a 45 minute cycling class, sometimes multiple a day, I get to eat more and am able to manage my weight or lose a few pounds if I need to. So, sign me up!

  3. Cycling builds muscle and muscle burns fat! Yes, please! The resistance element of cycling builds muscle – particularly around the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Muscle is leaner than fat, and people with a higher percentage of muscle burn more calories even when sedentary. To be clear – you won’t end up with quads like a track sprinter unless you invest a serious amount of time at the squat rack. However, you will develop a nice toned derriere. Again, YES PLEASE!

  4. Cycling improves mental well-being. A study by the YMCA showed that people who had a physically active lifestyle had a well-being score 32 percent higher than inactive individuals. There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood. There’s the basic release of adrenaline and endorphins and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things. With our PIQ system that records your performance in each class, you're able to see your stats and find areas where you can improve in your ride. Not to mention, it's a great way for all of our competitive athletes out there who strive for that first place spot. We see you! 

  5. Cycling helps you sleep better. It probably isn’t rocket science that tiring yourself out on the bike will improve your sleep, but now it’s been proven. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied men and women ages 20 to 85 over a period of 35 years and found that a drop in fitness of 2 percent for men and 4 percent for women resulted in sleep problems. Dr Rodney Dishman, one of the leading authors commented: “The steepest decline in cardio-respiratory fitness happens between ages 40 and 60. This is also when problems of sleep duration and quality are elevated.” Scientists also suggested there could also be a reduction in anxiety, brought about by exercise, that elevates the ability to sleep. 

  6. Cycling boosts your brain power! Hell yeah! Boost me up buttercup. Exercise has been repeatedly linked to brain health and the reduction of cognitive changes that can leave us vulnerable to dementia later in life. A 2013 study found that during exercise, cyclists’ blood flow in the brain rose by 28 percent, and up to 70 percent in specific areas. Not only that, but after exercise, in some areas blood flow remained up by 40 percent even after exercise. Improved blood flow is good because the red stuff delivers all sorts of goodies that keep us healthy and the study concluded that we should cycle for 45-60 minutes, at 75-85 percent of max ‘heart rate reserve’ (max heart rate minus resting heart rate) four times a week. Nothing stopping you riding more, of course.

  7. Cycling minimizes the risk of heart disease. A survey by the American College of Sports Medicine proved that the people who regularly practice or perform indoor cycling are in less danger of being attacked by heart diseases than the usual people. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide. More than half of the deaths that occur as a result of heart disease are in men. Get on the bike NOW! 

  8. Cycling enhances your social network. Joining a community like the one we have created at Rise31 feels like family. Regardless of your fitness level, cycling unifies groups of people through hard work and dedication. You don’t just sit in class unaffected by your neighbor-you and your neighbor begin to motivate one another. In those moments, you become more than a group of riders – you become a team. Riding together also gives you the opportunity to encourage others. You can inspire those who have not yet reached their fitness goals, while those stronger than you inspire you. Working together, everyone who rides can reach his or her goals and share in the benefits of cycling together.

  9. Cycling is for ALL fitness levels. This is one of my favorite reasons to ride and teach. I love that there is such a wide range of individuals in all my classes. With the resistance knob in between your knees, you are in complete control of your intensity. Here at Rise31, while we do our best to motivate you and encourage you to push past your limits, we also promote doing a ride that works best for you. If you're more comfortable staying seated, that option is always there. We've also decided to keep the PIQ system out of the studio and have the ride be all about the experience of the music and our state of the art light show. This allows for our riders to clip in, rock out and just ride. 

  10. Last, but certainly not least, its FUN!!! One of the things that got me hooked was how much I enjoyed the class I was taking and forgot it was even a workout. When you've got banging tunes, a high-energy instructor and a sick light show like we do at Rise31, your class will fly by and you won't be able to wait until your next ride.

So, what are you waiting for?! 

Dani Lanza