Friday, July 26, 2013

Cycling Versus Insanity, Zumba and other Fad Excercises

Discussing some of today's most popular body sculpting exercises, and
whether these will stand the test of time, compared to cycling.

So, which one are you doing? Riding a bike, or Zumba? Commuting to work, or Crossfit? I have friends and acquaintances that believe riding a bike to be an activity they once did down their neighborhood block as little kids, never to be repeated again as a car-owning adult. When it comes to getting in shape, they will resort to some of the more recently popular methods. "Why ride a bike and expose myself to the elements, when I can just do Insanity from the comfort of my home or take a Zumba class at the gym?", some might ask.  Because cycling is  an activity that will stand the test of time, one that will help maintain a healthy (but not an elite) weight, improve blood circulation, improve quality of life and in turn add longevity to the person who does it on a routine basis. It's also an activity many will enjoy doing, so having a routine of cycling won't be as hard to maintain as a group workout program. 

I will admit, programs such as Insanity, P90X, Crossfit and Zumba give results. From dramatic weight loss to sculpted abs, people can achieve these results from continually doing these programs. They also serve as a great way to get ready for beach season and lose that extra 10 pounds of persistent flab hanging around the mid-section. If physical image is the participant's end goal, these programs can achieve great results. However, without continuity these results are not long lasting. These exercise programs rely heavily on high intensity workouts that shock the body's metabolism into reacting more quickly than normal, losing weight faster over a shorter period of time. Sometimes, the weight can be loss at an unhealthy rate, leading to rapid weight gain over any short period of inactivity. I have known friends who have gained the weight back with interest after falling back to their old habits.

Many of these programs also do not respect the lower lumbar. Some programs like P90X will put a warning on their videos for people to have had previous back injuries. However, back injuries can occur during these exercises if a person has weak or undeveloped back muscles. I personally know of someone who developed a severe back injury after a session of Insanity who did not have any preexisting back problems.  Cycling, however, strengthens back muscles and along with core exercises, can dramatically improve lower back function. 

These programs also rely on the use of good marketing and over the top claims of fitness and athletic ability. Crossfit is an example of this. Crossfit claims that it can make anyone excel at any sport they choose because they will have the fitness advantage every time. I would like to see one of those top heavy Crossfit dudes challenge me in a bike race. Being a good cyclist only comes through lots and lots of cycling. Through many times of tearing and strengthening leg muscles, the body learns to send less lactic acid to the legs the longer someone rides. Leg endurance is something that takes years to obtain, and I highly doubt someone who has been doing Crossfit, even for a few years, can simply hop on a road bike and win a criterium. Having a twin brother who is Navy Seal qualified but cannot even hold the draft of my rear wheel, I know this first hand. While upper body strength is desirable for most men to have, too much muscle mass on top will feel like an anchor weight when climbing hills on a bike, a skill essential in cycling. Lean muscles are more desirable than large muscles for cyclists.

Crossfit takes their big-headedness a step further, opening up Crossfit gyms everywhere, temples where they can teach their doctrine to their loyal followers. Reebok now has an annual Crossfit challenge that looks like an Ironman and a World's Strongest Man competition put together. There they determine, in their own words, who the fittest person on earth is. What they don't realize is that fitness is relative. Not all athletes or truly fit people sport six packs and massive pectorals. Not all athletes do football scrimmages, climb up ropes and do Olympic lifts. And while it takes a great level of fitness to do all those things, that does not make people who do Crossfit the ultimate all rounders. 

Zumba is the Jazzercise of the new generation. Having a mom who was into Jazzercise, I would know. Another dance aerobic workout, this time Latin inspired. I can remember how my Mom's hobby turned into an obsession, sometimes dragging me with her to do her Jazzercise classes. Imagine a 14 year old surrounded by a bunch of fifty year old women in tight, brightly colored spandex. So yeah...forgive me if I don't have the fondest memories of Jazzercise or the best impression of Zumba either.

How about these themed running events that have been popping up lately? Events like the Tough Mudder where people run in the mud for no reason and come out looking like mud pies? Again, not very appealing to me. I rather be dirty in my own sweat than caked in mud any day.  These events take a lame activity (no offense to any runners reading this, however I was also a runner and I know firsthand how boring it is) and try to spice it up by adding a theme or a cause and all the sudden it becomes something fun. It gives runners the motivation to continue aimlessly jogging around the trails to "train" for events like these.

Any physical activity, as long as it is being done regularly, will give results. The aim of these workout videos and clubs is to make the consumer believe that they have something no one else has. But in reality, people have been going to the gym and getting hard abs and fit bodies since Jack Lalanne. Sometimes it is a good idea to look beyond the flash and the bang and ask whether these training methods are necessary to be fit and healthy individuals, and whether they can be done on a regular and routine basis for the years to come.

In conclusion, I'll simply end this topic with a question "Which of these will you be doing when you're 60, 70, or even 80 years of age?". I know cyclists who are that old, and I also know old people in really bad health who are that old as well. Cycling is a long term activity. The results are not immediately noticeable, but the effects are long lasting. If you are someone who is getting winded or is getting their back broken trying to keep up with these trending workouts, maybe it's time to give cycling a try. When all the hype blows over, you'll be thankful you did. Stay tuned for more informative articles from A Bicycle's Point Of View.


  1. Hey there I totally agree, I have been cycling and road racing for 22 years, I am 28 days into insanity and have had 3 leg injurys already, still pushing through, I got on my bike for the first time in 6 weeks and did 50ks, and its been a few years since I felt that good on a bike, insanitys cardio is crazy, im flying again thanks to insanity and lost any fat that I had which was not much, im 42 years old and I know that I will always resort back to my love of the bike and how good it is on the body, im doing a 80k race in a month and insanity will win me this race, I know it,

    young at heart

  2. I loved your comments about crossfit. They have decided that only a crossfitter can be the fittest person on earth and that's a lie. To make matters worse, magazines like muscle and fitness are now endorsing this type of workout when for years they denounced throwing heavy weight around with terrible form!(which is exactly what crossfit has you do)