Before getting into too much detail, it should be said that the best workout for you is the one that you enjoy the most. This is particularly true when it comes to aerobic training.
If you like to play sports and can do so once or twice per week, that might be enough for you. Running, cycling and swimming are all excellent sources of cardiovascular training. In addition to your weight training routine, including at least one day of cardio per week can make you healthier.
If you’re impartial to the type of exercise you do, it might help to compare a few different types. Cycling is very popular, as you can see from the rise of SoulCycle and Peloton. However, if you’re short on time, it might not be the best workout you can do.
Chances are that your cycling workout will feel quite difficult. If you don’t know which muscles your quadriceps are, they’re the ones that feel like they’ve caught on fire when you ride a bike.
Look at a professional cyclist during the Tour De France and you’ll notice that they have big, bulging muscles on the front of their legs. Those are the quadriceps. Cyclists primarily use these big leg muscles, but not much else during their workout.
Cycling strengthens the quads and raises your heart rate. It’s an effective cardio workout, but there are few key problems. The main issue is the position that your body is in during the workout. Leaning forward and pumping your legs up and down can make it hard for blood to circulate up and out of your legs.
Another problem with the cycling position is that it’s hard to breathe. Hunching forward limits the amount of room your lungs have to expand. Perhaps you’re getting winded from your spinning workout because it’s harder to breathe, and your quads are burning because blood isn’t flowing out very well.
Contrast cycling to running. Runners move in an upright position, which doesn’t restrict blood flow and allows your rib cage to expand, filling your lungs with air. You might get a better workout from running because it doesn’t feel as difficult. Cyclists might need to slow down due to a lack of discomfort more than true fatigue, whereas runners will expend more energy because they don’t perceive the same level of discomfort.
If cycling is your thing, stick to it. However, if you’re on the fence, try a few forms of cardio. The elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper and row ergometer are all fine pieces of equipment. Just because the bike is trendy doesn’t mean it’s the best.