The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2007 issue 8



Cycling 101

I guess I’m a little partial to cycling since I was never really a runner.  Even before I tore the cartilage in my knee back in high school I was pretty slow.  I had some body quickness on the wrestling mat and off the line in football, but when it came to acceleration and speed after the first couple steps.. forget it!

I mention this because not everyone is a runner, nor does everyone have to get on the treadmill or pound the pavement for countless miles to get a good cardiovascular (aerobic) workout.  I got into cycling initially when I was overweight and looking for a way to start getting a cardio workout.  With my knee being a problem, cycling provided a nice, controlled, low impact motion while still getting my heart rate up.

As I got more into fitness and exercise, I purchased my first heart rate monitor to focus on the intensity of my aerobic workouts.  I was initially amazed by how quickly I was able to get my heart rate up while cycling.  For me it was much easier to get to the top of my training zone when cycling outdoors, then any of the indoor workouts that I had done in the past!  

The perceived exertion when cycling outdoors is much less then on a stationary bike, even though you are still getting an excellent workout.  Between the constantly changing scenery and the need to get back to the starting point, I have more motivation to start and finish every cycling workout.

So how do you get started?  Well, it’s just like riding a bike (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Seriously though, when you first get into cycling, you’re going to want to see what you’re capable of.  If you plan to ride for 30 minutes, then set out in any direction for 15 minutes and then turnaround and come back. 

When riding on the road, it’s not necessary to have a road bike that costs thousands of dollars, but it does help when you are looking for speed.  If speed is not as important to you, then you can pretty much use any bike on the road.  One thing I would recommend though is to switch from the knobby tires to some smoother road tires if you decide to use a mountain bike.  Between the resistance on the road and the constant hum of the knobbys you’ll get frustrated real quick! 

For fitness cycling, it’s good to try to keep your legs pumping at a constant cadence (the rate of pedal revolutions) for the entire ride.  You can shift gears when necessary to keep a cadence that you are comfortable with (typically 60-90 rpm), and you will want to pace yourself in the beginning until you better understand your level of aerobic fitness as well as the muscle endurance in your legs.

Cycling Essentials

For those new to biking... I thought I'd run through the essentials that you will want to have while riding.

  • Helmet - you might feel (and look) a little goofy wearing it, but I know people that have cracked them in half in an accident... better than the alternative!

  • Bike Shorts - I swore that I'd never wear these when I first started cycling, but after my first Bike to the Bay, and 150 miles sitting on a little piece of plastic/leather and foam, I bought my first pair the next day!  The more expensive, the better the padding in the seat usually... well worth the extra $.

  • Water Bottle - HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION... 'nuff said.

  • Tire Changing Stuff - spare tube or patch kit, plastic tire Irons, tire pump... these are all your friends if you get a piece of glass or other sharp debris in your tire.  Knowing how to use them is equally important... the tires don't change themselves you know.

  • Seat Pack - this little pack that sits under your seat is great for storing your tire changing stuff and maybe a cell phone for emergencies.

  • Sun Glasses - In addition to keeping the sun out of your eyes, these also help to keep the occasional gnat or other flying pest out.

  • Bike Computer - Beneficial for training purposes as well as during the ride, most bike computers tell you your current speed, average speed, duration, distance, and an assortment of other valuable information about your ride.  More cost typically means more features which can include cadence, heart rate, and more.

  • Shirt - Sure you can throw on a cotton t-shirt, but if you sweat like me your not going to be very comfortable on the hot days.  Most cycling jerseys are made with material that wicks away the sweat so that it dries faster and cools you off.  I personally like the under armor heat gear as well if not better.. I never use those pockets in the back of the cycling jersey's anyway.

  • Pedals - Standard pedals good... toe clips better... clip-less pedals with bike shoes best.  Pedal clips stabilize your foot on the pedal to help prevent slippage as well as allow you to pull up on the pedals for additional force production and exercise.

  • Gloves - Optional, but useful for gripping the handlebars, reducing road vibration through your hands, and wiping sweat from your face.

  • Oh yeah... I almost forgot... you need a bike too!  For the road... mountain bike good (with road tires), hybrid better, road bike best.  My first couple were mountain bikes, but when I started to spend most of my time on the road, I upgraded to a hybrid.  Hybrids have gearing between a mountain bike and a road bike and the handlebars of a mountain bike.  Road bikes have a more aggressive seating position for better aerodynamics and speed and are typically much higher in price than the other ones.   Regardless of the type you choose, the more expensive the bike, the better components and lighter frame you typically get.

Bike to the Bay


For the past 11 years I have participated in the National MS Society's annual MS150 Bike Tour to help raise funds for research and local programs. It's a small thing for me to do for people who face the devastating and relentless effects of MS every day. With each mile I ride, I hope to bring the National MS Society closer to a cure.  The 2007 ride is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30th.

Multiple sclerosis affects lives every moment of every year. At any time, someone with MS may suddenly be unable to stand up, hug their child or see a friend across the room.

This is my second year as a co-captain of the Bank of America team.  If you are interested in participating in the Delaware MS150 Bike to the Bay this year, you can email me at or click here to join Team Bank of America

Sponsor dollars are good too!  If you are able make a charitable donation by sponsoring me for the ride, we can reach our goals that much quicker!  Every dollar contributed will help us to end the devastating effects of MS, sooner rather than later.

Thanks for your support!

Click Here to Sponsor Pete for the
2007 MS 150 Bike to the Bay


Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Russian Twist

People are always searching for great abdominal exercises.  There are probably hundreds of exercise variations out there and plenty of combinations that you can put together to get a great abdominal workout.  There are a bunch of variations of the russian twist, but the concept remains the same.  The twisting motion is excellent for strengthening the upper and lower abs as well as the obliques.  By adding the additional weight of a medicine ball you can up the resistance for even more of a challenge.  (Click here for information on how to make home-made medicine balls)


Target:  stomach and sides (rectus abdominis, obliques)

Count:  2 count

Description:  From a seated position, hold a medicine ball straight out in front of you.  Keeping your arms straight with your elbows locked, twist the ball as far as you can to one side, pause, and twist back to the other side.  The further you lean back, the more difficult the exercise becomes.  Beginners can start without the use of the ball while more advanced people can try performing the exercise on a declined bench or slant board for more resistance.

What Sup?

Dietary supplements are useful primarily to athletes who have a specific nutritional deficiency or who do not take in adequate vitamins and minerals in their normal diet.  Many advertised supplements do not serve any useful purpose.  There are no established nutritional deficiencies associated with sport training that would necessitate supplementation over normal ingestion of food and drink.  Doses of dietary supplements exceeding minimum requirements have not generally been demonstrated to produce ergogenic effects. 

The claims of the manufacturers of dietary supplements are usually so flimsy that they can be dismissed as having no credible basis without the need for conducting expensive experiments.  It is more typically the case that products have simply not been tested for safety, despite the claims on the container or in accompanying literature.  The expensive and elaborate tests necessary to screen all these substances are not practical.  Safety tests are usually performed only after a question of health risk arises.

Athletes can protect themselves against fraud by carefully reading the labels and claims associated with a product.  Products described by vague scientific-sounding jargon, such as “detoxify” and “energize,” probably have no known benefits.

Consumers can help protect themselves against quality control problems by favoring products made according to established manufacturing standards (eg., labled U.S.P.) and from nationally known food an drug manufacturers.  “Natural” has no meaning in terms of safety, as many natural products are also poisons!

The 1994 DSHEA legislation on dietary supplements created a new Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health to correct some of the deficiencies in research and to provide reliable information to the U.S. public on dietary supplements.  Current information can be obtained through their website at .

(Ref: NSCA Essentials of Strength and Conditioning)

Supplementation is often a controversial issue that is debated between the bodybuilding community and various medical and research organizations.  The fact is supplementation is essential in every day life.  Let me clarify this statement... I'm not saying that everyone needs to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on powders and pills, but it is wise to supplement your diet, especially when you are exercising. 

Water is probably the most important and overlooked supplement!  In addition to your standard daily intake, you need to increase your water consumption when exercising.  Besides preventing dehydration, water helps the muscle cells to volumize and function better.  This has a direct impact on athletic performance.

Another commonly recommended supplement for both health and athletic performance is a multi-vitamin.  It seems so basic and simple, but it's very important!  If you are deficient in even one vitamin or mineral, your gains can really be hampered. A good multi-vitamin is a must for the best gains in muscle mass, not to mention good health.  People who are working out need more vitamins than the average couch potato.

Although both water and multi-vitamins are two basic supplements that are beneficial whether you are exercising or not, there are also a great deal of supplements that should not be taken by the average person.  There are still more that you should research first to understand the potential side affects, and proper usage before trying. 

Supplements are named accordingly... they are meant to fill the nutrition gaps that you may have created in your diet.  Medical experts state that most of the benefits that you seek to obtain from supplements should be attainable through eating a well balanced diet.  However, there is an increased need for supplementation among athletes and fitness enthusiasts when frequency and intensity of exercise is elevated and it is not practical to consume the necessary type and quantity of food to provide the required nutrients.

It's Go Time!

So who's not working out... yet?  I don't want to hear that you "don't have time" or "can't get to the gym".  Did you just finish reading this eNewletter?  I just read it again myself and it took me between 5 and 10 minutes to get through it.  As I have mentioned before, it doesn't take much to get a total body workout.  You can do 50 body weight squats, 20 bicycle crunches, and a maximum set of pushups in just a few minutes.  This mini circuit takes hardly any time to do, uses no equipment, and works your lower body, midsection, and upper body.  Next excuse? 

You don't have to wait until you can spend an hour at the gym 5 days a week before you "start" working out.  Just do SOMETHING!  Put the kid in a stroller and do a brisk walk around the block or walk up and down your stairs for a few minutes.  As short as it is, if you do the mini-circuit above a few time a week, then try to work your way up to 2 or 3 circuits per session, you are going to see progress.  Just try to challenge yourself any time the workout gets too easy or switch it up a little if you get bored.  There are literally thousands of exercises out there that you can choose from, many of them that you can do right there in front of the TV.  That's right, put down the bowl of ice cream and step away from the bag of chips!  What's more important anyway?

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Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone." - Thomas Carlyle | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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