The best cycling apps

mark-dziuban-cycling-apps

Like most aerobic fitness endeavors, cycling requires hard work in a variety of ways: commitment to training, planning routes and loops, developing a weekly schedule that works with your unique employment routine, and making sure your bike is regularly maintained for optimal performance.

With so many variables constantly at play, a biker’s life can occasionally be as hectic as it is relaxing and addictive. Luckily, there are a variety of technological resources available to make cycling an easier and smoother process, namely a long list of useful smartphone apps dedicated to the sports’ most crucial fundamentals.

Here are a few of the best cycling apps.

 

Strava

Strava has risen as a household name in fitness-based smartphone app technology. Aimed mainly at cyclists, runners, and walkers, the app records periods of activity and allows users to simultaneously log them and share them with other Strava users. For cyclists, the app is a great tool for monitoring rides and recording time over set segments.

 

Bike Gear Calculator

Simply titled, but infinitely useful, the Bike Gear Calculator app “is a quick way to compare different gears on your bike and on setups you’re considering, and for seeing how fast you’ll be travelling in a given gear at a particular cadence (pedal revolutions per minute).” The app serves as a great measuring tool and foresight resource for upcoming rides and races.

 

Cyclemeter

Cyclemeter’s main strength is its ability to use past and current experiences to contribute to future training approaches. The app implements GPS ride data to store your progress, focusing primarily on speed, distance, and overall time.

 

Garmin Connect Mobile

Like Strava, Garmin Connect Mobile stands as a popular resource among many different types of aerobic athletes. Specifically for cyclists, the app provides an advanced ride logging system through the Garmin Connect database, which can also be shared across Strava, MyFitnessPal, and other leading fitness-based apps. By using this app, cyclists will also have access to other Garmin features such as LiveTrack, which allows others to track you in real time during a ride.

 

Fill that Hole
Fundamentally different than the other apps on this list, Fill that Hole is a unique and quirky app designed to let cyclists report potholes and other road hazards to local authorities. The UK-based service strives to make the hazard reporting process easier and less micromanaged in terms of communication. After all, a roadside direct line of communication is a lot easier to navigate than a weekly municipal government meeting.

The miracle drug for health

mark dziuban, miracle drug for health

If I told you I have found a pill that has been scientifically proven to slow down the effects of aging, improve your mood, reduce chronic pain, lower your risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer, slow down or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s, prevent diabetes, improve your sex drive…all while helping you lose weight and improve your overall physique, would you want to start taking it? How about if I told you it was absolutely free, would you want it even more? What if I told you this one pill, when taken regularly and in the correct dosage would also help you get off most, or all of your prescribed medications saving you potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year when meeting health insurance deductibles and co-pays.

If this drug did in fact exist, would you want it? Well it does exist and it’s called *exercise*!

Let’s dig a little deeper.

It’s a scientific fact exercise improves the health of your cardiovascular system by increasing the strength of your heart. This enables your heart to pump more efficiently, therefore creating better blood circulation throughout your body delivering fresh oxygen to your now busy muscle groups and removing nasty toxins out of your body. Not only does exercise increase the size and strength of your muscles but it also increases the density of your bones. This is critical as we age.

Most recently exercise is now linked to overall good brain health providing better memory, less depression, improving comprehension and is now considered one of the best ways to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

So, what types of exercise are beneficial? Basically there are two types of exercise. First let’s talk about Aerobics. Think Jane Fonda. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and breathing but not to a point of exhaustion. A brisk walk, a bike ride, raking leaves or mowing the lawn all require an increase in our heart and breathing rates. You can even take a slow paced jog through your neighborhood, run at a pace that allows you to have a conversation with a running partner.

Secondly, strength training or anaerobic exercise. Many people associate this type of training with sweaty gyms filled with sweaty guys pumping several hundred pounds of weights-not necessarily true. Strength training can be quite simple and easy to incorporate into our daily routines. Body weight exercises, done regularly such as push-ups, planks, and air squats can provide a challenge while promoting weight loss and improved, but not necessarily bigger, muscle tone. An inexpensive set of resistance training bands provide enough resistance to achieve noticeable results, and they pack easily into your suitcase so you can continue your workout regimen while traveling, no sweaty gyms required here! Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi are also great forms of body weight exercise promoting overall good health.

It’s recommended most adults exercise 150 minutes each week, (in addition to what you may already be doing), and also incorporate 2 sessions of resistance training each week will provide appreciable results. Remember, consistency is key.

The benefits of exercise are simply too numerous to list. 45 minutes, 3 times each week of easy aerobic work and 2 sessions of your choice of strength training every week is all it takes.

In the mid 1600’s an English doctor was quoted saying, “Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

So, let’s take advantage of this miracle drug and get started!

Remember, “If you want it, you’ve got to go get it!”

Finding the Right Mountain Bike

Mountain Biking Handlebars

Breaking into the world of mountain biking can be a daunting task for someone who wants to buy their first bike. There are a few factors you should consider before you go out and buy a bike at your local department store. Do you want to go fully rigid, hardtail, or full suspension? Do you want clipless pedals or flats? How many gears do I want? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to choose the perfect bike.

Riding Style

The first thing you should research before buying a mountain bike is the terrain where you will be riding. Will you be shredding flowy downhill sections with moderate climbs peppered in, or will you be powering through rock gardens on mostly flat terrain? It could also be a mix of both. If you are going to be riding primarily flowy single tracks with a lot of climbing involved, you will want to go with a rigid or hardtail bike to maximize your climbs. With a full suspension bike, you’ll be losing ground each time you pedal and compress your rear shock, which will make your climbs much more labor intensive. If you plan on riding in rocky terrain, a full suspension bike is going to be your best friend. New suspension technology makes riding a mountain bike feel like you are driving a luxury car.

Pedals

One of the biggest learning curves I experienced when I got serious about mountain biking was learning how to unclip from my pedals. The pros to clipless pedals heavily outweigh the cons.  You can feel a dramatic difference in climbs by being able to pull and push with each pedal stroke, essentially doubling your output while you climb. You also have much more control over your bike since you are clipped in and attached to the pedals. Being clipped in is a double-edged sword, and results in the only downside to clipless pedals. If you are not familiar with unclipping, you will easily topple over whenever you go to put your foot down without properly rotating out of the clips. Once you are over the learning curve, you will never go back to flats.

Gear Ratio

There are a few different options when it comes to the gears on your mountain bike. It seems like most major bike manufacturers are producing one-by mountain bikes in 2017. The mentality behind this transition comes from the idea that most people don’t use all the gears on a 27-speed bike. By eliminating the extra chainrings, bike companies are also able to make bikes lighter. My advice to beginners is to always have more gears. When you’re out on the trail, you may need that extra low gear to get back to your car. As you gain experience, you may find that you no longer need the added weight and opt to convert to a one-by. If you are really feeling adventurous, you could convert your bike to a single-speed, but at that point, I feel like riding is more of a chore than something you are enjoying.

Mountain biking is a great way to spend time outdoors while still getting an intense workout in. The mountain biking community is an accepting and fun crowd that is always up for the next adventure. Do yourself a favor and find your nearest mountain biking club so you’ll never have to ride alone.

Seven Gifts for the Workout Enthusiast in Your Life

 

What’s more fun than writing a blog about all of the gifts that you’d like to receive? Not much, in my mind. Lucky for me, I have a lot of workout junkies and health nuts in my family, so doing a bit of pre-holiday research comes just in time.

Take a look at the following roundup provided by Refinery29. Take note: these gifts are primarily aimed for those who simply can’t go a day without their workout fix. The marathon runner; the kale smoothie maker, the cyclist who rides each morning despite the rain. What’s really cool–these gifts are out of the box. They special or unique while still catering to that adventurous spirit.

  1. For the Yogi

La Vie Boheme Medina Yoga Mat, $86, available at La Vie Boheme.

Take a look at this funky mat. Practical and full of style, this mat will provide your favorite Yogi with hours of inspiring motivation.

  1. For the Runner

Road Runner RPI Travel Stick, $27.99, available at Road Runner.

I have about four different tools like this one at home yet this seems to be a perfect model. Small in size, this muscle tamer will travel well with you no matter where you’re headed next. Why I like this? The gift is thoughtful. You’re not giving the runner in your life another gift card to the Sporting Goods emporium. This one comes from experience. And that’s something everybody loves to receive.

  1. For the Multi-Trainer

SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask, $34.99, available at Nathan Sports.

Anyone who has participated in multi-race events will understands the true gift of the water bottle that carries you from land to bike to sea. Shower your ambitious friend with this upgraded model that even has built in compartments for keys, ID, and emergency fuel.

  1. The Ultimate Stocking Stuffer

Gu Energy Gel, $34.80, available at Gu Energy.

Why go for candy when you can stuff these covetable energy gems inside your loved ones’ stockings? Great for runners, cyclists, and hikers, these on-the-go power packs will give you the fuel you need to complete that last few miles.

  1. For the True Glamper

Primus Onja 2 Burner Stove, $139.95, available at REI.

Check out this upgraded camping stove that’s designed for the true glamper. What exactly is a glamper?

  1. For the sweetheart in your life

Weightlifting Necklace, $11.95, available at Etsy.

Sometimes traditional charms just won’t cut it. Check out this sterling silver necklace adorned with tiny replicas of all your favorite crossfit gear.

  1. For the person who’s always on the go

Skullcandy XTFree Wireless Headphones, $99.99, available at Skullcandy.

The revolution in wireless headphones has just begun. Gift this high tech set and your loved one will be rocking the latest

Why Cycling? Reasons Why Cycling Should Become Your Next Addiction

There are countless hobbies and activities in the world that people take up every day, but few are as valuable as cycling. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider adopting this healthy habit.

Lose Weight and Increase Health

Not only can cycling promote weight loss, but this form of exercise can also improve your body’s overall well-being. This activity is an extremely effective way to burn calories depending on the intensity of the ride, and size of the rider, using several muscle groups throughout. According to National Healthcare Provider Solutions, cycling can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by up to 50% as well.

Photo of a bike and cyclist

Be Happier

With exercise comes a rush of endorphins. Cycling is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can perform, and in turn, can reduce stress. If you’re feeling down or having a bad day, just a 30-minute bike ride is all it takes to release a surge of endorphins powerful enough to counter any negativity that you’re harboring. Introducing cycling into your weekly routine can create long lasting benefits to your mental health.

Become Environmentally Friendly

Perhaps one of the more obvious upsides to cycling is the eco-friendly aspect. Unlike driving a car, bicycles use no fuel, require no batteries or motor oil, and take little energy to make, all of which can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. In addition to helping out our planet, cycling also decreases traffic congestion, making that daily commute just a little bit easier for everyone on the road.

Kick Unhealthy Habits

Developing a positive addiction to cycling can take the place of any harmful dependencies you may struggle with, whether those are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or overeating. Devoting time to this new hobby will reduce time available to give in to these unhealthy habits, and can create a routine that will eventually phase them out entirely.

Photo of a bike and cyclist

Bond with Friends and Family

Cycling is arguably one of the most social physical activities you can be a part of. Chances are there is a cycling club in or around your local area, in which you can build new friendships and connections within the community. This is also a hobby that the whole family can enjoy. The youngest of family members can join the ride in a bike seat and enjoy the scenery, while the oldest can ride alongside themselves, enjoying the fact that cycling is easy on the joints. With how impressionable children are, this also a great way to develop healthy habits early on, as they will see how cycling is a standard part of your day and want to mimic your actions.

So, if you’re seeking a new hobby, a different form of exercise or just an activity to remove the mundane from your life, cycling is one of your best options. Research what bicycles may work best for you, strap on a helmet, and begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Photo of a bike and cyclist

The Athlete’s Guide to Packing

Runner in the summer heat

 

When you’re an athlete and love to being active, traveling can be a little different for you than for others. Do you pack your gear? How do you perform your specific routines? Rest assured, here are a few tips to make your travels fun–not stressful!

 

Packing for the trip

 

While you may not be planning to compete in a race or competition on your trip, it’s likely that you’ll do some kind of physical activity. I love traveling to national parks and other beautiful outdoor areas, which involves a significant amount of hiking or cycling. You’ll need to pack items for these activities, in addition to what you’d normally pack for a regular day, unless you’re planning to spend the entire trip doing physical activity.

 

First of all, pack lightly and well ahead of time. You’re going to be carrying all of your luggage and gear, whether it’s just from the airport to wherever you’re staying or for hours while hiking or exploring. Pack only the essentials; if you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll need something, then don’t take it! An extra shirt is easy to buy. Straining your muscles carrying too much is not an easy fix. Pack a few days ahead of time, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to find everything you’ll need, and then risk forgetting something incredibly important. Pack fitness clothes, for whatever climate you’ll be in, and also any medications or small items you might need. Bring along a portable phone charger, so when you’re active, you don’t have to stop and find a power source. Make sure you have appropriate footwear, along with all the gear you’ll use.

 

Van on bike trip

 

On the trip

 

On your trip, it’s important to keep your normal routines. Maybe you’re just traveling for leisure, but it’s important to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. Stick to a workout routine and get plenty of sleep, especially if you’re competing in a race or competition during your travels. Sleeping enough is vital to performing at your best.

 

If you’re traveling for leisure, remember to take time to be active. You could rent bikes or go for a run, as long as you planned ahead and brought the right gear. For a run, all you need are your sneakers and an idea of where you’re going. Download Map My Run for a great workout experience. This app gives you a route and even tracks your mileage. You won’t have to worry about getting lost! Another great app is Nike+ Training Club. This app provides various workouts for you, most of which don’t involve any equipment. It’s perfect for when you’re on the go, but still need to exercise.
Finally, remember to stay hydrated and take care of yourself! You may be traveling to a warmer climate than you’re used to, and if you’re physically active, you might become dehydrated. Take a water bottle with you that will quench your thirst and allow you to be active without worrying about water consumption. Besides hydrating, eat healthy food and keep a balanced diet. I’ve mentioned the importance of sleep already, but make sure you get enough! Traveling is stressful on your body and you’ll want to practice initiatives that keep you in great shape.

Hikers running up a mountain

What Makes America Great? RAGBRAI

 

Instead of Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie…..Try Bicycles, Pork and RAGBRAI

 

RAGBRAI: bike break

 

To say that this July ended on a high note, might just be the biggest understatement of the year. Just last week, a group of friends and I headed to the heart of the great American Midwest, for what has easily been the best week of my 2016 summer.

The Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, is an event that has been taking place in Iowa for over four decades, and is steeped in rich American culture and history. Two editors at The Register newspaper challenged one another to bike across the state of Iowa back in 1973, as a way to generate original content for their publication. The pair invited the public to join them, and to their surprise, over 500 participants biked alongside of them each day. Check out this site to learn more about the birth of RAGBRAI. 

 

 

My Experience

As a seasoned racer, I have completed several marathons, triathlons, and other physical endurance events in recent years. None of that could have prepared me for the experience that I would have as a RAGBRAI participant. Rather than being competitive in nature, RAGBRAI exists as more of a community event that brings people together. This festival-like party on a bike introduced me to a part of this country I would have otherwise been naïve to knowing. The race is not comprised of elite athletes, or seasoned gym goers – but rather a melting pot of people who want in on this shared adventure. A comradery existed between us on the course as it wound through the state of Iowa, and we were somehow connected to the people who greeted us at each town along the way. It transported me to a simpler time, a time that younger generations may never fully know. A time when everyone was welcome, there are no judgments and people were proud of their towns.  Everyone laid their bike on the side of the road to venture to the many booths of food, drink and support at each small town along the course.  There was no worry of your bike being stolen or ever feeling unsafe, it was perfect.

This 44-year old event is a point of pride for the great state of Iowa, as it should be. Farmers along the route offered riders cold beverages, hot homemade pie, and an unwavering support that is hard to describe.

With up to 20,000 riders each day, the course changes each year. For 2016, the RAGBRAI course led us 420 miles through the beautiful southern Iowa rolling landscape, with a daily average of about 60 miles. Without any pressure to compete, or to get done before your friends, we were able to enjoy the scenery, take in the culture, and truly experience a unique moment in history. Check out these route maps

 

 

Logistics  

We went with a group called Team Sherm which was passed down to the sons of the originators of the name.  Our team leaders, Jon Castle and Brian Halm, have been doing this ride for nearly 30 years, both having joined in on the tradition as children.  They handled all the logistics from getting a U-Haul and driver, to arranging for our sleeping venues.  Many people camp every night, some even carrying their own supplies on their bike, but we only camped one night and the rest of the nights were either at a YMCA, host homes, or local businesses.  The local businesses and host homes were especially nice, because these people welcomed us sweaty cyclist they have never met into their home for showers and at least a floor to sleep on and breakfast.  This experience was what I envision backpacking through Europe would be like.  Staying in youth hostels or host homes.  Not the most restful sleeps, but sometimes these little inconveniences make you appreciate the things you take for granted, like a fluffy dry bed and an air conditioned home.  Again, the hospitality shown to us every single day was unlike anything else.  I have had the fortune to stay at the finest hotels in various spots all over the world, and not even the outstanding service provided by The Four Seasons can compare to this genuine Midwest hospitality.

Other logistics:  My group drove from Chicago to Muscatine (the last town on the east side of Iowa this year), and caught a bus on the Friday before the event to take us and our gear to the start town in Glenwood Springs (the west starting town).  We met Team Sherm in the start town on Friday.  For this transfer from East to West, Our Team leader suggested OOS (Out of State Bicycle Club). This group also will move your gear from town to town, but you will be camping every night.

 

Don’t Hesitate! Make RAGBRAI a MUST for Your Bucket list

I can’t tell you enough good things about this incredible event. Even if you are thinking about participating next year, I encourage you to go for it. If you would like to experience RAGBRAI and Apple Pie for yourself, I highly recommend you contact Jon Castle: jcastle523@comcast.net. Get yourself on the list for next year.

Whether you can commit to one day, or the full seven, I promise you won’t regret it!

 

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