Health, Fitness and Motorcycle Riding....
There's a saying that goes: “Motorcycle off-road training academies are not fitness gyms, and fitness gyms are not motorcycle off-road training academies.” This is true, and I think one of the needs people neglect to take into consideration when it comes to adventure off-road riding is - physical fitness. I see it all the time as a professional off-road instructor. Training days come along and whether it be a one-day introductory to off-road riding course or a weekend intermediate course, without fail one of the main complaints from the students is: “My arms are getting tired”. Considering that most of us are not used to having to use our hands and arms in the way that we do during an off-road training course all day, this is pretty normal. But it just goes to show that motorcycle riding (especially adventure off-road and enduro riding) is an activity where you get to be physically active and where you need to have some level of fitness.
According to studies, motorcycle riders have healthier and stronger knees and thighs. Think about it. Especially in off-road riding, we’re forever sitting down and standing up and moving around on the bike, so this makes sense. Motorcycle riders generally have a strong core. Hey, motorcycle riding is definitely more fun than sit ups! And if you have a heart rate monitor or device that can tell you how many calories you’ve burned whilst exercising, wear it the next time you go riding on your bike. You’ll be amazed at how many calories you burn whilst out on a ride with your buddies. You could burn between 200 - 300 calories an hour on your bike! Beats running on a treadmill right? Plus, it can help lower cholesterol and insulin levels!
Apart from the physical advantages, motorcycle riding also bears great advantages for your mental and emotional health. Studies have shown that riding a motorcycle can help improve your memory and increase your spatial reasoning capacity and levels of concentration, because navigating a motorcycle needs more work physically and mentally than driving a car, and this activates the prefrontal areas of the brain. As for emotional fitness: “You’ll never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office.” The total sense of freedom whilst out riding, whether it be on your own or with a group of friends are guaranteed to lower your stress levels and get some adrenalin and serotonin flowing. As we all know - serotonin is the happy hormone! So riding a motorcycle just makes you…happy!
Now, although riding a motorcycle has all these amazing benefits to it, it is well worth considering that you need to keep fit when you’re not riding your bike, so you can reap the benefits when you are on your bike. Fitness, like just about anything else in life that you want to maintain and keep improving on, is something you need to be working at constantly and consistently in your life. How do I do it? Well, I keep fit when I’m not on the bike by going to Crossfit on a regular basis. It’s a two way exchange - motorcycle riding helps improve your fitness, but it is also much easier to ride and maneuver your bike for extended periods of time when you are physically fit. I discovered the wonderful world of Crossfit and it’s very long list of benefits about 5 months ago when I walked into Sledgehammer Crossfit. Here I quickly learned terms and lingo used in the box like: ‘cleans’, ‘snatches’, ‘burpees’ and all the workouts named after girls. What is Crossfit? If you asked me I’d say it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, apart from being attacked in Angola (thats a whole other story...), discovering the internal combustion engine and meeting some of you gals and guys that have supported me over the years!
If I had to give you the technical description it would be: “Performing functional movements that are constantly varied at high intensity. These movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing and more. Crossfit is a core strength and conditioning program.” And I LOVE it! I haven’t felt this strong in a long time, and I used to cycle in excess of 80 kilometers per day for extended periods of time. It’s intense, but so rewarding. Like motorcycle riding, you become part of a very big family when you sign up for Crossfit. Which is probably why I like it so much. For more info on Crossfit and how you can sign up and get involved visit the Sledgehammer Crossfit webpage.
So remember, although motorcycle riding offers you all these amazing and wonderful health benefits, you need to keep working at it when you’re not out riding as well. Whether it be Crossfit, running, going to your local gym or partaking in another sport - you only have this one body. Take care of it and it and it will make things easier for you.