If one of the aims of your cycling workouts is to burn calories, you might be one of the millions of Americans who have purchased one of the new pieces of technology for tracking your progress. Many cyclists look to products like Garmin or Fitbit to track their distance traveled and number of calories burned, but many wonder how much they can really trust these numbers.
According to Stephen Cheung, PhD, a professor and cycling author, these devices can be either extremely accurate or completely off base, depending on a variety of factors. It’s important to understand how to keep your numbers accurate in order to get the most out of these new tools.
Here are some ways to ensure an accurate calorie count for your cycling workout:
- Make sure you enter your weight honestly and precisely: Nobody but you should ever have to know the current weight you put into your device, so it’s best to tell the truth. Try not to just ballpark it either. Your weight tells the device how much energy you are using, since it takes a lot more work for a 200-pound person to do a two mile climb than a 150-pound person. Be honest and precise, and your tools will reward you with more accurate numbers.
- Use a heart monitor: A heart rate monitor is one of the older pieces of exercise tech out there. It lets you know just how much your body is working. If you don’t use a heart monitor, your computer will make its calculations based solely on your weight and the riding conditions. Since there are a wide range of other factors that may contribute to the amount of energy you are using, a heart rate monitor can help you get a more accurate number. Sync it with your computer for the best results.
- Consider a Power Meter: A power meter will measure the amount of work you are putting in and give the number in kilojoules. Power meters are one of the most accurate ways of measuring calories and are used by professional trainers throughout the world. Integrate this device with your heart monitor and exercise computer device for the best results.
- Remember the bigger picture: Don’t forget that the number of calories burned from a ride should never be your only focus. A short, intense ride can be a great training breakthrough, even if it doesn’t burn many calories. Focus on continuing to put in the work, and know that calories are not everything.
New technology can be a great way to track your progress and stay focused. It helps to know you are doing all you can to get the most out of your purchases. Of course, it’s also good to keep prospective. Remember that people were getting in shape on their bikes for decades before these tools ever came along. The primary focus should always be on your form and your safety.
Frederick M. Dudek is a San Diego personal injury attorney with an exceptional passion and expertise for fighting for victims of bicycle accidents.