Updated: May 26, 2021
“Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.” Dr. K.K. Doty
Quite often, people intending to jump on the fitness and adventure train, are at a loss as to what activity to choose. This may also be the case for those opting to add some variety to their workouts. If you find yourself facing this dilemma, then mountain biking could be the option to consider for dynamic health, fitness and a bit fun!
Take the MTB plunge
Plunge into MTB and immediately start riding many of the well-established trails throughout Trinidad & Tobago. There are options for all levels and styles of riding. This genre of cycling, is rapidly growing in our country and has inevitably opened up the doors to the many benefits the sport has to offer.
Where to go?
The MTB community is quite diverse, hence there are viable options for all styles of riding, experience and skill set. The Chaguaramas network of trails is quite popular and the options immediately off Saaman park offer ideal entry level stuff.
There are however pockets of crews developing features and extending trails within the Chaguaramas area. These aim to give riders a bit more of a challenge. The CoolBlue Adventures crew also lends a hand in this development.
There are also viable options within in the Arena Forest reserve, the Lady Chancellor Hill and environs, the Longdenville Quarries and Couva. Quite a lot of interesting, more advanced stuff is also being developed by the Trail Logic TT crew in Claxton Bay as well as by the Tobago chapter with Team Slow Leak. You can even opt for an endurance focused pedal and choose trails such as Brasso Seco to Paria, for that full body work out.
Benefits and attractive elements of MTB
MTB, like a lot of other physical activities, can play a major role in guarding us against serious conditions such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes. There are however some unique benefits and desirable characteristics that MTB brings to the table.
Low impact fun
Firstly, being a low-impact form of exercise, MTB fosters less strain and injuries brought on by other modalities, such as running. Cycling is also considered a non-load bearing sport, mainly because the act of sitting takes pressure off of your joints and reduces the risk of injuring them.
People of all ages can participate in this activity; it can be done individually, as a group of friends, or as a family activity. It takes you through constant varying stimulus, along nature trails and jeep roads. This effectively makes it a lot less monotonous than other forms of exercise, which in itself, can make us feel demotivated along our journey to fitness good health and fun.
The very nature of this activity promotes fun and adventure. Coasting down hills, riding along trails and just being in the natural environment is very appealing and exciting. This will undoubtedly encourage you to participate on a more regular basis.
Even if you have severe time constraints, you can integrate MTB with elements of your daily routine. This way you can ensure some form of exercise is undertaken, even if you are just fulfilling your minimum requirement. These activities could include going to your local shops, or visiting friends in your neighborhood.
Choose your level then reap the benefits
MTB can be done at a very low intensity level, or you can amp it up to make it quite physically demanding. Experts in the field of physical and mental fitness, suggest that it only takes 2 – 4 hours weekly of cycling, to have an overall enhancement in one’s health and fitness.
Full Body Workout
As you pedal, all major muscle groups become engaged. The dynamics of movement and balance required while mountain biking, contributes tremendously to strengthening your abdominal and core muscles. Climbing and dynamic maneuvering also strengthens your upper body and help you achieve that full body workout.
Cardio Fitness, Endurance and Strength
MTB is considered to be an excellent way to increase endurance, strength and cardio fitness. It engages large muscle groups that require a lot of oxygen. This makes the heart work steadily and in turn, increases its fitness by 3-7%.
This is backed up by medical research undertaken by pioneers in the field, where studies conclude that cardiovascular workouts accomplished by cycling, stimulates the heart, blood vessels and lungs. They also endorse cycling as an excellent medium to increase muscle strength and flexibility; increase joint mobility; help with posture and coordination; strengthen bones; reduce body fat; prevent and manage diseases and even play a role in reducing stress levels, anxiety, and depression.
This disease category includes stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. Through improved blood circulation, conditioning of the heart and lungs and reduced blood fat levels gained from regular MTB, the risk of suffering from any of these can be reduced. This has been evidenced by medical research undertaken in the field, where studies have concluded that persons who cycled regularly, were a lot less prone to heart disease.
More cycling... less cancer and diabetes
Studies in Finland have shown a link between regular cycling and lower susceptibility to bowel and breast cancer. These studies also propose direct links between cycling and the reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes. This is based on 30 minutes of cycling per day.
Arthritis and bone injuries
Based on the low impact, yet increased strength, balance and coordination achieved through MTB, it can be considered a viable exercise option for persons suffering from arthritis.
Stress reduction and mood improvement
Depending on your riding style, MTB can be quite vigorous. This can stimulate your body to release natural endorphins; the body’s way of feeling good and getting more energy. This can also boost your serotonin levels which contributes to reducing depression and anxiety levels.
A popular element of MTB is the single track. If you opt to explore this riding style, you would require focus and attention. This in itself, can serve as a form of meditation which can help you relax and take your mind off any life stresses which in turn can lead to anxiety and depression.
Improved balance and coordination
We have indicated that MTB is a dynamic activity that requires adapting to varying terrain. Maintaining stability and fluidity on a MTB, not only keeps you from 'spilling', but also strengthens neural pathways and reinforces muscle memory. In essence, the sport combines functionality of the brain, our senses, muscles and the nervous system. This directly improves your balance and coordination capacity. As we progress through life, we should keep these systems active and MTB is the perfect medium.
Get better sleep
Subsequent to a ride, it is not abnormal to feel exhausted and worn out. This in itself, promotes better regenerative sleep. The more intense the ride, the more our cortisol levels are depleted; this is the hormone which keeps us awake and alert. On a side note, riding earlier in the day also promotes your body's production of Vitamin D.
Medical research has linked enhanced cardio-respiratory fitness to improved mental capacity. These studies conclude that cardio-respiratory improvement (which can be achieved through MTB), promotes the building of brain cells in the hippocampus; this is the region of the brain responsible for memory. The concept is that the increased capacity will boost blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This in turn, stimulates and regenerates receptors. The theory of how exercise helps offset Alzheimer's disease is based on this concept
Healthy social interactions are key to being happy and content. Mountain biking is quite often, a social activity shared by clubs, friends and families. It offers the ideal opportunity to make new friends and bond with like minded individuals.
In addition to this, learning new skills and techniques by participating in this sport, would also boost your self-esteem and confidence levels.
Your dose of Green Therapy
Drawing from one of our previous blogs, MTB is actually the perfect medium to get your fix of 'Green Therapy'. In an instant, you can be off the beaten path and be immersed in nature.
Spending more time on your MTB could also make you more environmentally conscious and hence promote more environmentally conscious practices. This would benefit our wider society.
SO Start Pedaling!
With these benefits highlighted and knowledge of the world class terrain available in T&T for Mountain Biking, the stage is now set for you to embark on or continue with your MTB adventures. Jumping on that saddle is without a doubt, a win/win situation!
If you need assistance getting that start, please visit: https://www.coolblueadventures.com/mountain-biking