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The Benefits of Bicycling – 6 Steps in Turning it Into a Normal Exercise Regimen
The benefits of cycling for one’s fitness and health are obvious. Any form of regular exercise, followed weekly, is good for one’s long-term health. Exercise is beneficial to the human body. By following a specific fitness regime it helps an individual to improve his/her cardiovascular system and reduces blood pressure in the body. Along with following a diet plan and eating healthy, regular weekly exercise helps keep excess weight off.
I have been an avid cyclist for over 30 years. Instead of getting car keys on my 16th birthday, my parents went out and bought me a 10-speed bike. I know that 10 speeds for a bike today would be considered old fashioned. But remember this was back in the summer of 1973. Even though I ran track in high school, and became all-state in short sprints by the time I graduated, I found love in cycling. A few years later while I was attending college, I would have about five weeks off between the time that school would let out after finishing the semester finals , and when I started my job as a summer camp counselor. During those five weeks, instead of sitting on the couch every day and watching television for hours at a time, I got out on my bike and rode around the perimeter town where I lived at the time. My usual route was about 25-30 miles. It involved climbing several hills, but after each exercise I felt energized.
As I mentioned earlier, I also ran track in high school and later in college. After I graduated, I continued the running routine. However, I turned into a distance runner, often hitting the roads for three or four miles of training. I used to live in New England through my 30’s, and while I still rode my bike in the summer, it was impossible to do so when there were several inches of snow. on the streets. So, I also did a lot of running.
Finally, the long distance I did for about fifteen years wore me down. The relentless pounding of my lower body on the pavements on these streets resulted in sore feet and sore knees. I also experienced pain in the Achilles tendon on my right leg. I knew I had to stop running, which I did, for fear that the Achilles tendon would just snap due to the years of stress I put on it.
I never gave up on cycling though. As a matter of fact, I increased the amount of exercise on my bike to maintain a level of physical fitness. That is one of the benefits of cycling for one’s fitness and health. On a bike, your lower joints don’t get the same amount of stress compared to a runner. My legs, knees, and especially my Achilles tendon are not nearly as stressed as when I was running four times a week. I am now 52 years old. And, several times a week I take my bike out and ride it. The only stress I experience is climbing the mountains that are part of my exercise routine. And I feel energized when my workout is done.
If you don’t participate in regular exercise and want to get back in shape, I suggest you consider cycling to meet your needs. I’ve outlined 6 steps, below, in which you can turn cycling into something that benefits you health-wise.
1). If you haven’t invested in any exercise for several years, it’s always best to consult your doctor or primary care physician. He/she will set up an exercise routine for you to get started.
2).You may already have an old bicycle that has been in the garage for many years, and is still in working condition. Take it out, take it to a reputable bike repair shop, and let them put in the maintenance work to get it in good working order. Above all else, you should have a bike that is safe to ride. If you don’t have a bike; be it a street/road or off-road mountain bike, you can invest in one. It is not necessary for you to invest thousands of dollars in a bike. To begin with, an investment of two to four hundred dollars in a new type of bicycle would be more than adequate.
3). Buy a good bike helmet first before you start riding. This should be mandatory. I know that I, personally, would not even think about getting on my bike without a helmet on. A good bike helmet would cost around $50-75. Many good helmets come with a foam pad insert that can be adjusted to fit the size of your head. I never want anyone to have any safety issues on their bike. However, if an unfortunate event should occur; an injury to a leg, arm or shoulder would cause fewer problems than something happening to a person’s head. Protect your head. If adults have children going out on bike rides together, the younger ones must also ride with a helmet. As a matter of fact, the adult should be a model for the son or daughter, educationally, that riding with a bicycle helmet is essential.
4). Take it slow and easy at first. Ideally, you could not expect to go out on a ten mile ride, completing the route within an hour when you first start your bike. At first, your body won’t allow it. You may experience muscle fatigue when you are done. In fact, you would be wise to stretch your leg muscles as a warm-up before moving. When you’re done, do some more stretching to get rid of the lactic acid that may have built up in your muscles while riding. Above all, start your workout with short trips. Ride your bike only twice a week, to allow your body to build strength and endurance. Remember, Rome was not conquered in one day.
5). Buy yourself a water bottle and while you ride, drink plenty of fluids. Your body loses fluids as you cycle through the normal sweat process. You want to keep yourself as hydrated as possible while you ride. Drink plenty of fluids after you finish your ride as well to replenish the minerals you lost while exercising.
6). Remember to follow the rules of the road. Ride as close to the shoulder of a road as possible. I enjoy, as part of my cycle route, riding on a clear, designated cycle lane, and later on a cycle/running track where no motorized vehicles are allowed. This is not very possible where you live. I would even consider investing ten dollars on a rear view mirror to go on either your left handlebar, or one that attaches to your helmet. Also, wear a brightly colored shirt so you can see motorists. Obey all traffic laws, including stopping at traffic signals. Use proper hand signals when you know you will be turning in traffic situations. I used to go on cycling holidays with a well known company that specialized in business. The company’s bike tour guides used to be the best at marking our turn signals, which would allow vehicle drivers to fully understand our goals. This was when we were turning left; you would point your left arm straight with the index finger extended out. When you make a right turn, you make the same movement with your right arm and your right index finger extended out. Do these tasks well in advance of the time you would make the switch. I’ve heard of other turn signals, which don’t really let the driver know your intentions clearly. For example: Simply hold your right arm straight up to indicate a right turn. This can be interpreted as a vague signal to a vehicle driver. Does this action mean you intend to stop? Are you going to turn right? Do you say hello to the driver, telling him that you are aware that he/she is behind you? No, you should make your intentions very clear by following the practice above for signaling a turn by yourself, the bike. Any other sign could cause confusion for the vehicle driver, and an unfortunate accident involving the bike for you.
So, get out there and let your body benefit through a regular cycling workout.
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