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  • Writer's pictureA Girl and Her eBike

So is my fitness improving? Hell yeah ...

I am generally not one who shares a lot of personal information about myself but today is different. I’ve been forced off Sparky for a short time whilst recovering from a knee arthroscopy for a torn meniscus and it’s given me some time to reflect on my eBike journey to date, particularly in relation to my fitness journey, which I thought might be interesting to share.

Now my reasons for exercising have never been about anything other than an intense love for the great outdoors. I never have been and never will be a gym junkie. My outdoor pursuits are purely for pleasure rather than for achieving any particular fitness goals. Having said that, I did start recording my rides on Sparky, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when we first went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a large number of velocity points whose future value were looking very uncertain, so I decided to use a significant amount to purchase a new Apple Watch - I now had a fitness tracker - yay !! Secondly, you cannot improve what you can't measure, so here was my opportunity to see if riding an eBike really could improve my fitness.

I've heard all the "that's cheating" chants about eBike riding, and I still hear them. I can say however, that riding many kms, even on an eBike, up and down some of the hills around here in the Tweed Valley sure feels like exercise to me. But regardless of how I feel, what does the data tell me?

I record all my rides on my Apple Watch using the Strava App, and identify all rides as eBike rides - from what I understand about Strava, its fitness measurements are based on relative effort and on heart rate data, not on the type of workout. It identifies patterns in your training, and allows you to see the big picture of how all your workouts are adding up over time. The score is entirely relative to me only, and serves as a benchmark.

It seems pretty obvious from the Strava fitness graph that my fitness has definitely improved. The drop in my fitness level over this last week is because I've not been riding Sparky due to my knee arthroscopy - just as I would expect when I'm not able to exercise, so I'm confident the data is accurate.

My Apple Watch activity app also records VO2 Max, which is apparently a measure of Cardio Fitness. Remember, I'm no fitness freak, so thanks to Ecosia (my preferred search engine that plants trees for every search I do) I learned that "VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilise during exercise. It's commonly used to test the aerobic endurance or cardiovascular fitness of athletes before and at the end of a training cycle. VO2 max is measured in millilitres of oxygen consumed in one minute, per kilogram of body weight (mL/kg/min)."

As at today, my Apple Watch has recorded my VO2 Max as 34.

So what does that mean? Again, thanks to Ecosia, apparently it indicates my cardiovascular fitness is in the top 20% of women my age, and I'm in the lowest health risk category of cardiovascular disease. Seriously? But I ride an eBike ... isn't that cheating? Apparently not ...

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