It’s no secret that many people turn to cycling after running. Many of our own customers, like Glenna Lampner, hung up their running shoes for cycling shoes. Others, like Maureen Fagan, supplement their running with cycling to minimize injuries. But, others, like Joshua Kline, take up running to supplement their cycling.
Cycling is great cross-training for runners. But, does it work the other way as well? Might cyclists consider picking up running? We read about one elite Norwegian cyclist who improved his time trial by adding high-intensity running to his routine. Check this out:
[This cyclist] chose to attempt to increase his preseason fitness compared to the preceding year by reducing his time on the bike and replacing a portion of that lost cycling time with high-intensity running. Specifically, between November and February, this athlete reduced his average monthly riding volume by 60 percent. Within this period he inserted two blocks of high-intensity interval run training… These intervals were performed at 90 to 95 percent of maximum heart rate.
You can read more details about the study here. What we’re most interested in are the results of the study.
…what this study does clearly demonstrate is that running is an effective form of cross-training for cyclists — at least when it’s done at a high intensity. These results, which were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, suggest that cyclists who have trouble getting outdoors to train during the winter, and/or wish to reduce their training volume without sacrificing fitness, and/or need a mental break from turning the cranks would be well advised to ride less and replace a fraction of their easy riding with fast running.
Study aside, here are my thoughts:
Both sports require a lot of leg strength. They both tax the body cardiovascularly as well as muscularly. Stabilizing muscles play a role in keeping cyclists balanced on the bike and efficient through their pedal stroke; they are equally important in keeping runners upright and efficient in their running gait.
That said, cycling and running are also very different. As one article points out, cycling involves concentric muscle action, meaning that you’re contracting (shortening) your muscle. Running, however, involves a lot of “braking,” which is an eccentric muscle action. There are other differences too. Depending on the type of riding or running, different cardiovascular systems are being used.
Differences aside, one reason that cyclists might be compelled to take up running is for the flexibility is offers – especially to those who travel. While it’s possible to travel with a bike, no one can deny the ease of a sport that requires only a pair of shoes.
Running offers a great opportunity to get to know a place, even if you’re only in town for a short business trip. Anything from a trail to an open road will do.
In severe weather or when pressed for time, you’ll certainly find a treadmill in your hotel gym. When time is an issue, you can get in an intense workout in a much shorter time.
Running can be hard on the body, which is why it is important to start slowly – and not just with speed.
A mistake a lot of people make is assuming that we are all born with an innate knowledge of how to run. Sadly, we are not. That’s why investing in a good running coach in the beginning can mean the difference between a lifetime of running and being injured on the sidelines.
Just like a proper bike fit allows you to ride faster and more efficiently, running with proper form will lessen the stress you put on your body and will allow you to go faster. Proper form, in cycling and running, will help you stay injury-free.
Running more slowly speed-wise is a good idea too. When people are new to running, I often advise them to run/walk. Start with walking three minutes and running two. If that feels good, then flip it around. Build up from there. Again, a running coach can help with this.
This run/walk approach is also helpful in keeping people in their “fat-burning zone,” which, if we’re honest, is why a lot of people consider running in the first place – to burn fat.
For those who are carrying extra pounds, it’s even more important to start slowly, to walk before you run. Running is harder on your joints than cycling or swimming. The closer you are to “race weight,” the better it is for your body. Attempting to start off running when overweight can lead to injury. Don’t be afraid to walk before you run!
For more on why cyclists might want to consider running, check out these articles:
- Running to Supplement Your Cycling?
- Run to Improve Your Cycling (and Vice Versa)
- Take a Break From Cycling
A bonus of cross-training with running is that you’re already set with a lot of what you need. A lot of gear you use for cycling also makes great running gear. Pockets in cycling garments are great for stashing nutrition on runs. The Sugoi Versa Jacket/Vest is one of my all-time favorite pieces for running throughout the winter and spring seasons.
Meet Higher Gear Customers who both run and ride, proving the two sports are not mutually exclusive:
Joy Sherrick is a two-time Boston-qualifier and a Boston Marathon 2013 survivor. She will be returning to run Boston in 2015. Joy runs, but she also bikes, swims, strength trains, practices yoga and plays soccer. She is a fitness coach and Higher Gear’s own fitness guru. She is also her IronMan husband‘s biggest cheerleader.