Cycling for Runners

Runners like to run. Getting most trail and ultra types to give another form of exercise a go can be difficult. Many of them are happy to do some yoga or core work, maybe even the occasional weights session, but for the most part we’re time poor and any opportunity we have to train we prioritise tying up the laces and legging it. However when it comes to race preparation, this isn’t always the best way to get the most out of your body. Particularly at the moment where we are limited in where we can train. But there’s one type of exercise that translates across to distance running perfectly, and that’s cycling. Yep, busting out the lycra, being hated by drivers and getting a sore ass may well be the best thing you can do!

The benefits of cycling include increased leg strength, increased total training time without the impact created by running, reduced loading of bones, improved cardiovascular endurance and injury reduction. What I like best about it is that due to the mechanics of it cycling not only makes a great alternative to running mountains (Which a lot of us don’t have access to) but it also means you can do the occasional ‘Mega day’ of training where you do a long run in the morning, smash some food and then jump in the saddle to rack up some more training – without the impact. This is particularly useful for preparing for 100km+ events because there’s only so much running your body can handle, however you might benefit from a couple 6hr+ training blocks (EG A 4 hour run followed by 2 hours on the bike).

Introducing cycling to your training should be done like any other new addition –gradually. Start by just spinning the legs on the trainer at the gym as your warm up and cool down. If you don’t have a gym membership, then when hitting the road it’s good to simply cruise for 40 minutes or so and get a feel for it on a recovery day. Across a few weeks you should slowly up the frequency, volume and intensity. The hard thing to do is know where to place cycling in your routine. It’s often best done as a value add, such as replacing a second run or instead of doing an easy day. One or two rides a week is ample, with one being up to 3 hours…only once you’re use to it and as an alternative to a run.

Cycling is also great for post race recovery or during the build phase of a training block. After any distance race it’s good to have time off from running, followed by slowly increasing your training load over several weeks. Cycling lets you keep active during your downtime while reducing the load on your body. It’s also ideal for incorporating with your running while slowly building the training load as you return to your normal regime. As the running increases, decrease the riding, but try to keep it in there, even if it’s just one hour a week.

While we’re currently in lockdown, training on a stationary bike is the safest option. In which case you should check out Zwift. It’s a virtual training environment for both running and cycling. You connect a smart trainer to it via Bluetooth and then through an App you select sessions, races, even different worlds, in which to train. You really have to take a look at it for yourself to get an appreciation for how good it can be for motivating you to get through a training session on the bike.

Tips for newbies:

  • Get some cycling knicks. They’ll save your bootie.
  • The sore bum will subside! It might take a few weeks, but persist.
  • Sometimes you may get a sore neck from holding your head up to look down the road….like the sore bum, you get use to it.
  • Training on a stationary bike can be sweaty business as you don’t have air flowing over you. A towel on the floor and one for wiping yourself down are advised.
  • A light stretch afterwards is recommended as hamstrings and quads will stiffen up and the range of motion when pedalling is slightly less than when running.
  • Use music or a podcast to help avoid the boredom of using an indoor trainer.
  • If road cycling, find friends to join you. It’s safer and better for motivation.