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What Are The Benefits Of Bicycling For Runners

Updated on May 10, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer who ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Can cycling lead to better running performance?
Can cycling lead to better running performance? | Source

Does cycling help your running? Can it make you faster>

While it may be easy for a seasoned runner to look at a cyclist and smile at the tight lycra, shaved legs and painful looking saddles there is a shared love of the outdoors, sweat, and exploration.

What many runners don't realise is that cycling can improve your running speed and performance. You also don't have to train as though you're preparing to ride the Tour De France to be able to achieve running performance benefits.

What help cycling can offer your running

  • A low impact activity that's great for recovery
  • Fewer injuries from running
  • Potential increases in running cadence (Faster leg speed)
  • Training variety
  • More competition options

Cycling benefits runners by limiting impact on bones and joints

The non impact nature of cycling means that it is a great workout for runners and individuals that may experience joint and bone problems while still wanting to achieve a good cardiovascular workout.

If you're a runner who is training for a marathon, you're putting extreme pressures through your joints through the large distances you're travelling each week. Cycling can help your running by allowing you to substitute some cycling workouts in place of 1 or 2 of your mid length run workouts. You'll not only be giving your joints a rest, but you're also able to give your cardiovascular system a solid workout too.

Could cycling improve your running performance?

Could cycling make you a better runner come your next marathon?
Could cycling make you a better runner come your next marathon? | Source

Take the weight off your feet to limit your injury risk from running

We all know that runners get injured regularly, yet cyclists very rarely have to miss workouts through injuries in comparison. This is in part due to the low impact nature of cycling. By considering some regular cycling workouts instead of running you can potentially limit your risks of the overuse injuries so often caused by the repetitive nature of running.

Despite looking to work in a similar manner. Cycling actually works your leg muscles in a very different way to running. Cycling is mainly a a quadriceps muscle led activity compared to the fact that your hamstrings are more predominantly used while you run. Cycling can therefore help to strengthen your complimentary muscles which work as antagonists and make you a stronger athlete in general.

Can cycling make you a faster runner?

Your running speed is governed by both your stride legs and running cadence.

Cycling has potential to improve your cycling cadence by training your legs to work in tight, smooth circles at a higher cadence than you would usually run at. If you can learn to cycle for extended periods at cadences of 110-120 rpm you'll naturally become used to running with a faster leg turnover. This has great potential to translate to faster running performance for a faster event, whether it's a 5KM or Marathon.

Great exercise for improved running steps per minute

Spin Ups- On a spinning bike set at moderate resistance slowly increase your cycling leg speed up to maximum over a period of 45-50 seconds. Then remain at your maximum for the next 10-15 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times with 3-4 minutes recovery between work periods

High Speed Spinning- On a spinning bike or indoor cycling turbo trainer with a moderately low restance try to maintain a cadence of 110-120 rpm for 5-10 minutes. Take a 3 minute easy recover interval and repeat again. Start with a total 20 minutes of high speed spinning and build up incrementally each week by adding no more than 10% of time to your workouts.

Cycling helps with running by adding variety to your training

Cycling is a great activity no matter what the time of the year.

When it's the off-season and you're looking at ways to stay active and maintain some cardiovascular fitness cycling could be a great option. Whether you head out into the woods mountain biking or hit the gym for a spinning class in the warm and dry, there's a cycling option for you.

Cycling could also be a great way to explore more of the area you live that really is just that little bit too far to run to. Grabs yourself a detailed map, find yourself a location and explore instead of your usual running loop.

Cycling could help to keep your mind and body fresh for a long season of races too.

Cycling can help keep your running fresh over the course of a competitive year. You could even race a Duathlon!

Cycling can help give you a mental break from running over the course of a long competitive season. It can also offer alternatives to racing in the form of Duathlon and Triathlon events
Cycling can help give you a mental break from running over the course of a long competitive season. It can also offer alternatives to racing in the form of Duathlon and Triathlon events | Source

Cycling can open up new training and racing opportunities

We all know that runners are competitive people. Not just when they run!

Cycling can open up a whole new world of competitive events to runners which can help with your running and general fitness. Many runners that take up cycling as a supplementary form of training often consider what options their running and cycling can give for them.

Duathlon events which combine running and cycling are popular within the multisport community and offer the regular runner/ occasional cyclist an opportunity to try something new outside of their regular running event calendar.

Runners might also consider Time Trial events which closely resemble running events in that they are one man against a set distance with the target of completing the distance in the shortest time possible. The energy demands of a cycling time trial are very similar to those in competitive 5KM and 10KM running events and therefore have great crossover in terms of cardio-respiratory fitness.

Another consideration for runners is Cyclocross. Cyclocross is the cycling equivalent of a cross country run over grassy fields and country paths with an additional 'obstacle course' element. Cyclocross races happen during fall and winter periods which means that the courses get very muddy and often involve running sections either where cycling is difficult or over technical obstacles.

Do you cycle? And does it benefit your running?

We would love to hear from you in the comments below

Does cycling benefit your running? Would you consider adding some cycling into your program?

Thanks for reading



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