In article 2 of CYCLING for RUNNERS we gave you several bullet points in why cycling can benefit your running: RECOVERY, CADENCE, LONG SESSIONS and STRENGTH. As we move through our articles we will address these issues in more depth and we will provide sessions and plans to help you maximize your time whilst training.
It’s time to start cycling!
Before you hop on board lets first just tick off some key issues.
- You have the correct size bike.
- You have fitted yourself to your bike taking a good look at saddle height, saddle fore and aft and your reach to the handlebars.
- You have attached cleats to your cycle shoes and you have carefully adjusted them so that you cycle with a natural motion.
If we have a tick to all of the above, we need to quickly look at cycling apparel and what you will need.
Short Sleeve Cycle Jersey with either half-zip or full-length zip to help control your temperature whilst cycling. The jersey should have 2/3 pockets on the rear to hold essentials such as food, inner tube, tools, and jacket.
Cycling Shorts with pad for that all needed comfort. Many different varieties exist and it all comes down to personal taste. Ladies, female specific products do exist.
Cycling Mitts/ Gloves – these are really important. They work in two ways, they add some additional padding when holding the bars and help avoid numb hands but more importantly, if you come off your bike, the first thing you do is put your hands out… yes, you have guessed it! No skin on your hand and gravel stuck in your palm is not fun! Believe us.
Helmet – essential! Don’t even contemplate going outside without one. Make sure it fits properly.
- Spare inner tubes (2)
- Tyre levers (these remove the tyre so you can replace an inner tube should you get a puncture.
- Small essential tool kit
- Water bottles
Okay, so the above list provides an immediate kit list that will get you on the road and training. The above is based around milder temperatures. Just like running, as temperatures drop, the need for more specific and warmer apparel will be required. We will address some of the options in article 5.
YOUR FIRST TRAINING SESSION (Session-1)
We are assuming here that you are new to cycling. You may have cycled in the past but it has been a while or maybe you have never cycled whilst running?
The good news is that cycling has relatively no impact. Hey, that is one of the reasons why we are incorporating it into our run training right? Like anything new, we start slow and we build up. At first, we recommend that you replace one or two run sessions per week with bike sessions. Initially, we will not be looking at speed, strength or endurance. Cycling will be used as recovery or an alternative to an easy run. From our perspective, it makes sense to us that your cycling days are Monday, Wednesday or Saturday.
- On Sunday, most people do a long run, so, spinning out your legs on Monday is a great way to recover and use cycling.
- Tuesday’s and Thursday’s often include speed or strength running, so, splitting those sessions up with a spin on Wednesday is an ideal recovery tool but if required will still allow you to work on your endurance.
- Saturday is the day before your long run (typically); so, at this stage a spin out on your bike will feed those endorphins, loosen your legs off and prepare you for Sunday without adding too much stress or soreness.
Adding cycling at this stage in your training, we recommend you keep a few pointers in mind:
- Maintain your long run.
- Maintain one run session that involves speed, fartlek or hill work.
- Work on a cycling cadence of 90 rpm
- Keep cycle gearing light so that you can ‘spin’ your legs
- Be road savvy – roads are far more dangerous for cyclists than runners
So, in SESSION-1 we are going to replace a ‘recovery run’ or two easy/ recovery runs with cycling. Typically, a recovery run or easy run will be anything between 20-50 minutes or 3-5 miles. Of course, we are all different and as we mentioned in our introduction, we see runners falling into 4-groups, so, you will need to tweak and adjust your training for your level.
As a general rule, we double our run minute mile pace to gain a similar effect on the bike. So, if you are running 7-minute miles, we would say 14-minutes on the bike.
Quite simply, SESSION-1 is about replacing those 3-5 mile runs with a bike ride of double time.
I run 3 recovery miles in 30 minutes – replace your ‘easy’ run with 60-minutes of cycling keeping gearing light and aiming for a cadence of 90-rpm. Keep the roads flat and hills to a minimum.
My recovery 3-mile recovery runs take 21minutes – replace your run with a 40-45 minute easy cycle. Again, keep the gearing light, cadence around 90-rpm and road conditions easy.
What do we mean by ‘light gearing?’
Your bicycle comes with gears. Typically two chain rings at the front and ten at the rear. Gears allow you to make pedalling easier or harder. In simple terms, if you can turn a ‘hard’ gear with 90-rpm you will go considerably faster than turning an ‘easy’ gear with 90-rpm. However, terrain, weather and so many other factors come into play. So, when you ride up hill you need an easier gear to enable you to get up the hill. The steeper the hill, the easier the gear required. By contrast, going down a step hill you will be able to be in the hardest gear possible and still spin your legs at 90+ rpm.
For the purposes of replacing recovery/easy runs with cycling, we want to ensure that the gearing used is light so that you can ‘spin your legs.’ This will mean being on the ‘smaller’ chain ring at the front and one of the ‘larger’ chain rings at the rear. Play around with gears and work on that optimum cadence of 90 rpm. Pedal in circles! As you progress with cycling, you will be able to develop your pedalling technique by pedalling at a slow cadence in a higher gear, but this is for later!
TIP: Cycling is not just pushing with the pedal but also about pulling. You push down and as you reach the bottom of the pedal stroke you need to drop your heal, pull back and then lift. By doing this, you will not only generate more power with each revolution of the pedal but you will also fire muscles that get neglected when running. If you are struggling to grasp the technique, we recommend to clients that they should pretend they are wiping dog dirt off the bottom of the shoe… can you imagine it? Remember, pedal in circles, use all 360 degrees of the pedal stroke.
See this You Tube clip by the ©GlobalCyclingNetwork
HEART RATE or RPE
Heart rate and monitoring heart rate while exercising has been used for years as a way of keeping training honest. It’s important at this stage that your ‘cycle effort’ should feel no harder than your ‘run effort.’ If in doubt, use a HRM to monitor your easy run HRM and cycling HRM. Please be aware that you can expect a slightly different HR on a bike in relation to running. A drift of 5bpm =/- is normal, but you will need to keep an eye on this. We are all unique.
If a HRM intimidates you, use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). RPE is a great way to monitor your effort based on your own personal experiences as an athlete. I use a scale of 1-10. 1 being asleep, 10 being passed out on the finish line exhausted. For the purposes of a recovery run or cycle, I would be looking at an RPE of 4 or 5.
There is no magic formula to doing a great bike ride and at this stage of CYCLING for RUNNERS; you should embrace the bike as a break. Something new. An adventure that may well lead to something new and as we keep saying; it will definitely make you a better runner!
We recommend you apply SESSION-1 for 1-month cycling once or twice a week to allow adaptation to take place.
In Article 4 we will discuss cycling indoors and using either a Spin Bike at the gym or using a Turbo Trainer in your home.
Article 5 will provide you with SESSION-2 and we will discuss winter apparel.
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