CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 2 Recovery, Cadence, Long Sessions and Strength

Cycling for Runners HEADER2

In article 1 of CYCLING for RUNNERS we discussed finding the correct sized bike and then how to fit the bike. Niandi and myself ride the same size bike (52cm) however, our experience on a bike are different. I have been riding and racing bikes for years whereas Niandi is new and very much on a learning curve in using cycling to improve her running. Also, our morphology is different. Niandi has a slightly longer leg whereas my torso is longer.

My bike is a SCOTT Addict 10. It’s a stiff bike, made of carbon and it’s all about speed. The geometry is classic race geometry with a 74deg seat angle. It’s fast, sometimes a little twitchy but really grips the road.

Scott Addict 10

Niandi’s bike by comparison is a SCOTT Solace 20. It’s a new breed of bike from SCOTT that provides comfort and performance with relaxed geometry. It’s still a super light bike but for long days in the saddle or for the novice cyclist, this bike will certainly help ease the transition. Also, importantly the ‘reach’ of the Solace is less than the Addict. As we mentioned in bike fit, we can tweak saddle, height, handlebars and stem to ensure that our bikes work for us.

Solace 20

So, how is your bike? Do you have it set up properly and do you feel comfortable? Before progressing with some specific cycling sessions on how to improve, we wanted to provide you with several key bullet points why cycling can benefit you as a runner.

You may well have turned to cycling in the past because YOU HAD TO! Yes, we all get injured and as an injured runner we are usually desperate to get an endorphin kick, maintain fitness and reduce impact. Step in cycling…

Although cycling is great as that ‘alternative’ to running, why not think ahead and plan cycling into your weekly schedule to avoid that injury that is almost certainly waiting to happen. 

RECOVERY

Injured or recovering from hard run training, cycling provides great ‘active’ exercise with no impact. We have often heard the phrase, recovery run! But does a recovery run really exist? 20/30 or 40mins of easy running is still creating impact through all your joints and muscles, even if you do not elevate your heart rate. So, why not replace some of these sessions with cycling? Cycling provides all of us with an opportunity to move our legs, increase blood flow, ease joint stiffness, ease tired muscles and we will flush out lactate acid from tired or stiff legs. This is nothing new. Runners have been using cycling as a means of active recovery or injury rehabilitation for years. The addition of a Turbo Trainer (indoor device that attaches to your bike) will also allow you to spin away indoors while keeping warm, dry and you can even watch some TV or listen to music if that is your thing.

Tips: Keep your gearing very light and ‘spin’ your legs. You do not want to be pushing big and heavy gears. Remember, this is about recovery and injury maintenance.

CADENCE

Cadence is something we will have all heard of. Cadence in cycling refers to how many revolutions our legs make per minute. If has often been stated that 90 rpm (revs per minute) is an optimum cadence. We agree! Spinning your legs for 90 rpm (180 for both legs) provides ‘souplesse.’ This souplesse (flexibility) is key to becoming an efficient cyclist. Look at this objectively and the next time you go out for a run, count your foot strike. Maintaining 90 rpm or 90 foot (180 both legs) strikes per minute will make you not only efficient but will also help with technique. Bike and run cadence are two transferable skills. When coaching cyclists, we often use 90 rpm as a benchmark; this also provides a great indicator as to when to change up and down gears. In time, as you become a stronger cyclist you will find that you are able to push a harder gear for the same cadence. In simple terms, you are getting stronger and this means you will go faster.

Tips: You can use a cycle computer and magnet to provide information ‘live’ while cycling. This can be extremely useful when looking to maintain optimum cadence. When running, you can use a foot pod or similar device to relay cadence back to a wrist unit. Both are great tools for improve bike to run cadence.

LONG SESSIONS

Long run sessions and back-to-back run sessions are an essential part of a good runners training plan. However, these sessions can damage the body and in time, potentially injure the body. A long bike ride in isolation or a ‘brick’ session is a fantastic way to gain added fitness time without impacting on your body. Long bikes allow you maximal aerobic time with minimal impact; the only downside will be that you need to be out longer for a similar gain to running. However, this is not the point… a long bike session is about adding variety, providing a new stimulus and increasing or maintaining fitness without impact. A brick session is when bike and run sessions are combined to make one session. Anyone coming from a duathlon or triathlon background will be well aware of this. Running on bike legs is quite a unique experience, the term ‘jelly legs’ is often used. This is because the legs and muscles are used in two very different ways. However, this transition process provides great stimulus and if done gradually, is a great addition to a training plan.

Tips: If you want to translate long runs to bike time, we often use 15min per mile, so, if you did a 20-mile run we would recommend a 5-hour bike ride as starting point. Of course many variables come in to play so be careful. Brick sessions are challenging, start by adding just 10-15 minutes of running to a bike session. In time you can build this but be gradual.

STRENGTH

Running builds a certain set of muscles, fine tunes them and makes them extremely efficient for the job that you ask them to do; run! However, we have many other muscles that feel a little bit neglected with our run habit. Cycling provides a stimulus to these neglected areas. Running and just running makes us all plateau, adding cycling will not only compliment our run muscles but also so many other areas of our body will become stronger (such as our core, arms, shoulders, hips and so on). Add all this together and what we have is a faster and stronger runner.

Tips: Like anything, if you haven’t cycled before, start easy and progress slowly. No need to rush. After a bike ride, make sure you stretch, particularly hamstrings! Cycling turns your legs over in a smaller circle than running.

We caught up with Salomon International athlete, Philipp Reiter on his thoughts on why CYCLING is good for RUNNERS.

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©iancorless.com

Philipp on RECOVERY

Spinning out the legs” on a bike is definitely one of the things I personally look forward too after a hard and/or long run. Spinning makes the blood go through my body faster and takes all the acids and by-products away. Shaking the legs out on a bike makes my muscles ache less and speeds up recovery.

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Philipp on STRENGTH

Even if you just hike or walk around (instead of running on a rest day) your leg muscles always have to push to move the body. Have you ever recognized that you never pull and use the complementary muscles? Using cycling and specific bike shoes/pedals allow you to pull the pedals as well as to push them more intense than you would do without. But what is the advantage to build up the “other” muscles? After many years of running, muscle can become imbalanced and this increases the risk of injuries or other problems with tendons. Cycling will work these unused areas.

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Philipp on IMPACT

Running impacts on bones, hips, tendons… no doubt! Cycling is relatively impact resistant, especially road cycling! However, you must ensure you have correct bike set up and fit. Don’t try to save time or money by cutting corners here. A bike that is too small or too large or one that does not have the correct fit will just impact on your power output and after a while you may get problems in your back or knees!

Philipp on LONG SESSIONS

Philipp Reiter Cycling

Philipp Reiter Cycling

A long bike ride is a great way to have a long endurance session. I usually double my run time, so, if I wanted to do a 2-hour run I would replace with a 4-hour bike. You still get tired, you still get just as hungry and you definitely get the fitness benefits. What you don’t get is the damage and impact. However, you still need to run long… cycling is great is a great alternative to mix things up and provide stimulus but would never replace long runs. You just need to work them into your schedule.

In our next article we will talk about the right kit for cycling and provide you with some guidelines on how to include cycling in your current training plan.

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Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS for the support and backing

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3 thoughts on “CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 2 Recovery, Cadence, Long Sessions and Strength

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