CYCLING for RUNNERS – ‘Why can’t runners cycle quickly?’

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What’s the difference in terms of fitness between running and cycling? Why doesn’t running necessarily make you a great cyclist or vice versa? They are both endurance activities, both aerobic and both use your legs, but what’s the difference?

Marc Laithwaite from the Endurance Coach asks the question:

‘Why can’t runners cycle quickly?’

The answer to some extent lies in the way we test cyclists and runners. People who visit us for VO2 testing will follow a set protocol, based on whether it’s a run or bike test. The run test starts by running on a treadmill at a slow speed and every minute the speed gets faster until they either jump off or they are ‘fired off’ the back of the treadmill. As the treadmill gets quicker, they have to move their legs faster. Their ‘cadence’ is increased to allow them to stay on the treadmill, but the ‘resistance’ doesn’t really change. When you are running, the resistance is pretty constant, you have to lift the weight of your leg and push your body weight forwards, not a great deal changes as the treadmill gets faster, you just need to move more quickly.

The cyling test is different. We start by asking people to cycle at 90 revolutions per minute and they must maintain that throughout the test (unlike running the cadence / leg speed does not change, it stays the same). Each minute we increase the resistance and it gets harder to turn the pedals, so unlike the run test, the resistance is increasing throughout the test. The test ends when they are no longer able to maintain the 90 revolutions per minute. In some ways, it’s almost like doing a strength exercise such as the ‘leg press’ and as each minute passes, we add a little more weight until they can’t keep going.

What can we draw from the above?

There is an element of strength involved in cycling that isn’t required for running. You can call it strength or ‘muscular endurance’ (call it whatever you like), but the basic fact is that you have to work against high levels of resistance during cycling that don’t apply to running.

What about gears and cadence?

Ok, so at this point you might be thinking there’s a way round this. Rather than being strong, you can use an easier gear and pedal faster! Yes, to come extent you can and we see this a lot with runners who take up cycling, they prefer to spin easier gears rather than pushing big gears at lower cadences. However, there’s only so far you can take this aproach. If you increase your cadence from 90 to 100 to go faster, what happens after that? Do you increase to 110? 120? 130!!??

Here’s our basic observations about the problems often encountered by runners who take up cycling:

1. They lack the basic strength and struggle most frequently on flat courses, where the ability to push ‘big gears’ counts the most.

2. This can generally be identified by a simple 5 second maximal sprint test, which results in a poor power output.

3. Runners tend to favour spinning easier gears and may well favour a ‘compact’ or ‘triple’ chainset.

4. On longer, gradual climbs, runners tend to come into their own and can perform relatively well (long gradual hills are the best courses and flat ‘time trial’ courses are the worst in terms of race performance).

5. Shorter / steeper hills on rolling courses may also be an issue as they lack the ‘short term’ power to maintain speed.

6. When runners complete cycle testing sessions we commonly hear this: “My heart and lungs felt fine, it’s just my legs, I couldn’t turn the pedals, there was too much resistance”

7. It’s more common in females than males and it’s more common as age increases.

8. When people enter Ironman triathlon, they make a presumption that riding long and slow to build endurance is the way forwards. After all, Ironman is all about endurance right? Maybe not.

Here’s the simple truth. If you want to be an ‘UBER’ biker for non-drafting triathlon or cycle time trials, you really need to be able to generate a high power output and push big gears. Either that or you need to pick your courses very well to suit your strengths. There’s a lot of confusion and poor advice regarding the best cycling cadence, which has lead to confusion regarding the physical requirements and training for a fast bike time. People get told every day that you should ‘spin a higher cadence’ when cycling, which is misleading and leads to misunderstanding. In many cases, it makes people slower cyclists and fails to tackle their prime weakness.

On that bombshell… lets discuss cycle cadence in more detail.

There’s a lot of confusion and poor advice regarding the best cycling cadence, which has lead to confusion regarding the physical requirements and training for a fast bike time. People get told every day that you should ‘spin a higher cadence’ when cycling, which is misleading and leads to misunderstanding. In many cases, it makes people slower cyclists and fails to tackle their prime weakness. Let’s discuss a little further and clarify some of the misleading advice.

1. There are different kinds of cycle racing. In triathlon events, the cycle stage (unless you’re elite) is a time trial. It’s you against the clock and there’s no drafting allowed. Time trials require a high power output which is consistent. There’s no repeated accelerations or ‘attacks’, it’s just you, riding at a constant power output.

2. Cycle road racing, crit racing or elite triathlon is not a time trial, it’s a bunch ride. It’s much easier to ride in the draft of the bunch and riders will therefore cycle at higher cadences in easier gears, whilst still maintaining their position in the group. Bunch racing will often include changes in pace, accelerations, attacks and chasing. It’s impossible to accelerate well, if you’re pushing a ‘big gear’, for that reason, bunch racing tends to favour higher cadences and easier gears.

3. Triathletes who ride with cyclists are often told ‘it’s better and more eficient to ride at higher cadences’. That is true for cyclists who ride in bunch races, so whilst the advice is correct for their specific circumstances, it doesn’t mean it’s right for triathletes.

4. Pretty much all studies on the subject show that slower cadences use less oxygen, results in lower heart rate and require less fuel than higher cadences. Many cyclists who ride ‘time trials’ rather than road races favour big gears and slower cadences. Former British champion Nik Bowdler use a 77 tooth chain ring and rode at 65rpm. Chrissie Wellington followed the same approach, riding a much lower cadence as she found it reduced her breathing and heart rate significantly.

Cadence V Gearing

Cadence and gearing are not the same thing. If someone is told to spin at a high cadence up hills, we presume that we should choose a very easy gear. If we’re told to ride with a slower cadence, we associate that with a big gear. You will often see pro riders spinning a higher cadence up hills, don’t be fooled into thinking they are using a compact chainset or a very easy gear, they are strong enough to spin a larger gear. Simply changing into a very easy gear to allow you to spin, will result in you going slowly. The reason you are forced to use an easy gear is a basic lack of ability to produce a high force, so you are not tackling the problem at hand.

Take away tips:

1. You need to use bigger gears at some point if you want to ride faster

2. To use bigger gears you need to have the basic leg strength (often lacking in runners, moreso ladies)

3. Slower cadences are more efficient for time trials and faster cadences are better for changes of pace on technical courses and bunch races

4. As a rider, you should be capable of adapting your cadence to suit the race

5. Don’t just start pushing huge gears in an attempt to tackle the problem, be wary of injury

6. Don’t keep reaching for the gear shifter every time you hit the smallest incline, this isn’t helping

7. If strength is very poor, you may want to consider a simple strength routine in the gym as a basic start point

 

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Put the Spring into your training!

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It has been a while, intentionally so. Over the latter months of 2014 and the early months of 2015 you will hopefully have been using cycling to provide a break from a very structured running plan. Cycling in addition to running allows you to build endurance but more importantly you can add some intensity through well planned and structured faster sessions with reduced impact.

Our last article, no 7 called March On provided a series of sessions that could be incorporated within your training plan that would lead you into Spring as a stronger and healthier runner.

Spring is here and June will provide new challenges and new opportunities.

Lets have a recap. If you have followed March On, you will have incorporated 2 ‘faster’ cycling sessions into your week (typically Monday and Wednesday) and at the weekend you may have replaced a longer run with a MAF bike session. These cycling session should have been weaved into a carefully thought out run plan. Yes folks, you still need to keep running!

Although many of you may well have tipped your racing toes in an event, June does often signify a change. The racing calendar suddenly grows and a multitude of races are available week-in and week-out. This I hope comes as no surprise? If you have been clever about your training, you will have decided some time ago what races are important in 2015 and you will have structured your plan to make sure that you are in the best shape possible when they come around.

One thing is for sure, as target races loom, the need to be ‘specific’ becomes greater. However, the more focused we become, the greater the risk of injury becomes. It’s so easy to be ‘too’ focused. We all run (no pun intended) a knife-edge between being in supreme health and broken with injury. Be careful!

This is where cycling comes! We discussed in Article 3 (HERE) how cycling can be used to replace ‘recovery’ runs. Although a 20-40min run may well seem like a good idea, does running and adding additional impact really enhance recovery? For me, an opportunity to use non-weight bearing exercise like cycling really does provide a recovery option that allows you to ‘spin’ your legs, flush out tightness and toxins and all in a way that adds little or no stress to already sore and tight muscles. If in doubt, replace Monday and Wednesday runs with an easy 30-60 minutes of spinning (90+ cadence) and see if these sessions enhance your run legs. It’s worth noting as we have mentioned previously, cycling can tighten your hamstrings slightly due to the repeated action (in a shorter circle of motion), particularly when compared to running. So please make sure you allow 10-15 minutes after cycling for stretching.

Another factor to consider now is the endurance element that comes from cycling. Depending on your chosen distance to race (50k, 80k, 100k, 100 miles or maybe more?) you may well be daunted with the distance that you need to cover and more importantly, you may well be thinking, ‘how do I train for something that is going to take me 5, 10, 15 or 24 plus hours?’

 

If you are coming from a marathon running background, you will be used to the scenario of making your long run 3.5 hours or approximately 21/22 miles. If you try to apply this scenario proportionately to ultra running you are always going to be struggling. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have some big days of running/ hiking (time on feet) but the reality is that for most of us, we may well break!

Step in cycling!

Lets be clear. Cycling is not here to replace running. If you want to be a good runner (ultra runner) you need to run, you need to be specific and you need to practice. However, cycling can be incorporated to provide you with some great aerobic activity for multiple hours without the added and increased risk from continuous pounding of your own body weight through your knees, muscles and joints.

If in doubt take a look at what Francois d’Haene tweeted in 2014. This was after victory at UTMF, 2nd at the Skyrunning World Championships and a stunning UTMB victory.

Francois D'Haene

Back-to-back runs are a popular training method for the aspiring and experienced runner. It’s a great way of breaking a long distance down; lets say you have a target race of 100k. You may set yourself a key target training weekend for 2 or 3 days. For example, a typical ‘long’ training weekend may look like 30k day 1, 30k day 2 and 40k day 3. It’s a great way to adapt the body, the mind and it provides a wonderful opportunity to practice nutrition, hydration and fine-tune your clothing. But you can’t do this every weekend… okay, yes you can BUT at some point it will all go pear shaped. Your body will say enough! What follows will be a period of inactivity, rest or maybe worse, injury.

Cycling sessions can incorporate an element of faster cycling. Maybe you’d like to work the hills a little? But be careful. You are using different muscle groups. Here are some stats from a 2 hour ride. This ride was all about keeping it nice and easy on an out-and-back ride.

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We all know that consistency is key in any training plan. Training is not about one run, one session; it’s about all the combined sessions you have done that make up a whole. So think about incorporating cycling to replace some of your long runs.

You can still do a back-to-back session: 5 hours on the bike and the next day a 4-hour run. It’s a perfect combination. Think about it, 9 hours increasing your fitness and aerobic activity but only 4 hours of impact.

If you only have time to run long once a week then look at incorporating a 3 week on and 1 week off scenario. So for example, your long runs may look like this:

  • Week 1 – 3 hours
  • Week 2 – 3 hours 45 min
  • Week 3 – 4 hours 30min

On week 4, forget a long run and add a 6-hour bike. You still get the aerobic benefits but once again, you rest those tired muscles and joints and use them in a different way.

There are no hard and fast rules here.

This post is about making you look at your training from a different perspective. To make you realise that just because you are an ultra runner, it doesn’t mean that you need to be an ultra runner everyday!

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Summary

  • Have a target planned in your diary so that you can be specific with your planning and work back from your key date.
  • Don’t neglect run speed work and hill training.
  • Use cycling in the week as ‘recovery’ from harder running sessions (speed and hills).
  • Incorporate long bike rides in conjunction with your long run training. For example:
  1. Do one weekend in four that utilises long bike rides instead of long running.
  2. Mix and match – Long bike on Saturday with long run on Sunday.
  3. Back-to-Back Mix – Long run, long bike and a long run makes a great 3-day session.
  • Don’t be worried about thinking out of the box. If you are feeling tired, sore or just need some inspiration – jump on the bike instead or running. It’s all exercise and as long as you are training, you are getting fitter. Just make sure you listen to your body and add rest as and when appropriate.
  • Rest – it is a training discipline. Don’t think of it as weakness. Planned rest allows you and your body to adapt. It’s crucial.
  • Use a HRM and GPS to monitor your training and efforts.

Enjoy the process. One thing that is great about sport is the ability to enjoy the outdoors. Cycling or running, take both hands, grab it and embrace it. Just think, you can cover considerably more ground on a bike.

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 7 March On!

HEADER_Suunto_ScottMarch is upon us and with it a new series of training sessions. In February we gave you a series of targets. Four sessions that ideally would be undertaken indoors on a turbo-trainer.

In summary, the sessions were as follows HERE

Catch up on previous articles HERE

In addition to the above four sessions you hopefully maintained your weekly runs and used cycling (very easy) as an alternative to a ‘recovery run.’

In March we are Marching On with our training and we want to step up once again and provide additional stimulus to progress your fitness and strength. You may be wondering, how do I fit all these sessions in?

Here is a template for a typical training week in March:

  1. Monday – Indoor cycling session of 20-40 minutes (based on fitness and experience.) Keep gearing very light and ‘spin’ your legs thinking about a 90+ cadence and maintaining souplesse.
  2. Tuesday – Running at 75% of max HR. Distance or time based on experience and targets.
  3. Wednesday – Indoor cycling session as per article 7 training plan. This will progress in effort for week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4.
  4. Thursday – As Tuesday.
  5. Friday – Rest day.
  6. Saturday – Long outdoor bike session using ‘MAFF’ formula for 90 to 180-minutes. This will progress as outlined in this article 7 plan for week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4.
  7. Sunday – Long run based on experience and target race distance.

MARCH TRAINING SESSIONS

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March sessions fall into three distinct categories:

Recovery, Intensity and Endurance.

For simplicity, we have scheduled the sessions to take place on a Monday (recovery), Wednesday (intensity) and Saturday (endurance). Of course it is possible to move these sessions around to suit your available time but please aim to keep to the structure we have provided here.

The week explained:

  • Monday follows a busy weekend of training and therefore is ideally a rest day or recovery day. As we have stated on many occasions, does a recovery run really exist? We use cycling for recovery as it is a non-weight bearing exercise and therefore you are able to spin your legs, elevate your heart rate a little and all without the impact of running. Monday’s session will ideally be on the road or an indoor trainer. You will use light gears, ‘spin’ your legs and look for a cadence of 90+. Time will vary based on your fitness and target goals. However, we recommend anything between 20 to 40-minutes.
  • Wednesday provides intensity and is an alternative to a faster running session. Over 4-weeks the sessions will build on February’s session and progress your fitness and strength.
  • Saturday is a long run equivalent and is ideally placed to provide two back-to-back sessions in March. You will cycle long on Saturday (outdoors) and then run long on Sunday. This provides a great endurance stimulus and reduces the impact that would come from two back-to-back run sessions. We are introducing the ‘MAFF’ formula for this session.

Hints ‘n’ Tips

  • Use a heart rate monitor. It’s great to get the feedback and monitor your training.
  • Have water handy – you will need it.
  • If training indoors use a fan or train near an open window.
  • Keep your pedalling technique smooth, don’t fight the bike.

WEEK 1

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery 

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

1-hour set and intervals

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up * please see blow for a refresher on 5,4,3,2,1

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 4-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 1-minute. At the end of 1-minute drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 4min/ 1min for seven more times (total 8 repetitions)

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 60-minute session

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This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence. Make sure you use a quality HRM/ GPS for this session.

For example, the below session is 1-hour working on a MAFF of 130-140 bpm with warm up and cool down.

1-hour set

MAFF is based on the ‘Maffetone’ Formula. You can read two articles, HERE and HERE about Maffetone.

Maffetone formula is calculated as follows:

Subtract your age from 180.

Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile: 

A: If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

B: If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

C: If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same. 

D: If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (B), you get the following: 

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best. 

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate were determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

WEEK 2

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 3-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 2-minutes. At the end of 2-minutes drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 3min/ 2min for five more times (total 6 repetitions)

Cool down with a reverse 5,4,3,2,1

Saturday : 90-minute session

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

WEEK 3

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 3-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 2-minutes. At the end of 2-minutes drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 3min/ 2min for seven more times (total 8 repetitions)

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 2-hour session

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

WEEK 4

Monday : 20 to 40-minutes recovery

Wednesday : 1-hour session turbo trainer

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up *

40-minutes at 75% of maximum heart rate with a 90-cadence

Cool down with 5 x 1-minutes dropping down a gear for each minute.

Saturday : 2-hour 30-minute session 

This session will ideally be outdoors. You will use the MAFF formula to build base level fitness at any easy pace with a low heart rate and cadence ideally on or around 90 cadence.

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NOTES:

March is designed to enhance your fitness in multiple ways and maximize your fitness. Combining three key sessions on a bike: recovery, intensity and endurance you will have a great fitness base for April when we take training to the next level.

It’s important that running and cycling work hand-in-hand with each other during March. So don’t try to push the envelope with running too hard or too long. If in doubt, use the MAFF formula for your running.

MAFF will require discipline and you will almost certainly feel that training is too easy. It’s a common feeling for many that are new the formula but stick with it and see how you progress.

It’s imperative that you use a heart rate monitor (we recommend Suunto) for the sessions in March. You need to work hard for the intensity sessions but you also need to ensure that the recovery and MAFF sessions are easy. Most people don’t do hard sessions hard enough and make easy sessions too hard. What you end up with is the middle ground and a lack of progression.

As April and May arrive, you need to build on the above and balance them. You may find that a faster cycling session will start to be replaced with a faster run session. If so, that’s fine. Incorporate cycling as recovery. However, we encourage that you still use long bike rides in conjunction with long and eventually longer runs.

At the end of May we will be back with a plan for June. Things will all change in as running takes a greater importance. You will incorporate one faster run session (Tuesday), one hill session (Thursday) and maintain a long bike. Until then, good luck!

Make easy – easy!

And make hard – hard!

Enjoy Marching On…

Glossary:

*5,4,3,2,1

If you are not used to cycle gearing, the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 will help you. Depending on your experience, strength, fitness and experience. You may do this session on your ‘small’ cog at the front of the bike or the ‘large’ cog. I do my sessions on the ‘52’ cog.

Start as follows:

52×25 for 5 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×23 for 4 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×21 for 3 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence

52×19 for 2 minutes aiming for 90 cadence

52×17 for 1 minute aiming for 90 cadence

By the time you reach the final minute you will be completely warm, your hear rate will have slowly elevated and the gearing will be ‘challenging’ but sustainable. Your heart rate will be in the 70-75% zone of max hear rate.

Join us on STRAVA

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Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS and SUUNTO for the support and backing

Check out SCOTT HERE

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Check out SUUNTO HERE

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 6 Indoor Intensity

 

Cycling for Runners HEADER2

A new year can be a daunting thing… the excitement and buzz of Christmas is over and suddenly 12-months lie ahead. Many of you may well have already planned early season targets or even objectives for the whole year. However, as I know only too well, for every person who has planned key targets, there will be another person who has planned nothing. So, before you do anything, take some time out and decide on your targets for the coming year. Please remember, these targets do not need to be racing targets. They could be FKT’s, personal projects or even an expedition. Once you have dates in a diary, you will find structuring your training so much easier. It provides perspective!

Did December go well for you?

December can be a tough month. It’s so easy to be distracted and miss training but don’t worry. If you maintained 3-4 sessions per week you are going to be in a great place to build your fitness in 2015.

It goes without saying that if you weren’t injured you will have been out running, be that on the trails or the treadmill. We hope that you managed to include a couple of cycling sessions? Ideally you will have done one easy session spinning the legs to help recovery from running and one ‘faster’ session either on the road or on an indoor trainer to help build stamina and strength

Niandi has been doing several indoor sessions as recovery and she wrote about them HERE

Me? Well you know what, the winter arrived in the UK, the ice came and so did the snow. For me it was perfect. I love running in the cold and snowy conditions. However, cycling outdoors was not an option. Thank goodness for the indoor trainer (Turbo Trainer) and I applied the session we outlined in Article 5 (Here) and I also cycled easy for 30 minutes with a high cadence for recovery.

Here is a summary of the session:

Warm up for 10-minutes ‘spinning’ your legs in an ‘easy’ gear. This is all about getting blood flowing, loosening stiff and/ or tight muscles and preparing for the session ahead.

Session: Perform 2 minutes at 80% of maximum heart rate (keeping cadence on or around 90) – You will need to use your cycling gears to add resistance and provide the necessary difficulty level for you elevate your heart rate. Monitor your HRM with a quality item – We use Suunto Ambit 3 Peak and Ambit 2 units

Recover for 2-minute ‘spinning’ your legs as in the warm up.

Repeat the 2-minute session with 2-minute recovery for an additional 5-times (making a total of 6 in week-1). *In week 2 do 7-repetitions, in week 3 do 8-repetitions and in week 4 do 10-repetitions.

I hit the reps building up the 2-minute intervals over a 4-week period and it felt great.

If you are anything like me, you will not want to loose those gains made over December and January so in February we are going to build with four sessions that you can do indoors or outdoors. 

THE SESSIONS

If you don’t already know, training indoors on a bike is hard; I love it! You have no escape, no rest and your cadence, HRM, legs and sweat rate do not lie. Did I mention sweat! Boy do I sweat indoors. Even with a window open and a fan on me I am like a running tap with water pouring out of me. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated particularly during and after all sessions.

This month we have four sessions for you, one for each week and most of them include the same warm up and warm down. I call this: 5,4,3,2,1.

How does it work?

Your bike gearing will usually have two cogs at the front, for simplicity, we will call this the big ring and the small ring. Typically, a racing bike will have a 52/39 set up. The numbers refer to teeth on the cog. The ‘39’ makes gearing easier in comparison to the ’52.’

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At the back you will have a selection of gears, if your bike is relatively new it will probably have 10-cogs.

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The rear cogs start small (harder gear) and get larger (easier gear) and step up/ down progressively so that you can maintain an ‘ideal’ cadence (90) irrespective of the terrain. Your rear gearing may look like this:

12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25

 The above numbers refer to ‘teeth’ on the rear cogs.

Shimano Dura Ace  press camp 2012 - Kortrijk/Belgium..For example, 39×23 may be used on a steep climb when you need an easier gear or by comparison, if you are riding down a steep hill with the wind behind you, you may use 52×12.

If you are not used to cycle gearing, the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 will help you.

Depending on your experience, strength, fitness and experience. You may do this session on your small ring (easier) at the front of the bike or the big ring (harder.). I do my sessions on the ‘52’ cog. I am an ex cyclist with experience and bike strength and therefore adapted to pushing harder gears. Remember, you are using cycling to enhance running!

Start as follows:

  • 52*x25 for 5 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence
  • 52*x23 for 4 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence
  • 52*x21 for 3 minutes aiming for 90+ cadence
  • 52*x19 for 2 minutes aiming for 90 cadence
  • 52*x17 for 1 minute aiming for 90 cadence

 *Note, if you wanted this gearing to be easier you would replace the ’52’ (big ring) with say a ’39’ (small ring) for example.

By the time you reach the final minute you will be completely warm, your heart rate will have slowly elevated and the gearing will be ‘challenging’ but sustainable. Your heart rate will be in the 70-75% zone of max hear rate.

Now the sessions:

The sessions below can be done on the road or on an indoor trainer. It goes without saying that for such specific sessions, an indoor trainer would be preferable as you can control the whole session. If you do try the sessions outside, you will need a good long stretch of flat road. Undulating roads would make this session impossible.

Hints ‘n’ Tips

  • Use a heart rate monitor. It’s great to get the feedback. I have included my hear rate profiles recorded via my Suunto for the sessions below.
  • Have water handy – you will need it.
  • If training indoors use a fan or train near an open window.
  • Keep your pedalling technique smooth, don’t fight the bike.

Week 1: 40-minute session

©iancorless.com_Scott_Turbo-7662

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up

*Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 5 minutes. You can expect your heart rate to rise as you maintain the effort.

Drop back down to 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 and repeat the warm up – this loosens the legs and adds souplesse.

Repeat the above set* but in the final minute push really hard to maximal effort. At the end of the final minute you will have a good idea of your maximum hear rate (MHR).

Cool down with 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 but in reverse finishing with just 1 minute in the easiest gear. This works as a great cool down.

Week 1 heart rate data - Ian Corless

Week 1 heart rate data – Ian Corless

Week 2: 1-hour session

©iancorless.com_Scott_Turbo-7635

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up

*Stay in the final gear you used for the 1-minute in the warm up and maintain a 90+ cadence for 30 minutes building your effort throughout the session.

Cool down with 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 but in reverse finishing with just 1 minute in the easiest gear. This works as a great cool down.

Week 2 heart rate data - Ian Corless

Week 2 heart rate data – Ian Corless

Week 3: 40-minute session

©iancorless.com_Scott_Turbo-7675

4, 3, 2, 1 warm up (we miss the 5-min section this time)

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 4-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 1-minute. At the end of 1-minute drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 4min/ 1min for four more times (total five repetitions)

Cool down with 5-minutes spinning in your start gear, for me, this would be 52×25

Week 3 heart rate data - Ian Corless

Week 3 heart rate data – Ian Corless

Week 4: 1-hour session

©iancorless.com_Scott_Turbo-7659

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 warm up

Move up 1 additional gear, for me this would be 52×16 and maintain a 90 cadence for 4-minutes and then step up 1-gear (for me this is 52×15) and work hard for 1-minute. At the end of 1-minute drop back down one gear, for me 52×16 and repeat 4min/ 1min for five more times (total six repetitions)

Cool down with 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 but in reverse finishing with just 1 minute in the easiest gear. This works as a great cool down.

Week 4 heart rate data - Ian Corless

Week 4 heart rate data – Ian Corless

NOTE: The above cycling sessions would replace a faster run session in each week and I would still recommend one or even maybe two other cycle sessions per week for recovery. On the recovery sessions just use an easy gear and ‘spin’ with 90+ cadence. Make sure you drink if training indoors, it gets really hot!

©iancorless.com_Scott_Turbo-7619

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Girl What Cycles (3)

©iancorless.com_CarrMill-7280

“I love running cross country….

On a track, I feel like a hamster.”- Robin Williams

I’ve always felt the same as Robin Williams about the indoor trainer. To me, training indoors on a bicycle is just like running on a track or treadmill. Yet, like track and the treadmill, cycling indoors can provide a huge advantage to your training if used in a structured way.

©iancorless.com©iancorless.com_cyclingforrunners-4115

First and foremost when the weather is horrendous (like it is in the UK at the moment) you can get a good workout indoors in a warm, safe and controlled environment. I am new to cycling and although not inexperienced, braving winter conditions on a bike would be a step too far for me at the moment. This is where the home trainer becomes a useful piece of equipment.

©iancorless.com_Scott-7365

I can still get my fix for the outdoors with my running… to be honest, I love running in cold temperatures but I also incorporate one treadmill session which allows for faster running (hills or intervals) with some fast-paced loud music which is difficult to do outside.

screenshot_160

In a research project at John Moores University, researchers found that when participants exercised to faster-paced music they “chose to accept, and even prefer, a greater degree of effort”. As well as enhancing performance, music lowers the perception of effort. It dulls or masks some of the pain associated with training. We know from scanning the brain that when athletes are played loud upbeat music there is an increase in activity in the ascending reticular activating system.

For all these reasons I have also been using the home trainer to get in some recovery training after racing or long run sessions. At the beginning of December I completed a 72km trail race at night in sub-zero temperatures. Conditions were very muddy, icy in some parts, with a head-on wind to contend with and as it was at night with poor visibility, the going was tough. Also I forgot to mention I flew out to Lyon on the Saturday, picked up my number, took a shuttle to the start in St Etienne, started the race at midnight, ran to Lyon through the night and flew back to London on Sunday, took a coach, another train ….All a bit crazy and exhausting to say the least. Over the next 2 days following the race, I suffered DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). This meant no running for a few days. I had a fun run planned in Paris the following weekend so I decided to use cycling as “active” recovery. Like running on the treadmill you can quickly get hot very quickly on an indoor trainer. I set myself up near an open window to allow for some ventilation. If you were doing a hard session, an indoor fan would also be a good idea.

Recovery is all about spinning my legs, easing away muscle soreness, getting the blood flowing and I suppose not having too much structure. However, I find indoor training easier if I have a plan to follow and music!

©iancorless.com_Scott-7329

Hints ‘n’ Tips

  • Use your own bicycle. I am using my SCOTT bike fixed to my indoor trainer via the rear wheel. This is perfect as I do not compromise on my cycling position which I have worked hard to make perfect.

©iancorless.com_Scott-7360

  • Use your normal cycling shoes and pedals

©iancorless.com_Scott-7316

Suunto Ambit 2

  • Have water available
  • Use a fan or train near an open window
  • Have a towel handy – you will sweat
  • Use music or a TV for stimulus

Need some free music to help you with your indoor session? Try HERE for 50minutes of audio. I personally recommend that you make your own playlist that is specific for your session. Using something like iTunes makes this really easy. Alternatively, a company like Audiofuel provides specific music mixes with or without coaching.

Session 1:

Length : 44 min        

  • Warm-Up : 10min in a very easy gear allowing me to ‘spin’ at a cadence of 90
  • Main Set: 24min alternating 3min at 90 cadence and 3min at 110 cadence. Gearing should be easy and light to allow your legs to spin around. The faster cadence session of 110 allows me to concentrate on cycling technique using the up and down of the pedal stroke and adds souplesse to my legs.
  • Cool Down: 10min easy gear at a cadence of 90

Session 2:

Length: 35min

  • Warm-up: 10min in a very easy gear spinning at 90 cadence
  • Main set: 15min broken down into 30sec at 90 cadence and 30sec at 120 cadence
  • Cool Down: 10min very easy gear at 90 cadence

©iancorless.com_Scott-7351

Initially you will find your legs struggling to get used to using different muscle groups in this recovery work-out. The aim is not to PUSH the gears or have resistance. We don’t want to stress sore muscles. These two sessions are all about spinning legs with an easy gear on the bike and allowing the muscles to recover. This is what is so great about cycling… you can exercise in a non weight bearing way. However, the increased cadence sessions of 110 and 120 will allow you to raise your heart rate.

I shall be doing a turbo session at least once a week as active recovery in my build up to my next long distance run, Paris Mantes 50km towards the end of January. This will be followed by a week off running but 2 turbo sessions before a trip to Costa Rica and the opportunity to run The Coastal Challenge stage race.

Happy New Year and remember, cycling is great for running if used sensibly.

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 5 Spice Up Sessions

Cycling for Runners HEADER2

December is here. The days are shorter and many of you will be feeling like hibernating! Nothing wrong with that, training should have peaks and troughs and if you don’t have them, in our opinion you just end up with a series of flat performances.

For the last few months you will have hopefully been incorporating cycling as part of your weekly routine; primarily to replace one or two of your ‘recovery’ runs. Or maybe you have been injured and you are using cycling as rehabilitation? Either way your body will be thanking you for the new stimulus, the lack of impact and the opportunity to try something new.

An article 4 we outlined winter cycling and provided some hints ‘n’ tips to allow you to cycle safely on cold and short days and we also introduced you to indoor training.

In article 5 we are going to spice up your training with two sessions – one for the road and one for indoor training.

Please remember, these sessions are in addition to your recovery cycles and are a replacement for one of your faster, more intensive run sessions.

Worried that cycling will not benefit you as a runner?

Hopping on a road bike or indoor bike provides non-impact cross training that will build your engine, maintain fitness and keep off the pounds! If you are running or cycling you will need strong lungs, a great capillary network and a strong heart. So don’t worry…

First of all, let us have a refresh.

  • Maintain your long run either mid-week or at the weekend
  • Maintain one quality run work out – speed, hills, tempo, fartlek or so on.
  • Incorporate strength and conditioning
  • Stretch post sessions, particularly hamstrings, ITB and calf’s after cycling
  • Have a rest day
  • Cadence – think and concentrate on 90 ‘rpm’ when cycling
  • Use a heart rate monitor and/ or Gps to monitor training

Road ‘V’ Indoor

©goskyride.com

©goskyride.com

Cycling is cycling; yes? Well, yes it is BUT cycling outside in contrast to indoors provides a very different experience. It’s just like running outside in comparison to running on a treadmill.

Many of us would always choose a session outside in comparison to an indoor session, however, indoor sessions are great training sessions that allow us to ‘almost’ completely control the training situation and therefore be very specific. We embrace indoor sessions of 45-90 minutes when we are particularly working on a particular aspect of fitness. For example, you can control your heart rate, monitor your cadence, you have no traffic lights, bad weather or more importantly, danger! You can remain warm, listen to music and embrace a quality workout.

We discussed indoor bike set up in article 4; if you need a refresher, take a look HERE.

Keeping in mind this is our first ‘session’ on the bike it will be an introduction session and one that we recommend you incorporate once a week for the coming four weeks. *We do however recommend you add repetitions with each week for 4-weeks.

The Indoor Session

Image copyright - highergearchicago.com

Image copyright – highergearchicago.com

What you need:

  • Bike
  • Indoor trainer
  • HRM
  • Water
  • Fan
  • Music
  • Towel

Hints ‘n’ Tips

  • Make sure you have your rear tyre at 100 psi (at least) and ensure that you always inflate to the exact same pressure for every session, that way you have consistency and you can monitor progress.
  • You will apply pressure to the rear tyre by adding resistance from the drum on the indoor trainer. Perform a ‘roll-down’ test each time so that you have a controlled environment. A roll down test works as follows: inflate to 100psi and then apply pressure to the back wheel using the turbo trainer. Cycle and build to a particular speed (say 15mph) and then stop pedalling. Time how long it takes the wheel to stop moving. For example, 4 seconds. Every time you train you should ideally have the same roll down time for consistency and monitoring. If it takes 5 seconds, add more resistance and vice versa.
  • Use a fan to regulate temperature.
  • Drink during the session – you will sweat a great deal!
  • Use music and compile a play list that suits the session – no point listening to classical music if AC/DC are what you need to ramp the session up!
  • A HRM is essential to control your effort and monitor progress
  • Aim for 90 cadence

©iancorless.com©iancorless.com_cyclingforrunners-2

Warm up for 10-minutes ‘spinning’ your legs in an ‘easy’ gear. This is all about getting blood flowing, loosening stiff and/ or tight muscles and preparing for the session ahead.

Session: Perform 2 minutes at 80% of maximum heart rate (keeping cadence on or around 90) – You will need to use your cycling gears to add resistance and provide the necessary difficulty level for you elevate your heart rate. Monitor your HRM with a quality item – We use Suunto Ambit 3 Peak and Ambit 2 units

©iancorless.com_Suunto-0253205

Recover for 2-minute ‘spinning’ your legs as in the warm up

Repeat the 2-minute session with 2-minute recovery for an additional 5-times (making a total of 6 in week-1). *In week 2 do 7-repetitions, in week 3 do 8-repetitions and in week 4 do 10-repetitions.

Tip – you can set your HRM/ GPS to time these intervals for you. That way you can just concentrate on the effort!

Warm down for 10-minutes spinning and then stretch

This session is a quality workout that maximises your time training and provides the necessary stimulus to make you a better, faster and more efficient runner.

The Outdoor Session

Indoor training may just not be your thing? Road riding, particularly in winter is more stressful, less predictable and carries increased risks of accident. The risks are very real, so please be sensible! Our hot tip for cycling in winter is ideally cycle between the hours of midday and 3pm – you have more light, potentially less traffic and the weather should be more predictable. For example, any early morning frosts will have disappeared providing ambient temperatures have increased.

©iancorless.com©iancorless.com_cyclingforrunners-

Lets face it. A beautiful winters day, blue skies, glowing sun and a nip in the air makes you feel great to be alive.

In contrast to an indoor session, road cycling is less controllable due to many of the points already raised, so think about your ride and what you want to achieve. For our first session, we are going to work on ‘structured *fartlek’ and therefore we recommend riding out of any built up areas (use this as a warm up) and then use quiet roads for the session. Ideally the road should be flat or slightly undulating – hill sessions come later in the training!

* Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Warm up for at least 15-minutes, in reality though your warm up may be longer due to your location and how far away quiet roads are.

Once on quite roads build pace using progressively harder gears but still maintain 90-cadence.

Session: 1-min, 2-min, 3-min and 5-min intervals at 80-85% of max HR. Be ‘random’ with how you do these intervals and the session should last 30 to 40-minutes including recovery. Ideally you will do at least 11-minutes of fartlek and build to 22-minutes of fartlek over a 4-week period.

Recovery is based on feel and unstructured, Use heart rate as a guide here. For example, when your heart rate drops back down to 70-75% of max HR – perform another repeat/ interval.

Warm down is as warm up – use cycling home in an easy gear and make sure you stretch post ride.

Incorporate one or both of the above sessions in over a 4-week period and you will start to feel the benefits not only physically and mentally.

In the New Year we will take our sessions up a notch to provide you with a great kick-start for another successful year in sport.

Have a great Christmas break and a great New Year!

*****

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 4 Winter Cycling

Cycling for Runners HEADER2

If you are living in Europe we won’t need to tell you that winter has arrived. Temperatures are dropping, the days are shorter, road conditions are unpredictable at times and the urge to get out and do anything (particularly cycling) can be diminished.

Don’t be disheartened though. Remember we are using cycling as a way to enhance our running and at this stage we are very much using cycling as active recovery or a method of maintain fitness while injured.

We all get injured at some point in our running. Salomon athlete, Jorge Maravilla posted this just the other day:

“I’m guilty of constantly thriving for the runners high, but lately my body has denied me. Despite an unwelcomed setback, today I found joy on two wheels.”

Jorge Maravilla

We keep saying this, but cycling is just great all around exercise. Jorge is lucky… he seems to have some nice weather in San Francisco. If we Europeans wish to continue cycling in winter we have two options:

  • Purchase some great all-weather clothing.
  • Go indoors.

Both options above are valid and we combine both in our training.

Cycling outdoors in winter

The old saying, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing’ really is applicable for cycling outdoors in winter. However, let’s get one thing straight, no all singing and all dancing Gore-Tex this or Gore-Tex that will protect you from ice on the road and dangerous conditions. Our first tip is assess conditions and be sensible… if in doubt, stay indoors.

Essential kit for winter cycling:

  • Hat ideally with ear covers that will fit under your helmet
  • Buff or seamless neckwear product for around your neck
  • Glasses
  • Merino base layer
  • Long-sleeve jacket with a windproof chest panel
  • Gloves – depending on conditions you may well need options. For example: a Merino liner glove with thicker warmer/ windproof glove for cold and icy winds. Alternatively you may well need a glove that performs in wet conditions.
  • Long tights – we recommend those with in-built braces as they provide added protection around the kidneys. Also consider tights with foot loops. These loops will stop them riding up. Tights are available with or without at seat pad. We purchase without seat pad so we can wear our normal cycling shots underneath.
  • Merino socks or similar
  • Shoe covers to help block out the wind, rain and colder temperatures
  • Waterproof jacket that can fold up

If you have all of the above you are set for winter cycling. Remember, cycling in winter is much colder than running primarily due to the wind chill. Don’t skimp on layers. In particular, your hands and feet are the most vulnerable areas.

We recommend cycling at all times (even in the day) with a flashing small led light at the front of your bike and a flashing red at the rear. It just adds a little more presence on the road and makes you more visible. It goes without saying that if you are heading out at night, use the best front and rear lights you can afford.

Eye contact is a key element of cycling, especially in winter. When approaching junctions or any areas where cars can impede and impact on your travel, look for eye contact. Lock in on them. Stare at them and acknowledge that they have seen you.

As we mentioned in article 3, when cycling use light gears and aim for 90-cadence. Remember, we are using cycling to either extend aerobic activity or as an alternative to a recovery run at this stage. As we progress with our articles we will discuss how to adapt your cycling sessions so that they can become specific in extended your fitness and/ or building strength.

 

Cycling indoors in winter

Lets face it, heading outdoors in the cold and potentially wet conditions on a bicycle is not something that you may not wish to do. It’s understandable. It’s not for all of us, especially if your runs are wet, muddy and cold. Step in indoor cycling.

We love indoor cycling…

We know; it’s the equivalent of running on a treadmill. However, just like a treadmill, indoor cycling can provide you with a very controlled and specific environment.

  • Focused and quality sessions
  • Improved cycling technique
  • Time efficiency
  • Accurate testing

Our first hot tip is don’t use the bikes at your local gym unless you have no other option… why?

Well, gym bikes are just so far removed from your ‘own’ bike. Remember in our first couple of articles how we emphasized how important it is to get the correct bike, the correct fit, the correct saddle and so on… why would you then go the gym, get on a generic bike and then disregard everything you have strived to get right.

The way forward is to purchase a ‘Turbo Trainer.’

elite crono fluid

Many styles of turbo trainer exist and you can pay as little or as much as your budget allows. We would recommend a middle of the road trainer costing in the region of £100-150 to be the best of both worlds. We also recommend a ‘fluid-resistance’ trainer as you use your bicycle gears to create more or less resistance. For clarification, ‘magnet-resistance’ units often work by adding a lever to the handlebars and you then add/ reduce resistance by moving the lever. We not keen on these though as the resistance seems to be linear and the feel is nothing like riding on the road.

One more feature that we think is worth mentioning is a spring- loaded resistance unit. Indoor trainers can really impact on the longevity of a tyre; a spring-loaded unit will provide a longer life.

How do they work?

A turbo trainer usually consists of an ‘A’ frame and a metal drum. Quite simply, you attach the rear of your bicycle to the frame and place the rear wheel on the drum. This drum provides resistance to the rear wheel and creates a similar sensation to riding on the road. You can add more or less resistance to make sessions as hard or as easy as you require. Tip: The front of your bicycle will feel as though it’s pointing downhill due to the added height of the turbo trainer. Therefore raise your front wheel to make your bicycle level. You can use anything to do this but many companies now sell specific products to do the job for you.

Hints ‘n’ tips

Image copyright - highergearchicago.com

Image copyright – highergearchicago.com

  • Use a piece of old carpet or purchase a turbo training matt so that you provide some protection between you, your bicycle and the floor. This is really important if you are using a room in your home. (3)
  • Have some towels handy to protect your bike and to use to mop sweat from your face (4)
  • Use a fan to cool you down (2)
  • Have water available (1)
  • Raise the front wheel (5)
  • Always use the same tyre pressure and resistance on the rear wheel. This will make sessions controllable and comparable.
  • Use a HRM such as a Suunto Ambit and/ or rear wheel cadence counter
  • Use music or a dvd to provide stimulus. We personally create music playlists based on the session we are doing… rocking out on your indoor trainer to AC/DC makes speed and interval work easy! (6)

Indoor cycling generates plenty of heat and even when cycling easy, you will still sweat. Be prepared.

For the first month of indoor cycling you can apply the principles as laid out in Article 3 of Cycling for Runners – keep gearing light and easy, aim for a 90-cadence and use a HRM to ensure that you are not working harder than you should be. Double what would have been your run time; so, if you were doing a 30-minute easy run, do a 60-min easy cycle.

 *****

In article 5 of CYCLING for RUNNERS we will discuss spicing up your outdoor and indoor cycling sessions with one session for outdoors and one session for indoors and how to combine this with your recovery sessions.

Enjoy the seasons, enjoy the change in the weather and importantly use cycling to enhance your running.

Be safe…!

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Girl What Cycles (2)

WOBBLES WOBBLES WOBBLES

At first I was afraid

I was petrified

And I grew strong

And I learned how to get along

and so you’re back

Did you think I’d crumble

Did you think I’d lay down and die

Oh no, not I

I will survive

But now I hold my head up high

and you see me

somebody new

– Gloria Gaynor

 ©iancorless.com_cyclingforrunners-4115

Well …….THAT was epic! Back on the bike. I must say the once yearly training sessions in Lanzarote are maybe not sufficient to make me feel at home on a bike.

Now, a couple of vital tips for the novice cyclist or not so novice cyclist who is going to use cycling as cross training.

First and foremost if you are lucky enough to go out on your initial cycling rides with an ex-elite cyclist:

  • Use the opportunity to benefit from his experience to take in all the useful tips about how to handle your gears (of course you need to first find out where they are). This means you will maximize your energy and hopefully be sticking to an ideal cadence of 90 rpm.
  • Draft as much as you can behind him so you can concentrate on mastering the technical aspects of your bike and less on maintaining speed.
  • IGNORE and pretend not to notice that he can take his hands off the handlebars and put on his wind-stopper jacket or hold the iphone and take snaps of you pedaling like a mad woman all without losing his balance. This requires decades of training where the bike eventually becomes an extension of the cyclist’s body. You will NOT get to this level but the objective is to benefit from what cycling offers in terms of cross-training – i.e. a weight-bearing cardio-vascular work-out and not all these impressive balancing acts.

The first ride is all about getting to know your bike and cycling kit better and not catering any ambitions with regards to average speed. This means:

  • Playing around with the gears – knowing when to get on the “big ring” and the “small ring”. You need to maintain a regular cadence and so be attentive to the course – the up-hills and down-hills as well as the direction of the wind.
  • Being aware of the dangers of traffic. Obviously you should ideally be cycling on country roads with reduced traffic but for most of us this means cycling through urban traffic before we can access these roads. Initially this is a little daunting especially since you’re trying to master your new bike.
  • Learning how to maintain balance and being able to grab hold of your water bottle or wipe a snotty nose without wobbling.
  • Learning to use clip-less pedals effectively. These might take a little getting used to but it is important to practice clipping and unclipping. At the beginning novice riders tend to unclip too much as the idea of suddenly having to break at a junction, traffic lights, cross-roads, circle, accident or congestion and losing your balance and falling still clipped to the bicycle is something we wish to avoid at all costs. Yet here again it is all about anticipating the aforementioned and using the gears effectively to get into an easier gear so you just need to slow down without unclipping.
  • Working on pedaling technique so you don’t acquire bad habits from the beginning. Use the “wiping dog shit” technique. Literally imagine you are wiping dog-shit from your shoes by dropping your heel at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
  • Enjoying the experience and not being traumatized by it so you can’t wait for your next ride! This is a hard one – after my third ride I was beating myself up because I was flying on long flat stretches of uncongested road and riding at a pathetic snail’s pace on the smallest gear up short little steep hills, spinning but not covering distance. Again this is all about experience – the more you go out, the more energy-efficient you will become. Believe in yourself and remind yourself that being perched on top of a bike is for most people a totally unnatural thing and that you will get there ………eventually. Positive thinking also helps!

My personal tip to make your first rides easier:

  • Keep all your cycling kit in one place. Don’t mix it with your run kit. There is sooooo much more to take with you, the list is endless and before you know it you are out the door and you’ve forgotten something.

Remember:

  • Helmet (don’t laugh – this is the last item I almost forgot)
  • Energy bars – yep, when you spend all that nervous energy these are a welcome treat and booster.
  • Proper wind-proof gloves as from now – remember there’s the wind-chill factor to contend with in cycling.
  • A filled water bottle.
  • Your sports watch if you use one on the “cycling” settings – I use a Suunto Ambit 2.
  • Proper sun-glasses for cycling NOT running – Cycling glasses cover the eyes more and protect.
  • Spare cash – when you cycle you cover more distance than when you run and you never know if you need it.
  • A proper wind-proof jacket
  • All the kit to fix a puncture – we’ll come to the nitty-gritty of this later.
  • Two pairs of socks if haven’t invested in shoe covers yet.

And last of all:

  • LOTS of positive energy and a smile

follow me on Twitter @girwhatcycles

riding_a_bicycle_311140

 

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Girl What Cycles – 1

Niandi PHOTO

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah!
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah!

©Queen

Check out ALL the CYCLING for RUNNER articles HERE

So where do I start? Not quite sure but I am sure that cycling will firm up those weak “runner glutes” and make me a stronger ultra-runner!

But first let me put my story into perspective. I am NOT an ex-elite cyclist like a certain Mr. Talk Ultra. More like a false beginner – I’ve certainly dabbled in road biking and have recently decided to take it a little further and invest myself more seriously in cycling as a cross-training alternative.

What motivated this decision? Cycling is a weight-bearing form of cardio-vascular exercise which is perfect for:

  • Training during certain running-related injuries and maintaining cardiovascular fitness. I feel directly impacted by this as I have for the past 3 years had to cut down on my mileage and participation in long-distance events due to a foot injury. I heel strike on the right foot and after 2 decades of road and trail running my arch has collapsed and the spring ligament which is distended. The human foot has an arch much like the ones in some bridges and other architectural structures. And much like these man-made structures it is a useful engineering phenomenon with the tendons and spring ligament working together to provide “lift off”. A collapsing arch can be caused by injury or ageing. I don’t want to go down the road of orthotics and strengthening my foot muscles requires a reduction in mileage and as I hate aqua jogging cycling seemed like a good option!
  • Cross-training to prevent over-training and a sudden increase in mileage. If you are not already injured as I am cycling is an effective means of preventing running-related injuries or at least reducing the risk. I wish I had taken up cycling before to prevent all those running-related injuries the damage of which is irreversible.

This will not be the first time I use cycling to maintain fitness. A few years ago I was training for a 100-miler and felt excruciating pain when I went out for a run. My suspicions were confirmed by the radiologist. I had multiple stress fractures of the metatarsals caused by a sudden increase in mileage combined with calcium deficiency. This is not uncommon for female ultra-runners. I was told ‘RICE’ (rest, ice, compress, elevate) was what was required. Only problem – I had invested financially and time-wise my 100-miler in South Africa was just 5 weeks away. So I laid off running for 5 weeks and cycled intensely (psychologically I didn’t want to feel undertrained and it was far too early to taper). The 5-week rest from running did me the world of good and by the time I got to the start line the bones in my foot had healed and very little fitness had been lost due to my cycling. In addition to this although I didn’t get my “runner’s high”, I did get a fix from cycling and I didn’t gain any weight.

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You only have to look at female athletes like Nathalie Mauclair, Emilie Forsberg and Emilie Lecomte to realize that cross-training can be beneficial and help you stay injury-free, add variety and spice to your running by stimulating other group muscles and ultimately increase the longevity of your run career whether you are a professional or not.

Well now that I’ve sold the benefits of cycling for runners let me tell you about my dabbling with the sport:

I grew up in the Netherlands where kids are born on bikes so I started cycling relatively long distances when I was 5 – at weekends it wasn’t uncommon for us kids to cycle 20km to the pancake restaurant, eat up a massive Dutch pancake and cycle 20km back home. Then as I grew up into a lazy teenager I put away my bike and only took up cycling again when I was injured as a runner.

Niandi PHOTO

The revelation really came when I attended a triathlon camp in Lanzarote run by my partner Ian Corless who was an ex elite cyclist very keen on triathlon and IM training. Lanzarote is a cyclists’ paradise and here I learnt to use clipless pedals and more importantly experience the thrill of cycling through endless stretches of volcanic landscapes, against strong head-on winds and down scary descents…! I loved it but I didn’t have my own bike and so cycling was limited.

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I am now more than motivated to progress, mix things up and not only provide some spice to my training but also I know, cycling will make me a better runner. I hope that my input as a “novice” or “false beginner” who can provide a female perspective will help all of you, especially female ultra-runners out there who want to improve as runners.

So let the fun begin…

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Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving – Albert Einstein

 

Ladies, I would love to hear from you… tell me your stories, tell me how you are using cycling for running and importantly, have you got any cycling gossip?

Follow me on Twitter @girlwhatcycles

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 3 Lets Get Started!

 

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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.

Scott RC Mens Short Sleeve - Cycling for Runners

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.

Scott RC Mens Shorts - Cycling for RunnersCycling Socks – get short ones. It may sound vain but cycling with long socks looks ridiculous! (Unless you use compression)

Scott RC Tech sock - Cycling for RunnersCycling shoes

Scott Shoes - Cycling for RunnersCycling 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.

Scott Liner Glove - Cycling for Runners

Helmet – essential! Don’t even contemplate going outside without one. Make sure it fits properly.

Scott Helmet - Cycling for RunnersGlasses – debris is all around us, on a bike you are moving fast so don’t take risks. Get some protection.

Scott Glasses - Cycling for Runners Wind/ Waterproof Jacket

Scott Waterproof Jacket - Cycling for RunnersArm Warmers – these are a great addition to a s/s top and allow you to control your temperature whilst out on a ride.

Scott AS Arm Warmer - Cycling for RunnersLeg Warmers – as above, they convert your shorts into full length tights and therefore provide two easy options.

  • Scott Legwarmer - Cycling for Runners 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
  •  Pump
  •  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.

Why?

  • 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:

  1. Maintain your long run.
  2. Maintain one run session that involves speed, fartlek or hill work.
  3. Work on a cycling cadence of 90 rpm
  4. Keep cycle gearing light so that you can ‘spin’ your legs
  5. 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.

Scenario 1

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.

Scenario 2

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. We use Suunto Ambit with HR monitors.

Suunto Ambit 3 Peak HR side view

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.

NOTE

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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