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 – 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.

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

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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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