CYCLING for RUNNERS – Girl What Cycles (2)


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


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.


  • 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



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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!


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.


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.


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…


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



Join us on STRAVA


Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS and SUUNTO for the support and backing


Check out SCOTT HERE

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