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But I am a Cyclist, Why Should I Run?

But I am a Cyclist, Why Should I Run?

It’s a question I am asked on a regular basis and one where my answer has perhaps changed as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser!).

So, the question is - Should a cyclist run?

The quick answer is MAYBE…

I would answer a resounding NO if the question were posed ‘Should a cyclist run during the cycling season’. However, if we are looking at the off-season then perhaps running can fit into your fitness program.

As someone who moved from only cycling to competing in duathlons (run – bike – run) to triathlons and then back to mainly bike racing, I can make the following observations. While cycling and all of its cardiovascular benefits aided my running ability (as did swimming for that matter), running did not help improve cycling ability during the racing season. Additionally, I found the more I ran, the more risk of injury as running is a very demanding sport on the joints (especially when compared to cycling and swimming). However, when I stopped running a few years back (mainly due to lingering injuries), I found a hole in my training in the off-season.

At some point we need a physiological break from riding the bike (and for me, swimming endless laps in the pool seemingly did not fill this void).

The beauty of running is in its simplicity and transportable it is. Think back to all of those work trips where bringing your $10,000 road bike was not an option and the hotel gym only an afterthought? This is where the ability to go running is beneficial! Pack a pair of running shoes and shorts and you can not only bring along a cross training element with obvious cardiovascular benefits, but also give yourself a great tool for exploring a new city!

As a road cyclist there is no need to do the 2 hour runs, but the ability to run 20 to 40mins sure comes in handy – and the main reason I started back running a few years ago. Let’s take a look at a list of both the Pros and Cons to running as a cyclist.

Running Pros –

  1. Running helps maintain one’s cardiovascular fitness.

  2. Running is a great change of pace to purely cycling, which is key to off-season success (the ability to hang up the bike for a period of time, yet maintain some level of fitness).

  3. In keeping with the train of thought from #2, running is a great form of cross-training (as is swimming, xc skiing, hiking, yoga, etc), which will help extends one’s longevity in their chosen sport.

  4. Running is a weight barring sport (unlike cycling), which promotes strengthening in the connective muscles and bones (studies have shown decreased bone density in cyclists).

  5. Running promotes increased hamstring and glute strength, as well as postural muscles (all areas that can be a weak on a cyclist).

  6. Running is much more transportable than cycling (just throw a set of running shoes into your suitcase and you are good to go vs. packing a complete bike). **Note – high end bike rental business like Roula here in NYC do make cycling when traveling a tad easier).

  7. Running is time efficient. Meaning you can get a good workout with a 30 to 60min run, which is a tad harder to do cycling and burns more calories per hour (see Chart 1 below).

Chart 1 – Calories burned per hour for various activities

Running Cons –

  1. Linking back to #4 above – Running is a weight barring activity thus leads to more muscle fiber damage.

  2. Linked to #1, running might not be advisable to all cyclists, as you need to factor in your weight and size as heavier athletes are more prone to injuries.

  3. Running utilizes different neuromuscular connections than cycling.

  4. Past history of injuries could make running a non-option for many cyclists (then opt for swimming as a non-cycling sport).

So, my answer is YES, with the caveat that it’s the off-season, you want to keep active without the bike (the regular Zwifting can wait a few months!), but don’t want to lose all of your fitness. This is where I think most cyclist can include RUNNING into their training regimen. And like any NEW sport or activity, be careful not to over-do it when starting to run.

Before starting, seek out a good pair of NEW running shoes to fit your running style (and most good running stores can help you select the right model by simply taking some video of you running on a treadmill). Then ease into your run program, starting with 15 to 20min minutes of easy zone 2 jogging (even if it means alternating walking and running every few mins for the first few sessions). From there you can build up the distance gradually.

Running is a great way to stay fit and enjoy the Fall colors at a slightly lower speed!

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