We often get asked, “can cycling improve my running?” Read on to find out the benefits of cycling & how to incorporate cycling into your run training.
We work with a number of runners and triathletes and often get asked this same question. You might think that cycling is counter-productive to running training, but cross-training is a really important element, especially for long-distance running. After all, running is quite a high-intensity exercise on your body. It’s hard-hitting and repetitive. Cycling, comparatively, is low-impact, making it the perfect addition to boost your running fitness.
However, it’s worth saying that, ultimately, nothing beats getting miles on your feet when running. So, while cycling can improve your running, it shouldn’t replace it if you are training for a running event.
Below, we’ll look at the importance of cross-training, the benefits of cycling, and how to incorporate cycling into your run training.
WHY IS CROSS-TRAINING IMPORTANT?
Adding cross-training to your running regime helps improve power, speed and stability. Simply by mixing up your training, you build strength in other muscle groups, help prevent injuries and additionally, maintain motivation.
One of the main benefits of cross-training is the impact on your overall body. Particularly when it comes to general conditioning and core strength - both of which play a big part in running performance. Core strength is a fundamental pillar often ignored by runners and cyclists alike but can increase overall stability, technique, general endurance and explosive power.
Strength training: Strength training is vital for improving running. Not only will more muscular legs from cycling mean faster speeds, better endurance, and reduced risk of injury, but you’ll also benefit from less fatigue.
Core training: Your core powers your movements and encompasses your abs, glutes and more. Improving core strength doesn’t just help maintain proper form, but minimises pain in your lower back and hips. The stronger your core, the more efficient and stable your running technique will be.
Flexibility training: While strength and core training improve your power output and endurance, flexibility training adds to that and is great for preventing injuries. Improving overall flexibility ensures your muscles work more efficiently, and your joints will be more mobile. All of that helps reduce the chances of injury and optimises your efforts. Particularly for runners, strong and supple hamstrings, calf muscles and glutes are essential.
Cross-sport training: You might not think that trying other activities would benefit your running, but the benefits of cross-sport training are immense. Cycling is a serious cardiovascular workout and engages new muscles that would otherwise be disproportionately weak if you just focused on running.
Focusing purely on running can also result in weaknesses in your body, and that increases the chances of injury and decreases running efficiency. The stronger and more rounded you are from a physical point of view, the better you will perform.
THE BENEFITS OF CYCLING FOR RUNNING
Cycling participation continues to increase year on year, and it’s easy to see why. It’s fun, efficient as a calorie burner, has many worthwhile health benefits and you can do it from the comfort of your own home - especially since indoor cycling has exploded in popularity.
Here are a few benefits of how cycling can improve your running performance:
1. It burns calories
Cycling is a high-intensity cardiovascular exercise (and there are various workouts you can do varying in difficulty and length, especially if doing an indoor cycling session). The high-intensity nature of the exercise ensures your metabolism is firing on all cylinders, which continues for hours after your workout. What does that mean? It means cycling will help you burn calories fast, resulting in quicker weight loss.
2. It improves muscular strength
Cycling is perfect for improving the strength of your muscles. In particular, your glutes, abs, hamstrings, calves and quads will benefit from the exercise. Building strength in your leg muscles is a great way to protect your body from common running injuries, such as IT band pain, runners knee, and hamstring strains.
3. It aids mental health
All forms of exercise and activity release mood-enhancing endorphins, and cycling is no different. Like when running, endorphins are the hormones released into your brain to work against stress and boost mental wellbeing. Therefore, cycling provides a boost of feel-good hormones. Additionally, it helps reduce your levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, which in turn improves sleep patterns.
4. It boosts cardiovascular performance
For running, improving lung capacity and cardiovascular ability is an obvious benefit. An intense cycling session really gets the blood pumping and heart rate racing. Therefore, you’ll benefit from increased blood flow and higher levels of oxygen consumption. Improved cardiovascular ability additionally benefits your vital organs, while helping to lower the risk of serious health issues such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
5. It’s a low impact exercise
Unlike running, cycling is a low-impact exercise, which is why cycling is a great activity for runners. The low-impact nature of cycling makes it ideal for those suffering from knee or back pain, coming back from injuries and so on. It’s the ideal low-impact activity that puts little pressure on your body and gives your knees and joints a break from running, particularly if you do the majority of your running on the road.
6. It provides energy and productivity
Overall, cycling is great for general health, and as your strength, stamina and cardio ability improves, so will your general levels of alertness and productivity. You’ll also find your energy levels improving - say goodbye to those energy slumps.
HOW TO INCORPORATE CYCLING INTO YOUR RUN TRAINING
Adding cycling to your training plan is a great way to boost muscle recovery and prevent injuries from overdoing it. If you run 3-4 times per week, try swapping one of the runs out for a cycle instead. If you’re cycling regularly already, then you’ll see the cardiovascular benefits when running immediately.
Especially during the winter months, indoor cycling sessions, which avoid the bad weather, make a great training addition for runners looking to maintain or boost fitness. Check out our cycling academy if you want to add some cycling cross-training to your run training.
Categories: Train Smart