If you believe in cross-training, you won’t be surprised to learn that spending more time on the bike can help you get faster and prevent injuries while running.
Here are four ways supplementing your training with additional time on the bike will build strength, endurance and a higher cadence that will ultimately benefit your run.
1. REDUCE YOUR CHANCE OF INJURY
The problem with a run-heavy workout regimen is the risk of injury. Because the impact of running puts a lot of stress on your hips, knees and ankles, overuse injuries are fairly common.
Putting in more time on the bike counterbalances your tough run workouts, giving your body adequate time to recover before your next run. Going out for an easy spin in between running workouts can also be great for active recovery, which helps you flush out lactate, improve blood flow and reduce muscle soreness.
If you happen to get injured from running, cycling can also be used to stay in shape and helps you recover from injury without subjecting yourself to the impact forces of running.
2. IMPROVE YOUR ENDURANCE
If you’re training for a long-course triathlon, you’ll need to have a good endurance base to reach the finish line. While you’ll still want to include long runs into your workout routine, you might not need to do as many as you think.
Since cycling is low impact, you can spend a greater amount of time on the bike than running on the road. Long, slow rides in the 3–5 hour range can boost your endurance with minimal risk of injury, which benefits you in all three legs of the triathlon.
Another way to improve your endurance without actually logging 20-mile runs is to try the 10:1 brick workout. To complete a 10:1 brick workout, you’ll bike 10 miles for every 1 mile you run. While you’ll want to increase the length of this workout slowly, a 40-mile bike ride followed immediately with a 4-mile run provides you with a great endurance workout without completely neglecting your run. It’ll also make you more comfortable with bike-to-run transitions.
3. BUILD STRENGTH
Because running builds lean muscles, cross training is essential to improve your power and strength. While running and cycling work similar muscle groups, adding more cycling time in your weekly workouts can help address muscular imbalances and improve strength, which helps you fight fatigue in the latter stages of your race.
While your hamstrings, hip flexors and calves are major power sources for running, cycling, on the other hand, helps increase quad and gluteal strength, which can help you avoid injury and make you a faster overall runner.
Try this quick interval session to build power and strength on the bike:
- Spin easy for 10–15 minutes with a cadence above 90 rpm.
- Find a short climb that takes you about 2 minutes to reach the top. In your big chainring, complete 7–10 sprints to the top of the climb, resting for one to two minutes between each effort. Since you’ll be climbing in your big chainring, expect your cadence to be around 75 rpm.
- Cool down with an easy spin in your small chainring for 10–15 minutes with a cadence above 90 rpm.
4. DEVELOP A QUICKER CADENCE
If there’s one similarity between world-class runners and professional cyclists, it’s a quick cadence. In fact, the best marathoners in the world generally average somewhere in the neighborhood of 170–180 steps per minute. Lance Armstrong commonly used a cadence in the 110–120 range, which only calculates the number of revolutions for one pedal during the cycling motion per minute.
Since some runners naturally have a longer stride and slow cadence, working on your cycling cadence helps you adopt a shorter stride with a higher turnover rate. This helps improve your speed and efficiency when you run.
On the bike, try one workout per week that focuses specifically on your cadence. Using your small chainring, try to pedal at a cadence of 110 rpm or more for 5 minutes at a time. Complete three sets to start, eventually increasing the amount of time to make the effort more difficult.