Do you love running, but sometimes feel like you need a change?

Maybe you’ve hit a plateau with your fitness level and pace? Or, are you just looking to mix up your running with something else?

You may be surprised to discover that adding two wheels to your weekly program offers various gains to runners. Pushing the pedals could be the change you’ve been looking for. 

There are numerous benefits to cycling for runners. Experts agree that cross-training is an important aspect of any running program and cycling is a great complementary workout to running. Cycling helps to build your cardio fitness, which strengthens your heart and lungs (your running engine) while at the same time limiting impact on your joints. A cycling session may also alleviate monotony if you are tired of just running the same routes over and over again. 

It’s time to clip in your cycling shoes and add a whole new dimension to your running training. 

1. Cardiovascular Fitness

Cycling has plenty of aerobic benefits for the runner. Improving your cardio fitness will enable your body to use oxygen optimally while exercising. Regular cycling and running decrease your risk of developing severe heart disease. Both also help to improve your overall cardiac function, pumping more blood to your body with each heartbeat, and delivering more oxygen to your muscles. Good cardiovascular fitness means you can run harder for longer. 

There are different ways to complete a cycling session to complement your running. For example, to get a good cardio workout aim to cycle for 30 to 60 minutes at high intensity. Warm up at a slow, easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes. Then speed up until you start to sweat. A short sprint out of the saddle will elevate your heart rate. When you have completed your workout, cool down for about 5 minutes.

Triathlete Linsey Corbin adds a challenging all-out sprint interval session to her training once a week to build her aerobic fitness levels. Her session starts with a short warm-up followed by a 10x 1 min flat-out sprinting session and a 2-minute easy recovery ride. She then cools down for 10-15 minutes. No need to go outside for this one, an indoor trainer will give you everything you need for this cardio-building workout. You can crank up some fast-paced music to keep you motivated. 

2. Cross-training

At Coach Parry, each one of our experienced Coaches will tell you that to improve your running, don’t just run. Cross-training is a valuable tool that will help you to run better. Incorporating cycling into your training gets you out of your usual repetitive training program. Cycling activates complimentary muscles like your quads, glutes, and core, making you stronger and enhancing your running performance. 

Cycling is a great complementary workout to running. A bike ride targets the large muscles of your lower body, especially the quads, hamstrings, and core. Your glutes and hips will also get a good workout.

Running places a lot of stress on your calf muscles. With cycling, you can strengthen the calf muscles by placing the ball of your feet in the center of the pedals. This copies the foot contact point on the road when landing with a midfoot strike. Standing up in the saddle activates your calves to stabilize your feet on the pedals. Strong calves are important for runners because working with the Achilles, they act as a spring mechanism that helps you push off from the ground with each step and move forward. Stronger calf muscles = more spring in your step.  

If you are looking to build lower body muscle strength, put your bike into a bigger gear and cycle up hills. Cycling up hills is also a great core workout. 

3. Uphill Cycle Session Suggestion

Ride in the seated position uphill, but don’t grip the handlebars tightly, rather rest your hands on the bars whilst keeping your fingers loose. Focus on not bending or rotating your upper body from side to side as you pedal. Lack of support from your hands engages your core and builds core muscle strength. 

An added benefit of cycling uphill is that you can shift gears to reduce or maintain your effort, which is something you can’t do while running. 

4. Cycling Helps You To Run Faster 

Stronger muscles help you to run faster. Another way to achieve stronger muscles is to use specific interval training that will translate your cycling fitness into running fitness. Low-intensity cycling will not increase your running pace. 

Tempo and Lactate Threshold cycling intervals can benefit you if you are training for 6.2-mile races or half marathons and would like to increase your overall running speed. An example of a beginner Lactate Threshold session would look something like this:

4x 4-minute intervals at lactate threshold intensity followed by 120 seconds of easy recovery.

To progress, increase the duration of the intervals by 1 minute and decrease the recovery time by 15 seconds. For example: 4 intervals increase by 1 minute to 5-minute duration and 120-second recovery decreases to 105-second recovery time.

Reach out to one of the Coaches and let’s talk about incorporating some cycling into your training plan.

Longer rides at a consistent speed will help to build your running endurance by giving a great aerobic workout with little to no impact on the body. Remember you need to be sweating and keeping your cadence up, not pedaling along gently – you are not Driving Miss Daisy. 

Remember the 3:1 rule – 3 miles on a bike is equal to 1 mile of running. So a scheduled 3.1-mile run should work out to just under 10 miles, or 9.3 miles to be exact, on the bike. Keep in mind the amount of time you have available. If you have a 2-hour run scheduled, it doesn’t mean you have to complete a 6-hour cycle. You will still benefit from a 3- 4-hour ride if you have limited time. 

5. Replacing a Run With a Bike Ride

We advise adding a cycling session to your running program instead of replacing a session. Adding a cycling session allows you to train more in a week with less impact on your body. 

If you have to replace a running session with a cycle, make sure that you replace a maintenance session and not a long run. Long-running sessions are still important to help build your endurance levels. However, if you are cycling reduce your running volume (if you are injured) then increase your cycling sessions. 

When replacing a run, make sure your cycling session is long enough to maintain your fitness levels.

When replacing a running session, a general rule of thumb, as mentioned above, is that 3 miles of cycling are about the equivalent of running 1 mile (3:1). Your cadence – which is the number of cycling rotations you complete per minute at any given speed – is also important. Keep your cadence consistent ideally above 80 RPM (rotations per minute) – as long as it’s sustainable for your level of fitness – this helps mimic a running stride. 

6. Cycling to Recover

Cycling is a great recovery tool for any runner. Instead of a recovery run after a hard training run, hop onto your bike. 

Cycling on a recovery day will keep the blood moving through your tired muscles, flushing them out and improving blood circulation. Many runners get stiff legs, especially after a long run. Cycling helps to break down the lactic acid build-up by getting more oxygen to your muscles helping them to recover faster. The steady rhythm of cycling will reduce muscle and joint stiffness with much less impact on your joints, putting you back into your running shoes in no time. 

7. Injured? Cycle.

Runners tend to pick up a lot of injuries or ‘niggles’. If you’re sitting with an injury, cycling could be a huge benefit to you particularly if you’re training for a marathon, or half-marathon and don’t want to stop training for too long and lose your fitness. 

A lot of runners suffer from Runner’s Knee. Because of its motion, cycling builds up the muscles around the knee, taking the strain off the knee joint. Because cycling is a low-impact exercise, there is also little to no jerking, twisting, or jolting of the knee. 

Cycling will give you a great workout without the impact on your body that running has. If you can comfortably sit in the saddle and pedal but the jolt of running is causing you pain, then switch to cycling for a while.

 Maintaining your aerobic fitness through cycling will keep you motivated and make it easier to get back into your running program when you are ready. Research also suggests that maintaining some level of activity whilst injured can reduce the time needed for you to recover so you can start running sooner, but it’s always best to check with a professional to make sure cycling is a good option. 

8. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Cycling gives you a great new way to challenge yourself physically. If you’re already pretty fit and have been running for a long time, cycling will get you out of your comfort zone and explore new places. As we’ve already mentioned, cycling activates the muscles complimentary to running so you are not losing out on your running fitness by trying something new. 

If you love running, but you’re feeling unmotivated and need a change, cycling could be just the thing to get you out of your training rut. Cycling gives you a new way to see the outdoors. By jumping on a bike, you can still get a great cardio workout, but go further and see new places instead of the same old running routes. Remember to always cycle with a helmet when you are out on the road. 

Adding a new active fitness habit to your training will activate new neural pathways in your brain and add to your mental well-being. Building new pathways opens you up to trying new things, and breaking bad habits and makes you feel more confident. Adding some cycling to your week will boost your mood. Happier you = more confidence = better running. 

9. New Exhilarating Experiences

There’s no denying that runners love the outdoors, why else would they spend so much time out there? Cycling can add a new thrill for runners and offers a whole new way to experience the outdoors. Discover new routes, try mountain biking trails, climb up ridges or hills, and be rewarded with amazing views, and a new sense of accomplishment.

Whatever you need as a runner, cycling is the perfect way to complement your training, improve your cardio fitness, maintain fitness levels, burn fat, strengthen muscles, improve your mental health, and get outdoors! And cycling is easily accessible, even if you don’t know how to ride a bike. A stationary bike at the gym or at home will also give you a great workout. You can even sign up for a spinning class or HIIT cycling class at the gym!

All things considered, even if you don’t own a bike, adding pedaling to your running program is a win-win.


Devlin Eyden has a passion for seeing his athletes grow and excel. From novice runners or cyclists across all disciplines to elite mountain bikers representing South Africa at World Championships. In addition to helping you ride faster, for longer, Devlin also has the personal touch when it comes to your bike setup, aiming at improving the overall rider experience. With his background as a Sport Scientist as well as a Strength & Conditioning specialist, performance is Devlin’s main priority, be it in the gym, the lab or out on the road or trails. Being a keen runner & cyclist and having completed the Cape Epic among others, Devlin has first hand experience in what it take to reach your goals. If you’re looking for a once-off training program or ongoing, high touch support Devlin has you covered.

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