Running and cycling are both aerobic activities that have equal cardiovascular benefits.
Running is a high-impact and requires the entire body to be moving while cycling is a low-impact cardiovascular workout.
Research tells us that as a generalization, one mile of running with moderate effort equals three miles of cycling with moderate effort.
On that note… As someone who is wanting to improve their running…
Let’s have a look at if you should include cycling into your training, if there are any benefits to cycling for your running performance and if you might just be making a big mistake by adding cycling to your training regime.
Does Cycling Training Help Your Running?
The answer to does cycling help running is yes and no.
I know people hate those kinds of answers but the answer is yes because it contributes to our cardiovascular fitness.
Runners who cycle also find that it tends to help their hill climbing so it does make you a stronger hill climber.
The answer is also no because unfortunately, it doesn’t prepare you for that eccentric load that you experience in running.
At Coach Parry, we definitely recommend cross-training and supplementing your training with cycling because it will allow you to get that little bit more training in without risking injury to yourself or building up too quickly.
It also allows you to keep training when you are injured (depending on the injury)
We tell people that your cycling-to-running ratio is roughly 2-2.5 times that of running. So 1hr run = 2-2:30 ride
That becomes less true the more competent you are as a cyclist.
Runners who are not competent cyclists don’t tend to be able to push out the power output that they need to and that is why that ratio is so big.
The more competent a cyclist you are the closer together that ratio will come because of the eccentric nature of running, running will always carry a higher energy cost than cycling.
Can Cycling Replace Running?
Look we get it, it’s no surprise that many runners like to hop on a bike sometimes, and vice versa.
Cross-training is an essential part of your running plan. Studies show that it offers many benefits for runners.
The amount of cycling you add to your training program depends on how you’re feeling—both mentally and physically.
To become a better runner, you can’t do more cycling than running. I would cut one run out and do a cycle instead if you are looking to train for a running event.
If you’re injured, that obviously changes
Cycling for runners is a wonderful way to cross-train especially if a runner is injured. If you’re injured and can’t handle the high impact of running but still feel good cycling then cycling is a great way to maintain your fitness while recovering.
Does Cycling Ruin Your Running
Science shows us that running requires a greater oxygen uptake than cycling does at comparable intensity levels… Therefore it may feel like it’s harder to breathe when transitioning from cycling to running due to the greater oxygen demand of running.
The greater oxygen demand of running is because cycling is independent of body mass whereas running is dependent on body mass.
There is also a difference in your Lactate threshold for cycling and running.
In summary, no cycling does not ruin your running performance.
Adding cycling to your training regimen will not help you achieve faster run times, and it will not have a negative impact on your running performance either… the key takeaway is that cycling can be used as an effective cross-training tool.
If you’re a bike lover and want to continue cycling while you run then you’re going to love this next part…
Pros Of Cycling & Running
- Improved running performance
- Building strength in complementary muscles
- Aerobic training
Cycling aids recovery by increasing the blood flow to your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
As we mentioned earlier, cycling is also a good use of injury recovery time.
By including cycling into your training plan you will be running some days and cycling some days. Both running and cycling activate similar muscles, but each one targets the muscle in a different position. Using both will help build overall strength.
Improved running performance
By cycling, you will be improving your running performance by building your endurance, stamina, and overall fitness all while doing a low-impact sport and placing less stress on your joints.
Building strength in complementary muscles
If all you do is run… At some point you’re definitely going to plateau, you’ll stop getting faster and you’ll stop seeing results you’re used to seeing…
The muscles that get worked while you cycle (Quads, glutes, and core) complement the muscles you use for running.
The above is all true BUT, cycling should still not replace conventional strength training
Making sure you do the correct strength training is important. The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan for runners that you can download by clicking here.
While cycling you can build your aerobic capacity by going for a longer, steady ride to build endurance and at the same time have a cardio workout with low recovery rates or you can do an interval workout for some speed work.
Con’s Of Cycling For Runners
The con’s really just depend on your fitness goals… From the point of view of trying to improve your overall running performance then… there are no cons.
In general, running burns more calories than cycling.
Cycling can build more muscle and is easier on your joints. Our body adapts to whatever workouts we do on a regular basis.
If you want to improve your overall fitness and strength, including running and cycling into your routine is an excellent plan!
In this video Sports Scientists, Devlin Eyden and Shona Hendricks discuss why cycling is a great addition to any running training plan.