Does cycling help running endurance?

Does Cycling Help Running Endurance? Guide To Biking Workouts For Runners

As a long time running coach, I often get asked the question “Does cycling help running endurance?” If you are a regular of cross-training you might not be surprised that cycling can help running endurance. Not only that but it can help prevent injuries and potentially improve your performance.

Supplementing additional running with time on the bike can help build strength and increase endurance. While the high cadence has been proven to benefit your running.

Here we look at some of the benefits that cycling can bring to running.

Does biking help with running?

Does Biking Help With Running?

Since running is known to build lean muscles, cross-training is an important part of your training. Cross-training is a must for those runners that want to improve both their power and strength.

When running, concentric-eccentric contractions occur and when cycling only concentric contractions occur. This means the mechanical cost will vary between the two. When running the muscle fiber damage is much great than that of cycling. Thus running for 2 hours is a much greater strain on the body than cycling for the same duration.

When you are running continuously week after week, your building muscles to perform these functions. Initially, in the early stages of your training, you will see large improvements. But after a while, you may stop seeing results. This maybe the training in general but likely its a combination of  training, weak surrounding muscles and constant fatigue, injury and lack luster performance.

Since cycling uses muscles in a different way to running, adding some cycling into your running plan can help address imbalances, improve strength and endurance without the strain. Thus helping you to fight fatigue in the later stages of a running race.  Cycling can help to increase strength in these areas that are known to be weak and since its a low impact cardiovascular workout it will allow you to increase your weekly training volume without increased stress on the body.

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Biking workouts for runners

Biking Workouts For Runners

If you are looking for cycling workouts for runners, some key workouts can benefit both your endurance, strength, and speed.

The best biking workouts for runners can be split into three basic principles. Endurance, strength, and leg speed. Leg speed in cycling is just as important as your stride rate in running. Try including one session per week of high cadence work.

Start by warming up on the bike for 20 minutes and then follow up with 10 x 30 seconds at the highest cadence you can hold without bouncing on the saddle. As your hip flexors start to relax you will find that you will be able to increase the cadence and/ or the duration of each cadence interval. Remember this is all about leg speed rather than an intense effort.

Since a lot of runners naturally have a long stride and slow cadence, cadence workouts can help you adopt a shorter side and higher turn over rate. Both improving your speed and efficiency when running.

So take your time increasing the cadence and duration and focus on being smooth and relaxed.

The next best biking workout for a runner is low cadence work. Like the high cadence intervals, start with 20 minutes of easy riding to warm up. Then staying seated focus on a cadence of 50-60 rpm and hold for 3-5 minutes. Repeat this 3-5 times and recover as needed in between. This workout is much more fatiguing for the runner than the cyclist. So it is important you slowly build the duration each week and slowly reduce the recovery to between 2-3 minutes. The intensity of the low cadence work should replicate something that of a tempo run or 5k efforts in the beginning.

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If your running season is already in full swing try to keep away from any hard short intervals on the bike. This will have detrimental effect on your key running intervals. Instead add a longer endurance ride into you plan. Anything from 1-2 hours should suffice. Training in your endurance zones help stimulate type 1 muscle fibers and preserve glycogen utilization. Thus improving fat utilization and allowing your body to use glycogen in the later stages of a race. If your recently picked up injury, replacing your long run with a long ride will help you keep your fat utilization as well as your endurance.

Combining running and cycling training

Combining Running And Cycling Training

If you are in the phase of training where you are including long runs, speed work, tempo runs, or hill intervals into your weekly training. This is the perfect time to plan in some active recovery on the bike. You can include short recovery rides after your long run, or on your recovery run days. Make sure to keep the resistance and power low. Doing so will help improve blood flow, and reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

If you are in the mileage phase of your training this may allow you to follow some of the key workouts we talked about in this article. Make sure to keep the sessions apart from any high mileage days and as your mileage increases move more into using cycling as a recovery tool.


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