On yer’ bike! Why cycling is good for runners

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There’s no doubt that cycling is one of the most popular cross training activities for runners. There are numerous benefits to getting on your bike from improving your vO2 max to building on leg strength and cadence.

Whether it be on the road or in the gym, time spent spinning those legs on the bike is valuable fitness in the bank.

Cycling reduces stress – I’m not just talking about the stress relief of endorphins firing but also the stress on your legs. Cycling let’s you add another high intensity workout to your training programme in place of a running session to reduce the impact on your legs. Trust me, your legs will thank you for putting less stress on your joints from pounding the road or the treadmill. This in turn reduces the risk of injury as well.

Cycling builds leg strength – I’ve been told by my physiotherapist before to build up the strength in my legs, particularly in my quads. Cycling will help to build up the strength in your calves, shins and quads which is beneficial for runners. Cycling also has the same triple extension that running does. In both running and cycling you extend your knees, hips and ankles which you can do at a similar cadence to running when cycling, or even faster.

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Cycling helps you to recover – While you’re working on other, maybe weaker areas of your body the over worked areas will feel plenty rested which in turn will help you to (hopefully) remain injury free. Not only that but if you’re well rested you’ll be able to perform better on your next run. That said, if you are unfortunate enough to have a running injury then cycling is great rehab for your legs and can help you to maintain a good level of fitness.

Cycling gives you a change of scenery – Cycling gives you a mental break from running and the mind games that come with it! This can be invaluable in helping you to get out of a training rut or can even help you to break through some important mental barriers when training for a race for example. It will also keep your legs guessing and they will then feel fresh for that next run. In a practical sense, you can also go further in a shorter time on a bike and can therefore have a literal change of scenery and see more!

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Cycling can’t replace running – However it is important to note that cycling can’t replace running. If you do choose to build cycling in to your running programme then you must keep up your long run and other quality session such as speed for example, especially if you’re training for a race! Easy pace or recovery runs can be replaced by cycling and of course, if your injured then adjust this accordingly as mentioned above in this post. I’d say it’s also important to keep up your strength work, too.  About 10-15 minutes is said to be the equivalent of one mile and try to keep between 90-100RPM to mimic running cadence.

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Refusing to let injury stand in my way

 “I don’t think there’s such a thing as the perfect marathon training plan.

My physiotherapist said this to me at a recent session and I couldn’t agree more. We can spend time devising detailed training plans suitable to our goals – I’ve got a pretty good one drawn up for April’s Manchester marathon – but at the end of the day marathon training is really about taking it all in your stride, no pun intended.

Even if you’ve got the best plan drawn up, external factors can halt your plans such as work commitments or a niggling injury.

It’s the latter which has temporarily derailed my schedule but after a long awaited visit to the physiotherapist I’m here to tell you that if your marathon training is halted because of injury don’t panic, don’t hit the peanut butter and certainly don’t think that you’re out of the race. It can be quite the opposite in fact, unless your physio has advised against racing entirely obviously, but if your injury just requires rest for a couple of weeks then it’s still game on rather than game over.

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Over the past couple of weeks I have experienced a pain in my knee similar to someone clamping it in a vice every time I’ve reached two miles on a run. It’s not a pain I have experienced from running before and it’s certainly not fun so I booked in to see Jeroen at Jorvik Physiotherapy who was fantastic.

I’ve got to rest for three weeks but luckily not entirely. I’m only allowed to do upper body weight training, cycle or go on the cross-trainer. I can also swim but no breaststroke. I can start running again after three weeks, or sooner if the swelling in my knee goes down before then, and I’ve been given some good stretches to do and told it needs massaging every day.

Jeroen was so positive which really kept me upbeat and he told me ways to keep my strength up without damaging my knee and was confident that I’d be back on track within a month or so. Personally I think that finding a good, positive physiotherapist makes a world of difference.

So even though I’ve been told to rest, I’m lucky enough that it’s not complete rest, which can often be the case with knee injuries. I plan on cycling a lot, getting my swim on (thanks Adidas for my new costume) and still bashing out pull-ups and what not at CrossFit, all the while keeping a mindful watch on my knee.

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I’m also lucky enough to have been drawn up a prehab plan for my knee to hopefully prevent me from getting injured in the future. I’d definitely recommend having a coach draw one of these up for you too if you’re injured. It’s something you can incorporate in to a training plan and eventually doing the exercises will just become a habit.

Here’s a little snippet of what mine involves:

Single leg hip lifts
Seated leg lifts/L-sit progressions
Side plank with leg raise
3 point plank
Glute circuit of glute bridges, clam shells, fire hydrants and glute ham walks.
So, if it’s bad news from the physio don’t view it as bad news, view it as a new way to train. If you can’t run, yes it’s beyond frustrating, but look at what else you can do, talk it through with your physio and find new ways to keep strong, fit and healthy and I promise that when you get back to running it’ll all be worth it and you’ll still be feeling fit and ready to race.

🙂

Ps If anyone in York is in need of a physio visit Jorvik Physiotherapy in Fulford, Jeroen knows his stuff.