I have been a runner for most of my adult life. I ran my first marathon in 1995 and have run numerous other marathons, half marathons, and 5Ks since. I have also been coaching runners since 1997. In that time, like most runners, I have sought out tools to improve my health and performance in the sport. What I have learned is that cycling is a fantastic cross-training option for runners. Whether you run or you have runners in your classes, knowing the benefits of cycling for runners will help you to design the right balance between the ride and the run.
Early in a running program, when the goal is to build your aerobic endurance, indoor cycling classes can help to improve cardiovascular fitness while giving you a break from the impact forces involved in road running. As you get closer to race day you will spend more time running, but indoor cycling can continue to have a place in your overall training program. So although the volume of indoor cycling that you do when you are getting race ready differs, you can continue to use the bike as an extension of your running miles.
Another reason I like indoor cycling for runners is that intensity training can easily be incorporated into indoor cycling classes. Individuals can achieve specific training goals by monitoring heart rate training zones or measuring power output in watts,
In my practice, I have found that intensity monitoring gives the runner, especially a runner with training goals like a marathon, the greatest gains in endurance, strength, and speed by ensuring that each workout is done at a specific intensity. When I coach a runner, I consider both the intensity of their running and the intensity of their cycling workouts to balance the work and recovery periods of their overall plan. It is important to look at all of the stresses imposed on the body to avoid overtraining. This practice translates to better efficiency and economy of running, which translates to better racing times.
Other benefits of incorporating cycling into a runner’s training include:
McCormick, F., Nwachukwu, B. U. & Provencher, M. T. (2012). Stress fractures in runners. Clinics in sports medicine, 31(2), 291–306.
I have some decent experience as a runner and use indoor and outdoor cycling as crosstraining. I found this article to be sound. One piece of advice that should not be overlooked is to ‘remember to alternate your intensity on a hard/easy schedule’. That means that if Saturday is a long run day, Sunday should not be a century or intense interval session.