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  1. #1
    Road Runner DougG's Avatar
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    Running vs. Cycling

    Iíve owned a bike for many years but have just been riding casually mostly on rail-trails. Iíve been putting in maybe 100-200 miles/year, whereas my running distances have been from 700-1000 mi/year. But last Fall, I did one of those road event rides on my comfort bike. I took the 40-mile option, which was about 15 more than Iíd ever done before on a bike, and found that I really enjoyed it. But I also decided that Iíd be needing a better mount for doing longer road distances, and Iím now starting my ďroadieĒ career on a new Specialized Sequoia.

    What I was wondering is if anyone else here has had experience in switching from running to doing more biking. Iíll be 60 in a couple of months, but Iíve run a marathon as recently as 4 years ago. I doubt that Iíll do another due to the long training required and the wear and tear on my body, but I still do a couple of 10Ks a year, a 10-miler, and at least one half-marathon to finish off the year. So I think that I can say that I have the legs, endurance, and especially mental determination to ďgo the distanceĒ, but Iím not sure what ride mileage I should think about tackling next.

    So far, I can see that bicycle mileage is hard to equate with running miles. When youíre on a run, thereís no coasting down the hills (downhill can be as tough as going up!), no lunch breaks, and not much of a self-made breeze. On a 20-mile ride yesterday morning in warm & humid conditions, I was less tired out at the end than if I had run just a couple of miles. I can also see that cycling will probably be limited more by my legs, as opposed to running, which tends to have more of an aerobic limit.

    Any comments? I have the application for this yearís Blue Water Ramble right here on my desk as I type this. Now I just have to decide on 40, 60, 80 or 100 miles for my target!

    -- Doug

  2. #2
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    Running.........

    While I can't offer a comparison of the energy burned in the cycling/running debate, I can say that I was serious runner in my younger days and am now paying the price for it.

    In college I ran seven miles per day, and when time allowed, I ran ten or more.
    Now I would be hard pressed to run across the street. I can't think of a situation on a bicycle where you ever lose contact with the pedals and then smash down with all your weight, pounding your feet and knees. So far I have had two knee operations and will probably have another in the next three to five years.

    While I can't compare the mechanics beyond what I have just done, if I had life to do over, I would be a cyclist....not a runner.

    Good luck.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    There will be plenty of organized rides, so go easy on the Blue Water Ramble ride. Keep it fun because the exercise gurus say that we should do an activity that we enjoy and then we will stick with it. Sounds like you are a competitive type. Don't take this ride and make it the yardstick for anything. Use your weekly workouts for this instead.

    Your quads will develop over time and you will then have cyclists legs instead of runner's. Most likely you're a "slowtwitch" muscle type. Did you ever run the quarter mile in high school or college? If so, did you ever clock under 50 seconds? If not, most likely you're slow-twitch.

    Keep riding, mixing it up between distance and some speedwork for aerobic development and to power up those hills. Its easier running uphill and riding uphill. Less weight to carry.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    +1 with LastPlace. After years of running I had accumulated lots of stress injuries which of course I ran through until I was fairly wrecked. Cycling brought me back over time. While there can be over-use issues for cyclists, contrasted to running, it is relatively injury free (unless hit by a cement truck). Generally, overtraining is reflected in physical and emotional weariness, not shin splints, tendinitis, inflamed joints, pulled muscles, etc.

    One thing I especially discovered I liked about cycling was speed and the idea of serious distance. I can really get out and see things on a three hour ride. There is also a sense of fluidity and smooth circles that only came rarely for me in running. But, when I started running along with Jim Fixx and George Sheehan, nobody except the paperboy and grade school kids were on a bike in my locale.

    I can recall sitting in the theater watching "Breaking Away" with a pair of very creaky, sore knees and thinking, "Hey, I should try that". I did.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  5. #5
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    My thoughts are this. I have a friend who used to bust me all the time about running being superior to cycling. She made many of the same comments you've shared. She said cycling would build leg muscles, but that running was the best of cardio and aerobic. She also claimed that she never went on a bike ride that could push her into her red zone, and that the logical conclusion was the cycling was inferior. I then challenged her to ride with me for a day. Believe me she hit her "red zone" more than once. She barely finished the 80 mile ride, but was much more respectful of serious cyclist after it. I say all of this, not to be insulting to you or other runners. On the contary, after running cross country for three years in high school, serious runners have my respect and admiration. But I think there is often some crooked thinking related to cycling on the part of many runners. They take a ride, coast a good bit, or get a good tail wind and wonder how cycling can keep them fit. You see, the thing is I've seen people running along side one another talking and barely breaking a sweat. Now they were running faster than I can run right now, but for them, they were coasting.... not getting much of a workout at all. So, I believe it is possible to run and not tax yourself all that much. Conversely, when I look at people like the pros riding in the TDF right now, I realize that cycling can be an extraordinary way to keep fit. But there's a catch. The bicycle is such an efficient machine that returns so much for the energy you put in, it can be deceptive. You're going fast, relative to running, but not working all that hard. Well, long story short, you want to stay really fit? Ride faster, harder, with more steep climbs, do time trials, etc. So, I don't really think you can equate running miles to cycling miles. There are too many variables, not the least of which is the individual's overall fitness when participating in either. For some a run around the block or a ride of 2 miles is all they can muster. Don't know if any of this makes sense, but you did ask for thoughts, and these are mine!
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  6. #6
    Senior Member CrossChain's Avatar
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    +1 NOS88. This morning I went out and, for part of my ride, held myself to mid-80%'s on my hrm...which is nosing up against my redline. I also threw in a few brisk hill climbs. And then paced myself back home. A good, nicely taxing ride. Came home, had a snack, stretched, showered, and kicked it on the couch with the newspaper. Spent the rest of the day working around the house. (I'm on vacation.) Tomorrow I'll go for a cruise and feel good. And do serious hills Thursday. Recovery bike-walk Friday. And go long on Saturday with friends.

    At age 59, I can do this and not worry that later this season I'll be laid up with muscle/skeletal stress problems. Even younger, as a runner, I could never be really certain where I would be re: injuries if I worked consistently hard over time. Cycling is so multi-purpose, whether cruising down to Starbucks or redlining the HRM, and so relatively risk-free for "older" participants. Barring face-plants on the pavement of course.
    Riding and aging don't get easier, you just get slower at slowing down.] (FiftyPlus observation inspired by G. Lemond.)

  7. #7
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    many other sports besides running to compare

    In my younger days I spent many many hours playing basketball, handball, racquetball, softball, etc. Ran a few 10K's but running was not very interesting to me. As I got older, the knee, leg & back issues in the sports were increasing but nothing like the impact running had on me. Step aerobics 3 - 4 times per week for a decade were my last regular exercise routine until we started cycling last year. Yoga, stretching, a few weights & cycling have provided me with an exercise routine that is less painful re: joints & manageable re: musculature & stretching.

    So as a Clydesdale, I cannot relate to 'giving up' running for cycling but the hand/eye coordination of offroad cycling & the roadwork of pushing that bike up & down our long gentle slopes provides plenty of challenge. CrossChain & 88 are right: it is as challenging a fitness regime as you choose to make it.

    As a note: each of my fitness periods seemed to produce a 'different' body over the months - the court sports, step aerobics, Body Pump with light weights & many reps & now the cycling all challenge my body in different ways.
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  8. #8
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    DougG,

    Like you, I have migrated from running to cycling. It will spoil you, but it's definitely more expensive a hobby than training for road races.
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

  9. #9
    Fred E Fenders fthomas's Avatar
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    Intersting question. I just picked up a copy of ĎFood for FitnessĎ by Chris Carmichael and he specifically address' the benefit of cycling vs. running in improving aerobic conditioning and recommends it to athelete's from other sports over running. He states that cycling can improve aerobic condition better than running in part because one can stay in the optimum heart rate zone easier and longer than running. He also says that running places a greater stress on the anerobic system, which burns fuel differently.

    I'll be interested in hearing how things go for you and what you perceive the benefits are of riding vs running.

  10. #10
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    Running: Work, work, work, work, work, work...injuries.

    Cycling: Work, reward, work, reward, work, reward, work...reward.

  11. #11
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    different strokes.....to me, running is right up there with watching paint dry....ymmv

  12. #12
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    When I was in college ( late 60's, early 70's) I was really into cycling. At that time I never ran, although I always felt I had the stamina for it. I started running about 12 years ago after my daughter decided to go out for her high school cross country team. I have been running since then -- nothing serious just 4+ miles a day, four times a week. I felt badly when I missed a day.

    Last December I sustained a stress fracture in my right foot and had to lay off running for about six weeks. When I started running again I sustained another stress fracture in my right foot within two weeks. After the second event my primary care physician sent me to an orthopedist. During our discussion he said that young orthopedist's run and older orthopedist's ride bicycles.

    Since then I have converted from a runner to a cyclist. Now instead of running 4+ miles in just under 40 minutes, I ride my bicycle 11 miles in about the same time. I feel I am getting an equivalent aerobic workout and no longer have to worry about the wear and tear on my feet.

    This winter when the weather turns rainy again, I may try running again, but maybe not...
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  13. #13
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    I've had people tell me that any thing is a better workout than cycling even walking, I invite them along for a ride but they always turn me down. Three miles cycling to one mile running is what I've read, you have to keep the motor reved up to make the comparison work.

  14. #14
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    I have a little history in this matter, so I'll chime in. I have been both a bicyclist and a jogger, off and on in each since I was 20. I ran my last half marathon when I was 40. The jogging pretty much ended about 10 years ago, after a particularly ugly knee injury. Truthfully, the jogging was a big contributor to my knee problems.

    Some parties say a century on a bike equals a marathon, or a ratio of 4:1. I feel like this is totally wrong, and the ratio is really more like 6:1 or maybe more. But basically, they are different activities that use different muscles for differing periods of time. Think about downhill skiing and rowing.

    A few year ago one of my 50+ buddies (who can run a sub 60 minute 10k) agreed to ride rail-to-trail with me for several weekends in a row. Aside from his bottom hurting, his legs were killing him after every ride. After the fourth week he did get up to a 40 mile ride on dirt, but I could pedal away and leave him any time I wanted to. He regarded a 40' hill as a monster, and I never got him to ride off the trail with me.

    I could talk about both activities at length, but let it suffice to say IMHO that yes, running is more of an intense workout, but the two activities are totally different.

  15. #15
    Bent Ryder Sandwarrior's Avatar
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    I had been running most of my young life to keep my weight within Air Force Standards. It always worked well, and I had run Xcountry in high school as well. I loved running, especially in woods and on dirt trails. After several years of this, with numerous cases of shin splints it got to the point where I couldn't run without hurting all the time. I bought a bike and haven't looked back. Right before I retired in 03, I had been putting close to 150 miles a week on my bike. No injuries, no pain, no regrets. I keept my weight below 200 Lbs the whole time. I am out of shape now, only because I stopped riding. I got hit by a car, and for more than a year, just could not get back on a bike and ride the roads. I couldn't ride my DF without getting serious pain in my tail bone, so I traded it in for my current recumbent. No butt pain, no tail bone pain, no wrist or neck pains and I am back on the road to getting my BP, weight and Cholesterol under control. I weighed in right at the limit of my bike max carrying weight (275) when I started riding again in March. I am down to 258 as of this morning, and building myself back up to the 45 milers I used to do every weekend. I will never go back to running. I also get to see more of the country than a runner does, so Nyah Nyah
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  16. #16
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandwarrior
    I got hit by a car, and for more than a year, just could not get back on a bike and ride the roads. I couldn't ride my DF without getting serious pain in my tail bone, so I traded it in for my current recumbent.
    I'm curious -- it sounds like after getting hit by the car you had an understandable fear of road cycling. Do you ride your bent on the road? Those seem MORE likely to have an unfortunate accident because they seem even more difficult for drivers to see. Of course, that's just my assumption. But I'd be afraid to ride a bent on the open highway. I would have to have one of Denver's trails. Anyway -- where do you ride now?
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  17. #17
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Like lastplace, I used to do a lot of running and only gave up competitive running when I was 34 due to knee problems. 10 years later and I was going bananas- the knees were finished- could not do ANY leg exercise but took up Cycling. 15 years later and still riding and doing some quite lengthy strenuous rides, occasionally.

    As to milage- A marathon can be done in around 4 hours at our age. A 50 mile bike ride in about the same time--(Talking average now) So double your running milage and keep pedalling.

    Only thing is- A marathon will kill me- 50 miles on a bike is a mornings jaunt with coffee and buns thrown in.
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  18. #18
    Je pose, donc je suis. gcl8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Monoborracho
    Some parties say a century on a bike equals a marathon, or a ratio of 4:1. I feel like this is totally wrong, and the ratio is really more like 6:1 or maybe more.
    I find that effort ratio is about 2.5:1, from personal experience. I ran a marathon in 3.5 hours, and took about the same time, with about the same subjective level of tiredness) for a metric century. According to various calculators (of varying accuracy, I'm sure), at my weight and pace, cycling takes ~40cal/mi and running ~100.

    I share the OP's thoughts on conditioning. I am certainly more 'muscle' limited in cycling and 'aerobic' limited in running, or at least I was when I switched. Now I'm just...limited.

  19. #19
    Bent Ryder Sandwarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee
    I'm curious -- it sounds like after getting hit by the car you had an understandable fear of road cycling. Do you ride your bent on the road? Those seem MORE likely to have an unfortunate accident because they seem even more difficult for drivers to see. Of course, that's just my assumption. But I'd be afraid to ride a bent on the open highway. I would have to have one of Denver's trails. Anyway -- where do you ride now?
    I only ride on secondary roads and the excellent trail system in Aurora and Denver. I ride the Highline canal from its junction with Tolgate creek to Buckley AFB (work). My usual 22.75 mile ride runs west on the Highline to the Cherry Creek south, under 225, up the hill along parker road, down the Cherry Creek Spillway, then back onto the Tolgate, home. My short rides run along the highline canal to the Alameda crossing and back (12.3 miles). I do the short ride on the days I work the Mid shift (before work).

    I have also done Higline to the sandcreek trail, down to the Platte River trail, then allong Cherry creek back to higline, home. That ride is 45 miles. I usually stop at REI and eat one of my sandwhiches, then press on.

    I don't consider myself skilled enough with this bike to ride on the streets yet. It was bad enough when I rode on the base to ge to work.

    When I get about 200 hrs under my belt, I'm goign to start planning long road trips into the Mountains. Then One day, before I turn 60, I'm going to ride all the way home to Washington state. Of course I'll probably be on a trike at that point.
    As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!
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  20. #20
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    I alternate between running and cycling as part of my daily commute. I live about 12 km / 7.5 mi from work, and I often ride the bus halfway in, then jog the remaining 6 km / 3.7 mi. If a coworker gives me a ride home, I repeat the cycle the next morning; otherwise, I ride a bike home and back in the next day. On weekends I do various mixes of walking, hiking, jogging, and bicycling.

    I evidently derive good aerobic benefits from both jogging and cycling, but I am currently dealing with what seems to be Achilles' tendinitis. This is my first running-induced overuse injury, and it is stubborn, and it is leading me to do less running and more cycling and fast-paced (8kph / 5mph) walking.
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  21. #21
    Si Senior dbg's Avatar
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    Some years back a couple of my running buddies decided to bike across the country. (I couldn't go with them because my first child was due that same month) They switched their workouts to biking for several months prior to the trip and both started blowing away their PRs at all their running distances. So cross training on a bike seriously helped their running. Interesting.
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  22. #22
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbg
    Some years back a couple of my running buddies decided to bike across the country. (I couldn't go with them because my first child was due that same month) They switched their workouts to biking for several months prior to the trip and both started blowing away their PRs at all their running distances. So cross training on a bike seriously helped their running. Interesting.
    You make an interesting point, although perhaps not the one you intended. Cross training of almost any kind will usually make improvments in performance of all the areas in which one cross trains. I wonder how cyclist stack up in terms of cross training. Almost all the people I know who ride, do not cross train.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  23. #23
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NOS88
    You make an interesting point, although perhaps not the one you intended. Cross training of almost any kind will usually make improvments in performance of all the areas in which one cross trains. I wonder how cyclist stack up in terms of cross training. Almost all the people I know who ride, do not cross train.
    Besides running, what cross training would you suggest?
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  24. #24
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Even "Dr. Evil" (Michele Ferrari from Armstrong's book "War"), says that there is some utility in using running as cross training for cyclists:

    Running for Cyclists
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

  25. #25
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NoRacer
    Even "Dr. Evil" (Michele Ferrari from Armstrong's book "War"), says that there is some utility in using running as cross training for cyclists:

    Running for Cyclists
    Sorry, I can no longer "run." Nor do I want to. What else besides running?
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