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Old 06-10-05, 10:03 AM   #1
4kids1wife
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Heart Rate - Cycling versus Running

I am hoping to get an explanation for a puzzling issue that I have regarding my cycling heart rate. First, I know that an athlete's HR is typically lower during cycling than in running [at any given level of effort] due to the smaller muscle mass involved. However, in my case this is dramatically so and I am wondering why and, secondly, if certain types of training can help me close the gap.

Here are the facts ...

I am 40 years old and primarily cycle on a road bike [although I have recently purchased a Kona mtn bike and am enjoying that as an alternative workout]. My bike training is geared for triathlons [Olympic distance] and I am a runner first [recently qualifying for Boston in 2006 with a sub 3:20 marathon - at my current fitness I am a sub 1:30 half marathoner and 40min 10K runner]. Relative to my age group, biking is my weakest discipline in triathlon with my bike split for a 40K Olympic bike leg at about 75 minutes.

As a runner, my HRmax is 180bpm and my lactate threshold is 157bpm. I do my "tempo" running (sustained intensity runs) at 150-155bpm and my interval running just above 157bpm. On the bike however, my HR on a tempo ride on a trainer for 30' with legs burning is typically only 125-135bpm. This is 20-30 bpm lower than an equivalent perceived effort during a tempo run. During a tempo ride on roads, my HR is up to 10bpm higher than on the trainer, but that still puts me 10-20bpm below my tempo running HR.

One theory I have is that, as a marathoner, my running muscles are well developed allowing oxygen consumption to be my main performance limiter. Contrarily, as a relatively weak biker, my bike muscles are taxed way before my aerobic system. If this is true, then big gear, low cadence grinding should help me build up my bike muscles and close the gap. Comments?

Finally, can anyone tell me if my situation is common or uncommon? Are there better ways to close the gap? Should I even bother trying?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-10-05, 11:39 AM   #2
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My book by Fred Matheny says something similar. His running friend disparaged cycling because you "can't get your heart rate up" that way. Fred got the guy on a properly fitted bike, attached his feet to the pedals (toe clips/straps or clipless pedals), and convinced him to spin and not mash. A moderate ride and a few hills later, and the runner was out of breath and convinced that cycling can be excellent aerobic exercise indeed.

So no, don't mash. Spin, clip in, and hit those hills.
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Old 06-10-05, 12:58 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by 4kids1wife
I am hoping to get an explanation for a puzzling issue that I have regarding my cycling heart rate. First, I know that an athlete's HR is typically lower during cycling than in running [at any given level of effort] due to the smaller muscle mass involved. However, in my case this is dramatically so and I am wondering why and, secondly, if certain types of training can help me close the gap.

Here are the facts ...

I am 40 years old and primarily cycle on a road bike [although I have recently purchased a Kona mtn bike and am enjoying that as an alternative workout]. My bike training is geared for triathlons [Olympic distance] and I am a runner first [recently qualifying for Boston in 2006 with a sub 3:20 marathon - at my current fitness I am a sub 1:30 half marathoner and 40min 10K runner]. Relative to my age group, biking is my weakest discipline in triathlon with my bike split for a 40K Olympic bike leg at about 75 minutes.

As a runner, my HRmax is 180bpm and my lactate threshold is 157bpm. I do my "tempo" running (sustained intensity runs) at 150-155bpm and my interval running just above 157bpm. On the bike however, my HR on a tempo ride on a trainer for 30' with legs burning is typically only 125-135bpm. This is 20-30 bpm lower than an equivalent perceived effort during a tempo run. During a tempo ride on roads, my HR is up to 10bpm higher than on the trainer, but that still puts me 10-20bpm below my tempo running HR.

One theory I have is that, as a marathoner, my running muscles are well developed allowing oxygen consumption to be my main performance limiter. Contrarily, as a relatively weak biker, my bike muscles are taxed way before my aerobic system. If this is true, then big gear, low cadence grinding should help me build up my bike muscles and close the gap. Comments?

Finally, can anyone tell me if my situation is common or uncommon? Are there better ways to close the gap? Should I even bother trying?

Thanks in advance!
You're going to have different heart rate numbers for running vs. cycling. That's the nature of the beast. Running is a higher impact, involves more muscles used for the activity, requires more blood circulation to the working muscles, and also requires the blood to move against gravity to service the upper body muscles. That takes more work, and as a result, the heart rate is higher.

It would be more realistic for you to look at your weaknesses in cycling and build on that then to just work towards getting to an arbitrary number on your monitor.

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Old 06-10-05, 01:07 PM   #4
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Below is a copy and past from a different thread/forum where I asked a cycling coach about running vs. cycling. This theme crops up often and most posters will state that they can get a better workout from running than they can from cycling, especially if they only have a short period of time to squeeze a workout in, for example 30 to 45 minutes. It's always been my contention that cycling can be as intense as running provided the person pushes themselves adequately and doesn't potter around while riding - i.e. no lollygagging allowed! However this coach states otherwise.

I had asked him for any links to any scientific studies that proved that running was superior to cycing or vice verse. His reply follows ...


I don't have any good links for you that would tell the story by themselves. The problem is that there are several confounding factors when making a comparison between different modalities of exercise...
The main one is the training status of the individual - in my case, having been a cyclist for about 14yrs with very little running experience, there is no way I could use as many calories running as I could on the bike; I would just get injured from all of the running if starting tomorrow I tried to maintain the same kJs/week that I achieve cycling; of course, with some time to adapt, the situation could be reversed...but I don't like running, and thus my previous comment on long term participation in whatever modality you choose. NOTE: long term adherence to exercise and low fat diets are the two main factors in successful weight loss...period.

Another is that someone new to exercise may or may not be able to run at all, as the lowest running intensity is higher than (eg) cycling on flat roads. Conversely, someone new to cycling might not have the developed leg musculature to support anything but low intensities
However, given the points that you made (running is weight bearing and is a whole body exercise), and assuming no orthopedic concerns, most people just looking to loose weight will find it easier to use more calories in a shorter amount of time running than cycling.
Comparing "aerobic fitness" is not possible, as it is specific to each modality.

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Old 06-10-05, 01:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for the posts. There is indeed no substitute for hard work and time on the bike. I would, however, like to be as efficient as possible since I am also swim and run training [and having a life]. Any suggestions for workouts in the other two sports that could help my cycle fitness? I currently do yoga daily [sun salutations], yoga-based stretching daily and longer programs once every week or two. Someone suggested to me to incorporate the chair pose two or three times a week to build my quads. Sounded like good advice to me.
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Old 06-10-05, 03:43 PM   #6
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I might just get stoned for saying this but as a runner not a cyclist(damn newbies) I keep in the middle and small chain ring and pump out a fast cadence. I find I just dont have the strength to "mash" a low gear ratio. Riding a faster cadence I feel like its a better workout and gets my HR up faster.
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Old 06-10-05, 06:06 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by jrennie
I might just get stoned for saying this but as a runner not a cyclist(damn newbies) I keep in the middle and small chain ring and pump out a fast cadence. I find I just dont have the strength to "mash" a low gear ratio. Riding a faster cadence I feel like its a better workout and gets my HR up faster.
Spinning at a higher RPM does seem to be the consensus. No stoning today.
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Old 06-10-05, 06:49 PM   #8
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find a long steep hill and climb out of the saddle - you'll find your max HR again
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Old 06-11-05, 07:40 AM   #9
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You are already familiar with heartrate training zones. I think you just need to calculate a different set of zones for your cycling training. I've read it's normal to use different sets of zones for different sports.
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Old 06-11-05, 07:52 AM   #10
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"Contrarily, as a relatively weak biker, my bike muscles are taxed way before my aerobic system. If this is true, then big gear, low cadence grinding should help me build up my bike muscles and close the gap. Comments?"

I think that big gear, low cadence grinding will only improve your "big gear, low cadence grinding".

Longer intervals (8-30 min) at near your cycling LT heartrate, and shorter intervals (1-6 min) above your cycling LT heartrate, and tempo rides (45-90 min) about 10 bpm below your cycling LT heartrate should all be helpful, done at a comfortable cadence.
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Old 06-11-05, 10:24 AM   #11
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Spinning classes are a very efficient use of time to improve conditioning for cyclists who aim at relatively short events such as Olympic short course tri events. Intervals up hill, if not overdone so as to not stress the knees excessively, will build strength: Climbing hills with a 5-7% grade 0.5-1mile long with cadence in the 50 range. Steve
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Old 06-11-05, 03:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4kids1wife
I am hoping to get an explanation for a puzzling issue that I have regarding my cycling heart rate. First, I know that an athlete's HR is typically lower during cycling than in running [at any given level of effort] due to the smaller muscle mass involved. However, in my case this is dramatically so and I am wondering why and, secondly, if certain types of training can help me close the gap.

Here are the facts ...

I am 40 years old and primarily cycle on a road bike [although I have recently purchased a Kona mtn bike and am enjoying that as an alternative workout]. My bike training is geared for triathlons [Olympic distance] and I am a runner first [recently qualifying for Boston in 2006 with a sub 3:20 marathon - at my current fitness I am a sub 1:30 half marathoner and 40min 10K runner]. Relative to my age group, biking is my weakest discipline in triathlon with my bike split for a 40K Olympic bike leg at about 75 minutes.

As a runner, my HRmax is 180bpm and my lactate threshold is 157bpm. I do my "tempo" running (sustained intensity runs) at 150-155bpm and my interval running just above 157bpm. On the bike however, my HR on a tempo ride on a trainer for 30' with legs burning is typically only 125-135bpm. This is 20-30 bpm lower than an equivalent perceived effort during a tempo run. During a tempo ride on roads, my HR is up to 10bpm higher than on the trainer, but that still puts me 10-20bpm below my tempo running HR.

One theory I have is that, as a marathoner, my running muscles are well developed allowing oxygen consumption to be my main performance limiter. Contrarily, as a relatively weak biker, my bike muscles are taxed way before my aerobic system. If this is true, then big gear, low cadence grinding should help me build up my bike muscles and close the gap. Comments?

Finally, can anyone tell me if my situation is common or uncommon? Are there better ways to close the gap? Should I even bother trying?

Thanks in advance!
The reason that you have different HR numbers from swimming to cycling to running is the possition of the body to the heart and how hard it has to work to get the blood to the whole body during differing intensities of training. When swimming you may get lower numbers because the heart is pumping horrizontally while riding your in a some what seated possition and then of course running you are vertical. Your max is still determined by genes and by age. More proof that a HR is not the best indicator of intensity.
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Old 06-11-05, 09:30 PM   #13
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if you are comparing one activity to another, then you can't go on heartrate alone, but within each activity to itself (cycling, running, swimming) , heartrate is an EXCELLENT indicator of intensity.
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Old 06-11-05, 10:23 PM   #14
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if you are comparing one activity to another, then you can't go on heartrate alone, but within each activity to itself (cycling, running, swimming) , heartrate is an EXCELLENT indicator of intensity.
I respectfully disagree -think about deflection point , think about fight or flight responses , think about cardiac fade and think about the last time you trained hard where your tired and the 170 BPM felt great that day and the next day when you tried to go again that 170 felt like your heart was coming out of your chest. Or think about being dehydrated or how about stressed. Did you get enough sleep or enough to eat?
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Old 06-13-05, 05:24 PM   #15
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What I don't understand is, if I am riding a bike or I am running and I am doing either one at 80% of my maximum heart rate, why don't I burn the same number of calories?
If my heart rate is 150 doing either one, why don't I burn the same amount of calories?
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Old 06-13-05, 05:46 PM   #16
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Because you're doing two different exercises?
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