Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

runners who cycle

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Old 12-03-13, 05:50 PM
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deacon mark
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runners who cycle

I put this in the triathlon forum but no real response so will try it here. On thing is I am not thinking terms or racing either bikes or running just in general training. Also I never cycle and then run. Normally I do one or the other on a given day. Sometimes I have run 2-3 miles and then jump on my bike for a long ride of 30-50 miles.

Background is 35 years a distance runner with 12 marathons but or course now 52 years old. I took up cycling pretty serious in 2009 and have averaged about 4000 miles riding a year in addition to my 35-40 miles of running a week. So my overall endurance is great but my running speed is just awful. Seems to my training log about 2 years ago I notice I cannot run the first mile faster than 9:30 pace. Then I am ok and fall to my usual 8:30-9:00 pace. The first mile is just a real bear for coordination and getting my running form. Before I started cycling I normally need no warm up and could bang, out of the box a fast 1 mile that was at least my overall average for the run.

Does cycling ruin you running form and legs, and more importantly does it seem to throw off your "firing of the muscles" in terms of coordination? Could just be that after 70,000 miles of running my legs are just not what they once were but just wonder who much cycling has to do with the overall picture of running.

No I am not running at tri but figured someone here knows something I don't.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:04 PM
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I am sure Hummer knows more, but my understanding is that cycling helps your running but not vice-versa.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:18 PM
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hhnngg1
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I'm currently an active triathlete. I run about 35 miles per week now and bike around 6hrs per week (distance irrelevant as I'm indoors the whole time now.) I also swim (badly). Was an ex-pure marathon runner, have run marathons at 3:11 pace about 7 years ago, and am not too far off that now in terms of shape.


I think it's up in the air as to which one helps you be better at the other and depends HEAVILY on how hard you worked at it. I've seen ex-pure pro cyclists run sub-3 marathons on very little mileage, and I've seen ex D1 runners become bike monsters in a matter of 2 weeks.

But to generalize for the overall populace, if you're not dealing with competitive road cyclists going to running, typically runners will have an easier time with cycling and be faster because the weight bearing and pounding of running limits keeps a fairly decent minimum threshold on training, whereas on the bike you can really take it easy if you're not a racer.

The leg pounding is a big deal. If I had to only train 1 sport for triathlon, it would definitely be running, as you can easily fake your way through a 56, even 100 mile bike ride with nothing but run training, but you will not be able to fake your way through a HM or marathon if you run zero miles in training.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:23 PM
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Forgot to add - no, cycling doesn't ruin your running, but it will take away from pure run training time, which if you're a serious pure runner that is training a lot of running, the time not running will decrease your run race performance.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:31 PM
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I also agree with hhnngg1 for the most part.I run every other day doing at least 10 k and up to 10.5 miles.on Opposite Day ill cycle usually 60 miles.For me running definitely helps my cycling but not the other way around.I was a runner for 42 years and started cycling 25 years ago,so now I won't do just one I'm absolutely addicted to both.If the weathers bad,on goes the running shoes.Oh and I'm not a triathlete,that's where I differ from hhnngg1,but that definitely admirable.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:38 PM
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I'll also add - cycling definitely helps my running, but it doesn't get me to run-PR status. Specificty is still king.

However, I can run at 95% of my all-time peak PR speed with 33% or even as low as 25% of typical run volume as long as I'm cycling a lot on top. This holds for all distance from half-marathon to 5k. (Sorry, the marathon is one where one will REALLY suffer if you're cutting the run volume out for cycling. You really can't fake racing a marathon.)
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Old 12-03-13, 07:41 PM
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I run 4-5 days per week, and ride on my two days off, sometimes a run and a ride on the days off. I find they both help each other tremendously. When I am off the bike for a while in winter (laziness, not weather, this is California... I am just lazy at times) I always run for a week or two before riding much to get my lungs back in shape. I have actually been getting faster at both this winter as I am training more. The muscles don't help though, its just my aerobic capacity that gets better.
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Old 12-03-13, 07:45 PM
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I'm principally a runner but I started doing a lot more cycling last year. This summer I was riding a lot more than I was running and when I ran I did notice that the first 10-15 minutes felt pretty weird. But after 15 mins (which would have been a warm-up anyway) I felt fine.

Originally Posted by hhnngg1 View Post
The leg pounding is a big deal. If I had to only train 1 sport for triathlon, it would definitely be running, as you can easily fake your way through a 56, even 100 mile bike ride with nothing but run training, but you will not be able to fake your way through a HM or marathon if you run zero miles in training.
+1 on being able to fake your way through a long ride if you've got running fitness.
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Old 12-03-13, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
I am sure Hummer knows more, but my understanding is that cycling helps your running but not vice-versa.
Yeah... sadly, it's pretty much neither way, outside of general aerobic base. Doing both will hold you back from being really good at either.
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Old 12-03-13, 09:57 PM
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I'll add that if you are running 35-40 miles a week in addition to your cycling, you probably are doing too much "junk" mileage if your initial mile run pace is 9:30. Add 4,000 miles a year cycling and you likely are just sluggish in both. If you want to improve in running or both, cut back those long, slow miles and do some speedwork. One longer day on the weekends and a couple days of intervals should be enough to improve your speed with close to half the running distance.
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Old 12-04-13, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
I'll add that if you are running 35-40 miles a week in addition to your cycling, you probably are doing too much "junk" mileage if your initial mile run pace is 9:30. Add 4,000 miles a year cycling and you likely are just sluggish in both. If you want to improve in running or both, cut back those long, slow miles and do some speedwork. One longer day on the weekends and a couple days of intervals should be enough to improve your speed with close to half the running distance.
I find the exact opposite. Volume is volume, and is good for both.

I've tried everything from super hi-intensity short interval regimens to Long slow distance workouts, and after 20 years of trying everything, I've found that volume is volume, and it's a lot easier for me to get in training load through volume rather than hi-intensity. Volume is the key - it enables you to go truly hard on intervals, and allows you to gain injury resistance (especially key in running, not so much in cycling.) Certainly I can do Vo2 or even anaerobic intervals early in season and not get injured on the bike, but they're honestly so much lower yield than the LSD training (provided you put in the hours) that the slow stuff works so much better for me.

My best races, be it standaone run or bike, or triathlon races, always come when my average volume is highest. It has almost nothing to do with the type/intensity of intervals I do, although I definitely throw in intervals as race season progresses to sharpen and further increase training load. But if I had to put a % on my improvement, it's over 90% all about the volume/slow stuff. When I figured this out for myself, I made huge breakthroughs in training, going from a very very mediocre runner/cyclist, to consistent FOP and now I pretty regularly podium run and triathlon races. (I no longer do crits so can't say how I stand there.)

I just ran an 18:30 5k at a Thanksgiving fun run with nothing but long, slow base run/bike miles and no threshold or threshold+ efforts on run/bike. (I did train 15hrs/wk though, so not slacking.) Compare to my high-school PR when I was on the x-country team and doing TONS of fast, fast, fast interval work but with much lower training volume (5-6hrs/wk), which was 21:30ish. Not even close, and I was training as hard as I could in HS. And I weight 25lbs more now than in HS. My avg run training pace right now is 8:45/mi.

(Specificity for b/r is still king though. If I spent all 15hrs doing all run or all bike, I'd definitely be better at that one sport - probably about 5-10% faster.)

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Old 12-04-13, 09:26 AM
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An observation from a former avid "non-runner." I restarted biking this past May, and within 6 weeks was averaging over 200 miles per week (17-18+ mph solo pace for 25+ miles). In October we went on a trip to Greece, and I needed exercise and didn't have a bike. So I ran for the very first time in my adult life (63 years of age). I was shocked to find that on my first "run" I went over 2 miles without having to stop. My assumption is that the biking helped me both with leg muscles and breathing. By the end of the vacation I was running over 3 miles, and since returning home, I now run 3-4 miles every other day. I can, and sometimes do, go for a bike ride after running, but I can't make myself run after a hard bike ride. I didn't realize how similar biking and running were from an aerobic standpoint. For the first few weeks of running I had soreness on the insides of my thighs, but that has now gone away. Otherwise, it seems to me that the same leg muscles are involved in both. I love biking, but I never dreamed I would enjoy running like I now do.
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Old 12-04-13, 09:49 AM
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I found that when I ran on top of my normal riding/training, it did not affect my biking. When I started running more and biking less to train for some distance runs, my bike racing suffered a little and my legs always felt slow on the bike. For me, running helps to round out my all around fitness but if I am training for a specific event, I back off the other activity.

I signed up for a duathlon but could not run at all for 30 days prior due to painful broken ribs. On the day of the race, my first mile through the muddy woods was 7:10 and was quite painful. I flew on the bike portion but on the last run section, I could barely turn my legs over. I don't know how these tri animals do it!
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Old 12-04-13, 10:02 AM
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I'm late to the running party, started this year at age 60. I defer to all these life long runners, but I've noticed how compact/short my stride is and how difficult it is to open it up and maintain a smooth, coordinated effort. Admittedly I'm a noob, but I am thinking my years of riding have allowed me to build a decent aerobic base, yet shortened my natural stride dramatically. I've been reducing my bike time and increasing my running time - seems like my bike performance has improved as a result of more running time but not the other way around...running is what improves running performance for me.
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Old 12-04-13, 10:17 AM
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I cross train the two sports and find that they compliment each other well. Cross training gives my legs great stability and allows me to avoid injury. I will say that sometimes I feel like hauling around cycling quads while running makes my legs feel a bit heavy compared to when I'm training pure running, but this is most likely the result of simply running less.

Overall, I think cross training is a great idea. It's less boring than doing the same thing every day. Also, the diversity of motion strengthens your body more holistically, making you healthier, more flexible and less prone to repetative stress injury. IMO, more dedicated cyclists or dedicated runners should try the other sport.
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Old 12-04-13, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by deacon mark View Post
Background is 35 years a distance runner with 12 marathons but or course now 52 years old. I took up cycling pretty serious in 2009 and have averaged about 4000 miles riding a year in addition to my 35-40 miles of running a week. So my overall endurance is great but my running speed is just awful. Seems to my training log about 2 years ago I notice I cannot run the first mile faster than 9:30 pace. Then I am ok and fall to my usual 8:30-9:00 pace. The first mile is just a real bear for coordination and getting my running form. Before I started cycling I normally need no warm up and could bang, out of the box a fast 1 mile that was at least my overall average for the run.

Does cycling ruin you running form and legs, and more importantly does it seem to throw off your "firing of the muscles" in terms of coordination? Could just be that after 70,000 miles of running my legs are just not what they once were but just wonder who much cycling has to do with the overall picture of running.
I think you're just getting old, no offense. I have friends who have also slowed down as they get older, and they say they also need more warm up than they did when younger. They also say they need to pay more attention to recovery. Personally, I believe most runners and cyclists don't warm up easy enough before going hard on a run or ride. Who cares if you're running 9:30 for the first mile unless it's a race? For a race you'll want to get in a proper warm up and then it shouldn't be a problem.

I think cycling is beneficial to running in that it allows you to add more aerobic work without the added impact that you get from running. I'm in my 40s and the highest running mileage I can do comfortably is mid 70s; I've done upper 70s, lower 80s weekly mileage but I start to feel blah after a couple weeks. I'm just average joe runner who can be an age grouper at small local races (200-400 runners).
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Old 12-04-13, 03:34 PM
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There was a period of time where running in the morning, and then riding my bike in the afternoons on the weekend resulted in a pretty bad case of patellar tendonitis. Still dealing with the fallout from this some 3 years later, but I think I finally have sort of figured out what went wrong, or at least what I need to do to fully rehab things. Likely a result of a toxic mix of muscle imbalance in my legs, stiff muscles, saddle too low on my bike and working out when I should have been implementing RICE.
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Old 12-04-13, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
I cross train the two sports and find that they compliment each other well. Cross training gives my legs great stability and allows me to avoid injury. I will say that sometimes I feel like hauling around cycling quads while running makes my legs feel a bit heavy compared to when I'm training pure running, but this is most likely the result of simply running less.

Overall, I think cross training is a great idea. It's less boring than doing the same thing every day. Also, the diversity of motion strengthens your body more holistically, making you healthier, more flexible and less prone to repetative stress injury. IMO, more dedicated cyclists or dedicated runners should try the other sport.
Yea!!!absolutely 100% agree with this post!you summed it up perfectly as to what I was saying.Unless your a pro racer in either sport who cares if you're not 100% in both sports.(which by the way I disagree) I love both equally!!!!
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Old 12-04-13, 05:34 PM
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Funny I took off all over August and Sept from running due to some hip/leg pains, not sure cause. I decided to simply ride the bike because that did not hurt. I ended up putting almost 1000 miles each month couple of weeks well over 250 miles. The cycling weather was great, hot which I like when riding and not a lot of wind. I was averaging 18.5 to 20 mph for 30-60 mile rides in basically flat Illinois but all solo. I went back to running and everything was weird at first but basically running better. I think probably age, overuse, and too much is basically the cause but I could tell my legs at first did not want to stride out fully because cycling really does not go through a full motion.

One note that is correct is that I could basically ride distance on almost no bike miles. I think if I ran 5 days a week and road one day long on the bike say 50 or more miles I would be fine. For sure if you race on a bike you have to be intense but over time my aerobic system has keep me going. I just keep remembering when maybe 10 years ago I could still go out and run close to 8 minute miles with no problems from the start. I was never really fast but manage a a 38:06 10k and 3:06:00 marathon PR but that was 21 years ago but the mind remembers it as yesterday.

Also, I just love the ride the bike and have become a decent mechanic and wheel builder. Running has less interesting things in those terms.
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Old 12-04-13, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by hhnngg1 View Post
I'm currently an active triathlete. I run about 35 miles per week now and bike around 6hrs per week (distance irrelevant as I'm indoors the whole time now.) I also swim (badly). Was an ex-pure marathon runner, have run marathons at 3:11 pace about 7 years ago, and am not too far off that now in terms of shape.


I think it's up in the air as to which one helps you be better at the other and depends HEAVILY on how hard you worked at it. I've seen ex-pure pro cyclists run sub-3 marathons on very little mileage, and I've seen ex D1 runners become bike monsters in a matter of 2 weeks.

But to generalize for the overall populace, if you're not dealing with competitive road cyclists going to running, typically runners will have an easier time with cycling and be faster because the weight bearing and pounding of running limits keeps a fairly decent minimum threshold on training, whereas on the bike you can really take it easy if you're not a racer.

The leg pounding is a big deal. If I had to only train 1 sport for triathlon, it would definitely be running, as you can easily fake your way through a 56, even 100 mile bike ride with nothing but run training, but you will not be able to fake your way through a HM or marathon if you run zero miles in training.
Don't agree. First run I ever did was 10 miles on the treadmill and stopped out of boredom & I thought 10 was a nice number. Maybe it depends on age as well.
Swimming is unnatural for human land creatures. (Maybe cycling is as well, but it's still a land sport).
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Old 12-04-13, 06:47 PM
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Sorry, but just noodling out a boring ez-paced 10 miler does not count for what i was talking about.

I'm talking about coming near what you would typically run as a decently trained pure-runner doing a HM or marathon, say, if you took all that time cycling and replaced it with running.

As said, I'm can 'fake it' to 90-95% of the way of my pure run race ability with very limited miles run (like 33%) of typical run volume, thanks to cycling on top. But if I ran zero miles, I'd be so far off my HM/marathon results it would be a joke, even if jogging an easy 13 miler would still be not a big deal for me.

You would also have had absolutely zero chance at actually running (without walking) a full marathon, even at a very slow jog. Zero chance.
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