Cycling workouts to help runners build strength, speed and endurance

Yes, being on a bike can help your running performance.

cycling workouts for runners
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Cycling offers a number of benefits to runners. It is a great way to cross-train, because it is non-impact and has several aerobic benefits. Because there is less impact with cycling than running, you will recover more quickly from the sessions.

Cycling can benefit runners for both recovery and training. It aids recovery by flushing the legs out: a super-easy spin has no impact, and allows the blood to circulate around the muscles, providing more oxygen to them and aiding the recovery phase. At the opposite end of the spectrum, cycling can be great for building high-end aerobic training doing intervals. You also can maintain a lot of fitness with riding if you are injured.

If you’re a runner who’s never cycled before, the best way to get started is to either head to the gym for a spin class to see if you like it or visit a bike shop and rent a bike for the day. While a spin class is a good workout, the latter option will give you a much better idea of what cycling is really like – and the endorphin hit of being outside as an additional benefit! And if you find yourself hooked and decide to invest in a bike, a turbo trainer is a great way to turn your outdoor bike into a static one, so you can train indoors.

PT Kim Hartwell has created the following cycling workouts for runners, as part of the Canyon Ride Your Workout campaign:

Hill reps in a high gear to build strength

Doing workouts where you ride uphill in a high gear will build strength. You'll need to do this one on an actual bike, rather than on a spin bike in the gym:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes first
  • Find a big hill. Climb at a pace where you are just at an 8 or 9 on a 1-to-10 rating of perceived exertion (RPE) difficulty scale. Your breathing will be somewhere between 'hard and even' and 'laboured and gasping.'
  • When you’re ready, push as hard as you can for 10 to 20 pedal strokes (about 10 to 20 seconds).
  • Back down and recover for 10 to 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 more times.
  • Recover 10 minutes and repeat the intervals from the top, if you're so inclined.

    Short intense efforts to build speed

    Spiking your heart rate to maximum levels and encouraging a fast turning of the pedals (cadence) builds speed:

    • Warm up for 10-15 minutes first
    • Do 10 x one minute all-out, best effort, sprinting, as hard as you can go out of the saddle, with a two-minute recovery of easy riding in between each minute
    • Cool down for 10-15 minutes

      Go further for longer to build endurance

      A longer, more reasonably-paced ride will build endurance:

      • There is a specific endurance training zone: it’s about 68 to 75 per cent of threshold heart rate
      • Thirty minutes at zone two won’t cut it: low intensity rides need to be long enough to have any impact because intensity and time are closely correlated
      • If you normally ride for an hour, then do a 2.5 hour ride at your endurance zone, which will be enough time to allow you to improve your endurance

        And finally, don’t forget to stretch... yoga and mindfulness is a nice complement to fitness training and a great way to restore tired muscles post ride.

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