For most runners our training mentality is “Why waste time on other sports when I could run?” And that’s totally understandable when you’re aiming for some mileage per week or meticulously following a marathon training plan that doesn’t allow for things like cycling sessions.
However, studies, such as that from Sports Medicine, have shown that cross training for runners is very beneficial in terms of overall fitness. Alex Parren, personal trainer and running trainer for Sundried, explains that cross training is any form of cardiovascular exercise that isn’t running. “Cycling is one of the best options besides swimming,” she says. “Cycling is low impact, which means the joints that typically take a hit while running will be able to rest and recover as you continue to improve your aerobic base. “
Parren recommends cross training once or twice a week, as well as incorporating strength training into your weekly schedule.
Why cycling is good for runners
Cycling should not be overlooked by runners as it is a great way to strengthen your legs and gluteal muscles, which in turn will improve your running form. “One of the best ways to use cycling as a runner is to go indoor cycling,” says Parren. “This is because indoor cycling eliminates the distractions and dangers of the open road and allows you to focus on structured training. As a runner, it is less important to practice cycling and riding in a group and more important to be able to focus on your fitness and strength. This is why a home trainer is strongly recommended for runners.
Cycling is also a great way to maintain your fitness when you are injured because it is low impact and in some cases can allow you to continue training painlessly while your injury heals. Keep an eye on your training volume, however, and make sure you don’t overdo it, as this could prevent your injury from healing. As always with training, listen to your body and get full rest if needed.
Cycling to lose weight
“No matter what diet you are on, weight loss requires that you be in a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you eat,” says Parren. “If you want to lose 1 pound per week, you will need to eat in a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. Indeed, 1 pound equals 3,500 calories, so 500 calories x 7 days equals 3,500 calories.
Parren warns that it is extremely important to be careful when it comes to losing weight, as restricting your food intake can lead to eating disorders, and calorie tracking can become obsessive. “It is advisable not to have a deficit of more than 500 calories per day and to take ‘diet breaks’ where you eat at the maintenance level every 4 to 6 weeks,” she says.
In order to lose weight while cycling, you can therefore use the calories burned from this exercise to create your deficit. An hour of biking can burn up to 500 calories, so if you don’t change your eating habits and cycle for an hour a day, you could burn up to 1 pound a week.
Cycling sessions that will help you lose weight
The goal of these sessions is to maximize the number of calories you burn during training. “As with running, interval training is the best way to achieve this,” says Parren. “This is because it allows you to bring your heart rate up to near its maximum level, repeatedly, which will boost your metabolism, burn a ton of calories, and improve your fitness in the process.”
These three recommended workouts below would ideally be done on an indoor exercise bike or turbo trainer, but they can be done on the roads on a regular bike if that’s all you have access to, but you must be very attentive to traffic, other cyclists and pedestrians. You can sprinkle one or two between your running workouts each week or more if your running training volume is currently low. Remember to take at least one day off per week or more if you feel tired.
Session 1: Double 8
The nature of this workout is designed to encourage fat burning and increase metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after the end of the workout. It was designed by the Wattbike team and can be found on the Wattbike Hub app.
Warm up: 4 minutes (climb up to 80% effort)
Interval set x 8: 1 to 10 seconds at 90% effort, 50 seconds at 50% effort
Recovery: 3 minutes at 50% effort
Interval set x 8: 2-10 seconds at 90% effort, 50 seconds at 50% effort
Cool: 5 minutes at 50% effort
Session 2: HIIT Blast
This slightly longer workout lasts 37 minutes and will therefore burn even more calories. It is suitable for anyone, regardless of their fitness level, and is guaranteed to keep you sweating.
Warm up: 10 minutes at 55% effort
Effort 1: 5 minutes at 85% effort
Recovery: 3 minutes at 40% effort
Effort 2: 5 minutes at 90% effort
Recovery: 3 minutes at 40% effort
Effort 3: 5 minutes at 95% effort
Cool: 6 minutes at 30-40% effort
Session 3: 8 Round Tabata
This last session may be short but it packs a punch. It’s called 8 Round Tabata and follows the Tabata Interval Training Method where you do eight rounds of 20 seconds of exertion followed by 10 seconds of recovery.
“Tabata is designed to boost metabolism and burn maximum calories in a very short period of time, which is ideal if you are working out on your lunch break or before work,” says Parren.
“The idea is to give your absolute during exertion, so make sure you give it 100% and don’t leave anything in the tank. If you want a longer session, repeat the full workout after 5-10 minutes of full recovery. ‘
Interval (repeat 8 times): 20 seconds at 100% effort, 10 seconds at 40%
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