This is a guest feature from Neilson Active Holidays. Neilson’s passion for lifestyle sports over the last 40 years has driven them to create an exciting range of summer and winter holidays for people who find the best way to relax is to switch off by doing something – learn more on neilson.co.uk.
Clocking up the miles pounding pavements, or discovering trail running for the first time? Runners can benefit hugely from adding a bike into the mix for some cross-training to help improve your running performance, build muscle strength and aid recovery. It’s easy to get out on a bike with just a few key pieces of kit to keep you comfortable, and runners new to cycling might discover they enjoy it as well!
Build your performance
Focusing on only one sport may seem like the best way to maximise your improvements, but introducing alternative activities can support your training and improve your performance as well – this is what is known as cross-training. If you spend a lot of time running then you want to cross-train with a sport that works your muscles in new ways – cycling is a great option.
Cycling helps improve running performance by developing fitness, stamina and endurance without damaging your leg muscles. Compared to the impact you are putting through your body each step of a running stride (especially road running), it’s a great low-impact cardiovascular workout.
Improve strength in complementary muscles
As you improve as a runner you will be conditioning your muscles to perform certain functions. Initially, you’ll be getting stronger and you’ll feel great. But if your training is exclusively running, at some point you’ll plateau, stop seeing results and get frustrated. Cycling will help you add strength in muscles that will support your running.
Your quads, glutes and core muscles will all be tested in new ways on the bike. These muscles complement those used for running, making you a stronger runner. Your efficiency should improve too which will help you run faster. Try riding a bike uphill in a big gear to build strength.
After a long run, it’s likely your legs will be sore and the thought of going out the next day won’t fill you with joy. It might be time for a rest day – relaxing, stretching, or even some yoga to ease the tightness – but if you want to keep training you can try a bike session. A low to medium intensity bike ride the day after a long run is low impact to avoid unnecessary stress to your joints and can help your legs to recover.
Cycling aids recovery by increasing blood flow to your calves, quads, glutes and hamstrings, flushing out lactic acid and helping them repair. The motion itself will also reduce muscle and joint stiffness and you’ll be back out running much sooner than if you rested.
Your aerobic fitness is a key element for any sport – your ability to use oxygen to fuel your muscles during exercise. A bike can be a great tool for adding variety to your aerobic training:
- Short sprints out of the saddle will spike your heart-rate and build speed. These interval workouts push your body hard, forcing it to adapt quickly and grow stronger.
- Longer, steady rides build endurance. You’ll be able to enjoy a cardio workout with lower recovery rates. Plus, as a low impact aerobic exercise, cycling will improve your overall cardiovascular fitness without damaging your joints.
Optimise fat burning
If one of the reasons you took up running was to decrease overall body fat, then cycling could be your new best friend. The more you progress with your running, the more efficient you’ll become and the fewer calories you will burn.
This is where cycling comes in. Fat burning occurs when the heart is working at around 65 to 75 per cent of its maximum heart rate, a zone that you can achieve in cycling training. If you are a runner looking to lose weight, consider swapping some runs for a bike ride to challenge your body in a new way and create a higher burn.
Exercising with an injury
We hate to mention the I-word, but it happens to us all. Getting injured is a real blow and taking a break from running can sometimes be necessary to allow your body to heal. If you want to keep in shape while recovering, then cycling may help you train without putting your injury through the same stresses as running.
Cycling gives a great workout without the impact of a run. Although cycling long distances can cause some stress on the knees, it is comparatively far lower than running and will help you to maintain your fitness whilst putting far less stress on the body.
Find new thrills
Trying a new sport can push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you both physically and mentally. For runners, cycling will bring new excitement of speed and power whether it’s mountain biking downhill, flying along the flat or pushing up a climb to take in the views.
Riding on a bike also combines exercise with a sense of exploration and discovery outdoors. Even on shorter rides you can escape from the city, see some incredible views, and cover some impressive distance.
If you want an upgrade from your home roads, then Neilson’s beachclub holidays have plenty of destinations that are perfect for road riding or mountain biking. Whatever your level, or preference for mountain or road, Neilson offers different levels of guided rides, making it easy for you to get out and discover something new.
Getting into the community
Cycling on holiday, without the distractions of everyday life, is a great way to get into or rediscover the thrill of riding. It’s also easy to incorporate a new found passion for cycling when you return home, or find groups to show you new routes and group rides in your area.
If you have a bike, look out for local road cycling clubs or explore local trails for mountain bikes in your area. Even if you don’t have a bike, you can make the most of the benefits of cycling by taking part in a spin class at your local gym or fitness centre.
Inspired to get on a bike? make sure you have the essential kit to stay comfortable on the bike, and get out there!
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