Like most cyclists working to improve and get faster, you've probably asked yourself "Does running affect cycling performance?"
Both cycling and running are endurance sports and seem to have a lot in common. They require a lot of cardiovascular fitness and both place a lot of impact on the legs.
So, does running affect cycling performance? And is it something you should be doing to improve your cycling?
The answer is yes, running does affect your cycling, but it depends on how you approach it. Here's a look at the pros and cons of running for cyclists and whether you should include it in your training regimen.
Benefits of Running for Cyclists
There is no doubt that running is good for your body. It's one of the simplest and most popular ways to get in shape.
And what's good for the body is naturally going to have some sort of positive effect on your cycling performance. Here are some of the benefits that running can have for cyclists.
Improved bone density
Running is a great way to improve your bone density. This is especially beneficial for older cyclists who are at a higher risk for osteoporosis.
The high-impact nature of running helps to stimulate the growth of new bone cells, which can help to improve overall bone health. For cyclists, this can help to reduce the risk of fractures and other injuries.
Improved overall fitness and cardiovascular endurance
Another benefit of running that directly affects cycling is that it improves your fitness and cardiovascular endurance.
Since both cycling and running are endurance sports, the better conditioned you are, the better you will perform. Running helps to increase your VO2 max, which is a measure of the amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
This is beneficial for cyclists because it will help them ride longer and stronger before getting fatigued.
Works different muscle groups
Another benefit of running is that it works different muscle groups than cycling does. Running uses a different motion than cycling so it strengthens the muscles in your legs, hips, and core that aren't used as much when cycling.
This can help to create a more balanced physique and prevent imbalances and injuries from overuse. It can also help to make you a stronger and more efficient cyclist.
Adds variety to your training
Another perk to running is that it can add variety to your training. Sometimes it can get boring or monotonous doing the same rides and routines over and over again.
Running offers a change of pace, and often a change of scenery to help make your workouts more interesting. Plus, because it uses different muscle groups, which can often give your cycling muscles a much-needed break.
It's an easy and convenient cardio alternative
Lastly, a benefit of running is that it's easy and convenient for those times when you're short on time or traveling. All you need to go for a run is a pair of sneakers and you're good to go.
It's a lot easier to do when you're traveling and don't have access to a gym or your bike.
Plus, because running requires more muscles and is harder on the body, you don't need to do it for as long as cycling to get the same benefit. So, if you're short on time, a 30-minute run can be just as effective as a 2-hour ride.
Downsides of Running for Cyclists
Although there are some upsides to running as a cyclist, there are some downsides too. Here are some of the negative effects of running on cycling performance.
It's harder on the body
The biggest downside of running is that it's simply harder on the body than cycling. The high-impact nature of running can lead to injuries, such as stress fractures, shin splints, and knee pain.
It's more stress on your joints and could potentially lead to overtraining if you don't take enough recovery time after your runs. Injuries caused by running could leave you sidelined from cycling for weeks or even months, so it's important to be careful.
You need to ease into it
Another downside to running is that you have to ease into it. Especially if you haven't been doing any other type of weight-bearing or high-impact exercises.
Cycling is known to be a low-impact exercise that can lead to weaker bones in some athletes. This means, you typically need to take it slow at first and gradually increase your mileage to avoid injuries.
Can take time away from cycling
The last downside to running as a cyclist is that it takes time away from cycling. Although it is important to cross-train to improve your power and prevent injuries, the best way to get better at cycling is to get on the bike.
The more hours your put on the bike, the more you can improve your cycling efficiency, build up your cardio, and increase your muscular endurance.
Add in the fact that you have to spend extra time easing into running to prevent injuries and the added recovery time, it can seriously start cutting into the amount of time you have to ride.
Does running improve your cycling performance?
So with all that said, is running worth it? Do the benefits outweigh the downsides?
Honestly, not really. Unless you're training for a triathlon, running isn't going to help you see the improvements you're probably looking for with your cycling performance.
Running is great for improving overall fitness and cardio, but it doesn't translate as much to the things that actually make a difference with cycling. Things like power, cycling efficiency, and muscular endurance.
In fact, if done too much, running can start to negatively impact your cycling performance. You can become overtrained, injured, and even lose some of the muscular endurance that's beneficial for cycling.
Should cyclists add running to their training regime?
So does running affect cycling performance? Yes! Should you add it to your training regimen? It depends.
If it's during the offseason, you're focused on improving your general fitness, and aren't worried about your cycling performance, then sure go for it. However, if you're focused on getting faster and better at cycling, then I suggest you skip it.
You're better off spending that time cycling rather than running so you can see the greatest improvements on the bike.