Cycling has a reputation of being a specialised sport and needing a lot of expensive gear. Many runners see cyclists as a different breed to them (and vice versa!) and cycling not as demanding – cycling is perceived as less effort than running to runners. However there are a lot of benefits of mixing in some cycling with your running programme/diary.
Running has a high impact on the body and, over time, can start creating niggles if running more than 3 or 4 times a week and not strengthening the body in some other way. Cycling is low impact but is a moderate intensity aerobic work out, strengthening your heart without putting your muscles under the strain of 2.5 times your body weight when pounding the ground like running does. It can replace a recovery run, thus reducing ‘junk’ miles and the aforementioned impact. Spinning classes at a gym can actually increase your aerobic fitness and increase muscle strength, replacing a running speed session.
Exercise during injury
Cycling is a great activity to do if nursing a running injury or to aid running injury recovery. It keeps your legs ticking over, at least maintaining the condition in them, if not actually strengthening (high intensity cycling is possibly not ideal, speak to your physio or sports massage therapist if unsure). As mentioned previously, it also helps to maintain your aerobic endurance, meaning that you won’t lose as much fitness as you would just not running. In fact, cycling is great for active recovery as it flushes blood, and therefore oxygen, around the body, promoting the healing process, getting you back to running more quickly.
Cycling helps to build up muscle more than running. Short, intense sprints or hill work really strengthens the glutes, hamstrings and quads whereas running just uses them. However, if you want to become a stronger runner or cyclist then ideally you need to use the gym or have a strength and conditioning programme you can do at home.
Spinning and Cycling
Cycling generally refers to road cycling and spinning refers to a studio cycling workout. Spinning classes are group workouts on stationary exercise bikes. They are of a high aerobic intensity and are a great workout if you’re short on time. Spinning can help strengthen muscles and can be a running speed work replacement. Road cycling is good for building muscle endurance and has the normal benefits of being outdoors and exercising and, often, in company with other people.
For anyone nervous about road cycling, Corsham Cycling Club is an extremely friendly and inclusive club, actively welcoming beginners. For anyone wishing to try spinning classes, Springfield Leisure Centre and The Olympiad have a number of classes on a day. Don’t be nervous about trying them, everyone is far too busy trying not to have a heart attack to care about what gear you’re in or how fast you might not be going!
Anna Gardiner is a Level 5 Sports Massage Therapist and can be contacted for treatments in Corsham and Chippenham. www.thetreatmentrooms.info