I’ve started training for my annual half marathon that takes place in April. The real challenge this year is that due to peer pressure I’m signed up for two half’s in a row. The week after the annual April half marathon event I’ve got 13 miles to run again in another city. I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The biggest problem living in Illinois is that in the winter it’s hard to get in any distance runs except on a treadmill which I’ve never been a big fan of. I’ve read, and even written, about strategies that will make treadmill running more bearable. I’ve incorporated many of the tips into my workouts. Recently, I’ve been doing my own version of extreme hills which is helping me stay motivated and challenged.
But, despite having a great playlist, mileage tracker and the hill challenge, I still have trouble staying on the treadmill for a distance that resembles a half marathon training run. The boredom and mental fatigue are winning!
Going For A Spin!
I have found the way to extend the cardio workout is to put a short cycling stint in immediately after the run. In the gym where I work out we have spin bikes in the cardio section of the fitness center and no one is ever on them at the hour that I’m there so it’s easy for me to get off of the treadmill and right onto the bike.
It’s been several years since I’ve done any serious cycling. I’m amazed at how much I love the way the spin bike makes my legs feel! Totally different than the running or other activities that I do. Yet I can’t help but wonder if spending the time on the bike will have any impact on my half marathon training or if I’m just wasting my time.
I’ve had ultra runners tell me that the only way to train for a run is to run. An all running routine isn’t a problem for people that love to run. But that’s not me. I don’t really love to run. I like to run. I love to do HIIT and boot camp workouts. Turbo Kick is fun. So is spin class. But there is something about the repetition of the running that wears me out. Especially on the treadmill.
Ask The Experts
I did some research to find out if using cycling as a component in half marathon training is effective and to find out if there is something else I could be doing that would be more beneficial than spinning. If I’m honest with myself I know I’m not going to spend hours at a time on the treadmill.
There are several reputable runners out there that think that not only is cycling a key part of marathon training, but it may help improve speed.
Susan Lacke covered the topic in 5 Ways Cycling Can Make You A Better Runner that she wrote for the No Meat Athlete.com. Susan believes cycling enhances running in a number of ways. She say 1.) cycling is an excellent form of active recovery 2.) it builds strength in complementary muscles 3.) it improves leg turnover (I need that for sure), and 4.) it’s a good cardio workout without the impact.
Many of the comments posted by runners below the article support her theories. There were testimonies from people like Sarah that says she started incorporating spin class into her training and has noticed improved running performance. And Karen S that uses the bike to avoid burnout and injury when marathon training.
Jeff Horowitz, certified running and triathlon coach says that cycling is the best form of cross training for runners. In an article he wrote for Running Competitor.com he says, “Cycling primarily works the quadriceps, a big muscle group that running doesn’t effectively work. Insufficient strength in the quads can allow the knees to buckle on landing during the foot-plant phase. This is the primary cause for the up-and-down bobbing motion seen in some runners, which can lead to patella tendinitis and other knee problems. Cycling can help with that.”
That’s good news. Plus Horowitz explains that cycling also works the “outer hips and gluteus medius muscles, which are crucial for running. These muscles help keep the hips from swaying outward on the landing phase. When this happens, the iliotibial band—a thick strip of connective tissue on the outside of the leg—is pulled tight, which can result in knee and hip pain. Again, cycling can help with this.”
I’ve suffered from my share if iliotibial band issues during distance runs. Knowing that the biking may help alleviate this painful affliction is building my confidence about the time I’m spending spinning.
Coach Jerry at iRunnerblog.com has crafted a marathon training program that incorporates cycling into the training three days a week. Coach Jerry’s program – A Biker’s Marathon Training Guide - has people spending more time on the bike than on the pavement. In this training program, Coach says that “cycling is the bread and butter aspect of overall training hours.”
Over To You
From what I’ve read, including the cycling in my running plan will help me accomplish my primary goals which are to reduce the risk of injury, avoid an IT band flare-up, improve my foot turnover, and prevent burnout. If the weather shapes up and I can get outside for longer runs before the first half marathon in April I’ll head outside for some long runs.
If March and April are cold and wet, I may stay inside and work on treadmill hills and spinning. If that happens it will be interesting to compare my finish time in this year’s Illinois Half Marathon to last year’s.
What do you think? There is plenty of support for the theory that cycling enhances running. Have you tried it? Does it work for you?
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