Biking for Runners

The Benefits of Biking as Cross Training

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Why is Biking a Great Cross Training Option for Runners?

Cycling is a great way to cross train for running because:
  • It is low impact
  • It is an aerobic sport that works the lungs and heart
  • It mainly works the muscles of the legs

Much like there are different types of running workouts that can be performed for different benefits, there are different biking workouts that can be performed with similar benefits and without the high impact.

Uphill Biking

Uphill biking works much like hill repeats in running; strengthening the muscles of the legs to be able to carry your body uphill with ease.

Sprints

Doing bursts of high intensity on the bike can raise your heart rate much like interval training does when running. These high intensity bursts can be performed on a stationary bike by simply turning up the resistance, or on a road bike by increasing the gears and speeding up your ride.

Long Rides

Long rides on the bike can increase endurance capabilities like a long run can. The difference is how far you must go on a bike to have it be an endurance ride is much longer than the set of miles you might perform for an endurance run.

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Why is "Low Impact" Important?

Running is such a high impact sport on the legs and joints, which does have its benefits!

  • It strengthens bones/bone mass
  • Increases heart rate quickly
  • Improves stability and balance

However, there are a few downsides to the constant high impact training of running every day:

  • Overuse injuries
  • Can be painful on the joints
  • Can cause strains on ligaments or tendons
  • Difficult for those that are overweight

These downsides are the reasons it can be helpful to include cross training in your running program. It gives the body a few days a week to still work hard and improve the ability to run well without having to hit the ground hard.

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What Muscles Does Biking Use?

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Legs​

Calf

The two main muscles in the calf are used to lift the heel for position on the pedal

Quad

The quadriceps are worked most heavily when biking and are the main muscle group that allows you to propel forward

Hamstring

The hamstrings give the knee the ability to bend in order to make a full pedal motion

butt

Buttox

Glutes

All three of the glute muscles are used within the buttox. This muscle group paired with the hips work to provide the circular motion of the legs. Cycling oftentimes helps to tone these muscles.
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Core

Back & Stomach

The muscles of the back and stomach must stay tight in order to get good pressure on the pedals and propel and rider forward.

Want to learn more about training as a runner and what cross training you should include in your program? Sign up for in person, group, or even virtual training with us at A Better Run and you’ll learn all this and more.

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Post Author

Nicole Hillstead-Jones

RRCA Certified Coach & Nutrition Minor