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Dave Smith wants you to dig your trainers out from under the bed this winter

As road.cc is a website for cyclists, I thought my first fitness and training column should be about running - in order to help you become a better cyclist.

If you’ve read enough articles on training, you’ll know that specificity is not only hard to say, but it’s one of the core principles of training. Meaning that you should make the training specific to the demands of the goal activity. You’ll have realised that running doesn’t involve sitting on a bike and pedalling, so what’s the story? Surely for anyone sane, running is something that should only be done in the presence of wild animals? Well, while running doesn’t look or feel like cycling, if you break specifics of cycling down to a micro level, running has much to offer.

Why run?

First off, it’s better than nothing. Winter can mean that cycling is confined to the hours of darkness, save for commuting and weekend rides. Even a turbo trainer isn’t always a practical solution - I know of one poor chap who is banned from using a turbo in the house and has been known to train in a blizzard in the garden. Running at night is safer than cycling at night. It’s also much more practical in terms of the time taken to get ready and go, plus you won’t be stuck in the rain and dark mending punctured shoes, so it means you’re more likely to be active - that’s a good thing.

Running is less affected by the weather than cycling, no long freewheeling descents to chill you and less severe wind chill at the slower speed of movement. In my experience it’s easier to deal with the extreme conditions you may face and stay active - with home made snow chains I’ve run through severe ice and snow conditions when cycling would have been less than a pleasure.

All of these factors can help you avoid the winter weight-gain that is fairly commonplace with cyclists who spend all summer getting fit and lean then spend all winter getting slow and chubby - and repeat. I guess it could be called the rhythm method of girth control.

Running will also improve your central cardiovascular fitness. Your heart and lungs are placed under stress and you make positive adaptations to that stress. You’ll be more efficient at delivering more oxygen to active muscles when you get back on the bike. Whilst it’s true that there is less carry over to peripheral factors in performance at the muscle vascular level, it’s still a worthwhile gain to seek.

Another advantage may sound odd, but the damage that running will do to your muscles, at a microscopic level, will result in enhanced repair - when you allow them time to recover. In effect your muscles will gain new strength and often a bit of an increase in size and definition. The impact as you hit the ground creates stimulus for positive change as you’re using muscles in a completely different way to cycling – generating force as they lengthen rather than as they contract. Another advantage is that foot impact enhances bone density – studies have shown that bone health is greater in runners compared to cyclists, something especially important as we age.

Hit the trails

If you choose to run off-road on trails, mud and suchlike, the gains will be even greater. It’s more interesting to have to watch your footing, make micro-adjustments to balance with an added ‘strength’ element dealing with the suction effect of mud and gravity on hills. When you get over the initial, shock, trail running is a great consumer of time.

So, for several reasons if you get it right, the running that you do through winter can directly translate into becoming a faster cyclist next year. The great thing is that the right sort of running doesn’t take very long – you can boost your endurance, strength and climbing on the bike without the Forrest Gump approach to running. In fact you’ll be surprised how funny you’ll be walking for a few days after your first 15 minute session. And in time you may even enjoy it. Eventually.

Right then – how should you start?

I’ll make the assumption that you’re new to running and that the purpose will be to improve your cycling – though as a result you’ll improve your running too. You might even want to try something like a 10k. I’ll also assume that you’re healthy and free from injury.

Your first run

To start with, the purpose will be to get you used to running at a reasonable pace – there’s no point in training to be slow. The following is the session I’d suggest for the first three weeks, doing it twice a week.

Walk for a few minutes, then jog a little for two minutes. Now run as fast as you’d like to be able to run in future, for just 30 seconds. Imagine you’re on a bike and try to match the stride rate with your cycling cadence - for me it’s around 90 per minute. Then walk for 30 seconds. Do that a total of 5 times, then walk around for 2 minutes. Then do the same thing two more times. So a total of 15 x 30 seconds – meaning only 7.5 minutes of running.

After three weeks you can change to 40 seconds running and 20 seconds walking, and add one of the following runs:

Steady state

go for a run at a nice brisk pace until it becomes hateful. The make 70% of that duration your new goal time. So if you managed 20 minutes before wanting to stop, aim to run for 14 minutes once a week, along with the intervals.

Hill repeats

these are a great way to boost your fitness but be aware that there is a significant stress on your achilles tendons and calves – as a cyclist they work without being stretched anything like as much as when running up a hill. It would be a good idea to target flexibility of the achilles in the initial three weeks of running by stretching twice a day. Not a minute of bouncing before a run, but a proper calf stretch for a few minutes twice daily.

Before you do hill repeats, take a look at your bike. Put the cranks horizontal, and look at the horizontal distance between the pedals. Aim to have that as your stride length – see, some cycling specificity! Small strides, but at a fast rate. Now walk/jog towards a hill. When you get to the bottom, run up it for 30 seconds with short quick strides, then walk back down. Then do it again. Try 10 times. You could also use flights of stairs for this, careful on the corners though!

As winter progresses increase the number of intervals and the distance of your runs as you feel the improvements come. If you want more speed, lean forward a little, lift you knees 2cm higher, keep your hands and shoulders relaxed and enjoy!

As with all training occasionally push it hard, see if you can recalibrate your comfortable pace or distance. And in 2015 cycle faster!

Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.

42 comments

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arfa [859 posts] 5 years ago
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As an alternative (for those who hate running like me) get a mountain bike and hit the muddy, hilly trails. Works fine for me.

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stenmeister [357 posts] 5 years ago
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I can't run because of a knee problem that means I slam my leg down, inevitably pulling muscles and negating any benefit.

Cycling doesn't result in this impact so I prefer to get my mountain bike out and ride some trails and parks in my town.

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finkcreative [51 posts] 5 years ago
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Skipping.
Not a huge amount of impact.
Burns calories faster than running.
Upper body work-out too.
& Improves co-ordination.

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mad_scot_rider [583 posts] 5 years ago
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This whole article is heretical and has been condemned by the Inquisition

Anyone found to have been reading these vile outpourings will be cleansed in holy fire and their ashes scattered on the wind

That is all

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tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 5 years ago
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More running, less WH 40K novels  21

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tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 5 years ago
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Quote:

Running at night is safer than cycling at night.

Depends on your concept of safety and areas you live. Women can feel especially vulnerable running in some areas at night, and rightly so, they are more at risk from certain types of abuse. Bikes make a better escape option as you whizz on past.

Do prefer winter running to winter cycling though - purely because you don't spend so much time cleaning the bike with freezing hands (that feeling of putting your hands into the warm water bucket is lush though)  21

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700c [1267 posts] 5 years ago
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definitely agree in mixing it up. when I was running last winter I had much less tightness in my hams and calves after long rides - and it was beneficial to my fitness.

Then again, hard turbo sessions in winter are pretty good too for keeping fit.

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ManyFacedTMan [30 posts] 5 years ago
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Rule #42
Also keep in mind that one should only swim in order to prevent drowning, and should only run if being chased. And even then, one should only run fast enough to prevent capture.

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tom_w [239 posts] 5 years ago
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If the above isn't enough to tempt you then let me also mention that if you go to a good running store they will fit you for your running shoes by filming your running style etc. And they won't charge you £300 for the privilege either!

Avoid doing what I did when I started running which was going out and running 10k after not having run since school 20 years before that. I could only just get up the stairs for the next three days. Good engine.. bad everything else it turned out!

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Chuck [590 posts] 5 years ago
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arfa wrote:

As an alternative (for those who hate running like me) get a mountain bike and hit the muddy, hilly trails. Works fine for me.

Doesn't really help with the faff side of it though- makes it much worse in fact!

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kitkat [495 posts] 5 years ago
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In regards the Steady State:

Quote:

go for a run at a nice brisk pace until it becomes hateful. The make 70% of that duration your new goal time. So if you managed 20 minutes before wanting to stop, aim to run for 14 minutes once a week, along with the intervals.

As fitness improves (especially in the beginning) when do you recalibrate the duration of the run? Every month? When you feel like it? Your next post?  1

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bikeandy61 [554 posts] 5 years ago
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I started briefly last Jan using an excellent smartphone app - something like "Start Running". Nice guided introduction. I was concerned about the potential to be working away from home in the week (never happened in the end) and not having access to the bike. Sadly my knees and ankles just didn't take to it. May give it another go this winter with fully strapped joints. It was great for helping to shift winter weight.

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notfastenough [3734 posts] 5 years ago
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Once we manage to move house I hope to have access to offroad trails rather than hard tarmac. I like the idea of being able to run and ride offroad for a bit of variety.

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Scoob_84 [489 posts] 5 years ago
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I couldn't bear the thought of my neighbours mistaking me for a triathlete!!

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hectorhtaylor [68 posts] 5 years ago
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Great article. I'm worried about my knees but will give it a try, I'll be two thirds of the way to being a triathlete.

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LarryDavidJr [397 posts] 5 years ago
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I started doing a bit of running after getting home from work last winter, for exactly the reasons stated (quicker to get ready, greater benefits for the exercise time, no bike cleanup afterwards) and found I didn't mind it too much. I was even quite pleased when my times started dropping a bit. It also left more time in the gym for exercises I needed gym equipment for (weights etc.), rather than spending half of it on the treadmill.

Then in the summer I started trying it as an occasional alternative to the gym at lunchtime, just to shake things up a bit. This was when I obviously did something stupid as I totally fecked my right knee and couldn't walk without pain for a couple of weeks ... right after getting a new bike!

I swore I'd never do it again but with the nights drawing in now and limited time in the evenings for any cardio exercise ... maybe I'll just leave out the 'Zombie Run' app and stick to my usual jogging pace.

I can't swim, so no fears about becoming a tri-dork  3

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spin sugar [48 posts] 5 years ago
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Anyone who is worried about running + injuries and assuming it'll mess them up: read Born to Run. It changed my life. Not even kidding.

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a.jumper [853 posts] 5 years ago
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How many people gave up running and took up cycling because their joints are knackered from the impacts? Probably quite a few.

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Ghostie [93 posts] 5 years ago
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hectorhtaylor wrote:

Great article. I'm worried about my knees but will give it a try, I'll be two thirds of the way to being a triathlete.

I run more than I cycle, using cycling at the moment for cross training (although I'm also starting to take cycling a bit more seriously now). I wouldn't worry about knees. Run on softer surfaces: grass, mud, etc. More experienced, higher mileage road runners occasionally get knee and general leg problems - mine are related to IT band issues that arose after finding a pair of shoes didn't have the mileage in them that I thought they had, and I also developed "runner's knee". It is manageable though and seldom causes me difficulties by varying surfaces and the shoes I run in.

The only thing I would disagree with in this article is incorporating intervals or hill repeats - leave that until you can actually run any decent distance and are looking to improve your running pace. No problem with running slowly either - even experienced runners do some slow. A regular run or jog on varied off-road terrain alone is probably more beneficial for the muscles used whilst cycling, unless you want to take up running seriously and start doing races. But I'd use it to complement cycling (be that turbo training, MTB, CX, etc) rather than just doing that over the winter.

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Gero [18 posts] 5 years ago
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I just keep riding my bike all year round. But then I'm not soft like some people.

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tritecommentbot [2266 posts] 5 years ago
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Or you are soft and can't hack the running?  103

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massspike [138 posts] 5 years ago
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On Saturday mornings a local radio station has a show dedicated to running...half the discussion seems to be about preventing injuries or recovering from injuries. I can't remember the last time cycling injuries were discussed on this blog (other than accidents).

(IMHO) The downside of an all cycling exercise regime is the asymmetric physiological response (e.g. over-development of the upper leg, under-development of the lower leg). Nothing a bit of weight training can't resolve.

In a few weeks the snow will fall (and stay for the next 4 months) and I'll start my winter routine of riding the nearby snowmobile trail. Riding on snow on my beat up 30 year old MTB is like climbing a Cat4 so it is better exercise than the road riding around here (with our maximum vertical of 30 meters).

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notfastenough [3734 posts] 5 years ago
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Scoob_84 wrote:

I couldn't bear the thought of my neighbours mistaking me for a triathlete!!

Good point, I'll make sure to wear a disguise!

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Boyd [2 posts] 5 years ago
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I really worry that running will wreck my knees as they are a bit sensitive after 22 years of breast stroke (Yes I know I should learn to swim properly) I find the cross-trainer ok so would that not be just as good as running with a few weights thrown in for upper body strength?

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kraut [169 posts] 5 years ago
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How many people gave up running and took up cycling because their joints are knackered from the impacts? Probably quite a few.

If your joints are getting "knackered by the impact", you're running wrong. We've evolved as runners. We're designed to run.

Ditch the padded trainers and transition - slowly - to minimalist shoes and a forefoot strike. Keep the cadence up. Your knees will thank you.

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Spiny [63 posts] 5 years ago
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Knackered cruciate here so no running for me. Knee swells like an orange within an hour of high impact exercise. I'll be getting a Turbo & dusting off the MTB for weekends I think.

Just got to lay off the mince pies now  36

[edit] I always see plenty of smiles from people on bikes. But happy runners? Never  1

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Comrade [221 posts] 5 years ago
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Run a bit, bike a bit...life is good if you can!

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Quince [380 posts] 5 years ago
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An open question to anyone who knows anything about... stuff:

How do other running around sports compare to 'actual running' in terms of on the bike fitness? I've been playing five-a-side feetball every Friday for the last couple of months, and as well as providing a refreshing change from battling with tarmac, it's asked quite a lot of me physically, and in quite a different way from cycling. The rhythm is much more erratic, and it seems to demand quite a few underused muscles, so I feel it's doing me some good in general. Plus it's more social than most of my riding, and feels less self conscious than bounding around in running kit outside (although that's just probably something I should just get over). It's really not structured, and it's probably too fun for its own good, but that's kind of the point - it's nice to get away from all the superseriousness of training and still keep fit.

I've kind of gone of on a bit of a tangent, but what cross-training do other people do, and what do you feel are the benefits?

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Dave Smith [47 posts] 5 years ago
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Interesting comments  1 No one 'needs' to run in winter if they don't want to - just as Chris Hoy didn't 'need' to lift weights, but it helped his cycling performance. It might help yours, or it might be something you'd rather not do. Personally, I like the fact that it's less than 5 minutes to change and get out the door, no lights to charge, no bike to clean afterwards, and it translates into faster cycling. I still hate it though  3

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notfastenough [3734 posts] 5 years ago
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Quince wrote:

An open question to anyone who knows anything about... stuff:

How do other running around sports compare to 'actual running' in terms of on the bike fitness? I've been playing five-a-side feetball every Friday for the last couple of months, and as well as providing a refreshing change from battling with tarmac, it's asked quite a lot of me physically, and in quite a different way from cycling. The rhythm is much more erratic, and it seems to demand quite a few underused muscles, so I feel it's doing me some good in general. Plus it's more social than most of my riding, and feels less self conscious than bounding around in running kit outside (although that's just probably something I should just get over). It's really not structured, and it's probably too fun for its own good, but that's kind of the point - it's nice to get away from all the superseriousness of training and still keep fit.

I've kind of gone of on a bit of a tangent, but what cross-training do other people do, and what do you feel are the benefits?

I can't say I've 'crosstrained', but I seem to flit between martial arts and cycling every few years. I should do them together because the cardio base would help my martial arts, and all the stretching would undo the tightness that I get from cycling.

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