Can Cycling Help Running Form? [ANALYSIS]

Woman running next to man on bicycle

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Runners are always trying to improve their form. Whether it’s eating to enhance endurance, putting in extra hours at the gym, or becoming best friends with the bathtub and a bag of Epsom salts, most runners have tried it all. 

Whether you’re a seasoned fanatic or a nervous novice, you’ve probably Googled “how to improve my running form” at least once. The real question is, have you considered cycling?

Running is often hailed as the king of cardio, but cycling is a close contender. If you want to improve your stamina for the next suburban sprint or build more muscle endurance for that half marathon event, you should slap on the lycra shorts and get moving. 

Here’s why. 

Does Cycling Improve Stamina?

Cycling can improve your stamina by getting your body used to exercising for longer. Cycling is a low impact sport, and because movements are consistent and controlled, your joints and muscles experience less wear and tear than with other workouts. 

Cycling requires no sporadic or jerking movements like twisting or excessive bending, meaning the impact on your joints is minimal. When you pedal, you’ll also be using all the major muscle groups without overdoing it. You’ll be working your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves with minimal risk of injury, and with a simple change of pace, you can keep going for longer. 

If you’re a complete beginner, you’ll find it much easier to spend an hour cycling at a continuous pace than you would running or doing other cardio workouts. If you cycle regularly, your stamina and endurance will increase. Cycling may be easier than running, but the improvements are universal, so you’ll see the benefits to your running form, too. 

Does Cycling Help You Run Faster?

Yes, it does. 

Cycling increases your stamina, endurance, aerobic capacity and reduces the risk of injury. All of these things can improve your running speed, too. 

Most cyclists are familiar with VO2 max – this is how much oxygen consumption is measured during exercise. The faster your body can process oxygen, the quicker you can cycle and run. 

Although your VO2 max is determined mainly by genetics, there’s a lot you can do to improve it naturally. Research shows that polarised training (which consists of around 80% low-intensity workouts, like cycling, and 20% high-intensity workouts) can significantly improve VO2 max, plus your time to exhaustion, velocity, and power. 

When your VO2 max improves and you can process oxygen at a quicker rate, you’ll find yourself able to run faster and for longer distances. 

Running and cycling also use the same muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles. Cycling allows you to train these muscles at a low intensity, meaning you can build your muscle strength gradually whilst also recovering quickly from sessions. This can reduce your risk of injury and improve your endurance (which, in turn, improves your speed).

Benefits of Cycling AND Running?

Cycling and running come with many great benefits. These include:

Cycling is Good For Recovery: 

For runners, low-intensity cycling (either outdoors or at a spin class) can be used on recovery days to flush out the legs and improve blood circulation in the muscles. This provides them with more oxygen to aid recovery.

Cycling Reduces Muscle Stiffness:

Runners often suffer from stiff legs caused by a buildup of lactic acid, which breaks down in hydrogen ions and lowers the Ph of your muscles. This causes muscle stiffness. Cycling breaks down the build-up of lactic acid, which results in increased endurance and stamina.

Improved Cardio:

Both of these exercises improve the cardiovascular system. Since most of us can cycle for longer than we can run, cycling can give runners a cardio training boost between sessions that’s low-intensity but improves cardiovascular strength for running events. 

Cycling Improves Running Cadence:

Running cadence is the number of steps you take per minute, and it’s a useful measure of athletic performance. With cycle training and cycling intervals, you can work on improving your leg turnover. Sprint intervals on the bike can increase your heart rate to max levels and enforce a quick cadence. This endurance training and improved cadence transfers to running ability. 

Is Cycling Good Training For Running?

Cycling is an excellent cross-training option for runners because many cycling exercises can be easily manipulated to mimic the same running form and muscle activation as running. 

For example, cycling without sitting on the saddle and positioning the body in a vertical position mimics the posture of running and uses the same muscles at a much lower intensity (depending on your desired workout). When using this position, your calf muscles must activate to stabilise your foot on the peddle. 

Running places a lot of strain on the calf muscles. Cycling with this form mimics the same muscle activation as running with a midfoot strike, which can help strengthen and prime the calf muscles. 

Pedalling motions also activate the shin muscles. If you cycle regularly at a low intensity, you can strengthen your shin muscles over time, reducing your risk of injury when running long distances. 

Whether you’re cycling outdoors or inside on a stationary bike, you can do workouts at a high or low intensity. These workouts can focus on building muscle strength, aerobic capacity, or simply just cooling down after a run, decreasing your risk of injury. Whatever the environment, workout or bike, cycling is an excellent cross-training exercise for runners looking to improve their form without putting excessive strain on their bodies.

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