“You’ve preached for a decade to us why cycling is so great and now we are supposed to be runners?”
“What do you know about running anyway?”
Let me answer the second question first because it’s not only valid but it also supports my answer to the first (hint: I’ve been there).
I started bike racing as a junior. By the time I was 20, I added running to my training because I wanted to finish an Ironman in a one-and-done kind of way. I did the Ironman half a year later and a marathon as preparation before that (oh to be young again). But I wasn’t done with either Ironman or running. The one-and-done turned into 15 years first trying to be the best Ironman and then the best Marathoner I could be. This ended with finishing top 100 both at Ironman Hawaii and the NYC Marathon. But the journey is where the key was: I traveled the world and raced in obvious and non obvious places which gave me great memories.
So if you think I am a cycling nerd, you should have seen me through my running heydays which answers question two: I know much more than necessary at any level.
Now let’s get to the more pressing question: why should you – a passionate road cyclist – be also a runner?
Disclaimer: if you really just don’t like running and don’t want to be encouraged to rethink that, that’s of course fine. And there are obviously a few physical reasons that might keep you from running (interestingly though most aren’t final). In those cases, see you at the next GFNY Cycling race!
1. It’s fun
Running is fun and it’s why I do it. Many people can’t imagine a strenuous exercise like running to be fun but it truly is if you give it an honest try. If you’ve never tried it since you were forced to do it in high school, you might have to give it 4-8 weeks of consistent running to reap the fun part. And speaking of high school: I could barely do two laps on the track (800m) back then and hated running.
I especially love running in nature. When you get into a flow, it’s pure bliss. A flow like that is harder to achieve in cycling because we’re usually in traffic and cycling requires more situational awareness.
2. You can do it anywhere
Cycling is great but while you can travel with your bike to ride in new places, it isn’t always practical. Few of us would take their bike on the plane for a three day work trip. But there is no reason not to take a running kit and shoes in your carry-on for a run in the morning before breakfast. It’s a great way to experience a place and get your exercise in.
I remember a short business trip to London where I packed gym gear for a workout in the hotel gym. It was January but surprisingly mild so I opted for a run. It wasn’t mild enough for a run in the singlet I brought with me for the gym but a dress shirt later, I was off and running along the Thames and all the sightseeing highlights of London.
3. You can do it in any weather
Ok, almost any weather but snow isn’t rideable and rain riding not for everyone either. Running, however, can be even more fun occasionally in weather that you would never consider riding in. Imagine getting your play time in without having to worry about weather. Yes please!
4. It’s healthy
Yes, you are already getting all the health benefits from cycling. But running is important to support your bone density which is something cycling does nothing for. And running uses certain muscles that are more or less dormant on the bike, most notably core muscles.
5. So many race options
Let’s face it, we like to race. And while racing a GFNY cycling event will give you long lasting memories because it was long and difficult and possibly required you to travel far, you can’t do that every weekend.
You can, however, find a run race nearby all the time. The fun about running is that you don’t have to stick to running a marathon. Sure, the marathon can be considered the crown jewel of running but that doesn’t mean you should run a mile race – or a 100 mile race!
6. It complements your cycling fitness
As a hardcore cyclist, you might wonder if running is detrimental for cycling. After all, as cyclists we’ve been taught “Why run if you can stand, why stand if you can sit down, why sit down if you can lie down?”
And there is some truth to that: if you are racing the Tour next week or Flanders as part of a pro team, stay away from running. After all, you’re using different muscles and might get an injury.
If you are not a pro cyclist, however, running is likely beneficial for your cycling. In addition to recruiting different and complementary muscles, it is also great to keep the weight down as the calorie burn per hour spent is greater than in cycling. While you do feel every extra weight when climbing on a bike, you feel it even more so when running and it might trip you to just be a little more serious with your diet.
In a future article, I will address commonly raised arguments by cyclists against running.