Is Running Good For Your Cycling Performance?

It’s no secret that I have taken up running this off season. Since September I have been running once a week for 6 miles. Usually it would be a one hour run during lunch time or on the weekend. I kept up this program until Christmas where the nice weather allowed me to ride my bike much more.

Now that the weather in the Northeast is back to the usual winter cold and snow, I am back to focusing on running. My program now consists of an occasional run outside when it is around 30 degrees or more and a weekly running league. Last week I was able to beat my previous 400 meter time of 97 seconds by 12 seconds to turn in a time of 85 seconds. That was during a relay race where I had to run with a baton where I was worried about accidentally launching it into the air or not passing it off to the next runner cleanly. Luckily I did not launch the baton and I was able to get it to the next runner without too much trouble. Amazing how you can simply over-think things.

The choice of running this off-season came into question when someone pointed me to an article about the negative aspects of cross training.

For example, cycling appears to be great for runners, but running doesn’t do a hell of a lot for cyclists. This is partially a matter of muscle trauma. Running is a sport with a high incidence of leg-muscle trauma, because of the repeated impacts associated with the sport. Of course, there’s no impact involved in cycling. Therefore, when runners take up cycling, it keeps them from abusing their leg muscles and may allow their leg muscles to heal a bit. This recovery process represents part of the ‘bonus’ which runners get from cycling. On the other hand, cyclists who add running to their programmes begin to experience impact-related trauma to their leg muscles. The damage incurred by their muscles can actually interfere with function; therefore, it’s unlikely that cyclists’ performances will really ‘take off’ after they start running, whereas runners who initiate a biking programme can really soar.

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This quote is assuming a full running program where injury will eventually occur. It does not really explain what happens if you take on a light to moderate program of running such as what I am doing. So far I have been injury free since I give myself ample time to rest. The other part of my training involves weight lifting and stairmaster climber.

Today someone pointed me to another article that talks about the benefits of weight baring exercises such as running.

But the results of the SDSU study (published in 2003), which measured the bone density of 27 masters cyclists like Holland, showed researchers just how significantly bones can deteriorate when not subjected to the rigors of load-bearing activities such as running or lifting weights.

For better or worse, the human body adapts to its environment. If you stop applying force to your frame by focusing on low-impact sports, you’ll build muscle, but your bod will assume that it can slow down bone maintenance.

This process came to light in 1996, when a study of six Tour de France riders showed bone-density losses of up to 17 percent over the course of the race.

Running or jogging may help stop your bones from deteriorating.

Jogging or jumping rope daily will also prompt bone growth. These load-bearing exercises—as well as a weight-lifting program where you pump enough iron to reach muscle failure after eight reps—will stop your bones from weakening and could help multiply bone cells by as much as 2 percent a year. “Just make the impact on your skeleton significant,” says Warren A. Scott, a medical director for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

Outside Magazine: The Shatter-Proof Skeleton

So we have two totally differing views on the benefits of running. On one side the damage caused by running does not help cycling performance. On the other side cycling alone can help deteriorate your bones.