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Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

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Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby WouterB » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:08 am

People always say that you have to cycle about twice as long as you run to get the same results. I don't quite understand why. If I cycle for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, or I run for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, I should have the same cardio workout. No? I get that I'm training different muscles, but apart from that I really can't see the difference.

I'm asking since I recently picked up cycling and it seems I can cycle for much much longer than I can run, even when I'm doing both at the same heart rate. Additionally cycling seems to put far less strain on my knees, and it does seem to positively improve my overall fitness, including both speed and distance I can run.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby MarkDidier » Sun Mar 25, 2012 3:34 pm

WouterB wrote:If I cycle for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, or I run for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, I should have the same cardio workout. No?


If you are in fact doing each of these activities at the same heart rate, I would agree with you. Like you said, you are training differenct muscles, but from a cardio/calorie burning standpoint I wouldn't expect much difference. But hey, I'm not a doctor...

Consider yourself fortunate though that you can do both at the same heart rate. I can't, most people I know can't, and it doesn't surprise me that people are telling you you have to cycle longer than bike to get the same workout, because they probably experience the same problem I do. I can run at 80% MHR for a long time. But cycling, my legs would be toast after a few minutes riding at 80% MHR. At 70% MHR I can ride for maybe as long as I run but my legs would be very uncomfortable. At 60-65% MHR is where I prefer to ride at...(although I don't train with a heart rate monitor much anymore).

WouterB wrote:Additionally cycling seems to put far less strain on my knees.


Not an uncommon issue, which is why so many people switch over to cycling if they start having knee problems.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby bird » Sun Mar 25, 2012 4:15 pm

Take a look at Lance Armstrong's experience with running...
http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1555196,00.html
Look at it this way, with running you are directly moving your mass, with cycling you are powering a device that moves your mass. Feel free to sub in (m)ass ;-)
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby Ze » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:00 pm

I have heard that too, but don't understand the origin. Two things I can think of 1) Running has impacts and lots of muscle eccentric contractions, so simply your muscles and tendons can only withstand a so much work - which is far less than what you can put on cycling without wear and tear. 2) Cycling has a higher rate of perceived exertion since it's focused on more specific muscles (tons of quadriceps!). For most people it is harder to sustain the same HR cycling as compared to running.

Even at the same HR, cycling performance is probably more limited by local muscular endurance - not whole body fatigue), so more hours grinding away are needed to fully develop those local adaptations.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:48 pm

WouterB wrote:People always say that you have to cycle about twice as long as you run to get the same results. I don't quite understand why. If I cycle for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, or I run for 30min at a heart rate of 160bpm, I should have the same cardio workout.


I think the difficulty is maintaining the targeted HR on a bike. While running you are always working, even downhill (downhill one has to counter the negative i.e. eccentric contration, which generates several times the runner's bodyweight due to gravity and speed.) On a bike its pretty hard to maintain an even HR unless you are on a rollers or live in a pretty flat area. This is just my opinion having both raced bicycles (off and on) and run competitively for 28 years.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby WouterB » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:56 am

Thanks for the replies this far. I never cycled much in my life and it's been about 15 years since I cycled anything over 7K I think. Needless to say I'm still not much of a cyclist. Maybe that explains why I seem to be able to hold a 70% MHR on the bike. Obviously living in Switzerland now, it goes up and down the way the mountains do.

The question as such is probably more general, what's the difference if you can hold identical heart rates, except for muscle groups trained. The answer seems to be that in general you can't hold the same heart rates. If anyone still has some more insightful knowledge to add go ahead, otherwise I'll consider the question answered.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby CClaude » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:54 pm

The problem with biking (unless you are using a fixed gear) is that you can cop a rest for 10-15 seconds at a time by decreasing your pedalling rate, and sometimes just a short decrease intensity for a few seconds is huge. If you do that running you will notice it immediately (ie: you slow down).

Also as Bird already said. In cycling you are getting a mechanical advantage, whereas in running the intensity is all you.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:06 am

WouterB

If all you are considering is cardiovascular fitness, then it doesn't matter how you get your heart rate into the target zone.

Yes, running and cycling are using different muscles, and that makes a BIG difference when it comes to performance.

If you are training for heart health, then do whatever you enjoy so that you will train every day.

If you are training for cycling, then cycle.

If you are training for climbing, then climb. If you cannot climb, then run.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby Bark Eater » Thu Mar 29, 2012 3:43 pm

Agree that it is more than just cardio. Lots in the recent literature about competitive adult cyclists and swimmers developing early osteoporosis because they are doing intense cardio activity but it is not weight bearing. There is something unique about weight bearing exercise, and this definitely comes in to play when you are trying to get your weight up to the top of a mountain.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby peninsula » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:17 pm

I enjoy both running a cycling. While both endeavors benefit from correct technique, it is more critical with running. Poor running technique will more likely cause injury as where poor cycling technique is not all that big a deal. The closest cycling comes to running on a minute for minute basis is when doing sustained climbs. Possibly with a sustained climb, cycling might approach 75% of what one can achieve by running in total-workout benefits.

Another thing I have noticed about running is the need to keep it up on a far more frequent basis to achieve those I-feel-really-good days. I find my best running requires an average of four runs a week. As where with cycling, I can do a 28 mile loop with 2500 feet of climbing and feel really good even though I am doing the loop only a couple of times a month (albeit, with plenty of running spaced in between). It does not work the other way around, not even close. One of things I enjoy about cycling workouts is the upper body conditioning, which is mild but significantly more than what is achieved by running.

Anyway, my point is the two forms of exercise are markedly different on multiple levels. I find a combination of both is ideal. I use cycling to rest my running legs, yet maintain a cardiovascular edge at the same time. I find averaging four runs a week mixed with a serious climbing workout on the bike every two or three weeks to be an ideal combination.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby coldfoot » Sun Apr 08, 2012 12:28 am

IMO cycling can be extremely good aerobic training and it does cross over into benefits for running and hiking/climbing. However it requires mental focus because it is so easy to rest, as mentioned above. A lot of people will go out and ride for a couple of hours, but the amount of time they are riding hard is a very small fraction of the total. This is a problem for amateur cyclist racers - they wind up doing a lot of "junk miles." It's easier to notice losing focus in running because if you relax, you start walking.

The cure for this is to do intervals. The problem of course is that intervals are painful and sucky, but that's why you get training benefit from them. I find it easiest to focus on maintaining a high effort by doing hill repeats - if you have a hill that takes 5-10 minutes (or more) to ride up at a high perceived effort, and do that regularly, you'll get many cardio benefits. If you can keep focused enough to do high effort intervals on the flats that also works, though.

Of course training does involve specificity, so if all you ever did was cycle, it wouldn't prepare your muscle groups for walking uphill with a pack. However, anyone who hikes/climbs regularly is likely getting a fair amount of weight bearing exercise.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby BigMitch » Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:08 am

I am an ultra-runner, ultra-cyclist, and mountain biker, but when I train for mountaineering, I hike hill repeats with a heavy pack (1/3 body weight). Likewise, I climb ice when training for an ice climb.

High intensity intervals performed in any sport are benefical.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby KBurnett » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:37 pm

People have pretty much covered it, but in summary: Running you have to support your own bodyweight, cycling you're sitting on something. Running, if you stop moving your legs/muscles you stop, cycling you can coast on all but the steepest hills (bikes are very efficient modes of movement). As a result, most people will find running harder than cycling when first starting out with either activity.

Keep in mind that the more you do either activity the better/more efficient you get and the less energy you'll expend at a given speed/distance. So, if you're trying to hit a given output you'll need to increase effort over time.
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Re: Training Length/Efficiency: Running vs. Cycling

Postby jrod8 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 3:54 am

I totally agree with Big Mitch...best way to train for climbing with weight is to "climb with weight!"

Trailrunning > Roadrunning > Cycling, IMO

Also, I am a BIG proponent of P90X/Insanity/etc

Jared
http://www.dedicate2fitness.com
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