Cycling As Training

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tyler4588

 
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Cycling As Training

by tyler4588 » Wed May 26, 2010 6:45 pm

I've been getting back into the saddle lately, and I have a few questions about how cycling relates to hiking/climbing.
I've been building my cardiovascular fitness by running for the past few months, and I usually run five or six miles a day. I'd like to stop running, though, and do my cardio workouts on a bicycle. I know the two activities exercise different muscle groups, but I don't know how those muscle groups relate to hiking/backpacking/climbing. Is bicycling a more effective training for hiking than running, or is running more effective? If I devote all of the time I've spent running to cycling, do I then need to do more walking and hiking to maintain the same level of fitness? I usually go on one or two day hikes a week in my area, is that enough to maintain my hiking muscles if I should switch over from running to cycling? What would be the mileage equivalent on a bicycle to five or six miles of running?

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DukeJH

 
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by DukeJH » Wed May 26, 2010 7:20 pm

After injuring my hip last year, I trained for my next climb on the bicycle and swimming. I didn't feel good but I felt strong. I usually run.

The thing you don't get from cycling is the weight bearing aspect of hiking and climbing. If you mix in some load bearing activities you should be fine although you will be cycling for longer periods to get the same benefit as you would from running IMO.

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fatdad

 
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by fatdad » Wed May 26, 2010 7:25 pm

I have problems running due to runner's knee (which is not from running oddly enough). I used to train doing both biking and running, but always more of the former due to old knee injuries. Biking by itself, especially if you ride a lot of hills will definitely get your cardio and legs in great shape without all the pounding. Unfortunately, those long days in the hills are pretty much all pounding, so my legs and feet in particular can feel pretty hammered. Just to give you an example, when I'm riding often, I can hike up Mt. Baldy via the ski hut (about 3600' of gain) in a little over two hours without too much problem. But by the time I hike back down, my knees and feet and pretty well done.

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Ze

 
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by Ze » Wed May 26, 2010 11:02 pm

it's a really interesting question and one I personally would like to explore / analyze when I have time.

Fitness is a relative term. You can be as fit cycling as running / hiking of course...but which of running / cycling can be transferred to hiking, a tough question.

running flat probably uses more hamstrings muscle activation than cycling or hiking...cycling might use the most quadricep activation (although all these are subject dependent) and may relate better to hiking in that sense. however, I feel like the plantarflexor activation needed in hiking is better achieved through running than cycling. this specific muscle analysis I'd like to look into a lot more...

whole body proprioception / balance control, dealing with impact forces, & eccentric contractions are probably more profound in running than cycling, all of which will be needed for hiking.

assuming running on flat ground, I think I'd choose running over cycling. if there are hills involve, then no question I would choose running.

however, perhaps there are positions and coordination patterns you could try to cycle with that improve the crossover to hiking...I don't how for sure, maybe get the ankle in a more dorsiflexed position that is similar to hiking...

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tyler4588

 
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by tyler4588 » Wed May 26, 2010 11:36 pm

So assuming I do two day hikes a week and five runs, do you imagine that switching to two day hikes a week and five cycling sessions would have a significant effect on my endurance and strength hiking and scrambling in the mountains?

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fatdad

 
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by fatdad » Wed May 26, 2010 11:53 pm

People often have interesting queries they pose on this site, often without much of an explanation why, which is important to know if you really want pointed advice.

Is there a reason why you don't want to run even though you've been doing it five times a week? Are you injured, bored, what? Why do you need to exercise five (or seven) times a week? Are you working toward a goal, neurotic...?

Too often people ask how to get from point A to point B without asking whether they should aim for point C or D or E instead.

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splattski

 
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by splattski » Thu May 27, 2010 12:20 am

Although you are asking about cycling vs. running, I have an observation that might help.

My brother and I have both been cyclists for several decades, including high-level competition. He still races, but I don't ride a lot.
When we go hiking, he is faster than I because he is fitter. But the next day, he suffers soreness/pain and I do not, because I hike for training.

So, my conclusion is that physical fitness is different from being fit for a given activity. If you want to be fit, any cardiovascular activity pursued at a high-level output will work: running, cycling, rowing, etc. If you want to be fit for hiking, you have to hike: uphill, downhill, and with weight.

And my un-scientific answer: I think cycling beats running for uphill hiking strength. But it's the downhills that do in my brother's legs, and running might be better preparation for that stress.

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tyler4588

 
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by tyler4588 » Thu May 27, 2010 1:44 am

fatdad wrote:People often have interesting queries they pose on this site, often without much of an explanation why, which is important to know if you really want pointed advice.

Is there a reason why you don't want to run even though you've been doing it five times a week? Are you injured, bored, what? Why do you need to exercise five (or seven) times a week? Are you working toward a goal, neurotic...?

Too often people ask how to get from point A to point B without asking whether they should aim for point C or D or E instead.


Cycling used to be my primary outdoor activity, but then life got busy, things changed, and I didn't really have enough time for it. Running has been easier since it doesn't take nearly as much time (I run on a treadmill at home). Recently, though, my schedule has opened up, and I've been feeling the desire to hit the saddle again, not just for fitness, but for enjoyment. I want to get more involved in the cycling community, do organized rides, and maybe even a race or two. So i suppose my main reason for switching from running to cycling is that I want to be a cyclist again, and I hope that doesn't mean I can't be a fit hiker.

To be honest, running isn't my favorite thing in the world. I like being fit and active, and until now running has been the most convenient way of staying in shape. Also, much of my motivation to stay in shape has to do with my enjoyment of the hills, and that has helped me to build a good daily routine. I'd like to change my daily workout routine from something that I do merely for fitness to something that I do both for fitness and for fun.

Lastly, I've noticed that since I've taken up running, my knees have been feeling more strained, especially on hikes downhill. It is my understanding that running impacts the knees a lot more than bicycling, and so I'm thinking that bicycling might help mitigate the strain on my knees. Of course, that also might mean that my knees will not have as much of the muscle they need to take impact like that. I don't know enough about these things to understand this problem, and so that's part of why I was asking.

I hope that was clear and helpful.

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tyler4588

 
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by tyler4588 » Thu May 27, 2010 1:46 am

Oh, and also, I guess my question is not as much "should I switch from running to cycling?" as "if I switch from running to cycling, what do I need to do to remain strong and fit in the mountains?"

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hamik

 
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by hamik » Thu May 27, 2010 2:05 am

Splattski gets it pretty much right on. What are your goals in training for mountaineering? You want 1) a strong aerobic system, and 2) strong enough bones, ligaments, and tendons. Any aerobic activity will improve the aerobic system. People say that cycling is less effective per unit time than running for that purpose, and I generally agree with that; there is a tall muscular and lactic acid threshold barrier which needs to be overcome before one can train the aerobic system hard on a bike. Whereas it's easy to keep a certain high BPM while running, many people will not be able to sustain the same BPM on a bike because the legs tire prematurely. You need an ideal venue: an uninterrupted circuit such as the Rose Bowl or tall hills. I also impose a personal restriction against riding at night (except at the Rose Bowl) because I have been hit by cars way too many times. Even after these obstacles are figured out, I subjectively feel like 3 hard hours on the bike tire me as much as one hour of running. So basically 50 mi hilly cycling = 8 or 9 mi running.

Running is obviously better for developing stronger orthopedics, and for mountaineers it makes sense to hike a lot or run a little to make sure the bones and connective tissues are strong enough for jolting and abuse. So why not run all the time? As you pointed out, runners get injured a lot! I think the solution is a nice balance between biking, running, and hiking. After a partially torn Achilles Tendon (overuse at the age of 18!), a chronic knee tendonitis, and an acute groin tendonitis, I finally have reached a happy, strong balance of 3 days cycling, 1 day running, 2 days hiking or climbing per week.

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tyler4588

 
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by tyler4588 » Thu May 27, 2010 2:16 am

hamik wrote:Splattski gets it pretty much right on. What are your goals in training for mountaineering? You want 1) a strong aerobic system, and 2) strong enough bones, ligaments, and tendons. Any aerobic activity will improve the aerobic system. People say that cycling is less effective per unit time than running for that purpose, and I generally agree with that; there is a tall muscular and lactic acid threshold barrier which needs to be overcome before one can train the aerobic system hard on a bike. Whereas it's easy to keep a certain high BPM while running, many people will not be able to sustain the same BPM on a bike because the legs tire prematurely. You need an ideal venue: an uninterrupted circuit such as the Rose Bowl or tall hills. I also impose a personal restriction against riding at night (except at the Rose Bowl) because I have been hit by cars way too many times. Even after these obstacles are figured out, I subjectively feel like 3 hard hours on the bike tire me as much as one hour of running. So basically 50 mi hilly cycling = 8 or 9 mi running.

Running is obviously better for developing stronger orthopedics, and for mountaineers it makes sense to hike a lot or run a little to make sure the bones and connective tissues are strong enough for jolting and abuse. So why not run all the time? As you pointed out, runners get injured a lot! I think the solution is a nice balance between biking, running, and hiking. After a partially torn Achilles Tendon (overuse at the age of 18!), a chronic knee tendonitis, and an acute groin tendonitis, I finally have reached a happy, strong balance of 3 days cycling, 1 day running, 2 days hiking or climbing per week.


Do you use a trainer at all? What about cranking the trainer up to a nasty hill climb and just sitting on it for an hour to get that ideal venue for high BPM exercise?

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The Chief

 
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by The Chief » Thu May 27, 2010 2:19 am

Anytime that you mix things up to gain aerobic fitness & endurance, is good.

YES YES YES to the OP.

Do both, MTN and ROAD. It'll amaze you how much aerobic workout you will achieve by combining the two.

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by foweyman » Thu May 27, 2010 2:38 am

splattski wrote:And my un-scientific answer: I think cycling beats running for uphill hiking strength. But it's the downhills that do in my brother's legs, and running might be better preparation for that stress.


Agree. The greater range of knee and hip motion used in cycling, compared to running is closer to hiking/scrambling uphill. Cycling will give you more uphill strength than running, but doesn't seem to prepare the legs as well for the pounding of the descent.

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by adventurer » Thu May 27, 2010 3:54 am

My usual weekly training routine consists of 3 X 5 mile runs, 1 long day hike with pack, and 1 40 mile cylce ride. In addition, I add about 20 mins of light weight lifting 2 X.

With that as background, I agree with the point made by DukeJH which was that although cycling provides a tremendous cardio workout, the downside of cycling for mountaineering training is that it is not a weight bearing exercise like running. When you're cycling you're basically sitting most of the time.

In my experience, this shortcoming of cycling compared to running becomes more noticeable in expedition mountaineering vs climbing 14ers for instance. I think this is because most 14ers are climbed in a day or two so the problem isn't very apparent. However, if you go out on a multi week climbing (or even backpacking) trip, the lack of weight bearing cardio training becomes more evident as a problem with cycling.

All that said, if you use cycling for cardio but also include a weekly long day hike, I think you should be fine because the hike will serve as the weight bearing exercise.

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by ZethKinnett » Thu May 27, 2010 4:01 am

Ok, what are the thoughts about walking vs running when it comes to strengthening joints and such? I hate running, I can't get motivated to do it, but I commute by bike and walk for leisure under the delusion that walking will fill in the gaps that cycling leaves as far as joints and tendons and impact are concerned.

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