Maybe it IS About the Bike - Page 3The Day After
But all of this does not mean that bikes and spin classes are the realm of banged-up old runners and physical-therapy sessions. Cycling lets runners maintain or improve fitness when their running muscles are tenderized and thrashed from a previous workout.
“Cycling is a perfect way to flush out the legs after a hard run,” says Keith Knipling, 34, of Alexandria, Virginia, who in 2006 completed the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (four of North America’s oldest, most challenging trail 100-milers). “I always feel better afterward.”
In fact, John Shepherd, MA, health specialist and fitness writer, writes, “Cycling may enable the endurance athlete’s body more time to recover from tough training phases and improve future injury resilience.”
“After a race my legs are naturally toast, and I don’t even feel like running,” adds Knipling, who admits to having an “embarrassing” number of bikes. “So I hop on the bike and spin out all of the crud. It’s very therapeutic.”
Twietmeyer advises runners to ride the bike on the days when they had planned to recover or do a light run. This, he notes, translates to a decent rest day and gives the legs relief from the pounding of running.
The Debate Over Specificity
The benefits of cross training aside, some runners still debate whether riding a bike can hinder a runner from meeting his or her two-legged potential. Despite the research suggesting otherwise, don’t the rules of specificity apply? That is, don’t you become a better runner by simply running?
Even Twietmeyer, a vocal believer in the perks of cycling, says, “From my point of view, running is a tougher aerobic effort in a shorter period of time. There is no coasting in running so you don’t have the breaks like you do when cycling.”
The answer may revolve around each runner’s experience. In a 1999 paper presented at the Curtin Institute of Technology in Australia, Jay Chau wrote: “The principles of specificity of training tend to have greater significance for highly trained athletes. For the general population, cross training may be highly beneficial in terms of overall fitness.”
Knipling also cautions that, despite his arguably unhealthy love for the bike, there’s no substitute for running.
“My best running has come when I’ve focused on that more than riding,” he says.
Don’t misunderstand. “I do think cross training is really beneficial to running,” says Knipling. “But sometimes you have to force yourself to run to become a better runner.”
Senior Contributing Editor Garett Graubins has incorporated biking into his training while nursing a strained hip muscle.