I often get asked about the value of including cycling in training for runners. Should one participate in a sport other than running to enhance the runner’s running performance, or will it actually hamper the ability to run well and prevent the runner from achieving his full potential? Cycling certainly offers benefits to the runner, but it has a couple of drawbacks as well.
- Cycling is certainly beneficial to the runner. – Cycling develops the fitness of the “engine” (the heart, lungs and muscles), while allowing the “chassis” (bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage), sufficient rest to recover from the demands of running.
- Cyclists tend to recover very quickly after a long cycle. – cycling will therefore not interfere too much with the high mileage that running demands.
- Generally there are far fewer injuries that occur in the cyclist when compared to the runner.
- Cycling tends to strengthen the same muscles that are needed for running, but in a different way (non weight bearing). This benefits the overall strength of those muscles.
- Cycling is expensive – with the purchase of a bicycle (including excellent gears and brakes) and cycling gear such as gloves, shorts, shoes, a top, and a helmet. All this, in addition to expensive running shoes, makes cycling out of the average runner’s reach financially.
- The injuries that do occur are usually very severe. These can range from fractured “collarbones” to a fractured skull. (with concussion and even brain damage). These injuries are usually as a result of an accident where the cyclist is thrown off the bicycle.
Running tends to be a far safer sport generally in that you will runs on a trail, pavements or, at worst on the road, but facing the oncoming traffic and able to see many of the hazards that may pose a threat.
Gary is a physiotherapist based in Linksfield West in Johannesburg. He has a special interest in treating sports injuries, running injuries and orthopaedics. He has also assisted a number of top Comrades and Iron Man athletes with treatment. Read more about Gary Sobel here.