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How to Incorporate Cycling into Ultra Training

Training for ultramarathons is a time-consuming endeavor. Adding strength training and cross-training to your routine can become an extremely difficult balancing act.

First things first....if you want to become a better runner, you need to run. Running will be your primary mode of training.

But if you enjoy cycling--whether its road, gravel or trail--do you have to give it up in order to become a successful ultrarunner?

Not at all!

Read on for some tips regarding how you can use cycling to your advantage in ultra training.

First, let's discuss the benefits of cross training in general. Cross training allows you a break from the repetitive movements and impact of running. Typically, cross training will use different muscles and muscle activation that will complement or enhance your running performance.

Runners who cycle have a distinct advantage: they are able to make muscular endurance gains without adding more impact on the lower body. There is indeed carry over from cycling to running and the additional aerobic conditioning on the bike can only help you, not hurt.

Specifically, cycling can help with the following:

  • builds and enhances overall cardio which carries over to running

  • builds strength and endurance in complimentary muscles which carries over to running

  • helps develop stamina and endurance without putting extra stress or impact on your leg muscles and joints

  • can aid recovery after hard running efforts by increasing blood flow to the muscles of your lower body

  • can be used to extend endurance training without extending wear and tear on your lower body

  • can be utilized during recovery from an injury

How to incorporate cycling:

  • Recovery rides after races or hard efforts: improve recovery by increasing blod flow to your leg muscles. Focus on pedaling at a high cadence but at a resistance that allows you to stay in an "easy effort" range (4-5 on the perceived rate of effort scale.)

  • Training rides while dealing with running injuries: biking by time and effort to match the running miles you are missing will serve you well until you are able to run again.

  • Brick training or "tired legs" training: in this type of training, cycling plays a role in run training on hard effort days. It allows us to extend our endurance training without increasing impact on the lower body. For example, try pushing at a rate of perceived effort of 4-5 on the bike for a specified amount of time then hop off the bike and push hard while running 2-5 miles.

The important pros to using cycling for cross training and to enhance hard efforts:

  • in cycling, it's typically easier to hold your heart rate in a lower zone

  • cycling has less impact than running

  • you can extend hard running efforts through cycling without increasing the impact on your lower body

In the end, cycling can greatly enhance your training experience in the ways mentioned above, but it can also prevent burn out by running high mileage week after week! Mixing up training can be fun, stimulating and mentally beneficial.

So, do you incorporate cycling into your training routine? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

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