If you are approaching your off-season or are about to transition from one sport to another you may be familiar with the concept of X-training (Cross Training). Do not confuse this with Cross-Fit or CX Training!
X-training is simply another healthy low-intensity activity.
Cyclists will likely want to look at running, hiking, swimming and even returning to the weight room to build up their strength reserves.
In this article, I am going to focus on what cyclists who are first-time runners need to know about running. Running has actually become a very popular way for cyclists to train in the early off-season. It’s easy to do and the benefits can come pretty quickly. You will burn more calories running in the same amount of time as cycling. Also since running is an impact sport it will greatly increase bone density and may prevent fractures or really bad breaks if you were to crash on your bike later in the season.
The issue at hand with running for cyclists is that it is so easy to get started and this is where cyclists get into trouble. So I am going to point out some of the big dos and don’ts for cyclists new to running.
What to do as a new running cyclist
Get real running shoes!
Running shoes are not tennis shoes or trainers. They are running shoes. Many brands design their running shoes to match the stride/gait of various styles, so see the next to do.
Get a gait analysis done at a running store not the massive sporting goods store.
This isn’t an expensive service and can possibly save you from time down due to overuse injuries. Gait analysis often requires some time being videoed on a treadmill along with various leg measurements and possibly the measure of pressure points in the soles of your feet.
Get custom inserts or even orthotics
It is very likely that even with a natural gait that you will be prescribed custom foot beds. If any issues were found with the soles of your feet orthotics can often help to lessen the issues impact. Gait issues are often corrected with the prescription of running shoes that compensate for gait problems.
Purchase running clothing
While you are more than welcome to run in whatever gym clothing you have you will really appreciate good running shorts and shirts. These items are designed to keep you cool and keep chafing to a minimum. Once you start ramping up your mileage you will learn all about chafing if you are not prepared! See next item…
Be prepared for chafing
Men and Women both will chafe. Friction while running often occurs at the bottom of the toes, balls and heel of the foot and sometimes on the tops of feet. Chafing will also occur on the inside of your thighs, potential lurks around the glutes and around the nipples as well. So what is a runner to do? For starters see the previous item. The other suggestions are to use a Body Glide Stick for most or even all of these areas. Runners can also learn from cyclists by using Chamois Cream around the inner thighs and crotch. Not fond of the price of the various Chamois Creams? Try the old standby, Bag Balm. Bag Balm works well on the chest too; besides who wants to wear Band-Aids over their nips!
While as a cyclist you may have conquered many a century over the years but if you think that will allow you to run great distances without working up to it you are just asking for all sorts of newbie running injuries. Start slow and run a pace you can finish with. Start running by time and do not be ashamed to walk once in awhile. As general practice is to not increase running pace, time or distance by more than 15-20% per week.
Run by time not distance
Running by distance often puts new runners in a negative mindset when they cannot complete a certain distance in a certain amount of time. So run by time instead.
Start off flat
New runners would be well advised to avoid hills and short fast times/sprints in the first 6-8 weeks of their new adventures in running. As a cyclist, your body is not accustom to the impact of running. You may actually start out running and breathing fine but quickly find that quads, hamstrings, and calves searing in pain. By running on flatter courses your body will have an easier time getting used to the new impacts.
Build base miles
As mention above new runners would be advised to run approximately 6-8 weeks before introducing hills or any kind of speed or tempo running into their training. The base training serves the purpose of getting joints and muscle groups ready for the necessary pounding that comes from hill and speed work.
Be smart about adding any speed work
See the two previous items! Beware; adding speed work too soon is the quickest way to injure yourself. Runners are some of the most injury prone athletes in sports and it is often due to doing too much too soon. You have been warned! Oh and you are a cyclist and this X-training so why are you running fast?
To run hills or not
The reason to run hills is the same reason is that we ride them, to develop power and force. If you are going to run competitively running in the hills is a must! Just pay heed to the last several items on getting the base miles in first. Oh and you are a cyclist and this X-training so why are you running hills?
You collect data now with your cycling computer so why wouldn’t you in your running? You do collect and log data, right? If not you cannot improve on what you do not know! Running data will be similar to cycling data but with some differences. Runners will look at Pace, Heart Rate, Cadence, Speed, Time and Distance for the most part. Data, like ascending and descending along with higher level metrics such CTL, ATL, TSB, TSS and IF can also be captured on higher end running watches and or endurance training software such as Training Peaks. We are also starting to see running form data and even power enter the training data market.
What not to do as a new running cyclist
Do not run in ancient shoes!
Running shoes should be replaced based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. These recommendations are not meant to get you drop 100.00 dollars just because that’s what they want you to. The recommendations are based on the breakdown of the shoe materials. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have retired a pair of running shoes and how they still “looked fine”. Not getting running shoes replaced when they start to break down will lead to running injuries!
Do not run your first race for a while
To be competitive as a runner takes preparation just like with cycling. It can take 6-8 weeks of base training and another 4-6 weeks to build up enough speed to race. I am not saying this will be a comfortable race, just a “safer” one. All athletes are different but experience has taught me it takes 12-16 weeks to prepare to be competitive. Oh and you are a cyclist and this X-training so why are you running in races?
Do not run with traffic
As a runner on open roads, you are a pedestrian, not a cyclist. Pedestrians walking or running on the shoulders of roads must run/walk against traffic.
Do not run in traffic
While we as cyclists are often accustomed to riding in automotive traffic this is not a wise move while running. Find a park, a multi-use path, a high school or college track and as a last resort a treadmill instead of running in traffic.
Do not run blind
When running on open roads and approaching a blind turn or hill with little to no shoulder it is highly advisable to cross the road to the opposite side. Once you can see over or through the blind spot then move back over into the oncoming lane. Did you look over your shoulder before crossing both times right?
Do not hide in plain sight
Ever wondered why running shoes and apparel are so bright these days? To be seen! It’s highly advisable to wear here bright clothes and even a blinking red light at your lower back to help drivers and even cyclists spot you while on the run.
Do not tune out the world
I will not tell you to run without music but I will tell you that it can and will reduce your ability to hear traffic. Be careful and be smart!
As you have already read a few times. Cyclists who take up running in the off-season do it as X-training. X-training is meant to give you a mental break from the rigors and discipline of training. Running really helps me but if your running program is approached conservatively it will lead to injury.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts for cyclists who are adding running to their x-training regimens but it should help set many on the right path.
Until Next Time,
Train Smarter Not Harder,