Over the last few years, I have restarted running. Not Forrest Gump style—with hour upon hour spent pounding pavement; but rather the occasional trail run of between 5 to 15 kilometres in length. I have noticed several benefits from building multi-sport cross-training into my routine and lifestyle; both for cycling performance and sporting enjoyment.
Does running help your cycling? I believe it does—it opens new doors, it strengthens muscles, and it increases variety.
Muscle Strength and Conditioning
The first notable benefit is improved muscle strength and a more rounded muscle profile.
If you are a dedicated cyclist, you will have built up your cycling specific muscle groups; the problem is you may have neglected the other muscle groups in your body in the process.
Secondary ‘non-cycling’ muscle groups play a key supporting role—they stabilise movement. If you neglect building up these muscles, then you increase the risk of injury. By cross-training through other sports such as running, rowing, kayaking, or weightlifting, you can improve the overall condition of your body, and your cycling should benefit as a result.
Time Efficient Training
Because running is a constant exercise (there is no free-wheeling or stopping at junctions), you can get a good workout pounding the trails or pavement for an hour, which you might struggle to do on your bike.
Running can therefore be great for when you are time constrained. It will allow you to get in that workout; train your cardiovascular system; and make some gains even when you are short on time.
Variety and Exploration
A third notable benefit of running is variety. Anything in repetition can get a bit boring after a while, and sometimes cycling loses its draw. Adding running to your routine will give you another discipline to call upon to boost your endorphins.
As well as more training options, running potentially supplies more events that you could add to your calendar—I took part in the Original Mountain Marathon last year.
All Weather Training
Finally, running in the rain and wind somehow does not seem as bad as riding in it. At least, it is different, and that perhaps makes it more manageable in the short term. In a winter of rain, gales, and hailstorms I have sometimes been glad of a short run, rather than submitting myself to several hours of battling the elements on the bike.
There seem to be some notable benefits of building running into your exercise line-up. It could help your cycling performance and increase the variety and opportunities to exercise and explore.
Kit yourself out with some good Running Kit and you will be surprised how many benefits it has for your cycling and general well-being.