How to Incorporate Indoor Cycling into Your Running Routine

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woman riding a stationary bike

Whether you have a name-brand stationary bike, an indoor bike trainer or just like to attend the occasional spin class at the gym, figuring out how to combine cycling with running can take a bit of trial and error. How often and how hard you ride will likely depend on your running goals. If you're ready to combine indoor cycling with running, consider this your how-to guide!

First things first...

Before you start, it's key to identify your training goals. Are you hoping to run a PR? Avoid injury? Stave off boredom? Once you figure out what you want to achieve, it will be easier to prioritize specific workouts. Below are three common training scenarios, but if your situation doesn't fit, consider finding a coach who can create a custom plan. Happy running and riding!

If you want to use the bike as (easy) cross-training...

If your main discipline is running and you enjoy racing, it's important to maintain running volume. Cycling is great cross-training, but nothing beats the specificity of running when it comes to racing. Whether you're training for a 5K or a marathon, be sure to prioritize speed workouts and long runs, and use cycling as a form of easy cross-training. Keep the resistance low to moderate and aim for a high cadence (80+ RPM).

When you're training for a running race, be careful not to overdo it on the bike—your cycling miles should be at an easy-to-moderate intensity. Try adding in a recovery cycling workout in the days following a tough tempo or long run. And don't forget about regularly scheduled complete rest days—everybody needs them!

If you want to avoid injury and/or become a more well-rounded athlete...

If you're coming back from an injury or trying to work on muscle imbalances, cycling can be a great low impact way to improve your fitness. In this case, you may want to consider adding in longer or harder efforts on the bike (perhaps in place of tough running efforts). For example, you can plan on running two to three times per week and cycling two to three times per week (roughly an even split). Plan on some bike workouts of increased intensity, such as 10 x 2 minutes hard (high cadence and moderate resistance) with 1 minute of recovery. Or if you'd rather keep your run efforts short, aim for a longer bike workout (60 to 90 minutes) once a week.

If you want to train for a duathlon of triathlon...

Dream of competing in a multisport event? Now's the time to combine run and bike workouts. If your event is scheduled to be outdoors, you'll of course want to get practice on the roads, but an indoor trainer or stationary bike is a convenient way to boost fitness, especially when the weather is bad.

"Brick" workouts are something you'll want to get comfortable with. A brick is essentially a bike ride followed by a run (or vice versa) with no rest time in between. There's some debate as to the origin of the term, but many runners draw a correlation to the name and how their legs feel afterward! 

Brick workouts will train your legs to run (or ride) while fatigued, since you'll complete the efforts in quick succession. A sample training week for a duathlete or triathlete might include two runs, two bike rides, and one to two brick workouts, depending on goals and experience. 

In sum, adding indoor cycling into your running routine is a great way to diversify your training and strengthen slightly different leg muscles. Just remember to take regular rest days when your body needs them. 

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