Biking is a great way to cross train for runners who are injured or who are just looking to mix it up.
Biking is a great way for a runner to get in additional training without experiencing the impact of pounding the pavement. If you are injured, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any cross training; you could end up aggravating the injury further.
The great thing about biking is there are so many options. You can get a mountain bike and go ride the trails or you can get a road bike and coast along the highway. You can even get a stationary bike and get in a workout from the comfort of your own home or gym. Like running, it can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.
You will need a bike/stationary bike and a helmet (not for the stationary bike unless you are really clumsy). To get a full leg workout, get cages or cleats to lock your feet to the pedals so you can push and pull while pedaling. From there, you can make your workout as simple or complex as you want.
The most versatile, mountain bikes can be ridden on the trails or on the road.
Cheap mountain bikes can be found at Wal-Mart or Academy and will run you anywhere from $150-$300. If you want to spend a little extra, you can get an entry level Trek or Cannondale that should handle most trails you will find. Mountain biking is a lot like trail running in that you’ll be away from the cars and hazards of the road.
Most courses will have many hills for you to climb and will have your legs burning in no time. Just be careful on the downhills; if you begin going too fast, you may find yourself wrapped around a tree, which would defeat the purpose of cross training.
Workouts: Use mountain biking to replace hill repeats or to help prepare your legs for a hilly race.
Road bikes are not as versatile as mountain bikes with terrain, but offer a more workout options on the road.
I ride a cheap Wal-Mart road bike I bought off a friend years ago (It’s a GMC Denali and no, I’m not joking). It’s a good starter bike and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to buy their own bike, but isn’t really sure how much they’ll like it. There is no reason to invest a lot of money into something and then not want to do it (having said that, you get what you pay for). For around $500-$700 you can get an entry level road bike that will do just about anything you can imagine.
From there you can get into carbon fiber, tri bikes, and time trial bikes that can cost as much as a car. These bikes also have every accessory you can imagine. Road biking can be done at an easy to moderate pace over long distances to work your endurance, done in intervals to work you speed, or done on hills to work your strength. You can mimic just about any running workout on the bike. Get a bike trainer and you now have the ability to turn you bike into a stationary bike for those time crunched or rainy days.
Workouts: Bike the same amount of time you planned on running. For instance: 30 mins easy for an easy day, 1 hr easy-moderate for a long run, intervals (5-7 mins moderate/hard with 3 mins easy recovery) for speed day. Like running, be sure to warmup and cooldown before and after.
Crunched for time or don’t feel like getting out in the rain or heat? Stationary bikes are another alternative. If you are a member of a gym, chances are they have stationary bikes so the cost of it is dramatically lower than the choices above. When cross training on a stationary bike, find the one that is in a similar riding position to a real bike. That thing that has you sitting in a recliner with the pedals way out in front of you is not doing you any good. Spin classes are a great way to get a workout in on a stationary bike and take the hassle out of planning a workout yourself. You can do most workouts on a stationary bike that you can do on a road bike. If the stationary bike has it, increase the resistance to make it tougher to ride to simulate hills and strengthen your legs.
Workouts: Intervals (short or long adjusting the pace to work speed or endurance).
For those looking to purchase a bike, Ebay and Craigslist are great places to find a deal. If you don’t know a lot about bikes, find some one who does to look it over before purchasing in order to lower your chances of getting a dud.
As I mentioned before, always wear a helmet. I’ve taken a couple of spills that could have been much worse had I not been wearing a helmet. If you are biking on public roads be extremely careful; wear brightly colored clothing and ride in groups if possible to help improve drivers ability to spot you and give you room on the road.
By Adam Rabo
Photo courtesy of Travel Luxembourg