Cycling as a mean to build AeT

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  • #26230

    Can I use cycling on turbo to build aerobic capacity with recovering from injury? Hear cycling is detrimental to running because of different mechanics ?

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    Anonymous on #26234

    What do you mean by “on turbo”?

    Injuries aside, physical adaptations are specific to the activities done by the athlete. So the more similar the activity to your goal event the better. Cycling does not transfer as well to weight-bearing sports as does running.

    However, if you have an injury, then you’ll need to work around it. Use cycling if it doesn’t aggravate the injury, but return to weight-bearing training (like hiking and running) as soon as possible if maximizing your performance is a priority.

    llaurent2006 on #26383

    Thx makes sense! Turbo / home trainer

    Rok Bratina on #26385

    Well, from my point of view (former road cyclist) and now Sky and Vertical runner, cycling always provide me big aerobic capacity. When I want to do some very long endurance in zone 2 with a lot of vertical meters than I would always prefer bike. Running for more than 5 hours while constantly going or up or down makes my legs pretty tired (however, I am doing long endurance also by foot, mostly up to 4 hours).

    If I want to be consistent, that means train day by day, integrating aerobic and anaerobic stuff, mixing endurance and intervals, I should do like that. For example after 5 hours on a bike I can do next morning interval session (30/30). However, this is just my point of view. I am not ultra runner and for doing ultras I agree, you should do little cycling and rather prefer running on trails.

    Last but not least, I also use indoor bike for some quality as well. Doing max sprints for 10 seconds for example and than 2 – 3 minutes the spinning the legs. If it suits you, if you are used to do … don’t hesitate to keep on. Go out of the box, explore and learn from the mistakes. 🙂

    Anonymous on #26770

    You can’t judge something by its outcome. You have to judge it relative to all the possible outcomes.

    I’m sure cycling increased your aerobic capacity, but that doesn’t mean that it was the best choice. You would only know that by having compared it to what you didn’t do (which yes, is impossible).

    World-class athletes don’t use non-specific training means because they don’t work as well as specific training means. If cycling gave weight-bearing athletes a better stimulus, then world-class weight-bearing athletes would all use it. They don’t.

    If peak performance is not a top priority, then do whatever you enjoy. If it is a priority, then use the most effective means that all of the professionals and their coaches have already figured out.

    I’ve been in the latter camp for the past six years. But now, I’m taking a more relaxed approach, and if I don’t perform as well, I’m fine with that. Because I’ve accepted the possibility of less than peak performance, I’ve added more cycling to my program. Why? Because it’s more fun than running.

    But if I wanted to perform at my best, I would run and roller ski instead.

    Nick Woodman on #29190

    I’m in the same boat of recovering from an injury (more worried about poor ankle stability and a misstep) and personally love riding my bike. My morning ride >1 hr was an average of 165 (with a first half/second half average dif of 2 bpm) and with the exception of a couple of hills, held nose breathing the entire time. I can’t imagine the AeT on a bike is different then running? without a PW meter I can’t see pa:HR but is it reasonable for me to assume my AeT is the HR from the ride?

    briguy on #29238

    HR zones are typically different for running vs cycling. Since cycling is non-weight bearing it usually means zones are encountered lower in the respective range. (i.e. a max HR for cycling is usually lower, LT zone is lower, etc)

    Nick Woodman on #29242

    I’ve been taking a bit of a deep dive into this out of curiosity and it’s pretty tricky. Most sources identify a difference between heart rates in different modalities (either AnT or AeT) but some sources with a specific emphasis on triathletes identify a much smaller variation between cycling and running LTs. The impression I’m getting is the muscle recruitment on a bike is much lower for runners cross training then for cyclists, so a well trained cyclist should have a similar if not nearly identical AeT/AnT.

    Heart-rate recommendations: transfer between running and cycling exercise?

    This study identifies a difference in the abstract, but without a subscription to the journal or database, I can’t dig in and see if they are testing runners, cyclists, triathletes, etc. or if they are controlling for specific training at all.

    Physiological differences between cycling and running: lessons from triathletes.

    Here they specifically test triathletes and runners, and found that there is generally no difference in VO2 max between running and cycling in triathletes while runners on the cycling ergometer produce a lower VO2max.

    Effects of Cycling vs. Running Training on Endurance Performance in Preparation for Inline Speed Skating

    Here they use inline speed skaters in off season to either run or cycle at 52% of their VO2max and found no significant difference between groups in regards to positive improvement in their primary sport. An increase in time trial time was attributed to loss of technique.

    The above linked studies primary focus on much shorter duration sports compared to mountain based sports requiring a much longer time underway, so can’t be used in regards to actual training zones and emphasis. However, the conclusions I’m drawing, as much as it is reasonable to do so from just a handful of studies, is for myself, it’s appropriate to keep roughly the same heart rate zones running versus cycling due to the prior training adaptation from collegiate cycling club level racing and training. This prior cycling experience has increased muscle recruitment etc. I understand that running is the far better option for those training for the mountains, but I’m in a similar boat as Scott in that I both enjoy riding my bike, and am finding it a good tool to use while I recover from a tendon sprain in my ankle.

    I hope this helps people looking to do some of their own research and if my conclusions are completely off base, please let me know and I will take this post down so as not to confuse others!

    briguy on #29244

    Well there is no way to know unless you find out. I like Joe Friel’s stuff in general, he is/was one of the premiere Triathlon coaches in the sport, but what I like is that he is very very practical. Not a lot of naval-gazing, just practical application.

    Here is his method for determining running vs cycling zones:

    Joe Friel’s Quick Guide to Setting Zones

    wildmoser.j on #33632

    Well, now that I have a home trainer for my bike I’ve been able to get a more controlled look at what my HR and perceived effort does versus running.

    What I find is that, to me, biking at my AeT (I’m just using the MAF method for that one so it might not be my actual AeT, but oh well) seems much, much more strenuous than doing a run at that same HR (Between 150-155bpm). I feel like I need to spin with more power (higher wattage) than I would produce when running to get to the same HR. So, endurance-wise, it feels the same but I notice that it tires my legs more.

    When I am biking outside and measuring HR, I’m always biking around in Z1 and the lower range of my Z2. Of course there are lots of ups and down involved since I like hills but trying to ride at my AeT outside on a flat road is really, really difficult!

    One thing I like is that if I want to do a steady Z3 workout, hopping on a bike and riding up a long hill works great. Not as much strain on the leg muscles. Since I’m lacking a bit of muscular endurance I won’t have this lack impeding the workout and making me slow down before my cardiovascular engine does.

    All of this to say that the viewpoint that HR zones for cycling are lower than those for running sounds somewhat logical to me regarding what I’ve experienced.

    However what I am now wondering is: when cycling, since we do have mountain running and co. in mind, is it more beneficial for our aerobic system to train in “cycling HR zones” OR to train in our usual “running HR zones” ? (I currently have some slight piriformis-related sciatic nerve issues that I do not want to aggravate so I’ve got a bit more biking in my immediate future so I wanna design that effectively).

    Anonymous on #33658

    What I find is that, to me, biking at my AeT (I’m just using the MAF method for that one so it might not be my actual AeT, but oh well) seems much, much more strenuous than doing a run at that same HR (Between 150-155bpm). I feel like I need to spin with more power (higher wattage) than I would produce when running to get to the same HR. So, endurance-wise, it feels the same but I notice that it tires my legs more.

    As I understand it, it feels more powerful because it is. With less muscle mass to stress the heart and lungs, the working muscle mass would have to work harder to create the same response.

    I suspect that this is why Coggan recommends 75% of FTP for base building. 75% of FTP for a well-trained rider is well below AeT. (And probably right around where an untrained rider needs the most work.)

    As far as training goes, zones are just bad proxies for different lactate levels of exertion. Regardless of the sport, you want to:

    1) Do as much ~2mM training as you can tolerate. For the untrained, that will be a lot. For the well-trained, the speed at ~2mM is almost as stressful as anaerobic work, so the volume will be much lower; and

    2) Make sure that it’s supported with a lot of ~1mM work which will feel easy for the well-trained and oh-my-god-this-is-doing-nothing easy for the untrained.

    3) When appropriate, add in the right amount of ~3, ~4, and >4 mM work to sharpen for your event. (The amount will vary by individual and event.)

    Do those 1-5 numbers remind you of anything? As I understand it, the original 5-zone system was built with the lactate values as reference numbers…

    If we had real-time access to blood lactate, we could ignore heart rate altogether. When running, the same lactate value might elicit a higher heart rate; and cycling, lower. But if we knew what our lactate values were, heart rate would quickly become irrelevant.

    atamank on #33806

    John Gaston, currently one of the most successful skimo racers. Based on his Strava profile, the vast majority of his summer training consists of mtb:

    Anonymous on #33849

    Again, this is a sample of one “within one”.

    Saying “so-and-so is badass so what they do must be the best option” is an erroneous conclusion. For that conclusion to be valid, we need to compare not John against the world, but John The Cyclist versus John The Sport-Specific-Trainer.

    But that’s obviously impossible. We can’t compare alternative futures of one person. So the next best thing is to examine the training methodologies of world-class athletes by world-class coaches in more mature sports. The vast, vast majority of which train specifically. For example, endurance sports in Norway would be a good place to start (and end).

    It’s a sample of one versus a sample of tens of thousands over decades.

    “Joe Badass trains non-specifically so it must work so I will too” is just confirmation bias I’m afraid…

    It would be more intellectually honest to say, “Doing something I enjoy is more important to me than doing something I don’t, even if it has a statistically lower chance of optimizing my performance.”

    Because I like biking a hell of a lot more than running, that’s my approach starting this year. I’m knowingly using sub-optimal training methods (for skimo) because my priorities have changed.

    Here’s a diagram from the Norwegian study linked to above. It shows the specificity of training of the most successful female cross country skier in history:

    Marit Bjoergen's training by specificity

    Anonymous on #33850

    To me, the most telling fact in this all-too-common discussion is, why does no one ever ask if they can train as a runner for a cycling race?

    I’ve heard the cycling question a million times, and I’ve never heard the opposite once. Why? Because cycling is more popular.

    More than anything, that says that people are trying to justify their preferences over reality. It’s a common mistake we all make.

    Brian Vickers on #35615

    Just saw this thread and it raised an ongoing question I can’t seem to answer. My experience biking – which I do at least once a week simply because I love riding and it gives my legs a day off – seems to be the opposite of what most everyone else experiences. My AeT is 135-140 (I do the field test every few weeks). I can bike at that HR forever. It is much easier for me than holding AeT while running. I can literally sing, not just talk, without losing my breath. I usually cap a ride at 90 min simply because I’m out of time, but I feel like I could go on indefinitely. Secondly, there is no significant speed decrease over that time at that HR. Running at AeT certainly isn’t hard but it’s not as easy as biking. I assumed that biking AeT must be higher, but after reading this thread I’m more confused by my experience. If anyone has a thought or just just a guess, I’d appreciate it!

    Anonymous on #35681

    The most likely answer to your question is: You are more economical at cycling than running.

    While cycling definitely has a technique component to it; pros are more economical than amateurs because their pedal stroke is smoother and they don’t move around on the saddle as much as a beginner.

    But, cycling means being strapped to a machine that constrains the the possible range of motion. This means that technique is constrained and so is the variation in economy is constrained. With running there are no mechanical constraints so the possible range of variations in technique is huge. Therefore the possible variations in economy is also huge.


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