Running vs Indoor Cycling

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #14148
    Mike
    Participant

    I am training for the Emmons Route at Mount Rainier for June 2019 and I am following the 24-week Expedition Mountain Training Plan. I am a cyclist rather than a runner and wonder if I do all the running workouts in the same HR Zone and duration but on my indoor cycling trainer, will I obtain a similar base training effect?

  • Moderator
    Scott Semple on #14150

    Unfortunately, no. From what I’ve heard, you’d need to do 2-3x more cycling volume to get a similar training effect. Weight-bearing activities recruit a lot more muscle which is more specific to mountaineering.

    You can read more on specific training.

    If you hope to achieve your best Skimo results you need to be training with full weight bearing exercise. While we understand the appeal of cycling, and for some injured athletes it is the only alternative, it cannot compare to the overall training loading of running and the other methods we recommend below. Even in walking the forces through each foot/leg/hip musculoskeletal structure is about 1.5 times body weight. When running, even at moderate paces, these forces increase to 2-4 times body weight.

    Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #14156

    Mike:

    Scott is correct in saying that cycling will provide very little transfer to mountaineering. Over the years we have many people try to prepare for mountaineering goals by cycling only to struggle on the their climb. Why: In cycling you are sitting down and using a small muscle mass. In mountaineering you are in a weight bearing, upright posture and mode of locomotion. Specificity rules when it comes to training for any event. Would you prepare for a Century ride by hiking in the mountains? Or by swimming?

    Scott

    Participant
    Mike on #14164

    Thank you both for your reply. I certainly understand your points of view from a musculoskeletal perspective in comparing the muscle activation and energy expenditures between cycling and running as well as the cardiovascular demands being different based on the workload between the two activities.

    However, my challenge is whenever I run, I tend to get injured, typically in my gastroc/Achilles tendon complex or IT band. I can walk and hike for hours (I live in NH and typically have no problems hiking 6-8 hours in our mountains) with no adverse effects. However, I want to improve my CV fitness for Rainier. I imagine some walk/run interval could help but it may take months till I can run continuously for 60 minutes. I also have access to treadmill and stair climber for CV fitness which usually doesn’t present an injury risk when at the slower, non-running speeds which would be in my Z1 range.

    Creativity will be key to improve CV fitness without increasing the risk of a lower extremity injury. Any other feedback??

    Mike

    Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #14169

    Mike:

    We recommend running not for its specificity (hiking on steep trails like you have in NH is more specific to mountaineering) but because it offers a big aerobic “bang” for the time spent. In your case I you can hike on steep terrain and machines you will certainly get more from that type of training than you will from cycling. As for your Achilles/calf issue. Keep in mind that 90% (my observation) of running injuries are caused by doing too much too soon. It takes 100 miles to condition your soft tissues to the pounding running dishes out. This 100 miles might be accumulated in 4 weeks of for a long time runner returning after a winter season of Skimo and no running or it might take 4 month for a newby or someone with an injury history who needs to introduce running via a run/walk progression. Of course there are bio-mechanical problems that some folks have that will benefit from professional evaluation but even these folks will still need a very gradual mileage build up.

    In the meantime get on the trails till the snow prevents it and then ski and move some of your aerobic activity to steep machines indoors.

    Scott

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