Understanding AeT and Cross Training

  • Creator
  • #49114

    Hi all,

    I am wondering if anyone can enlighten me on cross-training effects on aerobic threshold across different disciplines.

    For example, I have ~10 years of Category 3/4 cycling racing with a solid base of zone 1/2 training that has closed the gap on my cycling-specific ADS. I feel fantastic on a bike. However, once I started trail running about two years ago I noticed a substantial gap in my running-specific ADS. It appears that my aerobic training in cycling has not contributed much to my aerobic running efficiency. Why is this?

    My assumption is that both activities utilize different muscle groups, and I have not properly trained the metabolic pathways used specific to running. Is this a fair assessment? If so, what training benefits do translate between aerobic activities such as cycling/running/rowing/hiking/swimming, etc?

    Put specifically, just how is my two-hour aerobic bike ride contributing to my aerobic training in my run, if at all?

    Hope that isn’t too broad of a question. Thanks!

  • Participant
    OwenFW on #49115

    Also really interested to hear some answers to this question.

    OwenFW on #49116


    AshRick on #49133

    From long experience in multi-sport…

    The cross training effect is limited to your first couple weeks of a new activity.

    Once you can run more than a few miles…fitness for the different sports might as well be on different planets.

    If you’re in shape to run, say 9 minute miles at AeT, you can cycle train your arse off and you’ll still run 9’s.

    Cross training effects in a fit person are nil.

    Anonymous on #49180

    Specificity in sports training is one of the foundational principles for many reasons. But this is one of the biggies.

    We see continually that bike fitness does not translate to running or mountaineering fitness. I’ve noticed this for years and chalk it up to the following:
    1)In cycling you are seated and do not need to fight gravity every step.
    2) Cycling isolates a smaller muscle mass than does running and uses those in a different way.
    3)What makes cycling so fun and practical is its efficiency. You can easily clip along at 3-4 times as fast as you can run for a similar HR.

    I’ve only ever seen one person be able to transfer the training effects of his cycling to ski touring and he was cycling 40 hours/week. That person is Alan Adams who just set the unofficial self propelled vertical gain in one year at just over 2.5million vertical feet.


    Diana on #49194

    Hi Scott,

    Do you have any insight on this topic for running/skiing as a seasonal combo? I imagine the movements are more similar than running/cycling, but I would love to hear more from your experience. Just to clarify, by skiing I mean ski touring as well as nordic skiing.

    dcgm on #49206

    I might well go further and say that I haven’t noticed much carryover from running on roads and trails to hiking up steep grades with a pack, either. I mean, it’s not negligible, but it doesn’t go all that far.

    Rachel on #49221

    Diana, here’s a couple posts related to skiing & running. This first one discusses xc skiing specifically:
    multisport training
    here’s one about skimo & running:
    skimo as alternative to trail running

    What I’ve heard here numerous times is to maintain some running volume through the winter so that your lower legs stay adapted and you don’t have to put those “100 miles” back on again in the spring.

    Rachel on #49222

    dcgm I’m kinda surprised you haven’t seen transfer over. It sounds almost like those steep hikes with weight require a lot of muscular endurance and maybe that’s why it feels like it isn’t carrying over. Do you by any chance do those steep hikes at a higher altitude too?

    dcgm on #49255

    It sounds almost like those steep hikes with weight require a lot of muscular endurance and maybe that’s why it feels like it isn’t carrying over.

    Partly, yep, I notice the most immediate and direct carryover from ME-type work. Very high rep weighted step-ups are a winner, as are unweighted complexes along the lines of the gym-based ME workout. Tricky to avoid burning out on this stuff while sustaining a high level of conditioning for much more than a few weeks, though.

    Partly I think it’s maybe a joint angles and velocities thing, and I’d be better off if I did a significant fraction of my aerobic base work on an incline trainer or a stairmaster. I’m pretty good at tolerating boredom in my training by the standards of most of the people I know but that’s a bridge too far for me, at least for now. Hiking steeps is great but coming back down eats up a lot of time and it’s tough to find a good sustained slope.

    Do you by any chance do those steep hikes at a higher altitude too?

    Nah, mostly under 8k.

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