Running as Cross-Training for Cyclists

I got into endurance sports first as a runner and then as a cyclist. I still enjoy running and find that it is an excellent workout. There are certain habits I try to keep in order to make the most of my running and hopefully lower my chance of injury. Here is a short video going over some of how I approach running as a compliment to cycling.

If you’re interested in mixing it up in the off-season, more efficient training, or just mixing it up for fun or to get into triathlon or duathlon, then please be smart about it and ease into it. Even if you’re very fit as a cyclist, it takes a little time for your legs to get used to the pounding, and you will need to develop some muscles that you don’t really use on the bike.

I’ll come up with a little more specific suggestions for how to get into running and how to progress, but for now, I hope some of this is helpful and a good starting point.

Basic Core Work for Endurance Athletes

Increasing core strength and strength endurance is one of the biggest things that you can do off the bike to improve your performance and reduce aches or pains that you may experience racing. Most world class athletes probably spend hours a week developing core strength during the off season and smart ones will continue to do maintenance work during the season. This video outlines some of what I have settled on as the basic structure of my core strength routine. I will gladly add quantity to this and extra exercises when I can, but even with a basic routine that you may do three times per week for 10-15 minutes, you can do a lot to help your cycling, running, or multi-sport efforts.

To sum it up and offer some basic suggestions, try something like the following to get started. If this is all you ever do, it will be worth it. If you build strength and want to invest more time and effort into it, by all means, go for it…

3 sets

bent-over rows with dumbbells
front plank
front plank with alternating leg-raises
mountain-climber planks (push-up position, bring knee towards chest)
side planks
optional: pull-ups (you can get a cheap pull-up bar to install in a doorway, or if you have gym access, that works too)

Just start with what you can do, whether that’s 5 push-ups and 20s planks or more. Rest as needed to start. With time you’ll be able to do more reps and longer duration planks with less recovery between and your stability, strength, and comfort riding and running should improve notably.

If you want to add an extra level of difficulty that I really like, then you could consider getting a suspension trainer system. You can get higher levels of muscle activation with the added instability of doing planks on an exercise ball, bosu ball, or suspension trainer. TRX is the most well-known brand of suspension trainer, but you can get a more economical setup pretty cheaply that work great. At home, all I have is a pull-up bar, suspension trainer for planks, a couple sets of dumbbells for dead-lifts and lunges, an exercise ball, and a homemade box for weighted step-ups.

As always, keep things simple to start and work with your body to progress at a rate that you can handle. Make things challenging enough that it’s good training, but always keep things within the realm of what your body can handle so that you can avoid injury.

The Great Cascade Classic Stage Race

The Cascade Classic has long been one of my favorite stage races. Ever since I got into stage races, I loved the format, the strategy, and the difficulty of having to perform well for several days in a row. I’ve always had a lot of fun trying to survive and end up near the front of the field at the end of the week.

Check out a video I made along with this article. It goes over much of the same stuff if you want to listen instead of read or if you want a few extra little examples… I’ll be posting more videos in the future, so go ahead and subscribe to my youtube channel if you’re into podcasts or informational youtube content.

Not everyone can be a good general classification stage racer, but most riders can get something valuable out of stage racing. Because there’s a lot going on with individual stages, teamwork, the overall classification, recovery and nutrition to take care of from day to day, you have to set reasonable goals for the week and keep your priorities straight. Don’t waste energy on things that don’t matter to you or your team. It’s easy to get caught up racing hard on a stage that doesn’t matter to you or your team, but you should keep your head straight and do what is helpful in working towards your goals.

If you want to go for the GC, you have to be focused every day. As much as you might want to, you don’t have to win anything to win the general classification or to be on the overall podium, but you can’t ever afford to mess up and lose significant time. You have to be within striking distance of the front of the race on every stage. The podium is almost always made up of the three guys that were among the strongest 10 or 20 riders, but in most cases they’re the ones who made the fewest mistakes. This could be tactical mistakes made during the races, or it could be shortcomings in training, nutrition from day to day during the race, sleep, recovery, or equipment. You may not have to do everything perfectly, but you have to do everything without any major blunders.

Even if you aren’t a GC rider, you can go for stages and come away with a result. If your team has a GC rider, your help can be invaluable to achieving a GC result on your team. You can save all of your cards for the one day that suits you well. You could sit in and wait for moments of opportunity that may come at any moment during the race. But you may have to be content to sit back and save energy when it’s easy and the race is up the road in order to have more energy for tomorrow’s race. Or you may need to lose time early in the race so that you can go up the road in a breakaway on the last stage or the most prestigious and difficult stage. Even if you’re 20 minutes down in the GC, but you win the queen stage, that’s a huge success. Or you may be a sprinter who can’t train for great endurance, and you might be able to win the crit, even though you’re just hanging on in the other stages. Again, this is a success by most standards.

Always look for opportunity and try to take advantage when it’s available.

Going into any stage race, you should really make a plan. Look at the stages and try to identify where your strengths and weaknesses will show themselves throughout the week. Look for opportunities where you are strongest, but more than anything, look for ways to keep your weaknesses from becoming liabilities where you’ll lose time or get a bad result. Or, if you’re going for stage results and not the overall, identify stages that don’t matter to you. Go into those stages with the intention of working for your team and saving energy wherever possible. It may seem like the race will be hard no matter what, but really, if you’re just trying to get through it and not get time-cut, then you can save a lot of energy. A lot of riders go hard on days when they really shouldn’t, just because they are motivated to ride hard simply because it’s a race. Just keep your priorities straight. Remember that it may be a bike race, but it isn’t necessarily your race, you’re just along for the ride as you wait for, say, tomorrow’s stage where you’re going to go for it.

Set goals for each day and for the race as a whole. Make sure you know what you need to do each day so that you can focus on what’s happening right now and not stress about the week as a whole.

Know your focus and ignore everything else to stay on track.