Ask any runner what they like to do for physical fitness other than running, and invariably the answer would be nothing else. I was one of those runners too until I discovered cycling.
I have been running for over two decades now, much before there were any marathon events organized in the country. All that changed with the arrival of the Tata Mumbai marathon. My running increased and I slowly turned into a long-distance runner, but an ignorant long-distance runner. The only form of physical activity that I did was running and eventually came a point when I got injured and had to visit a doctor to address the problem. That’s when I discovered the terms “overall fitness” and “overuse injury”. Since then I have added various other forms of workout to cross-train and cycling, over time has become my favourite.
Having tried both, indoor and outdoor cycling, I can safely tell you that cycling outdoors wins hands down. It is akin to running outdoors, it is almost the same except with a lower impact on your body unlike running, albeit the soar butt initially. Of course, thanks to padded cycling tights and foam/gel seat covers which helps alleviate the problem.
Active recovery – In the last few years I have noticed that recovery from injury/muscle soreness is faster when I do light workouts rather than take complete rest. Exercise, I believe helps in better blood circulation and endorphins released helps in a faster healing process.
For me exercise alone is not the key, it is also getting out early in the morning that greatly enhances my day. Therefore, outdoor cycling perfectly fits the bill, where I have to do an active recovery or replace running to heal some injury for a bit.
The general rule of thumb is 1:3 run-to-bike ratio, meaning 1 km of running at moderate effort equals 3 km of cycling at the same effort level. Cycling, like running, largely depends on major muscles in the leg and core without the same impact. Of course, the fact that I live in Pune helps, because cycling is quite popular here. I use cycling as part of cross-training once a week in the building phase where I am starting to train for a marathon but don’t want to ramp up the running mileage too fast.
A beginner who is training for a marathon can use cycling to build endurance by doing more than one day of cycling per week. If you are new to cycling, then start with 30 mins, and slowly increase the kilometres and speed. Like any workout doing a warm-up before the workout is essential, so start with light dynamic workout and then do slow cycling for 5 min or so.
Safety is paramount so basic accessories like lights for front and back, so you are visible in the dark and reflective clothing/jacket should be worn. Wearing protective glasses, helmet and gloves should not be forgotten.