Ask the Coach
I am a beginning trail runner training for my first 50K. I would like to increase mileage and training time ...
Illustration by Jeremy Collins
I am a beginning trail runner training for my first 50K. I would like to increase mileage and training time but do not want to get injured. Would incorporating biking into my training help build my running endurance with less additional stress on my body?
—Matt Wilson, Kansas City, MO
Our bodies are all different and what each athlete can handle for run volume varies widely. We do know that a linear increase in miles is simply not sustainable. For most athletes, the risk of increasing volume as their sole means to increase performance will lead to boredom, burnout or injury.
Incorporating cycling into your training program may help you more quickly build up your running fitness. Studies show bike training for both moderately trained and highly trained runners is equally as effective in improving run times.
Coach Jen Segger of Challenge by Choice Performance Coaching in Canada says, "Athletes who both run and cycle have the advantage of being able to make good muscular endurance gains with less impact on the body." Because the same muscles are used and strengthened there is a good deal of carryover from cycling to running. The additional aerobic conditioning on the bike will improve your body's ability to process and transport oxygen to working muscles.
Incorporating cycling into your training can be tricky. Segger suggests substituting a bike ride for a run in the overall weekly schedule, or adding "brick" workouts (multiple disciplines stacked), e.g. a bike ride followed by a run, as a means to extend your endurance sessions. "This forces the athlete to move on tired legs, closely mimicking how we feel in the late stages of a long race, but without as much impact on the joints."