Cycling vs Running - Which is "harder"?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by Jesse Falsone, Nov 26, 2004.

  1. Jesse Falsone

    Jesse Falsone New Member

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    My wife is an ultra marathon runner and I'm a cyclist. She has a bike (a real nice one too), but hardly rides it. I dragged her out for a ride today and we had a nice time going slow and enjoying the scenery (sounds like ultra running to me). Near the end she brought up an old argument - that running was more difficult than cycling because runners need to support their own weight. Also, she didn't feel she was exerting herself much on our 35 mile ride. I think the two disciplines are just too different to compare, but to me, exertion is exertion, whether its on a bike or on a run. Equal heart rates more or less equate to equal levels of effort (neglecting power output differentials, which you can't meaure on a runner anyway). I don't think supporting your body weight has anything to do with it.

    Its pretty clear to me that distance runners don't put out nearly the same power that a cyclist does for equal times exercising. Otherwise distance runners would have more powerful builds, which they clearly don't. Ultra runners are pure endurance athletes, whereas most cyclists have to sprint at times, or at least opeate at a high % of their max heart rate.

    Am I wrong? Is running "harder" than cycling? It seems to me that anyone making this claim isn't riding very hard. I've never suffered running like I have cycling - certainly not in the muscle tissue. Only thing comparable for me is rowing.
     
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  2. rarriola

    rarriola New Member

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    They are both very different. I've been a runner pretty much all my life. Because of injuries, I've recently started to ride.

    Running hurts all over. You feel like you want to puke at the end of a hard workout or race. Your entire body pretty much shuts down.

    With cycling, all of the burn seems to be in the legs. I may not be at that next level yet, but this has been my experience.

    Now, a couple of things. Runners have to sprint as well. Look at the 10,000m men's Olympic final this year. Bekele turned a 52 s last quarter mile. If that isn't all out, I don't really know what is.

    While running, my heart rate is typically around 170-175 for an easy run. I have a max of 210 or so. While cycling, it will hover around 150ish. Because running is more of a full body exercise, it will raise heart rate. I think that is part of the reason you need to ride so much more to get the same exercise.

    Now, if your wife truly is an ultramarathon runner (of 50-100 mile races), than 35 miles on the bike shouldn't seem like anything but more than a stroll. I'm guessing it took you two hours or so to ride. 50-100 mile races can take over a day.
     
  3. ItsikH

    ItsikH New Member

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    It is quite probably so: Running is "harder" than cycling. Still, you could cycle just as hard as running, just cycle long and strong enough. But why should it be as hard? Cycling is different. It is an integral experience, it is a jorney: Endurance, senses, travel... and meeting people. I just had a wonderful cloudy, cold, day in the Jerusalem hills, with friends. 120km of painful, beautiful climbs.
     
  4. Jesse Falsone

    Jesse Falsone New Member

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    I meant that ultra runners don't sprint. It's pretty obvious that a sprinter's body is totally different than a marathon runner's. I don't consider a 10K runner to be an endurance athlete of the same type.

    If you're HR is only 150 during a ride, but you can sustain 170 easily while running, it seems to me you aren't pushing hard on the bike - or as hard as you could perhaps. I operate "comfortably" hovering just below my lactate threshold while riding for a few hours, which is what you seem to be doing while running.

    Yes, I suppose you're working more of your body during a run, but I'm quite certain you aren't working your quads or glutes as hard unless you are sprinting.

    My wife ran two 100's this year, but has been taking it easy for a few months. I guess my point to all this is that one is not necessarily harder than another - it all depends on how hard you go. Our little ride yesterday was painfully slow for me, but the point was to take a leisurely ride. When my commented that riding seemed easier than running, my immediate thought was "sure it is because we're crawling". Had she tried to push herself into her red zone a bit, perhaps she would've felt differently at the end.
     
  5. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    Because you've been a lifelong runner you can and will expect a higher HRmax and VO2max when running compared to cycling. however, trained cyclists will be the opposite scoring up to ~ 106% of running (e.g.) VO2max.

    while, 52-secs is moving, the term "all-out" generally refers to a maximal effort over a specific duration. thus, as intensity is inversely proportional to duration then the only way you could achieve an all-out "quarter mile" would be to race over a quarter mile. Racing a 10 km, and going as hard for the last quarter mile wouldn't be all-out.

    You'll find, that as you get better at cycling you'll be able to ride at higher intensities. and will possibly hurt all over! If you run at the same intensity (as a % of VO2max) as you cycle your energy expenditure will be the same.

    HR at the same intensity may well be higher running compared to cycling, because cooling isn't as efficient -- you get greater cooling at higher velocities.

    One possible difference in energy expenditure is to do with the issue that you can coast on a bike, but can't when running -- thus you are always working

    ric
     
  6. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Thank you Ric. I tried explaining this to some of the forum members in a similar thread ...

    http://www.cyclingforums.com/showthread.php?t=172432&page=1&pp=15

    ... but for some reason it just didn't seem to go over too well. I believe that people are biased toward their sport of choice or by certain exercise myths that for some unexplainable reason never seem to die.

    Here's one response ...
    My Dear Doctor,
    It is well known to the medical profession and simple creatures such as myself that running is more beneficial than cycling for losing unwanted pounds. No good for the joints though

    If this is to be believed, then it is more reason not to trust the medical profession when it comes to exercise science.

    Here is another response from the same poster...
    I hours running is more prodictive than an hours cycling. However if you don't like running or are prevented from doing so, then, yes cyccling would be better.
    He also states that "Running is better from the scientific standpoint". Poppycock.

    There were other doubters but this was the most entertaining. :rolleyes:
     
  7. mitosis

    mitosis New Member

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    Run for an hour, ride for an hour - you see the difference in a trained athlete in energy expended. It is a matter of supporting your body when you run. You see plenty of fat recreational cyclists - you don't see any fat runners.

    With regard to heart rate. There is some evidence that elite cyclists can have a cycling max heart rate the same as, or slightly better that their running max HR - for the vast majority, even when well trained, running max HR will be greater than that achieved on a bike (or swimming, or rowing, or anything else).

    Check these.
    http://www.ianchapman.com.btinternet.co.uk/ian/personal/heart_rates.htm

    http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/maxhr.htm

    http://www.cptips.com/maxhrsc.htm

    http://www.cptips.com/hrmntr.htm

    This last article emphasises the point that in highly trained cyclists maximum heart rate can approach that obtained when running.
    http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadings/coachcorn/cyclingrate.html

    Ask Ric for a reference for his claim that cyclists have a higher max HR.

    Hope this helps. ;)
     
  8. 531Aussie

    531Aussie Well-Known Member

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    Anecdotal......

    Between the ages of about 14 and 26 I used to run 4 to 6km, 5 days a week, and I also played Aussie Rules Football for a few years -- I've also been cycling since aged 20 (I'm now 37).

    In all my years of riding, I have never been able to induce the same pain and discomfort that running produced.

    I say running is twice as hard as cycling :p
     
  9. menglish6

    menglish6 New Member

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    I think this topic has been touched on here once before, and I still stand by my belief. Pushing yourself to a maximal intensity is pushing yourself to a maximal intensity whatever the activity. As one gets better at their activity of choice they are able to push themselves harder, but that's simply experience, not something inherent to the activity.

    There is one major way that running does differ from many other difficult exercise activities. There is definately a minimal amount of effort required to "run" (anything less and it's called walking). With cycling or rowing or x-c sking or swimming you can putter along at a very slow pace and you are still cycling, rowing, x-c skiing or swimming. So the barrier for entry into the realm of running is higher than other exercises, but you can push yourself just as hard in whatever sport you choose.
     
  10. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    Absolutely!

    It's going to be snowing pretty heavily here soon. Anyone want to really find out how running pales in comparison to shoveling the snow off my mother's huge driveway? It'll turn boys into men with a quickness.

    Menglish6, I think these people must be dawdling and lollygagging around on the bike with their children or something. They need to quit coasting and get on it!
     
  11. Doctor Morbius

    Doctor Morbius New Member

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    That is simply an observation or an assumption that you've made and has nothing to do with any scientific basis. Fat people don't run as a general rule because of the impact and stresses it places on the knees, lower back and feet. And they suck at it. You don't see 250 lb bodybuilders with 6% bodyfat out running much either for the same reasons. It's too painful because of the impact and they suck at it.

    People, whether they are fat or thin, tend to engage in activities in which they are capable of doing and are more likely to be successful. At 5'9" you wouldn't see me try out for a spot on the NBA either. Distance runners tend to be thin because more thin people engage in that activity. That is all it means. Saying that running "creates" more thin people is akin to saying that women's softball "creates" more butch looking females. :eek: It just happens to be an activity that they are attracted to and they find easy to excel at.
     
  12. ItsikH

    ItsikH New Member

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    I haven't read the articles yet, but here is my example:
    I'm 41yo, 175cm/63kg - not skinny but quite thin. I'm not an elite cycler or even close, yet my max HR cycling is 185 (doing intervals recently I have once reached it) while 175 running (in a professional eregometry test a month ago). I do cycle a *lot* - some 1500km a month.
    On the other hand, I do not run at all. Perhaps, if I trained running, I would have achieved the same HR or even higher.
    But the bottom line is - you do best what you do best, so keep on doing it!:D
     
  13. Jesse Falsone

    Jesse Falsone New Member

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    >You see plenty of fat recreational cyclists - you don't see any fat runners.

    Rubbish! I attend lots of races with my wife (from 10milers to marathons, to 100 mile ultras). I see overweight runners all the time. There are even some that are deceptively fast. OK, these people are not obese, but many are certainly overweight. It baffles me how they can run at all, much less compete in an endurance event that can really hurt you.

    I see overweight cyclists too, but they are slow - except for this one guy on the Saturday morning group ride. Major power in that dude. I think everyone is afraid he'll drop 30 pounds and crush everyone.
     
  14. mitosis

    mitosis New Member

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    You use more of your muscles when you run. That's why, in general, you achieve a higher heart rate.

    Take it to an extreme. You can do forearm curls until you are blue in the face with exhaustion, but because you are only using a small group of muscles your heart is not working really hard and so your heart rate will be well below your max. There cannot be enough oxygen demand from a small group of muscles to make the heart work to its maximum.

    When cycling you use your legs for most of the effort and your upper body, to a lesser extent, for balance and to brace yourself for the effort. Unless you have huge muscles in your legs (as some highly trained elite cyclists do) you just can't tax your cardiovascular system as much when cycling as when running because you don't have enough working muscle mass.

    With regard to fat runners and fat cyclists I perhaps overstated my claim. You see a lot less fat runners than fat cyclists. You see plenty of overweight cyclists who are competitive but not many fat runners who are competitive.

    Get a group of people who are overweight to start a walking/running program to lose weight and compare them with a similar group of overweight people who start a cycling program for the same time and frequency. In every case, the group who run will lose weight more quickly than those who cycle. Surely that's got to tell you a little about energy expenditure.
     
  15. dallasbikr

    dallasbikr New Member

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    I run a mile and think I'm going to explode.

    I cycle 40 and go watch TV.

    Same effort put into both....running is harder :)

    Not real scientific, but it keeps me on a bike........
     
  16. beerco

    beerco New Member

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    No, the same effort wasn't put into both. Try picking up the pace on the bike and see how you feel. No one walks right after a 40k TT if they really put their all into it.
     
  17. menglish6

    menglish6 New Member

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    I'll definately agree that some exercises utilize more muscle groups, and therefore are able to more quickly spike your HR than others (my HR spiking exercise of choice happens to be rowing). I don't think that this however means that an hour spent running with a HR at 155 and an hour spent cycling at HR 155 is substantively different for your cardio-vascular system.

    I also firmly believe that you're ability to reach and function effectively at a particular heart rate are a function of your training specificity for that exercise (with some limits from your natural maxs and thresholds). As you get better and better at a particular activity you are better able to tax yourself in that exercise (I'm not sure if it's a physiological adaptation, or a mental one, I think probably a little of both).

    My point being just that running is better exercise simply by virtue of the fact that you can't help but tax your body and push your cardio system at a certain level. With other exercises that utilize fewer muscle groups (Although, I'd argue that cycling doesn't utilize _significantly_ fewer muscle groups than running, at least not when compared to something like rowing or x-c skiing) you have to put significant effort and training into having that exercise tax your system to the same degree. So, it's not something inherent to the exercise itself, but rather the dedication and ability that people bring to the exercise, that differentiates running from other cardio exercises.
     
  18. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    however, in trained cyclists if you ask them to do e.g., handcranking while riding maximally their VO2max does not increase. In other words in trained cyclists their VO2 is equivalent or higher than when running, which i think i mentioned in my previous post

    ric
     
  19. cdaleguy

    cdaleguy New Member

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    Gotta go with running being "harder." I think that many more contributing factors are involved, including, but not limited to (while running), arm usage, balance, joint shock, more muscles involved overall, and I believe that running exerts more out of your lungs, heart, body (in general)....not sure why or what scientific explanation could back this, but just the "jolting" of your body seems to put more strain on both.

    RUNNING SUCKS!
     
  20. mitosis

    mitosis New Member

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    Most athletes I work with are triathletes. Where they have had lab tests (lactate threshold, VO2max cycling and treadmill) they have had higher heart rates for running in all cases.

    I do work with the occasional cyclist. In the last two years there has been 2 out of the 7 cyclists I have worked with who have had a cycling max HR within a beat or two of their running max. The rest have been more than 5 beats down. They are all well trained and do little cross training. They are all older men (one woman), 35 plus.

    I agree that it is possible to have cycling HR max the same as your running HR max, but I don't see it as the normal, even among pure cyclists. ;)
     
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