Running...is it harder than cycling?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by ives, Apr 12, 2010.

  1. ives

    ives New Member

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    I used to be an average 3rd cat, could hold my own in bunches even in E123 races if they were flat. I was decent at going uphill for a 3rd cat and estimated my FTP to be around 300w.My point is I was reasonably fit .Long story short, I packed in cycling a couple of years ago ( got fed up and felt stale with the whole thing) and took up running. Now, even though I trained just as hard at running as cycling, I was really, really terrible at running. I ran competitively for a couple of years but never really felt I got to anywhere near the level i got at with cycling.
    My problem with running was I was always running out of puff....something that never really happened with cycling. Even when at 90% MHR, I felt my breathing was ""controlled''. Yet when running , even at 80% MHR or less, my breathing was all over the place...completely ragged and I always felt like I was breathing through a straw.

    Has anyone experienced this ?

    Is there any truth in the assertion that cycling places more stress on the heart than the lungs whereas is running it's the other way round? This is the only conclusion I can come to unless this is a particular quirk of my own physiology: namely that my lung capacity/efficiency is my limiter.

    I'd be curious to hear people's thoughts on this.
     
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  2. smaryka

    smaryka Member

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    Disclaimer: I'm a full-time roadie this season, but at my peak last season as a triathlete I was about evenly measured in cycling and running relative to my peers, which was pretty good but not awesome (~19 min 5km vs 22:30 10 mile TT as a comparison). This on ~1000km/month cycling and ~125km/month running on average. I'm planning to do better this year in cycling, but if I had taken on running as my only sport, I'm pretty sure I could be making the same improvements.

    A few random thoughts:
    -- HR is often higher in running than in cycling. I found my threshold to be approximately 10 beats higher in running. Not sure how you're measuring your MHR?
    -- you never get a rest in running, your muscles can't freewheel even on downhills unless you physically stop moving. This lack of mini-recoveries means your HR stays higher and I believe contributes to more heart rate drift (especially in warm temps as you overheat more easily).
    -- my running really improved with lots of cycling, but not the other way around. I believe I built and maintained a massive aerobic engine through lots of threshold cycling efforts that transferred well to running. I could never have run that many hours and stayed injury-free. Have you completely stopped cycling?
    -- all my running felt easier once I started doing regular hill repeats and hilly courses in training. In reality I suppose it's just getting fitter, but hills will train your lungs and heart like nothing else.

    I too notice a more ragged breathing when I'm really hammering it running vs cycling, but that's because my entire body moves more, my upper body is jostled more, my arms are pumping... not something I do in cycling, even standing on the toughest climbs. Personally I don't really like the feeling of being out of breath like that... hence my decision to switch to cycling. But I was still motoring along, albeit more uncomfortably, i.e., I don't believe my heart/lungs and feeling "out of puff" was a limiter.

    Finally, I don't train by HR anymore in running, I go by pace almost exclusively the same way I use power on the bike. It made a massive difference to my training last year and between that and losing 10 lbs I got a lot faster on about the same miles. To run faster, you have to run faster and all that... that's what worked for me to be a better runner. And I don't have a typical runner physique either. I think the sense of being out of puff as you said is partly psychological?

    Would be interested to hear the experts on this!
     
  3. ives

    ives New Member

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    Some interesting thoughts there, smaryka.

    my running times for 5k are similar to yours: 19mins for 5k.
    I never did a 10 but concentrated on road racing instead.

    Converseley, I found that my running HR was a lot lower than cycling.
    My MHR is just over 200 and cycling threshold around mind 170s. However, when running I could never get my HR above 175 even when at max. I found my threshold HR was around mid 160s: a lot lower than cycling for some reason. Even at 160 I felt I was on the ragged edge. If I went up to 165 I would have to back off since my breathing would be out of control.

    To answer your question, I've been forced back into cycling and had to given up running.

    Ever since I started running and stopped cycling 2 years ago I've been plagued with injuries: ankle, hip, IT band. Most recently I've developed a sciatica problem which was just getting worse and worse with running, allied to the other problems which wouldn't clear up. It's a shame cos I really enjoyed running.
     
  4. Ade Merckx

    Ade Merckx New Member

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    If this is who I think it is I'm sure we'll see you around regents park soon. Or even in a crit race ;)..My road bike was stolen at the end of last summer, during the weeks of deciding what new bike to buy I lost all my hard earned race fitness sodecided I wouldn't replace the bike till Feb this year. Between October 09 and December 09 I did some running and was surprised at how quickly I could run (~19mins 5k pace after only 7/8 training runs). That would never happen if I just took up cycling. Alas my running was cut short by various injuries - lower back, shin splints etc. By Feb I was back on the bike and unless I get a new, younger and injury resistent body on the bike is where I'll stay. Welcome back to the most beautiful sport on the planet,Ives :)
     
  5. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

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    I think it would, if you were a runner with similar fitness as you had from cycling and switched sports you'd see similar rapid gains. The aerobic parts of each sport transfer well across each other, your basic capacity to deliver oxygen to the legs is the same. So if you have an FTP of 300 (suggesting a VO2max of at least 4l ie 50 for an 80kg guy) then with that you should be doing 19minute 5km's, if you're a bit lighter and pushing 60 mmol/kg then 18 should be very, very possible. However of course you're not going to be able to use your full oxygen capacity on little run training, and your leg strength will be weak. But a 19min 5km is not that great for us mid 70kg 300watt FTP 3rd cats, we should be able to run 17min at least for sure - it'd still have us be slaughted in a running race.

    As noted by everyone the biggest reason that cycling can help with running is volume, running is generally limited by the impact injuries, but the cycling you can do much more of. But if you were a serious runner, doing 15 hours a week, the transfer to cycling would be pretty quick!
     
  6. Ade Merckx

    Ade Merckx New Member

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    Thanks for the info Jim. I must admit i don't have any idea what's a decent pace for an amateur club runner. Someone said 18mins for 5K was good so I was surprised after three weeks of jogging mainly I was able to run at 19 mins pace. I can still remember after 6 months of cycling struggling to hold on to the 17mph group at the mighty Addiscombe all those years ago;)It would be nice to see what was possible running wise but the body just can't take it for very long:mad:
     
  7. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    I'm not an expert, but for someone who was good at cycling but had difficulty running, I would look at their running technique. In a sense running is harder than sitting on a seat with feet clipped to a circular crank because of the additional degrees of freedom and coordination involved in the movements. While there's much debate about whether there's a "right" way to pedal, there's little doubt that there are better or worse ways to run.
     
  8. ives

    ives New Member

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    Hi frenchyge. I think that's an interesting point although I was never "good" at cycling,just average. And below average at running, I felt.
    The technique issue is a valid one though. I wondered why I got injured so much running and believe me I spent a lot of time looking into this and trying to rectify it. Towards the end I was begining to think that it was a biomechanical issue of some sort, although I never got to the bottom of it.

    From what I can gather, a lot of people that run end up injured, like Ade Merckx. BTW Ade, I think you have me confused with someone else. :)
     
  9. JibberJim

    JibberJim Member

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    I think it depends on what you mean, since most club runners do quite a bit less volume than your average cyclist, and generally do a lot less intensity, because they're forced to due to the injury susceptability. There's not many club runners doing 10-12 hours a week with half of it spent at 90% of threshold and over like many do when cycle training, they'd simply break. Despite giving up running essentially, I still do my running clubs 3 mile handicap every couple of months and I can still run a lot faster than when I was just running (20minute PB as a straight runner, 17:30 PB as a straight cyclist) It's not because cycling is a better workout though, just that I comfortably sustain 10, 15, 20 hour weeks.
     
  10. ives

    ives New Member

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    This suggest to me that you have an inherently decent cardio system and are a natural athelete.

    It took me a year of running 5 or 6 times a week to get anywhere near 19 mins for a 5k.
    My first 6 months or so running at lunchtimes around an local park was an exercise in humiliation as I was constantly being overtaken by the world and his dog out for a jog.
     
  11. decca234uk

    decca234uk New Member

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    I always had the same experience with my breathing when running. UI thought about this long and hard and I came to the conclusion that it was because the terrain I ran along was constantly changing. going over small rises and hills, even running over rough ground means you're having to constantly change your pace, pushing harder over the rough patches. Wheres cycling can remain pretty constsnt, even when hill climbing we can get into a constant breathing pattern. Also like the above poster says, you can't free wheel when running, so there's no chance of grabbing a few seconds to recover. I think running is harder than cycling, in my own experience anyway.
     
  12. Watoni

    Watoni New Member

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    I think it depends.

    I am not any good at either discipline, but I need to ramp up running much more slowly. As a cyclist I used to run once every six months or so. Due to a wrist injury (snapped RD)two weeks ago I have been running more. After 3-4 short runs I did a 10km trail run yesterday with about 1400 feet of climbing (1200 in the first 5km) and will likely do the full ten mile 2000+ foot loop tomorrow. Today I rode a 4.2 mile, 1600 foot climb on the bike (still can't get out of the saddle really), and while it was demoralizing to deal with the wrist discomfort on the bike, it felt about the same in terms of effort and much easier on the joints (even with the wrist pain).

    I'll report back after the 10 mile trail run and (if I can get the wrist sorted enough) a double century in about ten todays ...
     
  13. Ade Merckx

    Ade Merckx New Member

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    Crstal Palace Summer League 2007
    3, 4 Cat
    1. Jonathan Carnell, Addiscombe CC
    2. Bradley Butler, Evan RT
    3. Sylvain Garde, Addiscombe CC
    4. Oscar Challis, Dulwich PARAGON
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    Hurry Up and come back Matt. The mighty ACC are waiting. Back then you even beat a World Team Pusuit Champion - Joanna Rowsell
     
  14. ives

    ives New Member

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    definitley confusing me with someone else ;)
     
  15. taricha

    taricha New Member

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    Having been a runner when I was in peak condition and only discovering this biking stuff several years and pounds later, I can't really make an apples to apples comparison. What I can say is that ramping up from high school volume of 25-40 mi/week (I was actually a miler, not really a 5k guy) to the college level of 50-80 mi/week (the 5k/10k guys were double that) made my 5k times drop from high 17s to high 16s. But the way it happened was not what I expected. My breathing became surprisingly fast. During my first 5k race after a couple of months at the higher volume my breathing was more what I would have expected from an anaerobic effort on the track, but was sustaining it without too much distress for the entire 5k. I can't tell you anything about my heart rate running (except I was a terrible hot weather runner), because we never trained by HR - always by pace and the breathing is such a dominant signal it drowns out anything the HR might be telling you. Breathing always seemed the obvious limiting factor, so much so that I never felt HR the way one does on a bike.
     
  16. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    I think running is harder then cycling especially the older you get.

    I started out running, in fact in 73 I broke my high schools record for the 100 meter and one of a few to break a 5 minute mile at 4:38...not a record at my school but close and about a 1/2 minute off the record for a high school student. My running was done with about 2 months of training and never really ran much before then. I continued to run for about 4 years after HS but not competitively.

    But I got bored with running because I wanted to run somewhere, like to another town but that would have taken hours; so I began to check out cycling and rapidly realized that I could easily ride a bike to another town and be back and still have much of the day left. So I got into cycling and racing and made it to a cat 3 level and did reasonably well considering no professional training and no time to train much because I worked full time and went to college full time, so time was extremely limited.

    I tried running recently but my old knees just don't want any part of it, but with cycling they love it and so do I.

    Now are you as bored reading this as I was of running?
     
  17. ives

    ives New Member

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    That seems more akin to my experience.

    I have an intuitive idea that running has more emphasis on the efficiency of the lungs whereas cycling ( at the low-level I was racing at, at least) seemed to place more emphasis on the heart and muscular strength. I think cycling seems to be a mix of leg strength and fitness so that if you are a physically strong individual with good muscular strength, this can to some extent at least, make up for a lack of pure cardio fitness, which it seems is what running is all about.
    These are only vague ideas I have based on my own experience.
     
  18. Froze

    Froze Well-Known Member

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    Lance, according to Chris Carmichael, has the best lung efficiency of anyone he has ever known or heard of. Carmichael believes that lung efficiency is genetic, thus anyone with superior lung efficiency like Lance will do better at any cardio sport like running or cycling then someone with average efficiency.

    In regards to the lungs or the heart working harder with running vs cycling I think is tie. I've done both and I can't tell the difference. Where I do tell the difference is that in running your using a few other muscles that cycling doesn't as much and vice a versa! go on the web and look at photos of pro runner legs verses pro cyclists legs and you will rapidly tell that each sport uses different muscles more then another.

    Cycling is more efficient form of workout because you can travel a lot further in the same space of time that it takes to run while being less damaging on ankle, knee and hip joints.
     
  19. kspain12

    kspain12 New Member

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    to be honest...i think that they both even out...because in race situations the distance makes up for the use of "mini breaks"....running the 4:20 mile that i did in highschool two years ago was one of the hardest things i have ever done in my life...UNTILL...i jumper right into a 50 mile ride with an experianced friend...at the end i was equally exausted...and glad it was over...
     
  20. JoshuaFinch

    JoshuaFinch New Member

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    I found it harder. I was a runner through HS and picked up cycling my sophomore year in college.

    The first thing I noticed was an inverse relationship between the lungs and legs. While running, my legs never became tired before my lungs did. Cycling, however, was totally different. Sometimes it won't be until about 20 miles into a ride before I realize that I'm not concentrating on breathing. OTH I really notice my legs when they are drained. There are some days when I wake up and know that it would be a good idea to ride less- just from the legs alone.

    I also think it is harder because of the injury problems. I had to basically give up running the summer before my senior year in HS because I developed chronic tendinitis in both of my ankles. The few races and practices I went to were excruciating. Even a year later I couldn't run but three days straight before my ankles began to kill me again.

    So, I picked up cycling. I enjoy it a lot more because 1) my stomach doesn't feel like its turning over after a long ride, 2) I can "go places" and 3) because breathing is easier, I find it more appropriate to converse with other riders on rec rides.
     
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