Pedal to Run Fast

By Doug Katona, Spinning Master Instructor

Me run? Are you nuts? I am a cyclist—cyclists pedal. Runners run. It’s that simple—at least that’s what I used to think several years ago. But now that I have taken up running, I think to myself, “how can I get my 5K time under 18 minutes?” The cross-training benefits from cycling to running are great and the Spinning program has been the “X factor” in reducing my run times. If you’re a runner, you may even benefit more from the Spinning program than might a cyclist. Want to run faster? Spinning classes will do the trick.

There are more similarities than differences between running and the Spinning program. Cadences are similar. The training approach is mirrored. Power output is a major indicator of performance. And both are extremely functional in their fitness application.

“There is no question the Spinning program makes you stronger without the impact,” says Thomas Miller, multi-sport coach and nine-time Ironman competitor. “I did three TransRockies (a sort of Tour de France on foot) with 30 percent less mileage than the other top-level competitors and I was still climbing with the best of them. The Spinning program has been my secret weapon.”
Recent studies have shown that cycling can improve 10K race times by nine percent and 5K times by three percent. Do the math. That’s often the difference in securing podium placement or not (kind of like cycling).

And what about injuries? Injuries seem to limit runners’ performance potential much more than cyclists. Studies show that for every 1,000 hours of each sport, cycling sees about half the amount of injuries compared to running. Fewer injuries leads to a longer career.

One of the most significant points is the functional component that the Spinning program provides the pavement pounder. Just like in Spinning classes, the more resistance you can handle, the stronger you are. When you run at higher volumes or higher intensities, it often means more impact or more recovery needed. The Spinning program provides structured interval training to increase training loads with shorter recovery windows. Plus, Spinning classes will strengthen muscles needed for running without the compression impact of running.

I wrote a blog on the Spinning Community site in March and talked about the effect cadence has in relationship to foot strikes. The more efficient you are with pedal cadence, the more powerful you will be in cycling. Running is very similar. The less time your feet spend on the ground, the better. Studies have shown a correlation between pedaling at a high cadence and running at a high cadence. The results show that the shorter your contact time with the ground, the less chance you have for injury.

Spinning classes also provide additional base-building opportunities for runners. You can ride for 45–60 minutes while maintaining a stable heart rate without the obstacles of outdoor terrain change, climate or other non-stabilizing forces. Just like cyclists, runners benefit from time trial efforts and Spinning classes give the runner a stable, consistent training environment.

One of the most undervalued benefits might be the fact that you can improve as a runner without running! You get to enjoy some music, see some different faces and still get a heck of a training session.

Spinning classes just may be the key to unlocking the secret of running faster without running—5K anyone?

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