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Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....(25 posts)

Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....10kman
Dec 1, 2003 3:21 PM
Hey all,

Recent injury issues have me wondering if I should convert to full-time cycling. I have been a long-distance runner for many years, half of my life pretty much. But, have been cycling for a longer time, but as a hobby, not as my competitive "thing".

Have made a pro/con list to each thing, but some are questions, and figured I'd post.

Pros to running:

Know a lot about it
Better workout in less time
Cheap and easy to do (just need sneaks)
Can do it year round without a huge issue (weather)
Lets me eat like a horse and still lose weight

Cons to running:

Tired all the time, even with rest
What is going on with my joints, will I be crippled by the time I'm 40?
Injury factor (not saying I won't get injured cycling)

Pros to cycling:

Like it, always have
Get to see more stuff during a session
Like to tinker with bikes and parts

Cons to cycling:

Need a bike to do it
Have to travel with bike if I go visit parents, can't carry other stuff with me easily (live in city, take trains)
Expensive over time?
Will I stay AS fit as I am now?
Will I get fat?
Winter riding for me is tough, I have been frost-bitten, will I get bored during winter on a trainer everyday?

I guess that's the jist of it all. My main deal is the winter riding, and if it's going to affect my training. I can run pretty much anytime, even in snow, but road-riding in the snow/ice? Hmmmmm.

Some of the items are lifestyle changes that I could make. I could always get another bike for another location, if I'm not going to be home. Not a huge deal really. Just an expense......

Thinking outloud pretty much. If anyone has anything to contribute, feel free.....


re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....TNSquared
Dec 1, 2003 3:37 PM
I have been a "serious" distance runner for around 15 years, and about a year ago picked up cycling because I found myself motivationally challenged and my running really was suffering.

at least for me, cycling does not keep the weight off like running, and it doesn't seem to be nearly efficient as running in terms of fitness gained per minute or hour exercised. on the other hand, i never experienced anything in running nearly as exhilarating as a twisty 40+ mph descent, with the possible exception of a certain left hand turn onto Boylston.

unless you're in an extremely cold climate, i'm convinced the proper clothing and tires can get you through a cycling winter just fine.

don't know if it's a pro or a con, but the equipment aspect of cycling is also fun for me. i already own three bikes and a bunch of tools so i can do my own maintenance and repairs. running shoes are bought, used, then donated - boring.

in the end, both are highly beneficial and positive activities with far more pros than cons. even if you shift emphasis, I'd continue both as soon as your injury will allow a return to running.
I'm getting back into running after a long layoffColnagoFE
Dec 1, 2003 3:50 PM
Used to run a lot in college and high school. Up to 10 miles a day. Ran the 2 mile in track and also cross country. Long story short. I injured my ankles and gave up running. Got married, got fat, then had a kid. Decided it was time not to be fat so I picked up cycling again to lose weight. Now a good number of years later I'm considering doing an Olympic distance triathlon. I'm also really limited for time lately and 2+ hour bike rides are not as easy to fit in as 1/2 hour runs are. One thing I notice is that running beats me up much more than cycling. Shoes are a lot better today than when I was running a lot so hopefully I can prevent the same injuries I had earlier. And finally that I can't recover as quickly as when I was 18.
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....10kman
Dec 1, 2003 4:31 PM
Yeah that's the thing, I don't know if I feel like running much more. I have sorta lost motivation, and I'm not even overtrained.

I was run down late summer, then took off like a month, came back slow, am up to a measly 70 miles a week, and am working on a nice stress fracture (i'm waiting for the key run where it'll just snap and i can officially be injured).

I have been cycling/building bikes for many many years, so the maintenance is fine with me.

I guess I could just run when I'm at another location than home, but that could take away a nice weekend ride.
Scratch a few cons ...Humma Hah
Dec 1, 2003 3:48 PM
Expensive? More than sneaks, for sure, but I'd bet an awful lot of runners spend more on running than I do on bikes: traveling to events, and entry fees, for example. And doctor's bills add up fast to more than top-end bikes cost. And you don't have to have a top-end bike ... on travel, almost any old rented or borrowed bike can provide a fine workout, and will make you appreciate your nice bike at home all the more.

You will stay as fit as you want. You can burn as many calories as you want. Few people can run 12 hours a day, but even I can ride that much on a bike, burning something like 500-600 calories per hour. And interval training, via hillclimbs and sprints, can really give a hard workout.

Among serious cyclists, a very large fraction, I'm guessing 1/3 to 1/2, are former runners who switched because of the joint damage running caused.
Scratch a few cons ...10kman
Dec 1, 2003 4:36 PM
I figure about the same for the cyclists that are former runners. Even the great Lance used to run in his younger years.

Your statement about staying as fit as I want isn't entirely the case. I do have to work, which means I am limited already on the amount of time I can train. That's true for many people though, there are limits. But, I can keep about 2-3 hours a day free for a ride (weekday), but would need a light for this darn time of year for night riding.

And, I could always throw in some light running to make up for lost riding time, etc. I'm sure many people do that.

Thanks for all help everyone, keep ideas/thoughts coming, much appreciated
You can have it all!dzrider
Dec 2, 2003 8:12 AM
I ride much more in the warm months, saving running for rainy days and days when there is less available time. In September I start converting to mostly running, commuting by bike a few days a week. By November, I can finish a trail marathon. They aren't mutually exclusive. I think my cross training is one of the reasons I'm 56 and have had so few injuries. Another is that I don't compete at either, just like doing long runs and rides.

Cycling doesn't have to be expensive and if you set time standards for yourself can be as tiring aerobically as running. Just find a stretch of road that you expect to ride in a certain amount of time and keep lowering the time. Eventually you'll sit up and gasp at the end.
Add in nordic skiing...zero85ZEN
Dec 1, 2003 4:00 PM
...either on snow or on roller skis. Best full body workout you can get without being in the water.
The injury rate for runners is 100%Kerry Irons
Dec 1, 2003 4:57 PM
And this from a guy who "only runs in airports." For many (most?) people, cycling will be much kinder to the body and can truly be a lifelong exercise. However, there is no reason to be exclusive to a single exercise. You can run some days and ride others - such cross training reduces the risk or severity of overuse injury. A lot of people say they can't get the workout on the bike that they get running, but this statement can be challenged. Running an hour at 6 minute miles burns roughly 1000 calories, and you'd have to ride at roughly 24 mph to expend the same amount of energy. Both of these are very intense efforts, and most cannot achieve this. However, if you were willing to take an extra 10 minutes for your riding, you'd be riding at about 22.5 mph - still intense but more within reach. This is a LONG way from the example given by one poster comparing a 30 minute run to a 2+ hour run. In short, you don't need much more time cycling than running to get the same workout. In most locations, if it's too cold to ride then you're going to have snow, and should consider XC skiing as a winter alternative. Also, a well set-up roller system (fans, music, video or reading stand) will allow you to get cycling workouts all winter, build your skills, and come into spring without having to "break in" your rear end. Be flexible, and it can all work out easily.
Question for the runners here; and one for cyclistspurplepaul
Dec 1, 2003 6:08 PM
Is running on a treadmill easier on the body and, therefore, less likely to cause injuries?

And which is more boring, running or riding indoors?
Question for the runners here; and one for cyclistsharcourt
Dec 1, 2003 6:33 PM
I run all winter on a treadmill, and it is easier on the body because any deck is softer than pavement, even my Trotter 535. I watch TV while running so time goes by fast. Too me, boring but definitely bearable. Just got my first trainer, so I can't comment yet.
Question for the runners here; and one for cyclists10kman
Dec 2, 2003 5:21 AM
I have only used a treadmill a few times, it just doesn't feel right. I like being able to move around more. It's just a personal gripe though, I'm sure I could deal with it if I had to.

I think using a trainer is actually more boring though, you pretty much stay still the whole time and just pedal. When the treadmill is used, you are moving around a bit more and have to actually pay attention to where your feet are landing. Trainers are *almost* idiot proof......

But, if you make something idiot-proof, they'll just make better idiots, so either way.....
It depends alot on the treadmill and how you use itTNSquared
Dec 2, 2003 8:10 AM
as you'd guess, any treadmill is a harder surface (and therefor presumably harder on the body) than a dirt running trail. what is surprising is that some treadmills, predominantly in the less expensive consumer models, are harder than ashpalt. if you are using a treadmill at a reputable health club, the treadmill is likely to be of good enough quality that this is not a concern, but be wary of cheaper home treadmills.

another aspect that makes a treadmill harder on the body is the lack of variation in the terrain. running on a precisely flat surface uses the same muscles and tendons in exaclty the same way over and over and over, as opposed to any natural surface which tends to undulate and move the stress points around. treadmill running is actually harder on the body in this respect and can lead to an over use injury. if you run alot on the treadmill, changing the degree of incline periodically throughout your workout is important.

however, i found the treadmill to be a valuable tool in developing marathon specific pace. i used it only once a week, and would run up to 2 hours at my goal marathon pace. all the rest of my running was split between the road and dirt trails. the treadmill can be boring, but for whatever reason I find riding indoors immensely more boring than running on the treadmill. perhaps this is because it is the sense of speed associated with cycling that i really enjoy, and you lose that on a trainer or rollers no matter how fast you are spinning.

i'd rather be outdoors, but any workout anywhere beats sitting on the couch.
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....bianchi boy
Dec 1, 2003 6:00 PM
I used to run primarily and cycle for cross-training. Injuries finally took a toll and I had to quit running. Cycling is now my main exercise. I think you can get as much exercise cycling as running, but it takes more time. A lot depends on how hard you train. If you're putzing around at 12 mph, you probably would need to ride 5+ miles to get the equivalent workout to running 1 mile. However, if you're riding hard with sprints and hill climbs, it's probably more like 3 miles biking to equal 1 mile running.

Cycling is much more expensive than running, hands down. However, all of the equipment is one of the fun things about cycling -- despite Lance's assertion "it's not about the bike." For most cyclists, it is all about the bike.

You are more dependent on the weather with cycling, but that depends a lot on the clothes and other gear you own. I live in NC and ride year-round with few issues. About the only time I don't ride is during snow and sleet. I generally won't leave for a ride if it's raining, but will keep riding if caught in the rain. With some good tights, jacket, gloves, and basewear -- there's no reason why you can't ride all winter unless you live in an area with a lot of snow or very cold temperatures.

With running, it's just a matter of time or miles before you get injured. With cycling, you shouldn't get injured unless you crash or your bike isn't set up properly.
Do bothbiketillyapuke
Dec 1, 2003 7:00 PM
I run ultra marathons as well as cycle. Just last week I did a 36 mile run. I also have never had a running related injury in 20 years on the road. If you adhere to these simple rules you will never get injured.
1) Never run through a minor injury.
2) Take twice the time off you think you need.
3) Never make up mileage that you missed
4) Never run for more that 3 days in a row.
5) Always remember it is REST that makes you stronger, not the workout.
That said, for my patients I always suggest cycling. The main benefit to cycling is the simple hours. While it might take me 5 1/2 hours ok or so to do 36 miles, I have to take the next two days off to insure that I don't get injured. A 5 1/2 hour cycle is nothing to the folks on this site. And, they can do it again the next day. Cycling is that gentle on the body. Plus if you can hook up with a good crew it can be a social thing as well.
As far as cost. Who cares? You can buy a cheap bike w/105 or even Tiagra, it is the engine that matters. The thing is this is a long term investment in your health.
Where I live health club membership is around 100-150 a month. A bike winds up being a great deal cheaper.
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....lemonlime
Dec 1, 2003 9:25 PM
You've overtrained. Even if you think you're not burned out, clearly you have motivation issues and discouraged by your injury. I don't know you, but I know lots of runners and we're mostly the same - in a word: obsessed. I would guess you've had some nagging aches for a while and had been running through them until...surprise!'re injured.

Take time off to get your body right. Cycle when you can and hit the pool. Do some water running. When you're better, incorporate more cross training into your schedule.

You mentioned 70 miles weeks - that's very commendable, but unless you make your living running, your fitness will not appreciably suffer from halving your weekly mileage.

As for $$, I just paid a tad under $2K for my first road bike. I've been running for just over seven years now and still havn't spent that much in shoes, shorts, etc...

I think you would greatly miss running if you gave it up. Maybe not right away, but eventually you would.
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....Juanmoretime
Dec 2, 2003 3:30 AM
I have to agree with lemonlime about being overtrained. 70 miles is a bunch. I've logged as high as 90 mile weeks running although my PR marathon times were when I was both cycling and average 50 miles a week. All 8 of my marathon's have been sub 3 hours and have run under 2:45 three times.

I find a balance of both is the best thing for me to do, this way when I travel for business, I just bring my running gear and run. It's hard to give up either activity since I have some great friends from each sport. Monday thru Friday I train alone. Saturday is a group ride of anywhere from 45 to 70 miles and Sunday is a long run with anywhere from 2 to 10 friends and we usually go 12 to 16 miles.

Find a balance and enjoy both.
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....10kman
Dec 2, 2003 5:26 AM
Nope, not overtrained at all. 70 miles per week is nothing to me, I have been over 120 when training for marathons.

I'm not an "average joe" runner, I have run under 2:25 marathons and under 1:10 half-marathons, and carry a sock sponsor. It has taken me years to build up to this mileage.

If I cut my mileage in half, I would not be anywhere near the fitness needed to be a good runner, except maybe in a 5k, which isn't gonna happen, I have no legspeed.

Would I miss it? Who knows. I could find out though, but do I want to do that is the question.......
re: Convert from running to cycling, my pros/cons.....tarwheel
Dec 2, 2003 6:19 AM

Back when I was a "serious" runner, my weekly running mileage was much lower than you. A high week for me was perhaps 60 miles and most weeks I ran about 40. Yet I was able to run a 3:25 marathon my first time. Not close to your standards, but I'm not particularly athletic or built for running.

I am convinced that the only reason I was able to train for and complete a marathon was due to my cross-training. My legs, ankles, shins, etc. could not stand the pounding from running every day. So I typically ran 3-4 days a week, cycled 1-2 days, and swam 1-2 days. Cross-training will keep your aerobic fitness high, yet allow your legs to recover from the pounding they get while running. Cross-training also helps you avoid burnout by mixing it up.

I am tempted to start running again 1-2 days a week because it would probably help my cycling and avoid burnout from doing that so much. However, I'm not sure my 50-year-old body can handle it anymore. My feet are very flat and got pretty messed up from running.
If you are not burned out, keep running.....TNSquared
Dec 2, 2003 8:36 AM
the real question is whether it is the activity itself you would miss, or is it the high level of competition you've apparently become accustomed to? with the times you claim, you are very close to the US Olympic Trials qualifying standard, if you haven't already made it. I don't know how anyone could walk away from that unless you are truly burned out.

you have achieved a very high level of fitness, and as you said it has taken years. that level will be extremely hard to regain if you truly give up running for a significant amount of time, even if you pick up another activity. crosstraining through an injury, on the other hand, may slow you down temporarily but should not cause a big setback in your running career.

if you are not overtrained or burned out, you need to ask yourself why you are really talking about giving up running. it doesn't sound like you've had a history of injury problems, and there is no reason to think at this point that you won't recover from this one fairly quickly.

I'm nowhere near the runner you are, and I have missed it sorely over the last year or so. I'm also quite a bit older than you, but every time I take off significant time from running I find it increasingly difficult to get back to my top level of fitness.

so it seems to me that what you should be asking yourself is whether or not running at a nationally competitive level is still important to you. you can always return to running, even at your previous mileage, if you find out you miss it. however, returning to your current level of competition may be much more difficult.
If you are not burned out, keep running.....10kman
Dec 3, 2003 5:37 AM
I am very close to the marathon trials, that was a goal of mine, but I don't think I have enough time to "practically" achieve that goal this time 'round. I'd have to devote all day/night to training, which isn't an option, I have to pay my bills.......

I have had a few injuries in my past, 2 stress fractures mainly, everything else I have run through (stupid stuff like tendonitis, etc.). Nothing that would classify me as "injury-prone", but enough of an annoyance that it stops training momentum for the season, even with cross-training.

It's just that cycling has always been more fun to me, but I don't know if I'd end up thinking "wow, i'm not in as good of shape as I was when I was running", which would kill me.......
Tough call.....TNSquared
Dec 3, 2003 9:43 AM
If I were 24 and that close to qualifying for the Trials, I'd have a very difficult time walking away. However, I understand the realities you are facing, and it sounds like you may feel like you've put as much into that goal as you can. Maybe focusing on cycling for awhile will give you some time to sort things out and see where your heart is. You could always focus on the next Trials if you find that you're not done with running.

I suspect that Kerry Irons is correct that *if* you can make yourself work hard enough on the bike, you can get as much fitness benefit on the bike in close to the same amount of time, but that has not been my experience thus far. I find that I simply cannot work hard enough on the bike to achieve the same fitness in the same amount of time as with running. There are too any opportunities on the bike to coast, draft off others, etc. and the reality is it is very difficult to keep pushing all the time. You may do much better in this area than I have, but if limited training time is a concern, I'd offer that for most people it is very tough to get the same level of fitness without cycling for more time than running. That said, the right ratio of running and cycling might allow you to keep a high level of fitness without increasing your training time.

I'd also suggest that you consider what you find "fun" about each (which you may have already done.) Like you, I have found cycling to be more fun than running. The speed and smoothness of motion are way more enjoyable than endless footplants into the pavement, and I've been a runner for two decades while cycling is still new to me. Still, the fun part of running that I haven't been able to find in cycling is the immediate availabiliy of competitive events. In my area there simply aren't very many bike races (although our new club president is working to change that), whereas running events are held virtually every weekend. Racing I miss sorely. You may be able to get into the bike racing circuit in your area, but if you love competition I'd be sure to check into the racing scene in your area. On the other hand, it sounds like a break from competition and the associated pressures may be just what you need, so keeping your cycling non-competitive could be the ticket.

Good Luck, whatever course you take.
One thing you will notice....superdog
Dec 1, 2003 9:43 PM
If you decide to cycle exclusively for an extended period of time, and then try to switch back to running, it will be difficult.

Several of my college teammates did this, including me, and the pounding of running felt ten times worse than I could ever remember when running exclusively.

You should continue to run some. I tried to get back into running again but it hurts too much. I think I'm "stuck" with cycling.

One other thing... If you ran a lot of road races in the 10K to marathon range, you are probably used to competing with your heart rate pegged at a constant rate all the time. In a bike race, it's a lot different. Your HR will fluctuate (is that spelled right) quite a bit depending on your tactics and what the pack is doing. Very different.

Time trials seem to be the next closest thing to running a road race.

BTW, where did you race and what age group are you in?
One thing you will notice....10kman
Dec 2, 2003 5:30 AM

I race pretty much in PA, and am 24 right now. I ran through high-school and college, and was on a few state champ teams while in high-school (oh how i love that ring).

I can deal with the HR fluctuating like you said, I figured it would, my HR recovers VERY quickly now from a hard effort. I have pegged my HR at close to max before, and within 10 seconds had it drop considerably while I start to catch my breath.

I am not sure if i'd race road or MTB though if I did this, i'm leaning towards MTB, and use the road bike for training rides.
do both, then add swimming..dotkaye
Dec 2, 2003 1:59 PM
that's my strategy..

There's no evidence at all that running is bad for your joints, in fact the reverse is true - old runners have less osteoarthritis than the general population. On the other hand, my experience and that of many other runners is that beyond a certain point (probably age-related), injuries happen so often and take so long to heal, that consistent training becomes impossible. I still run as much as I can, but I'm usually managing one of my plethora of old injuries. I can bike and swim to happy excess without any problems, so I do that instead. I'm a lot slower than I used to be (41-min 10k instead of 33) but at least I'm still running. Without the bike/swim I'd be even slower. Typically will run more in winter than in summer, because I hate indoor workouts.

Cycling tends to produce fewer overuse injuries, but has the potential for really spectacular traumatic injury.. figure that into your calculations.