Bike To The Future

Become a fitter and faster runner with our bike sessions training programme.

Posted: 20 August 2008

Cyclist© Getty Images

Going for gold on the track comes easily to the British cycling team. If their exploits on two wheels have inspired you, try this four-week training plan to compliment your running. The bike sessions will enhance your cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen more efficiently to working muscles and provide a break from the pounding of running. Ride on days when you’re not running, or have an easy running day scheduled. You might not win gold after four weeks on the bike but your running will enjoy an injection of pace.

The four weeks break down as follows:

Week 1: Easy does it is the key this week.

Week 2:
Increase your ride duration and throw in some harder efforts – intervals, moderate hills. Include some longer rides at the weekend.

Week 3: Add substantial threshold intervals – climb steeper hills, ride at a brisker pace – and throw in a spirited group ride, while making the other longer day easy.

Week 4: Include a ride or two with some VO2 Max work. Try two sets of 3 x 3-minutes at an effort of nine on a scale of one to 10 with three minutes’ rest between intervals and five to 10 minutes between sets. Or climb for three to six minutes. Add a group ride this weekend and take the other day off or ride easy. If you’re not feeling up to going hard, skip this intense session.

Week 1
Fun, EZ ride
Fun, EZ ride
Fun MTB or road ride
Week 2
Short, EZ ride
Fun, moderate ride 
Short, EZ ride
Long endurance ride
Short, EZ ride
Week 3
Moderate ride
Short, EZ ride
Moderate ride
EZ to moderate group ride
Long, EZ ride

Week 4

Intense option
Short, EZ ride
Intense option
Hard group ride
Short, EZ ride

The Key:

Rest: Complete relaxation.
Sightseeing pace.
MTB: Mountain-bike ride.
EZ: Active recovery and endurance pace; social.
Tempo/sublactate threshold.
Intense: VO2 Max, group ride or short, all-out efforts.
Up to one hour.
Medium: Two hours.
Long: Three hours.

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triathlon training, triathlon running, triathlon bike, triathlon fitness

Discuss this article

This article [Bike to the Future] starts with:

Ride on days when you're not running, or have an easy running day scheduled.

... before going on to set up a schedule involving five bike rides a week! Even triathletes without a job to go to would have trouble scheduling in this little lot. This isn't a cross-training plan - it's how to swap sports!

I work cycling into my week as cross-training, along with swimming, gym, yoga and Pilates, and it is indeed very useful - it is especially good for hill-training. But this schedule is unhelpful, to say the least.

Posted: 29/08/2008 at 10:03

I cycle to and from work when it's convenient (6.5 miles each way) and to go shopping at the weekend and I'm convinced that it has helped my running to improve. However, I don't have a schedule as I cycle when it's convenient - which averages at 3 or 4 times a week over the year. I'm not sure that the RW schedule is helpful - it might be more helpful to have a discussion of the effect of cycling on different muscles etc.
Posted: 29/08/2008 at 11:36

I cycle to work every day (6 miles a day) and then a bike session once a week as a X training day. Don't think I'd have time to run if I followed the bike schedule. Be good to follow if you were injured and can't run though!!
Posted: 29/08/2008 at 14:24

Unsurprisingly that article is a total rubbish.    Within 4 weeks of taking up cycling it's asking you to do 2 VO2 max workouts and a hard group ride plus a couple of easy rides within a week - and that's as cross training!    
Posted: 29/08/2008 at 16:50

I would like someone to produce a schedule for running training which includes the bike, cardio in the gym and resistance training as well as the running all in one. I am new to running and all the running schedules I follow leave no room for much other exercise and as a newby I can't cope with much more exercise than a running schedule offers. I agree that this bike schedule doesn't leave much time for anything else too.
Posted: 01/09/2008 at 07:57

Whoaw!  If you are a duathlete then cycle session would be effective if you could combine it with running during 'brick' sessions (ie. 15 mins cycle, 10 mins run x 4 for example).  The other thing to mention, would be to try to cycle in a low gear  but at a high cadence (pedal turnover), to simulate the fast footstrike/leg turnover that you would be aiming for during your run.  Otherwise, have you tried running straight after a bike ride?  Your legs are heavy and feel that they belong to someone else!

All the major leg muscle groups (glutes, quads, hams, calves) are strengthened during cycling, providing that the correct technique is used - push down and pull up - this is often overlooked and means that you are underworking your quads/glutes (especially if you don't have cycle shoes).  Anyway, I could go on, but I won't (I coach triathlon,  so I understand the benefits of using cycling to improve your running and vice versa, but this session could be quite intimidating for runners who don't cycle much)!  

Posted: 01/09/2008 at 08:46

I wouldn't say pulling up on the pedal is correct technique - the only study I've read suggests all the pros do is take the weight off the pedal rather than actively pull up - in other words lift their foot up.   
Posted: 01/09/2008 at 10:35

I see what you mean, but what you are actually aiming for is an even force through the whole pedal motion.  Difficult to explain, but easier to demonstrate if you are cycling while linked up to a Computrainer, which shows your pedalling efficiency and power output. 

For instance, a program called Spinscan can show you exactly how much power is exerted during the pushing down phase and the upward return.  If you just lift your foot, you are not  enabling much power unless  you were already pedalling correctly, with the heel pushed slightly down to begin with (with reference to your comment, pros will cycle with their heels already pushed down and so will automatically be pulling their heel up on the return).   Many inexperienced cyclists will cycle with the soles of their feet only in a horizontal position when pushing down and even possibly flexed slightly upwards if wearing trainers, which are not as rigid as cycle shoes.   Their scan would  be 'peanut' shaped,  because all the effort (and power) is coming from the downward push.  Once the pedalling motion,  and power, is more evenly distributed, then a circular shape is shown. 

The main point here though, is that if cycling is to be used in the context of improving your running, then all the major leg groups need to be worked effectively with not all the emphasis on the push phase which works mainly the front of the leg and not the back. 

Posted: 02/09/2008 at 17:46

Spinscan schminscan... Did Merckx have such technology ?

Just ride the bike and it will come. I see theres no mention of cadence though ? Most beginners overgear and push bigger gears at 60rpm - I'd ask them to work on cadence before trying to baffle them with getting the right technique.

I seem to remember the comic analysing 4 pros styles, and they were all different - so I dont really think it makes too much difference anyway.

I'm not convinced that after 4 weeks a novice could do a hard group ride though ? We need a guinea pig to test this out ! Any volunteers ?
Posted: 02/09/2008 at 17:55

Yes - I agree re. cadence....I mentioned it in my first post.  Low gears and at least 90rpm if poss. (try to match the pedal cadence to run/leg turnover - count how many footstrikes per minute if you don't already know) or dead legs will follow....  

Generally though, even experienced cyclists might find this program hard never mind novices! Re. guinea pig...are you offering as I haven't got the time to fit this all in and a couple of runs as well!

Posted: 02/09/2008 at 18:04

Yeah go on Cougs,  they need a real novice to check this out   
Posted: 02/09/2008 at 18:07

Hmmm - if I rest up much more - I may count as a reborn novice !
Posted: 02/09/2008 at 18:19

This really looks to be more than you average runner could include in a week of mixed training.  i have been cycling much more seriously since FLM2008 and trying to rest a heel niggle (Plantar Fasciitis) that I nursed through the marathon.  Even being a full time cyclist (with 1-2 swims per week) I don't think I can keep up with this schedule.  Compared to running, the Short/Medm/Long sessions are double the time you would run for the equivalent effort.  My cycling is based on one long group session (with others from my run club luckily), one or two shorter harder efforts, and one medium ride each week.  I try to keep my cadence up to 90 (even bought a Cateye bike computer to show me the accurate value) but find this rather hard and the pedalling technique is variable.  I become aware of just pushing down, start to improve it and then fade back - all within 10-15 minutes.  I can't believe your average runner can do all this in 4 weeks.  I'm still at it after 5 months and need more improvement to hold my own in the bike section of the 4 triathlons I have entered.   
Posted: 22/09/2008 at 13:38

hi sharon taylor 3, I'm wanting to take up triathlon next year, my swimming has improved and my running is ok, just a bike question really, by low gear do you mean a gear when your legs are going round fast?? I cycle every day but just to work so its a plod. I'm going to start a bike workout where I run striaght away after. any advice would be appreciated. thankyou.
Posted: 22/09/2008 at 14:05

Yes low gear in an easy gear - legs spin fast, good for hill climbing.
Posted: 22/09/2008 at 14:51

cool thanks for that.
Posted: 23/09/2008 at 13:04

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