3 ways to fit cycling into a running plan

Nicolas asks: I love to cycle, and I’m training for a few running races from 5K to half marathon this season. Do you have any specific cycling workouts that will complement my training?

If I had my way, all runners would include cycling in their training. Not only is it fun, but it gives your body a much needed break from the high impact forces of running, helps you actively recover and boosts running endurance in some athletes.

Here are three ways to blend cycling and running into a fun training plan.

1/ Train hard on the run and recover on the bike

If you’re a runner who is training with harder-effort workouts including long runs, speedwork, tempo runs and hill workouts, you can weave in two easy-effort cycling workouts weekly. Keep the resistance light for active recovery and to balance the stress load on your body throughout the week. It’s an effective way to increase circulation without impact, which can help speed the rate of recovery. Bonus: some runners find it much easier to cycle easy than to run easy.

A hard run, easy cycle sample week might look like this:

Monday: Speed workout - Red zone (Learn more about the different “zones” of effort here.)
Tuesday: Recovery ride 30 to 60 minutes - Yellow zone
Wednesday: Tempo or hill workout - Orange zone
Thursday: Recovery ride 30 to 60 minutes - Yellow zone
Friday: Easy Effort run - Yellow zone
Saturday: Easy long run or race simulation run - Yellow to Orange zone
Sunday: Rest day

READ: 5 cross-training activities to suit any running goal

2/ Train hard and easy on both the run and the bike

If you’re looking to mix up your routine and spread the higher quality workouts between running and cycling, you can play with the cycling intensity a bit more. This works well for those who love to run and cycle, enjoy a variety of workouts, and are looking for ways to improve performance and fitness without more impact on the body. This is one of my favorite recipes for runners who are injury-prone or do well with fewer runs per week: It boosts their performance and motivation and aids in optimal recovery on the runs.

A balanced run and cycle sample week might look like this:

Monday: Speed or tempo workout - Orange or red zone
Tuesday: Recovery ride 30 to 60 minutes - Yellow zone
Wednesday: Easy effort run - Yellow zone
Thursday: Sprint, hill or tempo ride - Orange or red zone
Friday: Easy effort run 30 to 40 minutes - Yellow zone
Saturday: Easy long run or race simulation run - Yellow to orange zone
Sunday: Rest day

READ: Cross training Q&A

3/ Train easy on the run and hard on the bike

If you’re primarily a cyclist who is looking to add in some running races to the mix (or simply make friends with running), you can train with easy effort running workouts to allow your body to adapt to the impact forces and use your cycling workouts to train for fitness with higher intensity orange and red zone workouts.

A hard cycle, easy run sample week might look like this:

Monday: Speed or sprint intervals cycle workout - Red zone
Tuesday: Easy effort run 30 to 45 minutes - Yellow zone
Wednesday: Hill or threshold cycle - Orange to red zone
Thursday: Easy effort run 30 to 40 minutes - Yellow zone
Friday: Recovery ride 45 to 60 minutes - Yellow zone
Saturday: Easy long run - Yellow zone
Sunday: Rest day

READ: Cycling to recovery

Whether you are looking for active recovery workouts, you want to boost your fitness, or you want to mix up your program, cycling is a runner’s best friend. It will be there for you whether you need a pick-me-up or a slow-me-down.