Beginning Cycling for a Beginning Runner
May 17, 2014 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I am a beginning runner looking for ways to add cycling to my workout routine.

I've been running every other day for a few weeks now, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not in great shape but I am still seeing steady improvement. I'm on week 6 of the Zombies Run 5k* app and am jogging for 45 minutes per workout, usually going about 4 miles. I am training (very casually) for the Chicago 10k in August, and I have a 5k fun run / walk in a few weeks. My main goal is just to exercise for general heart health - I don't have any specific weight loss or speed goals.

I'm trying to run 3 times a week, but my shins hurt if I run more than every two days. I'd like to incorporate cycling into my exercises, since I know it's generally a lot easier on the body. I have a hybrid bike that I pretty much just ride for casual rides around town. Is there anything specific I should be doing when I go out and ride? Should I just try to ride 45 minutes or so on my non-running days? Googling "cycling for runners" sends me to articles like this that tell I should be cycling "hard"... but I'm not really sure what that means for me. Am I over-thinking this?

I do have a heart rate monitor, if there's any way I can use this to my advantage.

*Incidentally, I got back into running when I read this AskMe question by carbide.
posted by rossination to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Your shin issue is most likely due to running in the wrong shoes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2014

Can you elaborate? I bought my shoes a few years ago and haven't run on them very much (so I'm sure they're not worn out yet). I bought them at Roadrunner in Seattle with the little gait-analyzer thing on the treadmill (not sure if that means anything).
posted by rossination at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2014

Yes, I think you are over thinking it. Unless you plan on serious or competitive running I would suggest you just work recreational cycling into your off days. 45-60 minutes of cycling at 12-15 miles per hour while maintaining about 70%-75% of your age adjusted maximum heart rate ( roughly 220-your age=max heart rate). I would not assume at this point that your shin splints are anything but a normal response to your having started running only two weeks ago. You might try slowing your pace or walking intermittently. If the pain persists or is sufficiently severe to keep you from walking/jogging/running then you might want to follow up with an evaluation. Shun splints are usually self limiting. if you want to become a serious (other than fitness) or competitive runner then you are moving into another world.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2014

You write: "I'm trying to run 3 times a week, but my shins hurt if I run more than every two days."

I don't quite follow what "every two days" means. Do you mean "every other day," as in if you run on Monday, you can't run again until Wednesday? If that's the case, shin splints are probably just an indication that you haven't fully adapted to the stresses of running. Or do you mean "two days every week"? That might be a sign of a more serious biomechanical problem, whatever the cause.

As for cycling, the only real question I would have is how hard your running workouts are. If you find them intense, to the point where you can't speak in complete sentences while running, your cycling should be at an easier pace, the speed where you can easily talk to someone (or yourself). If your running workouts are moderate, you can do more intense cycling workouts, though a long slow ride is still a good idea every now and then.

If you're interested in becoming a faster runner or cyclist as efficiently as possible, or you want to build up your endurance to the point where you can run a marathon or cycle a century, you can look for books from people like Joe Friel, Jeff Galloway, Chris Carmichael, and so on, but if your interest is just general health, getting 30-60 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 4-5 days a week is perfectly fine. If your workouts start to seem too easy, pick up the pace a bit.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:24 PM on May 17, 2014

On the shins hurt thing, stretch out the backs of your calves before you run. As you run, the muscles in the back of your calves are going into some mild spasm causing the muscles in the front to have to fight them to flex your foot upwards as you run. It seems strange, but stretching the back of you calves will ease the shin pain. As your fitness increases the shin pain will diminish. If it starts up while running, just stop for a bit and stretch out the backs of you calves

I always add some biking to the plan once the snow melts in the spring. The muscles in your legs work differently on the bike. Uphill on the bike is going to require that you work a lot harder than anything you do while running. I suggest that you use a low gear generally and spin easy for a few weeks to gradually accommodate to the bike.

Have fun, be safe. Biking in the city is ++more hazardous than running.
posted by mygoditsbob at 3:59 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

when I started getting back into running, I found I had a lot of soreness in my shin area requiring me to only run every other day. As my legs got more used to the exercise, the soreness went away on it's own.

From reading Joe Friel -- one of the things he says about heart rate monitors is that your threhold levels may not be the same between different sports. So if you do a test running and find that you can easily run for an hour of good effort at 160 bpm, you can't then jump on the bike and assume that you can target the same heartrate.
posted by garlic at 11:11 AM on May 30, 2014

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