How effective is cycling versus running as exercise
Replies: 7 - Last Post: Apr 25, 2007 1:18 PM Last Post By: maenad
Apr 20, 2007 2:13 PM
How effective is cycling versus running as exerciseHow effective is cycling versus running as exercise?
I used to be a competitive marathon runner (best time of 2hrs 30 minutes) but now, because of some arthritis in the hip, can do very little running - but I suffer no problems on the bike.
How do you compare time on the bike with running, for example. In running if you do a 30" mins run at a brisk pace, that is considered a good workout for fitness purposes.....but I notice cyclists go for hours, and not all of them look thin and fit.....so how effective is it?
The Tour de France cyclists look very fit, and you never see anyone with excess weight there. But if you cycle for 20-40 minutes a day, how many calories do you think you can burn? I push the envelope when I cycle, especially uphills, so I try for quality over quantity, because I come from a running background, where 1 hour per day is good enough for high standard results. You have to remember, runners are limited because of the trauma induced, but cyclists don't have that problem.
In swimming, for example, the forumula is to mulitiply the distance you swim by 4 to get the running distance equivalent. For example 1500 m swim is equal to 4 times 1500 m = 6000 metres (run) How about in cycling?
I usually like to cycle hard on hills for about 20 minutes, and feel good after than, and do it twice a day. How many miles do you think that is equal to in running? For your information, when I used to run competitively, I used to train about 1 hour a day, with 1.5 hours on weekends, and sometimes 2 hour runs on Sundays when training for marathons. I used to cover 50-80 miles a week in running, usually anwhere from 8-12 miles a day.
And last of all, which exercise do you think is more effective for general fitness - cycling or swimming? I usually swim 3-4 times a week, covering 1500-2000 meters in the pool, breastroke style, with times of 35.40 average for 1500 breastroke, and 48 minutes for 2000.
Thanks for any information.
vo2max in Korea
Apr 20, 2007 3:07 PM
Apr 21, 2007 4:35 AM
Funny you should ask this question as it is one we've been thinking (and talking) about quite a bit lately. We are both competitive runners (I am a triathlete) in our early 40's who have been cycle touring for the past eleven months.
After three months of cycling down the west coast of the U.S. and running only on our off-the-bike days we noticed a significant change in our body types. Most obvious was our quads which became larger. And so did everything else! So we rested for a month and focused on getting ourselves back to running shape before setting out to Asia.
Now, after six months of cycle touring in Asia (running nearly every off-the-bike day) we will once again take an extended rest from the bike to focus on regaining our running form as we prepare for the next leg (China, Tibet, Nepal, India).
A few things we've noticed that may not pertain to every cycle tourist but was a topic of agreement with several tourers we've met recently.
-It is far easier to gain weight (mostly muscle) while cycle touring even when cycling an average of eight-ten hours a day. It may have something to do with an absolutely insatiable appetite and the fact that the bike is carrying your weight, rather than your body frame as when running.
-It is rare when cycle touring to really push to the 80-90% exertion level that runners routinely work to when doing speed work. It sounds like you are pushing yourself on your bike and I believe this is key to maintaining the kind of conditioning you are looking for.
-Cycling for many hours in a day while carrying a heavy load works the slow-twitch muscles fibers but seems to ignore the fast twitch. I believe this has a lot to do with the change in body type. High intensity workouts spur the pituitary gland into action, causing it to release unusually large amounts of a human growth hormone (HGH). Human growth hormone builds muscles, repairs bones, nurtures ligaments, and heals tattered tendons. HGH also tends to increase fat metabolism and spare lean tissue (muscle), improving body composition and overall muscular power.
Also, regarding swimming: This morning I did my first swim in six months at a lap pool here in Bangkok. A thousand meters nearly killed me.
Apr 22, 2007 5:35 AM
Apr 22, 2007 11:52 AM
4I swim breastroke because I find the crawl difficult to master, but I am able to master the breastroke style. I can usually cover each 50m portion in breastroke in about 1:00-1:12 for 2000m, and am often passing 'fitness swimmers' who use the crawl!
I also really like the feel of the breastroke, using a good push with the legs each time and arms in unison.....it is a fabulous stroke if you master it properly. I had a swim coach show me how. The objective with breastroke is to 'glide' under water (like a torpedo) as long as possible with your arms out front and straight.......
VO2max (now working as a lecturer in Korea)
Apr 22, 2007 12:22 PM
5I'm not a fitness expert but....
The key thing, as you note, is that cycling is a non-impact sport, so they body reacts very differently than in running. To use cycling effectively for fitness, you really need to use a heart rate monitor, its the only way of knowing if you are getting the most out of your riding, fitness-wise. I know that the first time i used one i got a shock - on my 'fitness' rides (i.e. rides i was doing to lose weight and get a little stronger, as opposed to rides i wanted to do just for fun), i was riding at a much lower pace than needed to get into the standard 60-80% HRMax aerobic zone. Quite simply, i was cycling too slow - this is the primary reason why a lot of very keen enthusiastic cyclists can still be quite fat - i've met several big mileage riders who are downright obese, much to their constant despair.
Cycling pattern might also have an effect - fast 'spinners' are likely to be slimmer and less muscular than big ring 'grinders'. Think post-cancer Lance Armstrong vs 'big' Jan Ulrich.
In terms of fitness, i found this article to be quite useful in planning my rides. Its nice and common sense, and avoids the macho nonsense you get from most fitness advisors.
The 'standard' textbooks on cycle fitness tend to say that you need to ride for at least 40 minutes at a good constant pace to have any benefit, and to do 2 hours on the saddle for a 'proper' fitness ride. Most of us just don't have time for this. But this interesting article indicates that intensive intervals can be a very effective substitute. I've talked it over with a few people more knowledgable than I am and they agree that it works very well (I've tried it out and can confirm that it really works), but its usually not recommended for people as it is hard on the body and any heavy interval based training schedule has a huge drop out rate for non-competitive riders. If you want to use intervals on your day to day rides on your bike, perhaps you might want to consider stripping the gears off, and turning it into a singlespeed. Its much easier (I find) to push hard for 30 seconds+ intervals when you don't have gears to help out! Riding singlespeed is also a lot of fun.
BTW, a good source of information is the 'training' branch of the forum on cyclingplus.
You are aware i assume that the breastroke is known to be very hard on the knees? I understand its not recommended now for a lot of people for this reason.
Apr 23, 2007 2:27 AM
6the longest stint of cycling i've done was around 8 hours per day for 3 months, when i was 23. i put ON about 4 kilos. a lot of it was muscle, mainly of my lower back, butt and thighs. if anything my calf muscles became smaller (in normal life i walk a lot) but ignoring the increase in muscle-mass, i also developed a bit of a tummy. I put that down to the fact that I was eating about 3 times as much per day as in my normal life, and sitting on an upright bike doesn't work your abdominal muscles too well.
the really funny thing was though, if you looked at the group of us cycling, all us girls got bigger and developed little tummies, and all the boys wasted away until they were wiry scraps of their former selves - nothing but lean muscle and bone.
changes to shape aside, i imagine we were all equally fit by the end of the trip, and i imagine our fitness level was pretty high, but it happened gradually so it's hard to tell.
Apr 25, 2007 1:18 PM
7I second what nette says. Whatever the benefits of biking may be, don't forget that it doesn't work out as many muscles as swimming does. If you use biking, and nothing else, as your workout, you will be missing something.
Breaststroke is great, but a swimming coach I knew pointed out to me something really obvious that most people miss - that swimming for fitness and for speed are often not the same thing. For example, if you do flutter-kick with a kickboard held straight out, streamlined, in front of you, you will go faster. But for a good workout, hold it perpendicular and push against the water as you kick. You'll go slower because therer is more resistance - way better!
I mix strokes when I swim and the one that really works me the most - muscles and cardio - is dog paddle. Use your hands only as necessary to float, and take large strides with your legs under water (as if you are walking up stairs two at a time). You'll go slow but work yourself REALLY hard.
:) Mix the dog paddle up with some professional-looking front crawl, though, or no-one at the pool will want to talk to you.
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