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You might think that to run faster, you must run more. Although adding mileage can improve your running efficiency and stamina, it can also burn you out mentally and physically. You can improve running strength, power and endurance by including cycling cross-training workouts. Riding a bike regularly can make you a faster runner by discouraging injury, expediting recovery and enhancing your aerobic capacity.
You cannot become a faster runner if you are sidelined with an injury. Running more miles to become faster leaves your joints and muscles vulnerable to overuse. Although running is an excellent form of exercise, you use the same muscles over and over again while neglecting others. Cycling enables you to fit in exercise to challenge your cardiovascular system and build your VO2 max - the ability to use oxygen while exercising - without stressing out your joints. You also train muscles that complement those used for running, making you stronger, more efficient and faster.
Cycling offers an alternative to the вЂњjunkвЂќ run for recovery. A вЂњjunkвЂќ run consists of a slow-paced run intended to increase circulation and flush waste products out of your muscles. An easy bike ride can do this without making your muscles and joints incur more impact. Your legs get relief and may feel fresher for your next run, meaning you can go faster.
Running fast requires you to efficiently turn over your steps. If you ride a bike at a consistent, fluid cadence, this can translate to your running efforts. To build efficiency, shoot for a running cadence of 180 steps per minute, says Bill Pierce, the director of the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training in Greenville, S.C. If you cycle at a pace of 90 rpm, which translates to a 180-step stride rate, you train your legs to move naturally at that speed.
No matter how much you love running, doing the same exercise day-in-day-out can become mundane. Breaking up your weekly workout routine with a bike ride or two can keep you mentally fresh for the days you do run. A fresh mind makes it easier to hit certain tempos.
How often you ride a bike as cross-training depends on your goals and preferences. For a weekly routine that includes three focused runs, add in two days of cycling. Feel free to vary this plan, however. You might choose to cycle only once per week or to do an additional recovery ride at a very easy intensity on rest days. Instead of trying to match running miles with cycling miles, go for time. If you have a 30-minute recovery run planned, you might opt for a 30-minute bike ride instead.