How to Use Indoor Cycling to Get Better at Running

How to Use Indoor Cycling to Get Better at Running

Even if you love getting that runner’s high, training for a race by only running might not be the best choice, both mentally and physically.

Cross-training can be a fantastic, low-impact way to increase overall training volume, recover, or work through injury,” says Megan Roche, MD, a running coach at SWAP Running. “It can also help prevent mental and physical burnout from the consistent stimulus of running,” she says.

So if you’re looking to switch up your routine, indoor cycling and running are a perfect match! According to Roche, indoor cycling is a low-impact, cross-training option that runners can use to supplement their weekly runs. Roche lets us in on the benefits of indoor cycling and details training plans that can help you integrate cycling into your running routine.

Maximize your results on the bike with the heart rate training of the MYX II Bike! Shop your home studio here.


Why Choose Indoor Cycling?

cycling trainer shaun on openfit set

Indoor cycling has plenty of benefits, such as boosting your cardio and aerobic capacity and building lower-body muscle. These benefits can definitely support your training for your next marathon or 10K. Most importantly though, indoor cycling is a top exercise for runners that won’t add more strain to joints, and it gets the body moving in a more gentle, fluid motion.

Roche specifically recommends a combo of indoor cycling and running for her clients who are new to running, building back from injury, have a history of long-term injury, or are over the age of 40. For more advanced athletes, Roche incorporates easy indoor cycling as a PM activity after a morning run to get the blood flowing and promote recovery.

“I’ve found that many athletes look forward to cross training days, especially with new indoor cross-training options,” says Roche.

With an indoor cycling plan, you’ll be working different muscle groups, which can add more athletic balance for runners and can translate nicely to uphill or downhill work, Roche says.


Balance Easy Rides and Intervals

For an active rest day, opt for purely easy indoor cycling workouts. They can be a great recovery tool and an easy way to boost aerobic fitness. If you are looking to really use indoor cycling as a cross-training tool, Roche recommends interval work.

“Short intervals with short recovery can be a strong way to reinforce the neuromuscular demands of running with higher-end aerobic fitness or VO2 work,” she says.

On a non-running day, choose interval classes and aim to keep your RPM efforts in the 90 to 110 range, which can mimic the neuromuscular demands of running, says Roche.

She suggests:

  • 15 rounds of 30 seconds of fast pedaling and 30 seconds of easy recovery
  • 12 rounds of 1 minute of fast pedaling and 1 minute of easy recovery

Need more guidance or specific programming? Whether you’re looking to recover or train hard, Openfit cycling classes give you extra structure so you don’t have to wing your workouts.


Build Strength with Longer Rides

women in indoor cycling class

Roche also layers in longer cycling efforts that focus on tempo and aim to build strength. “With the longer efforts like these,” she says, “I often encourage athletes to think about an effort on the bike that they could hold for about one hour. I find this helps athletes cue into the overall goal of the workout.”

Roche suggests these workouts for her runners:

  • 4 rounds of 5 minutes at full speed with 2 minutes at an easy recovery pace
  • 3 rounds of 10 minutes at full speed with 2 minutes at an easy recovery pace

However, Openfit’s heart rate-based technology can help provide more precise, real-time data on your performance, letting you know if you’re going too hard or too easy.

Aim to add in a cross-training workout one to two times a week. You could do one on a non-run day, and double up on another for some serious training.