Home Run Spinning is the Best Cross Training for Runners

Spinning is the Best Cross Training for Runners

by Hazen Kent

One of the wonderful features of triathlon and triathlon training is the natural exchange of physical benefits between all three components: swim, bike and run.

If you were to pick up any athletic magazine off the rack, such as those specifically focusing on running, cycling or swimming, you will find that many of the tips, strategies and suggestions appearing in the “Cross Training” section of these periodicals are typically performed by triathletes on a daily basis.

While thumbing through my file of articles clipped from my collection of sports magazines, I came across on little nugget that I thought may be of some interest to those of you involved in the sport of triathlon. The article, taken from Runners World Magazine (Rick Niles, June 1992) discusses “spinning” on a bicycle and the effects of this training method on one’s running pace.

Sounds interest…but what is spinning?

Great question. “Spinning” refers to pedaling the bicycle at a high cadence, using higher gears, with little resistance.

Hmmmm…ok, then what the heck is cadence?

Again, a great question. “Cadence refers to the number of revolutions a pedal makes when the bicycle is in motion and is measured on a per minute scale. For example, if you are traveling on your bicycle at a cadence of 110, your pedals are turning at a pace of 110 revolutions per minute. And a high cadence is synonymous with “spinning” on the bicycle.

How does spinning benefit your running?

Well according to Rick Niles, spinning can actually make you a faster runner! This relationship between spinning and running lies on the hip rotation, specifically the relationship between cadence and the velocity of your hip rotation in degrees per second. For example, an individual pedaling at a cadence of 90 or 90 rpm’s, is rotation his/her hips at a velocity of 220 degrees per second. This is equivalent to a 6:45 per mile running pace. For those of us in the “average” running department, a cadence of 70 is equivalent to about an 8:00 minute per mile pace.

Cycling will also benefit muscle development in the legs. According to Niles, a pedal stroke requires more muscle power than a running stride. Thus, if you ride regularly, you will increase the size of your leg muscles. For an elite runner, this may have a negative affect on running speed.

However, for an average runner, the added strength may increase knee stability without compromising running speed. The bottom line: replacing easy running days with cycling can increase your running intensity on your hard running days (such as your speedwork days). Therefore, you will improve your running speed on less mileage. Pretty cool huh?

This may also act as a replacement for running if recovering from a running related injury. Below is a cadence/running equivalency chart. Because everyone’s stride is different, the equivalencies will vary, but the chart is fairly accurate. If you are interested in measuring cadence, you will need to purchase a bike computer that offers this feature.

CadenceMinute/mile Pace
60 rpm8:30 pace
70 rpm8:00 pace
80 rpm7:45 pace
90 rpm6:45 pace
100 rpm5:45 pace
120 rpm5:00 pace
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