You’ve injured yourself and you need to stop running to recover – but don’t want to lose your fitness. The good news is a low impact option is cycling when injured running. With the advent of spin bikes, stationary cycling can actually be quite fun. If you are training on your own you might have to be creative to prevent stationary burnout. High quality stationary cycle trainers are getting more reasonably priced as they become more popular. Another option is to use a wind or turbo trainer – which you mount your current bike to for a great stationary workout.
Road or mountain biking are great ways to enjoy the outdoors but if you are not accustomed to this type of training it may be more difficult to maintain a target training level. A heart rate monitor can be helpful to stay in the training range you are shooting for. Cycling does not challenge your heart rate as much as running will so if you are not using a heart rate monitor you will need to go a little harder to get the same cardiovascular workout.
If you are recovering from injury, consider keeping resistance lighter to avoid strain on the knees. Seat position should be such that your knee is just slightly bent when the foot is at the furthest point of the down stroke. Try to keep the knees in line with the feet; a slight circular deviation is normal. Cadence should be between 70 and 90 revolutions per minute depending on your cycling experience.
Stationary cycling can allow you to decrease your running distance during a recovery period and maintain your fitness. Researchers conducted a study on collegiate female cross-country runners during their recuperative phase of training. The “run training” group continued their weekly running volume at a decreased intensity. The “cycle training” group decreased their mileage 50% and cycled for the equivalent amount of time and at the same reduced intensity. After five weeks both groups performed a 3,000 meter run. The “run training” group slowed 9 seconds and the “cycle training” group slowed 22 seconds. The ability to use oxygen (VO2 Max) was unchanged between the groups. The time difference between the two groups was small enough that the researchers concluded that cycling could be an effective mode of training during the recuperative phase, especially when the benefit of reduced muscle and bone strain is considered.
If your body doesn’t tolerate additional run training then supplemental cycle training can provide improvements similar to additional running. Researchers at Purdue University reported that well trained runners improved their 5K times by supplementing their running program with vigorous cycling. Participants in the experimental group maintained their current running program and added two sessions of intervals performed on a stationary cycle and one session of moderate cycling for sixty minutes.