Winter is fast approaching – in fact, tonight’s temp is supposed to drop below freezing. As a cyclist, many things about the cold seasons work against you. Windy days are doubly so on a bike. Less daylight means less safe riding time. Wind chill is enhanced by our travel speeds. Too many tasty baked goods piling onto our mid-sections. So what’s a cyclist to do? Diversify.
Running is a common choice for cross-training, and a lot of Team Superior riders start riding less and running more as the Autumn running schedule kicks into high gear. So, I figured why not? With almost 3,300 miles under my wheels this year, how hard could a few miles on my feet be? Yeeeahh… that was stupid.
Cycling works the legs a lot. But it’s an extremely low impact sport compared to running. When you run you work quite a few of the same muscles, but they’re worked in far different ways. For example, the tendons around the ankles – what a difference! In cycling, you don’t flex your feet very much. In running, they’re constantly flexing and extending. After my first run, my ankles felt like someone had taken my legs apart, lost the instructions, and put them back together. And like anything bought from Ikea, there were leftover parts that just got thrown away. Nothing seemed to work right.
Things got better on my second and third runs, and I’m hoping they’ll continue to improve. One difference I did notice already was on my last ride. I still felt sore walking and jogging, but cycling felt pretty good (other than unclipping – my ankles did not like that), and I actually felt like I was riding stronger, engaging muscles I don’t normally use. Could be it’s just placebo – a hope that this cross-training thing isn’t just painful for pains sake. But I don’t think so.
A few things to note for those cyclists who are newbs to running like myself. First, I found there is no coasting. If you stop running, you stop moving. Ain’t like on a bike where you can coast for a bit to get your legs back. Flats, downhill, uphill – it’s all the same. You move your legs, or you stand still. Second, try not to hammer out of the gate. The range between your high and low speeds is a LOT smaller on foot, which means it’s a lot easier to jump right up to your higher cadence and hold there just long enough to run outta juice early. Third: buy good shoes!!! The first run I did was in these old hiking sneakers – talk about stupid. If you can spend tons of money on cycling, you can spend decent money on a pair of nice running shoes.
Lastly what I’d say is, as much as there are some pretty big differences, there are a lot of similarities. As with cycling, a big portion of running is mental. If you’ve been doing long distance cycling you’ve been working for hours at a time on things like relaxing your body, maintaining an optimal rhythm/cadence. Stilling your movements and centering yourself. Little mantras running around in your head to keep you focused. These things translate excellently to running.
With my first official running event coming up – the Tulsa Run – time’s short. I have three or four more training runs to extend my furthest run of 5.5 miles to 9.3 miles. Am I over-reaching? Eh, most likely. But you know the saying: play hard, or go home.