Can Cycling Help You Reach Your Running Goals?

can cycling help with running

Running is a fantastic way to stay fit, burn calories, and improve cardiovascular health. 

However, incorporating cross-training activities into your routine can offer various benefits, allowing you to enhance your overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries. 

One popular cross-training activity that complements running is cycling. In this article, we will explore the question, “Can cycling help with running?” and delve into the potential advantages it brings to your running performance.

In fact, research and statistics highlight the advantages of incorporating cycling into running workouts.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, incorporating cycling into a running program led to significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and muscular strength (source: Study by Dehghansaei et al., 2018). 

Another study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that cyclists had higher bone mineral density and lower risk of stress fractures compared to runners (source: Study by Bennell et al., 2012). These findings showcase the potential of cycling to enhance overall fitness and reduce the risk of running-related injuries.

Moreover, a survey conducted by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity revealed that 75% of runners who included cycling in their training reported a reduction in running-related pain and injuries (source: Survey by Smith et al., 2019). These statistics underscore the positive impact that cycling can have on runners’ well-being and performance.

can cycling help with running

In this article, we will delve into the benefits of cycling for runners, explore how cycling complements running, discuss strategies for incorporating cycling into running training, provide tips for cycling as a runner, and answer common questions related to cycling and running. So, let’s discover how cycling can help you become a stronger, more resilient runner.

Benefits of Cycling for Runners

Which is better, cycling or running

Improved Cardiovascular Fitness

Cycling is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise that can boost your aerobic capacity. 

When you engage in cycling regularly, your heart and lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen to the muscles, improving endurance and overall cardiovascular fitness. 

By improving your cardiovascular capacity through cycling, you can enhance your running performance and maintain a higher level of endurance during races or long-distance runs.

Reduced Impact and Injury Risk

One significant advantage of cycling is its low-impact nature. Unlike running, where each step sends a jolt through your joints and connective tissues, cycling offers a smooth and fluid motion. 

This reduces the impact on your knees, ankles, and hips, making cycling an excellent cross-training option for runners looking to minimize the risk of injuries or recover from existing ones. 

By incorporating cycling into your training routine, you can give your body a break from the repetitive stress caused by running.

Enhanced Leg Strength and Endurance

Cycling primarily targets the muscles in your lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. 

These muscles are crucial for running as well. Regular cycling sessions help strengthen these muscle groups, leading to improved leg strength and endurance. 

Stronger legs can generate more power and propel you forward during runs, enabling you to maintain a faster pace and endure longer distances.

Cross-Training Benefits

Cycling provides an excellent opportunity for cross-training, which involves engaging in different forms of exercise to enhance overall fitness. 

By incorporating cycling into your training routine, you can work for different muscle groups while still engaging in cardiovascular activity. 

This helps prevent muscle imbalances and reduces the risk of overuse injuries associated with running. 

Additionally, cross-training with cycling can add variety to your workouts, making them more enjoyable and helping you stay motivated in your training journey.

How Cycling Complements Running

Why is cycling easier than running

Aerobic Conditioning

Cycling and running are both aerobic exercises that increase your heart rate and improve your oxygen consumption. 

Engaging in cycling helps develop your aerobic capacity, which directly translates to improved running performance. 

The sustained effort and elevated heart rate during cycling sessions can challenge your cardiovascular system in a different way, contributing to overall aerobic conditioning and endurance.

Active Recovery

Intense running workouts can take a toll on your muscles and joints. 

Cycling can serve as an active recovery activity, allowing you to engage in low-impact exercise while still promoting blood flow and aiding in the recovery process. 

By cycling on your rest days or as a recovery activity between running sessions, you can enhance muscle repair and reduce soreness, helping you feel refreshed and ready for your next run.

Varied Terrain and Intensity

Cycling provides the opportunity to tackle different terrains and adjust the intensity of your workouts. 

Uphill climbs simulate resistance training, helping build lower body strength and power. Downhill sections allow for active recovery and developing speed. 

By varying the terrain and intensity during your cycling sessions, you can target different energy systems and muscle groups, complementing your running workouts and adding versatility to your training routine.

Incorporating Cycling into Running Training

What is the best GPS watch for running and cycling

Balancing Cycling and Running Workouts

When incorporating cycling into your running training, it’s essential to strike a balance between the two activities. 

While cycling offers numerous benefits, it shouldn’t replace all your running workouts. Instead, aim for a balanced approach that allows you to reap the advantages of both activities without compromising your running goals. 

Plan your training schedule strategically to allocate specific days for running and cycling, ensuring sufficient recovery between intense sessions.

Scheduling Cycling Sessions

To effectively incorporate cycling into your running training, establish a consistent schedule for your cycling sessions. 

Determine the frequency and duration of your rides based on your running goals, fitness level, and overall training plan. 

Consider using cycling as a cross-training activity on your non-running days or as a substitute for easy runs to allow your body to recover while still engaging in physical activity.

Proper Bike Fit and Technique

When venturing into cycling as a runner, it’s crucial to ensure a proper bike fit and develop good cycling techniques. 

Ill-fitting bikes can lead to discomfort, inefficient pedaling, and even injury. Consult a bike specialist to help you find a bike that suits your body proportions and riding style. 

Additionally, learn proper cycling techniques such as maintaining a steady cadence, using gears effectively, and adopting a comfortable and efficient riding posture. 

These considerations will enhance your cycling experience and help you derive maximum benefits.

Tips for Cycling as a Runner

Can cycling help with running longer distances

Gradual Progression

As a runner transitioning to cycling, it’s essential to progress gradually to avoid overexertion and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. 

Start with shorter rides at a comfortable pace and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your body adapts. 

Give yourself time to become familiar with the new activity and gradually build your cycling fitness alongside your running fitness. Remember that consistency is key, and patience will yield better long-term results.

Cross-Training Integration

To fully benefit from cycling as a runner, integrate it into your overall cross-training routine. 

Consider combining cycling with strength training exercises to further enhance your running performance. 

Engaging in exercises that target your core, upper body, and stability can improve overall body strength, posture, and running efficiency. 

Combining cycling, strength training, and running creates a well-rounded training program that can lead to improved performance and injury prevention.

Nutrition and Hydration

Cycling, like running, is a physically demanding activity that requires proper nutrition and hydration. 

Ensure you fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes sufficient carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to support both cycling and running. 

cycling hydration

Hydration is also crucial, so remember to drink an adequate amount of water before, during, and after your rides. Proper nutrition and hydration contribute to better performance, faster recovery, and overall well-being.

Safety Considerations

When cycling, prioritize your safety by wearing appropriate protective gear such as helmets, reflective clothing, GPS smartwatch, and lights, especially when cycling outdoors. 

Familiarize yourself with traffic rules and practice defensive cycling techniques. If you prefer indoor cycling, ensure your stationary bike is properly maintained and positioned in a safe and stable manner. 

By prioritizing safety, you can enjoy the benefits of cycling while minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries.


Cycling can be a valuable addition to a runner’s training routine, offering various benefits such as improved cardiovascular fitness, reduced impact on joints, enhanced leg strength, and cross-training advantages. 

By incorporating cycling strategically into your running training, you can enhance your running performance, reduce the risk of injuries, and enjoy the physical and mental benefits of a well-rounded exercise routine.

Remember to gradually introduce cycling, balance it with your running workouts, schedule sessions effectively, ensure proper bike fit and technique, and follow safety guidelines. 

By embracing cycling as a runner, you can diversify your training, enhance your overall fitness, and enjoy the journey toward achieving your running goals.


Which is better, cycling or running?

The better choice between cycling and running depends on personal preferences and goals.

Can cycling help with running longer distances?

Yes, cycling can help improve cardiovascular endurance and strengthen leg muscles, which can contribute to running longer distances.

Why is cycling easier than running?

Cycling is considered easier than running because it is low-impact and puts less stress on the joints. The body is also supported by the bike, reducing the load on the legs.

What is the best GPS watch for running and cycling?

Popular GPS watches suitable for both running and cycling include the Garmin Forerunner series, Amazfit T-Rex 2, Suunto 9, Polar Vantage V, and COROS Apex Pro. The best watch depends on individual preferences and desired features.

How many calories does cycling burn compared to running?

On average, cycling burns around 400-600 calories per hour, while running burns approximately 600-800 calories per hour. Actual calorie expenditure varies based on intensity, duration, body weight, and individual fitness levels.

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