Cross over of cycling training to running


Interested in people’s thoughts on this question.

If I do no running all winter but faithfully follow TT plans would my running fitness levels lift as a side benefit?

From starting point of some cycling this summer and pretty much no running all year. I could prob run a 5k now in 28 mins.



Running fitness would probably benefit a little bit. But part of running fitness is being durable to the demands running puts on your body: ligaments, tendons, joints, that kind of thing. I’ve known strong cyclists to take up running and get injured very quickly because while the engine was there to go fast and far, the body just couldn’t hold up to the impact.

Anecdotally strength training helps with that durability, and previously running a lot helps quite a bit (the durability is slow to grow but slow to decay too), but I’d recommend running regularly with steady, modest increases in duration / distance in order to build and maintain the durability needed to run.


The bike can and will keep you fit but unfortunately it will not make for a efficient and faster runner without running.


Running translates better to cycling than vice versa. As had been mentioned the durability needs for running aren’t always there. Some high level athletes in other sports can do a pretty fast 5k with very little run training but that is a relatively short distance.


I always thought it was the other way round.


Me too.


Nope. Cycling can prepare the aerobic engine well. But the load and impact on the body from running is a very different animal. The cycling motion offers little to no benefit to the running motion.

Runners can make an easier transition to cycling with overall fitness.


My experience/ n=1 has been that cycling aerobic fitness carries over to running much more than running aerobic fitness carries to cycling. I’ve PB’d 10km and 5km, within Sprint and Olympic triathlon never mind as a standalone race, at times when ITB issues have meant no running.

However, my experience has also been that there’s a danger of using cycling aerobic fitness to do too much running, too soon. Basically the load and impact issue others have pointed out.

I actually think this was covered in the podcast last time (or maybe the time before) they were in Kona, when they interviewed Talansky?


Thanks all for theresponses. Looks like if I want to do any sprint Tris next year I’ll need to cover some ground…

MAF running for me I think. I tend to not suffer the frustration otbers do, of having to run slower than I naturally want to!


For people who’ve been running for a long time, cycling fitness definitely carries over to running.
Your heart and lungs don’t care what your legs are doing.

But, cultivating a strong running base takes years, and I’ve seen many cyclists who swtich to running suffer because of their high aerobic fitness. They have a tendency to push too hard and can easily end up injured.

As has been mentioned on the podcast many times, cycling fitness can be maintained on minimal volume, and the same is true for running. But the key word there is maintained, not improved.


I couldn’t have said it better.


Thanks again.

What about this for a tweak to the original question - If I was to try and do even just two MAF paced 30mins runs per week over the winter - would this return decent bang for buck (ie related to time committed) and is this the right kind of running to build the leg strength required for sustainable running efforts?

I’ve can identify with having previously had an aerobic base from cycling that outweighed my ability to run. Ie lungs could propel me faster than my legs could cope with on runs and would end up slightly injuring myself.


The reason I said cycling does not necessarily translate is because I just went through this myself. Sure I can run because I have the fitness but no way to my full potential. I was a obsessed runner for the last 5 years and tried many training methods including MAF from the Big Book of Endurance 80/20 and Jack Daniels. Race PRs in 10 miler was 60:xx minutes, 5 miler in 29:xx and I broke into 17min. for a 5K. Then I switched all my energy to cycling the first of this year and basically dropped my running besides a 3 miler here and there. My Zone1/Zone2 and “MAF” Pace isn’t all that much slower from before cycling but I’m probably lucky if I’m a 19:xx 5K runner right now. I lost efficiency and speed. A 10 mile race would be slow and painful, plus 5 miles takes a toll on me now but 5 miles used to be a recovery run for me. So sure if you have a run injury then cycling will maintain fitness to a point but to actually gain run fitness? IMO not going to happen. I am convinced my Vo2 has increased from the bike. I feel it’s because I can push so much harder and recover much faster on the bike


on another angle, there are actually running programs that incorporate cycling or “cross-training”, a program called FIRST. Their approach is 3 runs and 2-3 cross-training days. (see Run Less Run Faster; by Pierce et al. from Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training, Runners World).


Not being in any way a triathlete - if I’m doing a mid vol plan now and thinking of doing a high vol plan next - when would I run? As in on what days? I do my cycling sessions in evenings. Currently 5 cycling sessions per week and would move to six on high vol.



If you are talking about following a high volume cycling plan I think you’ll need to decide to a degree what your priorities are. You’ll struggle to genuinely train for a triathlon riding a high volume cycling plan with the training balance that’s needed.

If you are essentially a cyclist who is just looking to do a sprint triathlon of course you’ll have the fitness levels to do that. If you want to properly train for it that’s a different question.

I’d echo all the comments regarding being careful about increasing speeds and volume. I’ve known a good few cyclist whose aerobic abilities far outweighed the strength of their knees.

Regarding the two MAF sessions any running is better than none and I’d do them on the day your not cycling and include a run off the bike on one of the other days


That sounds sensible. Could run Monday when not cycling and do a short run after say Wed or Thursday evenings OTB.

You’re right - primarily very much a cyclist who would enjoy the fun of doing a few sprint triathlons with friends.



Just a personal anecdote about running after exclusively cycling. A few years back I did the run portion of a duathlon with my wife, who rode her bike. I had done literally zero running, I think both legs (5k each) were done at around 22.5min. Aerobically was ok, but I paid the price with soreness afterwards. It’s such a different muscle recruitment and you really need that if you want to be a runner and not hurt like I did lol


Just consider what a runner has to overcome, learning to pedal efficiently. Once a runner has that down their threshold pace in m/s will typically translate in to w/kg on the bike. It would take a lot more running training to get the cyclist up to a threshold pace to match their w/kg.


I came into TT’ing and triathlon from running and that sounded like rubbish to me until I worked it out :flushed: