There are a few things that I didn’t know about running and cycling that I had to learn the hard way. I started out as a runner and I ran for the better part of a decade and I always had a problem with trying to recover between run days. I ran three days a week and I tried to push at least two of those. Before long I grew tired of hurting all the time so I dropped down to twice a week (one long and one short run). My Thursday (short) run was slow – I ran with a friend, and then I’d push on my Saturday long run. This worked great for about two years before I grew tired of running altogether. I needed a shake-up so I bought a bike and started training for triathlons. I added, almost immediately, to running twice a week, four to five additional days of cycling. Both run days were bricks.
All of a sudden, muscle recovery became pretty important. Unfortunately, I’m pig-headed and cheap so I had to figure a lot of this out without the aid of a coach…
Refueling the muscles after a workout (within a half hour works best, but no more than an hour after) is probably the most important tip I’ve picked up. A decent mix of carbs and protein. I don’t pay any attention whatsoever to actual numbers, grams and the like (though it does make a difference when you get it right), I just make sure I eat a decent mix of carbs and protein. If I skip the refuel, muscle recovery takes three times longer and when you’re exercising every day, recovery is a big deal.
2: Recovery Rides
After really hard running efforts, bumps in running mileage or after long rides I always go for a recovery ride the next day. I keep my cadence normal but I slow the speed way down and take it easy. After running, if I have time, I’ll ride immediately afterward and the benefits are amazing. I can literally recover from the run that day.
3: Running and Riding
Riding provides an excellent cross-train to running. I can run faster and longer because I ride on off days.
Hydration requirements on the bike are even greater than for running. I’ll go through a couple hundred ounces of fluids (or more) on a Century ride. Usually around 25-30 ounces per hour works well. Skimp on hydration at your own risk – dehydration will cause cramps, fatigue and more pain that you’re going to want to deal with.
Though a lot of people like to push water over so-called sports drinks (Gatorade or Powerade), I can’t limit myself to just water while I’m riding. I need the sports drinks. Two years ago while training for Olympic length triathlons my sweat stopped tasting salty. I didn’t know what was going on so I just kept training as normal (with only water). A week later my performance dipped pretty dramatically so I started thinking about what I might be doing wrong… That’s when it hit me: I wasn’t replacing electrolytes fast enough. Adding Gatorade balanced everything back out.
6: If you want to go fast, you have to train fast – but within reason.
There’s a delicate balance between training, racing and recovering. During the season (May thru October) I only take one day every two weeks off. This isn’t enough. I should probably be taking at least one or two days a week off but that’s just not going to happen – I like going out for my daily endorphin fix too much. That said, if I train wisely – mixing in recovery rides a couple of times a week with the hard efforts, I can manage quite well without feeling cooked. In short, I had to learn my balance.
7. Watch the caloric intake – this is not what you might think…
I am getting to the level of extreme cycling, though on the slim end of that classification. At almost 5,400 combined miles last year, I ride a lot. Riding and running this much burns up a lot of calories (a little over 280,000 or the equivalent of 80 pounds last year alone). If you have weight to drop, riding and running will do it in a hurry but when you’re getting close to your desired weight you have to replace those calories. If you’re riding and running 10-15 hours a week you can expect to have to eat quite a bit of food to keep your weight up. Fitness tracking software helps quite a bit – I use Endomondo which tracks burned calories along with everything else, but the most important thing I learned is that I have to eat. Generally speaking, this is a great problem to have. It’s a rare day that I’ll turn down a piece of cake during the season. Off season is a different story though. I don’t mess around with riding in the freezing cold, I ride on my trainer in my office four days a week and run once or twice a week as well. As such, I’m only burning through 11,000 calories a month instead of 30-40,000. Because of this I am much more careful about what I eat off-season. Again, this is about balance.
8. Diet, exercise and weight loss are all about balance.
I dropped a lot of hard to lose weight over the last couple of years by simply riding my bike for at least 50 minutes a day (much longer Friday’s and on the weekends) but this wouldn’t have been possible if I’d just tooled about for that time. I had to move. Also, I operated on a weekly deficiency of calories until I got to where I wanted to be. Not buy much, only a few hundred calories per week and I was still careful about refueling after each workout, but you can’t expect to lose weight if you replace everything. Also, I was “lucky” in one aspect of weight loss: I naturally eat small meals. This isn’t to say I didn’t overeat back in the day because I did, but when I decided to take responsibility for my weight, shrinking my meals down to where I could burn more than I ate wasn’t much of a struggle. This isn’t to say I didn’t have days where I wanted to pig out – I still do, but once I connected distance and effort to getting myself back to square, overeating became a lot less attractive.