Monday, October 5, 2020

In My Footsteps: Running vs. Cycling

    Exercising is great for your body and mind. There really is no wrong way to pursue your own fitness. Everybody's path is different. Heavy strength training, yoga/Pilates, high impact cardio, all of these and more are great ways to turn your body into the best it can be. The cardio idea is one way to combine exercise with being outside and enjoying a beautiful day.

    For many years I was an avid runner. I ran dozens of races from 5K to marathon and logged thousands of miles on my legs. In the last couple of years I have shifted to cycling. Many people love to run, many love to bike, others prefer to walk. All of amazing forms of exercise. This here is a little compare and contrast between running and cycling for anyone wishing to attempt one, or switch from one to the other.

    The main difference between running and cycling is obviously the equipment needed. For running all one needs is a good pair of running shoes and you're good to go. The key word is 'good.' It is imperative when starting out running (or walking) to get fitted for proper shoes. Another helpful hint is to get your feet measured later in the afternoon. Your feet swell during the day from the normal pressure of being on them. Believe me, I was measured for a pair early in the day and ended up a full size smaller than was correct. This is not fun to find out when on a run in the afternoon and the shoes are so tight they cut off the circulation to your feet! Once you have the proper footwear you can get started running.

    When it comes to cycling the equipment getting started is more expensive. Although a good pair of running shoes can cost you upwards of $100, even a middle-of-the-road bicycle can go several hundreds of dollars. If you're looking for top of the line, now it gets to be close to $1,000. However with routine maintenance a good bike can last many years. Even if you take perfect care of running shoes you will likely need to change them at least once a year, likely twice if you put in enough miles. That's not to mention a helmet and perhaps lights and reflectors if you plan to ride at night. So running is cheaper overall.

Gillette Stadium Finish at the 50 Race 2016

    When it comes to burning calories there is a stark difference between running and cycling. I found in general that I burned about 100 calories per 3/4 mile of running. That's an approximation for my body type, about 165 lbs, it is likely different for you. The key to remember between running and cycling is that it's about a 3:1 ratio for calories. 1 calorie cycling is about 3 running. So you have to do about 3x the miles cycling to get the same calorie burn as running. However the nature of being able to coast downhill and switch to easier gears means you can go further on a bike with less wear and tear on your legs.

    This leads to the big one and that is the muscles worked and the overall effect of each on the body. I love running and cycling both, however cycling is clearly easier on the body than running. The pounding on the ground running can adversely impact your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back if your form is off. If you run 5 miles and take roughly 10,000 steps, all it takes is a handful of them to be with improper form and you can cause injury. Through improper running you can learn about muscles and tendons you never would know about unless you injured them. I learned all about the IT Band and hip flexors through injury. Don't let that dissuade you though, proper form and recovery make running a very worthwhile activity. There are many who run several marathons annually, and even do ultra-marathons which range from 35-100 miles!

    Cycling is easier on the joints however it is not without its potential for injury. It is imperative to have the seat adjusted to the proper height. It needs to be high enough so that your leg is nearly fully extended when at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Too high means the pressure is shifted to your knees and that will cause some pain. Cycling relies heavily on the quadriceps muscles and those tend to be the first to become sore during rides. Proper form and mechanics with your bike though can lead to countless enjoyable rides that double as exercise. There are also competitive races for cycling too.

    Both running and cycling are great ways to exercise. Each has their own pros and cons. Luckily you can rent a bike to try out how you enjoy cycling. You can also ease into running by walking and slowly jogging to see how your body reacts. No matter which one you enjoy more you can't go wrong by getting outside and doing some fitness-building cardio while the weather is still nice. Treadmills and stationary bikes are good in a pinch but nothing beats a track, field, bike path, or open road! Just remember to listen to your body, use proper form and equipment, and also stretch after!


My first eBook in 10 years, In Their Footsteps, featuring the interesting stories of Cape Cod's history, is on sale at

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