How Your Indoor Cycling Classes Can Make You a Faster Runner

How Your Indoor Cycling Classes Can Make You a Faster Runner

Believe it or not, indoor cycling can improve your running form.

By Team PelotonUpdated 22 April 2020


We all know that practice is the key to greatness. To support that tried-and-tested theory, it makes sense that a runner would practice by, well, running. But like anything else in life, it’s also a good idea to add diversity into your day-to-day exercise routine. Luckily, incorporating indoor cycling classes into your weekly schedule can reap major benefits for runners, whether you’re a pro, novice, or somewhere in between.

The overarching reason is quite simple: By mixing in cycling classes with standard runs — either on the Peloton Tread or on the road — you’re amping up your cardio, endurance, and strength through cross-training. Not to mention that indoor cycling is a low-impact workout, allowing your body ample time to recover from hours of pounding on the pavement (or treadmill). Even — well, especially — if you’re in the midst of training for a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or marathon, you can mix up your training plan by hopping on the Bike for a change of pace, scenery, and intensity. Along the way, follow these running tips to improve your overall speed and stamina.

Indoor cycling classes nurse running injuries, and prevent future ones.

Following a run-heavy workout regimen makes anyone — even a marathon-trained runner — prone to injuries. The impact of running simply puts unavoidable stress on your hips, knees, and ankles over time. Consider cycling a form of active recovery: While on the bike, you’re able to take time and pressure off your joints and focus purely on amping up your resistance, picking up speed, or simply having a good time. This, in turn, gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from one run to the next, flushing out lactic acid, improving blood flow, and reducing general muscle soreness.

“When training for a race you train for the specificity of performing in the strongest way as a runner. In the specificity phase I wouldn't suggest that a runner spend too much time on the Bike as you are using different muscle groups as your main source of power,” says Peloton Tread instructor Becs Gentry. But if you’re simply running for fitness or maintenance, you can keep making cardio gains that will support your overall progress. It might be the greatest running tip of all: Know when you need recovery. A low or medium intensity bike ride gives you time for your body to recover from any soreness, while still keeping everything moving and grooving while you prepare for your next run. In fact, the steady and repetitive cycling motion actually aids with muscle and joint recovery by loosening up any tight joints and flushing out any lactic acid that the calves, quads, glutes, and hamstrings need to fully repair.

Indoor cycling classes let you connect with your body in a new way.

In Ben Irvine’s book Einstein & the Art of Mindful Cycling, he compares the relationship between a person and their bike to “the feeling you might have for a much-loved dog.” And while your bike might not offer the same level of love and affection as your real-life Pelopup, it’ll surely inspire you when you’re having an off day. Merely by showing up, your Bike will help you explore uncharted territory, whether it’s an entirely new way to move your body or simply a new Peloton instructor to get your blood pumping. “In evolutionary terms, humans have an innate desire to explore, to boldly go. I think there’s a psychological reward that comes from satiating this desire,” Irvine writes. “What’s more, when you’re running, you’re far more limited for distance and speed. On a bike, you can cheat time.”

It’s a surefire way to increase your overall endurance.

Sure, you can switch up your running routine by jogging or walking before you sprint, but here’s an important, sometimes forgotten running tip: Your lower-intensity workouts and active recovery can be separate from your daily runs. Indoor cycling classes are one of the best options for low-impact exercises, which means you can actually spend more time on your bike than running on the road. Preparing for a triathlon? Consider a slow, steady ride for at least an hour to boost overall endurance without hurting your muscles or joints.

There are several other ways to practice this slow, stamina-building approach. Brick workouts, which are popular with triathletes, can be tailored to meet your running goals. If you have both a Peloton Tread and Peloton Bike handy, consider kicking things off by biking a designated number miles for every mile you run, or setting a similar ratio for time, like 90 minutes on the Bike for every 30 minutes of running. Of course, you can increase or decrease the overall mileage as you see fit or your training plan dictates. And if speed is the name of your game, find indoor cycling classes that heavily rely on all-out sprints with short periods — 1 or 2 minutes — of active recovery. While more intense than standard cycling workouts, these intervals are really aerobic exercises in disguise. Not only do sprint intervals spike your heart rate, but they help your body burn lactic acid quicker, so you can exercise (in your case, run) for a longer period of time before feeling fatigued.

Cycling results in major leg gains.

As a runner, you might think that you already have strong legs — and you’re probably right. Hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves are most runners’ major power sources to help them cover ground, which means those muscles have to be strong enough to go the distance. During indoor cycling classes, on the other hand, as long as your pedal stroke is on point you’ll build additional quad and gluteal strength as you power through steep hills, fast sprints, or whatever else your instructor throws at you. With regular workouts, you’ll soon have a new set of muscles in your arsenal that you can lean on when your hamstrings, hip flexors and calves reach exhaustion. Your quads and gluteal muscles are a much-needed complement to the ones you use first for running, ultimately making you a stronger runner. Over time, ensuring that you’re putting these muscles to work can actually improve your overall time on track.

This is especially helpful if you feel like you’ve hit a plateau after years of running. By supporting your core running muscles with increased strength in the surrounding muscle groups, you’ll see major gains — and bursts of speed and strength during your next race.