Should Cyclists Run?

Today’s Ride

This is an interesting topic. I am inspired to think about this for several reasons. Firstly, I want to run and cycle so I need to ensure that I do each well and safely. Secondly, I am now about to hit double figures for running distances so I am ready to start alternating cycling and running days, mainly to spare my body the pain of daily recovery from an impact sport like running.

Why?

Well, I am not one of those gym bores who bangs on endlessly about targeting muscle groups and suchlike. If that is your bag then crack on but I don’t really envy you. I still love cycling with an indescribable passion, much more so than running or any other sport. I consider myself a cyclist first and hope that whatever else I do will contribute to my prowess on two wheels. That being said, it stands to reason that better runners will be better cyclists, and so I am experimenting with a complimentary approach. Right now I am at the beginning of collecting data and analysing patterns so this is all very new and with that in mind I have to remember several caveats.

  • I have a small data set gathered over only a few weeks
  • I am slightly over eight pounds lighter than a month ago
  • I currently cannot measure things like power whilst cycling

Clearly in future I will need power meter pedals, and a full suite of Garmin tools to measure everything. I will also be a great deal lighter by the time that comes around.

Okay, my bets are now hedged, so I can report early findings. Today I did the Crown Point circuit. I last did this exact route on August 30th this year so below is a chronological data comparison.

The difference is striking and glaringly obvious. In roughly 2.5 weeks have gained 1.4 mph in average speed over the same course. Below is the speed graph comparison from my Garmin Edge 1000.

The results are again obvious. I did not have a particularly fast downhill segment today – there was quite a headwind as it happens – rather I was just faster over the whole course. This suggests a major improvement in physical performance.

Reasons

Is it running that has generated such powerful results? Possibly, however I have also refined my diet from plant- based to whole plant-based. I do not count calories or macros as I have long been convinced that weight gain is caused not by calorie intake but insulin. My commitment to eating whole foods, low glycemic load meals and eating plenty in general means that I am likely gaining significant muscle mass at the expense of body fat. Eight pounds lost in under four weeks is no fluke.

Takeaway Thoughts

Right now several things appear to be working in my favour.

  • Eating a plant-based, whole food diet
  • Fasting at least 16/8, although I often try to reduce my feeding window
  • Varying exercise routines by type
  • Also, forgetting about how fast I run and running on trails that, whilst slow because of the terrain, I actually enjoy. This is better than pounding endless pavement trying to pick up speed and being bored out of my mind.

Clearly things are working. I am on target to be under 14 stones by Christmas, although there is many a slip twixt cup and lip so I am not treating that as a serious target. What I do know is that yes, I think that cyclists should run, and that fasting and eating whole plants rather than just plants is causing me to shed weight so quickly that I’d better be getting some new threads as Christmas gifts!

Approaching Double Figures, Ice Baths and Smoothie Bowls

My most recent two runs are below. I am making good progress. I also tried my first ice bath as an aid to recovery, and I screamed like a big girlie girl, especially when the water reached my nipples. In my defence it was so cold in there that it burned, however it seems to have been effective as my muscles are nowhere near as sore as they have been. This will be an interesting ongoing experiment. I will keep doing it to see what the effect is on my body. Right now I can tell you that it felt great afterwards. My whole body felt like my mouth does after brushing my teeth! Extreme cold exposure is linked to longevity and excellent health and muscles recovery so I hope that this will help me get fitter faster.

Strava Data

The eight mile one was agony but today I flew over a new route and trail. The first half was more or less nonstop climbing, but the second half was a beautiful trail. Photo below. You can see that my time vastly improved today, which is encouraging because I climbed a massive hill on the first half of the run.

Double figures for miles covered are imminent. I have my eye on a half marathon, then to pass my best ever distance, fifteen miles. Once that is done I am going all in to to complete a marathon-distance run.

Food

In the meantime I have been scoffing plenty of good food, recipes to come soon, and below are some lovely photos of my smoothie bowls. Be sure to check out my Instagram for more photos and recipes.

The Joy of the Trail

I may have said on here, about a million times, that I am not a fast runner. This is true, and today I ran a very slow seven miles, however I ran almost all of it off road, often hacking through vegetation and running through muddy, swampy terrain, mostly uphill, occasionally power walking when it became very difficult and thick in vegetation. Despite being pretty slow, I think I can endure a lot which bodes well for the future. Below are the distances from the last three days.

Even better, my resting heart rate is now 44 bpm.

The Joy of the Trail

Slow as I may be, god I love trail running. Being in the countryside – on this occasion National Trust land – brings a joy that I simply find indescribable. Getting away from traffic and people is something that makes me feel as though I am experiencing life at its most beautiful. No matter how much faster I am able to run on the road, the hard work and graft involved in running trails, with all of the twisting and turning, and tough terrain, I simply love it. The happiness and exhilaration found in running under a wild tree canopy in a forest is the only drug I will ever need.

Relive

Recipe: Tofu Scramble Protein Bowl

Another simple recipe that is full of yummy goodness. It is not quite SOS approved – no salt, oil or sugar – as there is a little frying involved, however it is still delicious and tremendously healthy and nutritious.

Ingredients

  • 100g pearl barley
  • 1 packet of tofu, frozen, thawed, drained and pressed
  • 1 avocado
  • Handful of cashews

Method

  • Cook the barley and set aside – I boil it with turmeric for the anti inflammatory goodness
  • Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet and fry the tofu until it starts to brown
  • Cube the avocado flesh and add to the pan for a minute or two
  • Add the cashews and fry for a couple more minutes
  • Serve on top of the barley

One bowl of yummy goodness, cooked! Add sriracha if you like a little bit of zing.

Motivations and Milestones

Today I had a revelation. I ran this morning – hitting a sub ten minute mile incidentally – and found cause within myself to contemplate my motivations for doing so. I ran with a friend and she was discussing with me her absolute admiration for a lady at her gym who ‘has the most amazing body’. After a few minutes it became clear that this woman spends hours at the gym, exercising relentlessly, and eats with military precision. Good for her, and I do not think she is right or wrong. I do not care in fact. What I realised, however, is that very different reasons and motivations drive different people. I formulated an aphorism, which obviously is a rule with exceptions, however I am now convinced that, in the main, those who run in gyms are neurotic, whereas those who wish to run outdoors are ambitious.

Ultimately, whatever drives a person to run and exercise is their business and as long as they do not hurt themselves or others I see no problem. This did explain a great deal of the difference between I and my friend as well as our differing philosophies. She wishes to be thin at all costs. I wish to conquer as much of the world as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Neuroticism versus ambition.

Today’s Run

Today I ran four miles, the first of which was the sub ten minute one – progress! I ran plenty of this on the trail and I have to say that right now it feels as though I am at the bottom of a significant curve of improvement and growth. Fingers crossed that my feelings are telling me the truth.

Strava

That is three days of cycling followed by three days of running. Given the time and distances involved now I will try to alternate.

Running the Treacle Miles

I have a new phrase: treacle miles. I coined it to describe the days such as today when I feel as though I would rather just take it easy in the morning than go running. Those miles can often feel as though I am running through treacle, heavy legs and all that jazz. This morning I did three such miles. The weather looked grim - more so than it actually turned out to be – my legs were heavy and I felt as though I had every reason to stay in bed an extra hour. These are the times when pushing hard is most important, and I completed a three mile run today, again stopping whilst I still had fuel in the tank so as not to go too hard too quickly, or to hurt myself.

Relive

Garmin

Hopefully running through the treacle miles will push me to long distance glory and real endurance running. Smash those treacle miles!

Just Keep Showing Up

Regarding fitness overall I am pushing hard during these weird lockdown times, but when I hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks I trashed my feet for ten days. This means that I could not run due to the stunningly painful blisters I received – worth it in my opinion. I have been cycling just fine but for my running I am starting back in the low mileage distances again. The cool thing, however, is that where I normally run a mile and build distance quickly, this time I commenced on two miles and I could have gone farther. Knowing my ineptitude when it comes to pavement pounding I stopped whilst I had more to give rather than take from my reserves until I realised they were depleted.

Right now the stop-start nature of running is frustrating me, and as the data below show, I am still on abysmal mile times, but I remain convinced by my earlier thoughts on ultra running – how hard can it be?

Data

My reality is a good way behind my conviction that I can do this thing, so how am I going to realise these ambitions? I am going to keep showing up and run until I do it.

Thinking as Hard as I Cycle

Today’s Ride

Relive

Breakdown

I am slowly adding power and pace to my rides. Yesterday’s and today’s bike ride data summaries are below, sourced from Strava.

As you can see I added distance, elevation and speed to my rides. This is important because I actually had to think about this. As I am increasingly coming to believe, almost all speed gains come from climbs rather than fast downhill cycling. This is partly because cycling where I do there are very few long stretches of downhill or flat road so I just cannot put together long speed segments, and also because I naturally rest a little during downhill segments. I also would suggest that there is more to be gained from working harder on climbs. There seems to me to be more capacity for improvement as I lose dead weight (fat) and add muscle bulk. An extra 2mph added to a climb is surely worth more than going ever faster on the downhill. Plus it is far easier to hit one’s natural speed limits on the downhill than on climbs.

Right now I am hovering around 12mph average speed (this has improved incrementally over time). I want to hit 15mph average as quickly as I can. Most of this gain should come from climbing intelligently and also weight loss. I am burning off fat so quickly that I am visibly changing shape almost daily.

Right now fasting hard and thoughtfully working hard on rides is working.