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Bike Breakdowns Help Runners

from Owen Anderson - Running Research News

There are some days when runners' legs are too sore or "heavy" for a normal running workout to be carried out. On other days, runners may simply need a mental break from running. What should they do?

An obvious answer is "nothing." For most runners, a rest day is a good thing. Instead of hurting fitness, rest usually boosts it, giving muscles a chance to do what they have been waiting to do during periods of hard training - namely, create new energy-producing enzymes, repair muscle membranes, and make manifest multitudes of new mitochondria.

However, if a mental break is all that is needed - or if a runner's legs really aren't in bad shape and just need a break from the hard pounding of running, a bike workout may be just what the fitness doctor ordered. There are a number of scientific studies which demonstrate that bicycling sessions can be beneficial for runners.

What would the bike workout be like? There are an infinite number of possibilities, but a session we particularly favor is called the "BIKE BREAKDOWN." Nice features of this effort include its large impact on cardiovascular fitness, lactate threshold, and mental toughness - plus the fact that you don't need an expensive computerized stationary bike to complete it.

Here's how to do the BIKE BREAKDOWN: Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of easy cycling, and then work at maximal effort for one minute. To make your effort as specific to running as possible, your rpm should be about 90 to 95 as you do this (just play with the resistance or gears to make your effort maximal).

After this scalding minute, you'll be ready to rest, but instead push ahead - without break - for two more minutes, working at an intensity which feels tougher than 5-K-race effort. After these two minutes are up (actually three minutes so far if you count the first max minute), slide right into three minutes of exertion at what feels like 5-K to 10-K race intensity, again without a break. After these three minutes (six minutes for the whole interval), you finally get a chance to recover. Pedal easily for about four to five minutes, and then plunge right into another bike-breakdown, "1-2-3" interval. After a second recovery, you are ready for a final six-minute (1-2-3) interval, enough work for your first stab at the session. Cool down with 15 minutes of light pedaling.

The BIKE BREAKDOWN works on lactate threshold because lactate levels soar so dramat- ically within each six-minute interval. It also boosts VO2max, mental and physical stamina, and leg strength and power (research shows these gains in strength and power can transfer over to running).

Best of all, unlike a hard running workout, a BIKE-BREAKDOWN session doesn't cast a far-reaching "shadow" which hurts muscular performance on subsequent days. Normally, most runners are ready for good-quality running efforts, even on the day right after a BREAK- DOWN.

Over time, progress with the workout by increasing the number of six-minute work intervals or by extending the six-minute intervals to eight to 10 minutes. Naturally, as your fitness improves the intensity of each sub-interval within the overall breakdown work interval will also tend to spike upward.

Try one BIKE BREAKDOWN workout per week for a period of about six to eight weeks. You'll be very pleased with the results!

Thanks to former U-T runner Shane Smoleny for suggesting this kind of workout for runners and other endurance athletes. Thanks also for reading this news item!


For more great articles like this one, go to Running Research News
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