Ask an Expert: Running vs. Cycling

Q: Does riding my stationary bike for one hour at a medium level have the same cardio benefits as jogging for 4 miles at 12-minute miles? I’m looking for lower-impact ways to get my training in.  -Natalie

 A: Yes and no. Cycling offers the same benefits as running in that it improves your cardiovascular system. More specifically, your heart strengthens and is able to pump more blood at a lower heart rate as it gets stronger with exercise. As your fitness improves, your body is able to deliver larger quantities of oxygen to the muscles. This is the case for all forms of cardiovascular exercise, which is great because you can mix up your modes and keep things fresh and motivating. If you were looking at the standpoint of overall cardiovascular fitness, both are excellent choices.

Where they differ is in the movement. Cycling is a great form of exercise because it is low impact and isolates your lower body, which makes it an effective activity for those that are starting an exercise routine or suffer from muscle or joint pain. On the other hand, running uses every muscle in your body, making it a total body exercise, which can mean burning more calories per session.

It gets a little tricky when you start comparing paces on both activities. For instance, a 12-minute pace on a “feel good” day could be in the easy to moderate zone of effort, while another day it could be at a hard effort. Pace isn’t the best way to compare the two activities, but your effort level is.

When comparing the two, it’s easier to do so by the effort level versus comparing your running pace (12-minute miles) against your cycling effort (moderate). Instead, compare a moderate running effort to a moderate cycling effort.

The general rule of thumb is there is a 1:3 run-to-bike ratio, meaning one mile of running at a moderate effort equals three miles of cycling at that same effort level. Cycling 12 miles is the equivalent of running four miles, with both effort levels being the same in a very general sense for cardiovascular fitness.

In the end, cycling miles are cycling miles and running miles are running miles. They both offer great benefits and each offers unique benefits for fitness and well being.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: How often should I replace my running shoes?

SI’m a relatively new runner (I only run about 10 miles per week). How often should I be changing out my running shoes? -Jared

Welcome to the wonderful world of running! Ten miles per week is a great running regimen and at that rate, the average running shoe will last about 40-50 weeks or close to a year. The general rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 350-500 miles but that can vary based on the following variables:

  • Style. Lighter weight shoes can break down more quickly.
  • Weight. A lighter runner may get more miles out of the shoes than a heavier runner.
  • Form. Someone who runs with a heavy foot strike will wear through shoes more readily than someone who lands lightly.
  • Variety. If you wear the shoes for other activities like kicking around, other sports, walking and site seeing, this will add on to the mileage.

The good news is you can develop a relationship with your shoes and along the way learn what works for you and your shoes. Here’s how:

  • Mark the date you purchased the shoes on the side of the shoe sole with a permanent marker to remind you of birth date and replacement date. You can also include this information if you use a paper or online log and keep track of the mileage on the shoes. There’s even an app called the Running Shoe Tracker – Shoedometer that tracks the mileage of your shoes.
  • Save your shoes for runs only and they’ll last longer.
  • Check the sides of the soles for wrinkling as this is often a sign that the shoes are breaking down.
  • Wash your shoes by removing the insole, wash with a mild soap (dishwashing detergent) and sponge or brush, stuff with newspaper or paper towel to dry.  Avoid putting your shoes in a washing machine or dryer as it will destroy the shoe’s materials.
  • If your shoes get wet on the run, simply stuff them with newspaper or paper towel to dry.
  • Avoid leaving your shoes in extreme elements like a car in the middle of summer or the dead of winter. Shoes can melt and freeze and it will break them down or even melt!

Overall, if your mileage starts adding up, you can purchase a second pair and alternate them run by run. You’ll get more time out of each pair and it will extend the overall running time.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

5 Ways to Keep Running Fun and Boost Your Motivation

Female_Pair_RunningLet’s face it, sometimes running can be a drag. Whether it’s because we run the same old route or distance, or we’re just lacking the love, trying the following five fun-boosting strategies can lift the spirit of your workouts and inspire you to once again run happy.

1. Mix up the terrain. Get out of your running route rut and run your normal route backwards. You’ll be amazed just how different everything looks and how much joy a fresh route will bring. You can also spice up both your indoor and outdoor workouts by adding hills to your flat route or find a trail to make the most of a shade-filled run through nature.

2. Shake things up. It’s easy to get into the habit of running the same 30-40 minute workout during the week. Although it’s a great way to maintain fitness, once your body adapts to it, you burn fewer calories because it becomes easier. That’s the good and not-so-good news. A simple way around it is to vary the intensity of your runs during the week to include a variety of workouts. It will freshen your running recipe so you look forward to the next workout. Here are a few examples:

  • Interval Workout: Run hard for 30 seconds to 60 seconds followed by 2 minutes of walking or easy jog – eight times. This is an effective metabolic booster and a great way to burn calories and fat for hours post workout.
  • Tempo Workout: Warm up and cool down running easy for 5-10 minutes, then run at a comfortably challenging effort for 15 minutes. This is a workout that requires focus, but feels fantastic and raises your threshold allowing you to run faster at an easier effort level down the road.
  • Recovery Run: Exactly like it sounds – an easy run that allows you to keep the momentum flowing but gives you a break from the higher intensities.
  • Endurance Workout: Typically run on your off work days, run for 60 or more minutes at a conversational effort level to develop your fat burning enzymes and aerobic endurance.

3. Make it social.  There isn’t one run that I’ve done with a buddy or group that didn’t make me smile or make the time go by quickly. Research has shown that people who exercise socially (with people) can go longer and harder than when alone. Plus, you can solve the world’s problems, discuss the TV series you binge watched the night before, or the plot twist in your favorite book. Invite your friend to hop on the treadmill next to you, join a running club or training group and keep your running fun alive. You just may improve your performance along the way.

4. Run musically.  Create a special running mix for your next workout and you just may run faster than you think you can. That’s because research suggests exercising to music can boost your ability to run harder and longer. Create a musical workout to boost motivation by starting and finishing with two songs that have a slower rhythm to warm up and cool down. Then alternate a fast paced song with a slower song 4-6 times and match your speed to the tempo of the music to get in a musical interval workout. The time will fly, you’ll love this workout, and will count the days until you can run it again (promise!)

5. Register for a race.  The old adage of dangling a carrot on a stick can be enough to brighten any runner’s gloom. Whether a 5K or a half marathon, once you commit, every workout has a purpose and inspires you to prepare for the challenge ahead. If you’ve been racing, try something new to spice up your routine; a triathlon, trail race or obstacle course. When you challenge yourself, you will rise to it and make the most of every workout.

Every runner goes through highs and lows over time. The highs lead to improved performance and impressive accomplishments, while the lows (if you listen) can guide you to making the changes needed to continue to evolve.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

Ask an Expert: Best Running Surfaces

Running SurfacesI typically run on the sidewalks around my neighborhood – is this bad for my joints? Is there any benefit to switching it up and running on different surfaces like the road, grass, loose gravel, etc.?  -Sarah

Running on a variety of surfaces is a great way to mix up your routine, boost your motivation and improve your running performance. The key is to learn about the pros and cons of each to make the best choice for your personal running life. Here is a list that will guide you in the right direction.

Sidewalk

  • Pros:  A safe, out of the line of traffic place to run, especially in urban areas and in the darkness. Many sidewalks, if in good condition, provide a predictable and even (not cambered) terrain, which allows for better running form and alignment.
  • Cons:  The concrete sidewalk surface is much harder than asphalt and create greater impact forces on the body versus the road, track or path. You may need to stop and start to cross streets, navigate pedestrians and other obstacles on the sidewalk throughout your run, not allowing for a continuous flow and pace.

Street/Road

  • Pros:  Running the roads can be as inspiring as a scene out of Forrest Gump.  There are a plethora of options and roads to explore and you can start right outside your doorstep or hotel room. The asphalt is easier on the muscles, joints and tendons than the sidewalk. Although there still may be some points you’ll need to stop and go for lights and traffic, you can generally get into a continuous running tempo.
  • Cons:  Many road and streets are cambered with a crown or peak in the center and an angle toward the side of the road. Running on an uneven surface can create muscle imbalance and alignment issues including knee and ITB pain as one leg is landing slightly higher on the ground than the other. Safety is an issue, especially with high speed traffic and distracted drivers. Always be sure to run against traffic to see and be seen.

Paved Bike Path

  • Pros: This terrain is the little black dress for runners. It offers the stability of an evenly graded sidewalk, with the forgiveness of an asphalt road, without automobile traffic. Many paved bike paths are marked so it can be a good way to develop your pacing skills and perform speed workouts as you can run uninterrupted.
  • Cons:  Although beautiful, many of these bike paths run through secluded areas and forests. Always run in groups, carry ID and cell phone and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your ears to the path so to hear bike and recreational traffic coming from behind you.

Crushed Limestone Path

  • Pros:  Perhaps one of the best terrains for running, limestone paths are typically flat to slightly rolling, evenly graded and very forgiving on the body. Less impact on the body means more efficient recovery and progression in your performance. They offer a safe haven from automobile traffic and a tranquil running environment. Many of these trails are can be found in parks and forest preserves, are well marked for distances and have bathrooms along the way.
  • Cons:  Unless it is outside your door or work, limestone path runs may be best suited for longer training runs or weekend excursions when you have more time to getting there.

Single Track Trail

  • Pros:  These trails run through the heart of forests and back country and undulate with the terrain. They are narrow and organic which makes for a truly unique running experience. It’s not uncommon to run over rocks, tree roots and across streams. Every step demands your attention making it a zen-like running workout. Similar to mountain biking, it develops running strength and finesse and decreases the risk of over use injuries due to running in the same wear pattern on more predictable terrain.
  • Cons:  You are running well off the beaten path in an isolated area where animals, bugs and adverse weather may cross your path. Technical trail running is energy demanding and like mountain biking or downhill skiing, it requires time to adapt and learn the optimal skills to run efficiently.

Track

  • Pros:  Your local high school track is a safe place to run your mileage as you’re off the busy streets and out of traffic. Most tracks are measured and marked where four laps equal one mile and therefore it is a great way to learn how to pace yourself naturally. All you need is your shoes and a watch or timer. The track is also a predictably flat surface and a great place to learn to run and perform speed workouts. A bonus benefit: many tracks are made from a forgiving rubber material that it easy on the muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Cons:  Unless you live by a track, getting there can be a hassle for the busy-minded runner and some tracks have limited public access usage. Running in a circle can become monotonous for some runners who enjoy the sense of exploration.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

From Zero to Running

Couch to 5k Plan

Whether you’re new to the running scene or recently fell off the wagon, training to run can be easier than you may think.  Sure, if you go at it the way I did when I didn’t know any better (too far, too fast) it won’t be easy, but if you ignore what your head is telling you to do (too much, too soon), and tune into your body, you’ll go from zero to running in no time.

The key to being successful (and continue with a smile on your face) is to set a specific goal, plan a gradual progression and be flexible along the way.

The Goal: 30 minutes.  When I coach newbie or returning runners, I have them set a goal to build up to running 30 minutes continuously.  Why 30 minutes?  Because it’s an easy number to get you motivated to start, it’s not intimidating and it’s just long enough to provide a solid workout.

Next, I have them commit to 30-minute workouts three times per week on alternate days (i.e. M-W-F).  Every workout begins with a 5-minute walking warm up and finishes with a 5-minute walking cool down.  The good stuff is the middle 20 minutes where they use running and walking intervals to build running fitness.  It’s a fun way to get into running because you’re always switching it up and time flies by quickly!

The next step is to set a target date range to reach your goal to run 30 minutes.  For some it may be ten weeks, for others it may take a little longer.  It depends on your current fitness, health, weight and more.  The key is to allow enough time to progress gradually to avoid injury and burnout.

Progression. The number one mistake most new and returning runners make is to run too far and too fast too soon.  Running is a high impact, high intensity activity and takes time to adapt to the stress of running.  Your body will actually progress faster if you start with sprinkling in seconds of running with minutes of walking and repeat throughout the workout.

For example, rather than trying to run as far as you can or until you’re gasping for air and hating it and have to walk, start by tricking your body into it.  Run for 30 seconds, then walk for 3 minutes and repeat that interval for 20 minutes and call it a workout.  Repeat this workout at least one to two weeks (3-6 workouts), and then progress to more running (1 minute) while holding the walking interval steady (3 minutes).

Running intervals plant the seed of running and in time allow you to evolve into running farther and faster down the road.  The secret is to aim to finish the workout feeling strong rather than wasted and exhausted.  Creating the sense of accomplishment workout to workout inspires you to repeat the workout and come back for more.  As you repeat the workout, it gets easier and you can add more stress (more running time).  Until you reach the tipping point where you are running continuously without wanting or needing a recovery interval.  Progress is to the key to making your running regimen stick and it happens in time, with a gradual increase in running, and when you create the sense of accomplishment with every workout.

Ebb and Flow.  We are all the same and we are all different.  We are similar in that we all need to progress our training over time, however we vary in health and fitness levels, age and running form and skills.  When I first started to learn to run, it took me months to build up to 30 minutes of running because I was starting from ground zero and I was 35 pounds overweight.  Some of my clients who are fit, but not runners and at an optimal weight have learned in about ten weeks.

My point is to avoid rushing your running program and let your body be your guide along the way.  Keep a log to track your progress and take notes after every workout on how you felt along the way.  If you notice you’re struggling with a particular progression in running time, go back and repeat the previous run-walk interval one more week and allow your body more time to adapt and get stronger.  You may notice you struggle more after being ill, missing a few workouts or during highly stressful times in your life.  Let your plan ebb and flow with your life and modify as needed based on how you feel along the way.  In many cases, repeating an interval sequence a week longer will make all the difference in how you feel when you progress to the next level.

We all have an optimal running recipe, and the fun part is figuring out what works best for you along the way. Some runners even love the run-walk strategy so much, they stick with it forever.

Download Coach Jenny’s Zero to Running Training Plan for free.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.