30 Jan, 2014

Start Pedalling

Start Pedalling

Most of us know that there are many health benefits to running, including a healthy heart, mind and body, but the one disadvantage to running is the impact on your bones and joints. There is a fine line between solid training and doing too much mileage, which can result in pain, bruising, even a stress fracture, often just before a big race you’ve been training for. All runners who have suffered from this know how terribly disappointing it can be after putting in all the hard work and then not to reach the start line. The good news is that cycling as a cross-training activity offers a great way to maintain your training while reducing the risk of overuse injuries, and can really compliment your running performance.



Johannesburg-based physiotherapist Toni Hesp has completed 23 Comrades Marathons and says that one of her best Comrades races yet was when she had picked up a painful stress fracture just six weeks prior to the big day. She decided to only cycle for those last weeks leading up to the race and went on to run a great Comrades. She says that once she had taken that impact off her legs, her body was able to heal in time for the race.


“An athlete can get away with running three to four times a week and then compliment their training with cycling and they will still have a good Comrades or ultra-marathon. So instead of running six times a week, cut down on the running mileage and start pedalling,” says Toni. “Cycling works a lot of the same muscles that running does, including the quads and hamstrings, but you don't have the jarring effect on your body. Another advantage that cycling brings to a runner is the endurance factor, because so many hours are spent on the bike and this compliments an athlete’s level of endurance.”


Toni adds that cycling gives the body a break from the impact that running has on the body, giving the athlete better odds in avoiding injuries. Also, runners who battle to get up the hills and usually end up walking will also benefit from cycling, as it focuses on the upper legs and strengthens them. So before you know it, you wont be walking those hills anymore.



?         It doesn’t matter if you have a mountain bike, a road bike, a hybrid or a triathlon bike. What does matter is having a bike that fits, so get expert advice from your nearest reputable bike shop before buying a bike – or borrowing the too-big (or too-small) frame and wheels from your neighbour.

?         Essential items are a helmet, bike shorts (these are padded in the crotch and butt), sunglasses and a seat bag with a spare tube, multi-tool and inflation device. Optional Items are cycling gloves, chamois cream, bike shoes and clip-in pedals, and a bike computer.

?         Before you go on your first ride, make sure you know how to change a tyre if you get a flat. If you don’t have a cycling buddy to teach you how to do this, go to a local bike shop and they will be happy to teach you.


Cycling is something you can do with friends and family who are not running enthusiasts, as many people will ride with you just because it is fun to ride bikes. Also, you can ride outdoors or indoors: If you want to get out and enjoy the fresh air on a beautiful day, you can just hop on your bike and ride. At the same time, with an indoor stationary bike, you can still get a good workout if the weather is lousy, or you get home after dark.



We asked our readers if they use cycling for cross-training and whether it helps them with their running, and the answers were overwhelmingly positive:

Dean Martins Almeida: Absolutely, no doubt.

Ollie Olivier: If you cycle fast. Otherwise your heart rate lingers below the target rate.

Joulanda du Toit: Yes, it does.

Natalie Madies: Only on recovery days

Debbie Osborne: Absolutely 100% YES!

Rob McDonald: Most definitely.

Willie Venter: Definitely. It increased my hill climbing strength and drastically reduced knee pain on steep trail descents. Should've started long ago!