Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Running vs. Bicycling: 40 Miles of Comparison

Earlier this week I did a solo 40-mile bicycle ride in north central Indiana on an 86-degree day. As I cycled along, taking in the rural sights, I began to think about the differences between running and cycling.

In years past, I would go for a 40-mile solo run and it would take as much as 7 to 8 hours to complete. I completed the leisurely 40-mile bike ride in about 3½ hours... and that was with many stops to take photos along the way. I've done so many solo journey runs of hundreds and thousands of miles, and a 40-mile day was common. However, there is far more ease (both physically and mentally) cruising along on a bike -- especially when my body doesn't have to carry a water pack or push a support stroller of gear, as I would do on my journey runs. The 3½ hours to cover 40 miles went rather quickly and I accomplished the distance in less than half the time it would have taken me by running.

Bicycling magazine recently published an article outlining 7 reasons why cycling is better than running. I read that article and the 'runner' side of me got a bit defensive, wanting to debate some of the points raised in the article. However, as I cycled along on my 40-mile ride, I realized that there is a lot of truth to what is in the article. I want to share some of the comparisons raised by Bicycling magazine.

  • Running burns more calories per mile, but most people can’t run as many miles as they can ride, especially if you’re a little out of shape or have some weight to lose. Blame gravity. When you run you need to lift your body weight up off the earth to propel yourself forward. Then you have to come back down, striking the ground and absorbing those impact forces. Both of those things make it considerably harder to run five miles than to ride twice or even three or four times as long. Running is also less forgiving of extra pounds with every excess pound slowing you down. Excess weight makes hills harder on a bike, but on the flats? Because gravity isn’t really a factor, you can motor along with the skinniest of ‘em.
  • Running beats you up more than cycling, even if you’re hammering super hard. One study that compared trained, competitive cyclists and runners exercising 2 ½ hours a day for three days found that the long distance runners had substantially more muscle damage (between 133% and 404% more), inflammation levels (up to 256% higher) and muscle soreness (87% more) in the following 38 hour recovery period than the cyclists.
  • The ability to ride for multiple hours means you can cover a lot of ground and see some amazing sites in a relatively short period of time. You also can carry far more things far more easily on a bike than you can on foot. You not only can stuff your jersey pockets to the gills, but also wear a messenger bag or backpack and even add carrying capacity to your bike. That frees you to use your bike for commuting, day tripping, bikepacking and as everyday Earth-friendly transportation.
  • Researchers once believed that running was more effective than cycling for suppressing a key hunger hormone called acylated ghrelin. Not so. In back-to-back comparisons of the appetite suppressing powers of either an hour of vigorous running or an hour of vigorous cycling, a team of British researchers found that both activities suppressed the hunger hormone nearly equally. And again, it’s easier to hammer out an hour on the bike than it is to run hard for the same amount of time.
  • Sure you can buy some pretty snazzy running shoes, but between bikes, helmets, glasses, socks, shoes kits, caps, stem caps, saddlebags, arm warmers, gloves, jackets, vests, and an endless assortment of components, cycling is a sport that allows the fullest expression of personal style.
  • Cycling lets you feel like you’re flying because of the amazing ability to use the forces of the universe to coast and enjoy the wind through your hair (even with a helmet on) as a reward for all your hard pedaling work. Coasting when you run is called standing, which doesn’t really get you anywhere. And running down a hill is actually harder than running up the thing.
  • Cycling is something you can enjoy no matter what your age. It is truly as close as we can get to a lifelong sport.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso