How to Use Running and Cycling to Improve Performance

Triathlete Linsey Corbin explains why riding a bike is good for runners and shares her favourite cycling workouts.


Cross-training is important to becoming a stronger runner, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when switching up your routine. One great option—cycling. You’ll still get the cardio benefits and it will help strengthen your leg muscles, but spinning pedals with cycling helps you log workouts without pounding the pavement, which can take some pressure off your joints, making this ideal cross-training.

To help you get started, professional triathlete Linsey Corbin shared her insights on the benefits of running and cycling, tips for success, and her favorite cycling workout.

Can cycling help with running?

Cycling is a great way to cross-train, whether you are healthy or working through an injury. Cycling is non-impact but has several aerobic benefits. You can do several workouts on the bike like riding uphill in a big gear to build strength. Another option is doing short sprints out of the saddle to spike your heart-rate and build speed. Lastly, you can also go for a longer, steady ride to build endurance. The biggest difference between cycling and running is there is less impact with cycling, so you can recover quicker from the sessions.

How can cycling help with recovery?

Cycling can benefit runners for both recovery and training. It aids in recovery by flushing the legs out. A super-easy spin has no impact, and you’re moving blood through the muscles. You also can maintain a ton of fitness with riding if you are injured.

How can a runner get started cycling?

The best way to get started in cycling would be either to take a local indoor cycling class at the gym to see if you like it or to head to a local bike shop and rent a bike for the day. There are all kinds of biking: mountain biking, road biking, or even hopping on a cruiser and heading to the farmers market.

What are the differences between road, tri, hybrid, and mountain bikes?

A road bike is one of the more traditional bikes. It is lightweight, has shifters, and is great for climbing, riding in the flats, going fast or slow. These bikes are meant for only being used on paved roads. A tri-bike is a specific bike used for triathlons and has a different handlebar set-up, which allows the rider to get more aerodynamic, for speed and comfort. However, you can do a triathlon on any type of bike.

A hybrid bike is fit more for comfort and great for riding around town. Hybrid bikes tend to be a bit heavier and don’t have all the speedy benefits of a road bike. There are also mountain bikes that are meant for riding on dirt trails, and cyclocross bikes meant for a variety of terrain and surfaces including dirt and pavement.

What cycling workouts help improve running?

Cycling can be great for building high-end aerobic training doing intervals. Sprint intervals spike your heart rate to max levels and enforce a quick turnover (cadence) as well. Once a week, I do a very challenging workout that involves all-out sprinting for short intervals.

It starts with a short warmup. Then I do 10 x 1 minute all-out, best effort sprinting, as hard as you can go, with a 2-minute recovery of super easy riding. After, I cool down for 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes I will do them indoors on a trainer so all I have to concentrate on is going all-out and I can crank some motivating music.

Are there benefits to getting fitted for a bike?

Yes, getting the help of a professional will make sure you are in the optimal position to be efficient and comfortable on the bike. Having the correct setup will help you avoid injuries.

What inspired you to start riding?

I came from a running background and after several injuries I was looking for a new way to maintain fitness in the summer of 2005. My parents were going on a bike tour and invited me to go along with them.

I fell in love right away. There was something about the freedom of going places on two wheels—using your muscles, heart, and lungs to climb a big mountain pass that you normally would drive in a car was a special feeling of freedom and empowerment for me.

What is your favourite ride?

My favourite ride is a long day in the saddle that usually involves a big adventure. I love seeing places on two wheels that you normally wouldn’t go. My biggest passion is for climbing big mountains, checking out the changes in scenery, and descending fast as the reward for all of your hard work.

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