We are coming out of a deep freeze in our neck of the woods. It has me dreaming of the first day I will be able to hop on my bike and get down to the trail that parallels the Fox River in our part of Northern Illinois.
As I was planning for how wonderful it will feel to be one with my 1994 Giant again, I started thinking about running vs. biking. In my opinion, there is no greater accomplishment than finishing a long run, just because it’s so incredibly physically taxing. Just to say that you ran several miles makes you feel like a legitimate athlete. But for me, it’s not tremendously fun. It’s work. I don’t get the same sense of exhilaration that I get from working together with a piece of machinery to battle trails and hills.
I came up with a list of 10 reasons why cycling is often better than running (for me). This will infuriate the running purists that I know, but so be it.
- The most obvious difference is the distance possible with bike riding. I can only run about 5 miles before my knees get sore, but I can bike forever. This allows me to work on endurance and calorie burning longer, and get out of the neighborhood more.
- The terrain does not usually impact a biking outing. I can ride on roads, trails, paths or even off-road. With running, I’m limited to finding softer trails in the area so that I’m not running on concrete or asphalt. There aren’t many of these. And for some reason, getting in the car to drive somewhere to run just seems silly.
- As a woman, I don’t feel terribly safe running on trails, but on my bike I feel more in control. Sure–some goof could jump out of the woods and make me topple over my bike, but I stand a better chance of getting away, or staying away if I’m faster. That point may be delusional, but it’s worked for me so far.
- My arms are much stronger and toned when I ride regularly. Having to control the handlebars, especially when standing going uphill, requires arm and shoulder muscles that I typically don’t otherwise engage. I like how my abs feel as I ride, though I know running works them too as they attempt to stabilize the body.
- Running uses the hamstrings most, while biking works hamstrings, glutes and quads (especially when standing). In addition, I can adjust my pedal push and pull to emphasize different muscle groups if I’m tired (this is definitely not the most efficient use of muscles while riding, but will help if I’ve gone too far, I’m spent and have to get where I’m going quickly).
- Even if I have a flat tire, I can still make it home. A blown Achilles tendon is another story.
- Speaking of injuries, my chances are less with riding. That is, if I don’t repeat the experience I had several years ago when I hit a curb and flew over the handlebars. Because of my helmet, I only bruised my ego thankfully. With running, I have to either do run/walk intervals to minimize injury or limit the amount of time I’m running. In both cases, I don’t feel like I’m getting enough out of a workout.
- I’m rarely overheated while biking since I’m creating my own breeze along the way. And my bike carries my water bottle, phone and keys for me.
- Most running and biking experts agree that cycling can help with running, but running does nothing for cycling. I think that’s rather selfish of running.
- I suffered a brain injury years ago (and no, it had nothing to do with that flying over the handlebars incident) and couldn’t ride for the longest time. My brain couldn’t quickly process what my eyes were seeing, so I couldn’t travel very fast either by car or bicycle. So the freedom to once again be able to jump on my bike and go wherever I want is one of the greatest gifts of healing.
OK cyclists and runners, what do YOU think?