Can running help your riding? It all depends.
The organisers of the Grindrod Bank Berg & Bush are also organisers of the extremely popular Oxpecker trail run. And as well as being keen cyclists, the Berg & Bush team also enjoys running on their own incredible trails. Should you do the same.
Cross-training – using another sport or workout to improve your ability in your main sport – is an ideal way to maximise your workout time. It becomes especially handy if you are travelling or pressed for time and can’t make your way to the nearest mountain bike trail.
For many, running is the most convenient way to squeeze a workout into a packed schedule.
Cycling coach Daniel Paszek at training website TrainingPeaks feels there are some upsides to be had from running for mountain bikers.
Paszek lists the benefits of running as being an “alternative form of aerobic endurance training in a pre-season training period” and as a way to bring variety to training. He adds, “it can also be a good idea for training during holidays to maintain fitness when perhaps cycling is not an option.”
In general, cycling goals are best met with cycling-specific training, but trail running before you start a heavy cycling training load is a great way to fire up the engines.
It’s also a great way to shed a few unwanted kilogrammes. According to data from the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal, trail running can help you burn between 60 to 90 calories more per hour.
Mentally, trail running is a good way to stay fresh too. Much like mountain biking takes you into nature and soothes the soul, trail running helps in a similar fashion.
Research published in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article says that a 90-minute walk (or run) in nature lessens negative brain activity, whereas the same exercise in an urban area has no such effect. Research done by Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom shows that nature-based physical activity could lower stress and anxiety, while boosting mental wellbeing.
Trail running or running keeps the body sharp too. “When you are running, you improve your body balance and the neuromuscular coordination, which is necessary for mountain biking,” says Paszek. “An enhanced body stability and total body condition may reduce the risk of injury in mountain biking.”
Ultimately, trail running is no substitute for specific or focussed mountain bike training, but when you’re in a pinch, it’s a great alternative to help you stay aerobically and mentally fit.
That being said, if you are not a runner at all, don’t try and replace a 50km mountain bike ride with a 20km trail run. Your body will not be happy afterwards. Rather start with or attempt short runs until you’ve built up some running fitness.