Both cycling and running are excellent forms of exercise. But both come with differences which could sway you toward one exercise over the other. As a personal trainer, I have had my years of running and my years of cycling. I was a runner from the age of 16-22. I never ran consistently throughout each year but in 3-6 month spurts followed by a month or two break. I began running much like I began working out, full throttle. I had very little direction but it consumed me. For the first couple years, I didn’t see many negative side effects. Sometimes after a long run, my knees would hurt for a couple days but nothing that I thought was too serious. I wasn’t stretching, my pace was too fast, I probably wasn’t wearing shoe’s that fit the shape of my feet and I didn’t spread my runs apart from my leg exercises which put more strain on my knees. I was young and unaware of the damage I could be doing. Around the age of 20, the effects started to kick in. My knees were starting to bug me. My stretches of running got smaller and my break periods got longer. By the time I was 22 I had to throw in the towel. It got to the point where just thinking about running made me uncomfortable. My love for running shifted to a different exercise, cycling. It was gradual, starting from around the age of 20 and really picking up by the time I had to quit running.
My experience cycling has been much gentler. Soon after I made the switch my knee pain went away. I was still able to enjoy intense cardio workouts while covering an even further distance. My legs got much stronger than they ever did running and my endurance also improved. I’ve been cycling ever since and the only knee pain I’ve felt I attribute mostly to my past years of running. There are a few downsides, though. There is an initial investment. The bike I bought was a little on the expensive side, BUT it’s probably been my most valuable investment. It’s one of my favorite things I own and has brought me so much joy it couldn’t have been more worth it. There are also reoccurring maintenance cost if you do not learn how to tune your bike up yourself. It took me a few years till I started to do the work myself but before that every 5-6 months I would spend around 80 dollars to get new brake pads etc. Probably the biggest negative about cycling over the long term is the risk. If you plan on riding a couple times a week for an indefinite amount of time there is a chance of having an accident. If you live in a more rural area with not as much traffic your chances are less but if you live in Portland and plan to bike around the city it is something to think about. Portland’s traffic has gotten a lot worse over the past couple years and continues to grow. Cars have a hard time seeing bikers especially if you are in their blind spots. You could be as careful as possible and still find yourself in a bad situation because a driver didn’t see you. I’ve had a couple close calls and they were scary.
I understand my experience running probably wasn’t typical. I started with very little knowledge of proper stretching, I ran much faster than I should have and I was a little on the heavier side due to weight lifting to be running as much as I was. I don’t think the average person feels the side effects from running as quickly as I did. But I think over time most everyone does. I’ve worked with a lot of runners. Out of probably 20 runners, I can only think of one that hasn’t seemed to have any negative side effects. This person was also on the smaller side, weighing somewhere around 150 pounds. This person also naturally had perfect form in pretty much every exercise I gave him. His shoulder and hip mobility were outstanding. I think his smaller size attributed to his flexibility which prevented injury. Every other runner I’ve worked with regularly dealt with knee pain and were much tighter than the average person. I’ve also been very surprised by how tight runners have been all around their bodies. I would imagine they would only suffer from tightness in their legs and hips but I’ve seen a tremendous amount of tightness in their upper bodies as well. I do believe running can be done safely over a long period of time but I think it takes much more discipline. It requires regular stretching along with exercises to prevent injury. Staying away from running on concrete and sticking to trail runs wouldn’t hurt either.
That’s about all I got for this blog, but next blog I’m going to go over stretches, foam rolling techniques and exercises that should be done to prevent injury from running as well as cycling. There’s a safe way to do it and if you want to start up or continue running you should check it out!!
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