Monday, May 26, 2014

Running vs. Cycling and other odd thoughts

We came home early today from our extended Memorial Day weekend. I'm not sure why...if my husband wanted to beat the holiday traffic or if he just wanted to come home, but we were home by noon. We were at my father-in-law's lake house, where we have spent many, many years making memories, spending most of our time on the water: boating, fishing, waterskiing, tubing, and swimming. I always pack my running shoes and have run many miles on the roads there. In my younger years, I was a little more adventurous, running on the country roads, but as time has passed, I've become more safety conscious, and stick a little closer to home. There are 4 channels off the lake, and I'll run those, adding in a little winding along the lake to make it a 6 miler. When I trained for the Chicago Marathon, I ran much farther along the lake for my long runs. It is pretty populated (aka safe) and the view is not bad, if you enjoy looking at water. I do.

This weekend was the first time in my 20+ years of running that I didn't pack my running shoes. My suitcase felt light and I had the unsettling feeling that I was forgetting something. When I woke up in Wisconsin yesterday morning, I felt aimless, not going for my usual run. My husband must have sensed it, and asked if I wanted to go fishing with him and my oldest son. So I did. I caught a few little fish, and it was really relaxing sitting in the boat, the sun warming us all. A wise person once told me that it is impossible to worry and fish at the same time, and I believe she was right.

In the afternoon, we took the boys wakeboarding. The water was really cold, and part of me was glad I had an excuse not to go...but part of me longed to be the one at the end of the rope, being pulled around the lake. Waterskiing is something else I've done for years...even longer than running! Thinking back, there were only 2 summers that I haven't skied...both when I was pregnant with these two:

When we got home from the lake this morning, I had lunch and decided to go for a bike ride. Maybe missing my run made me feel the need to move. I'm normally a morning exerciser, but something about the bike seems a little easier, more flexible. I struggle with running in the afternoon! I'm not sure why...if it has something to do with my fueling, or what. Or could it be my brain?

As I rode this afternoon, in the 87 degree heat and high humidity, I felt pretty lucky to be on the bike. I reflected on the differences between cycling and running. And tried to decide which activity has the advantage:

  • Portability: Running wins out here. All you need are your shoes and the road. If I want to cycle away from home, I have to bring my bike. And since I don't have a hitch on my Jeep...ok, poor excuse...that is on my to do list! BUT, and to me this is a huge plus, you can carry drinks and snacks on the bike. A definite advantage for a gal who hates the fuel belt. That would be me.
  • Weather conditions: Over the years, I've become a weather junkie, checking the conditions and forecast multiple times before heading out for a run or a bike. Before today's bike ride, I carefully checked the radar because with heat and humidity, thunderstorms can pop up out of nowhere. The last place I want to be in a storm is on my bike. I saw a guy today, on his bike, caught in a thunderstorm. I really felt badly for the guy! But in the heat and humidity, cycling can't be beat. As you ride, you create your own breeze. In the cold, in the wind, in the rain...running has the edge.  Running is much more bad weather friendly. Not that I enjoy it. But today, cycling won, hands down.  Don't get me wrong, I was HOT and sweaty, but there is no way I could have run for 2 hours today. I probably couldn't have run 3 miles today. 
  • Scenery: This is a tough call. Either way, you can really enjoy nature. With the bike, you can go farther, but you are going faster, so there is the chance of missing out on something cool. When I run, I listen to music, so that can distract me from just taking in my surroundings too. 
  • Cost: Runners joke about how expensive running is, with race entry fees what they are, but come on! Have you priced a road bike lately? Even an entry level road bike is going to cost you close to $1000. And if you add accessories, like shoes and pegs, a helmet, bike rack for the car, maintenance...running is much cheaper. Running clothes are much cooler than cycling clothes though. IMHO. And that can add up to $$.
  • Calorie burner: Running has the edge here: but not as much as you'd think! I read a couple of articles on this topic, and I was surprised to find out that a runner who runs at a 10min/mile pace burns as many calories as a cycler pedalling at a 14-15mph rate (about 600/hour). Not bad! And here I am riding for hours, trying to keep my metabolism fired up. Not that I'm complaining...endorphinaholic here!
  • Injuries: cycling definitely has the edge here. Unless you wipe out or god forbid, get hit by a car. Running is hard on the body because it is an impact sport. Hello, broken foot! Because cycling is non-impact, there are a lot less stress related injuries. But sitting on the saddle for a couple of hours can make you pretty sore in the nether regions. Even with padded shorts. Even with a padded seat. But I guess a sore bottom doesn't really count as an injury, right?
  • Safety: I feel much less vulnerable to creepers when I'm zipping along on my bike. Although today I saw a guy wielding a fishing pole, and I had the fleeting thought that he could have whipped me with it and knocked me off my bike. Luckily, he was more interested in catching fish. I've had a few weird incidents while running that makes me much more cautious. The forest preserve seems to attract weirdos. And that is a whole other post--stay tuned. For me, the biggest hazard are cars, whether running or cycling. Even more so, while cycling, I think. Today I had yet another near miss by a driver who thinks that turning right on red means "no cop, no stop". Meanwhile, I was in the crosswalk. He waved me on--hey thanks, mister! It's the law! 

But even after reading this, I guess for me, the bottom line is that I enjoy both...but even after all the biking I've been doing this summer, I still like running better.

What I've been thinking though, is that I need more balance in my training. I'm doing yoga once/week and crossfit too...running 4 days/week. I need to try to squeeze in at least 1 or 2 rides/week too. Too bad I have to work!

How do you feel about cross training? Do you like the bike? Or are you a die hard runner?


  1. Good comparisons! Injury forced me to bike more, and that's how I grew to love it. I had a great ride today. I like that I'm less sensitive to heat on the bike. I think I'll always like running best, but I love me some crosstraining too.

  2. I tried to comment on this from my ipad last night but it didn't work. Ugh. Anyway....clearly I enjoy cross training enough to actually race in the other two sports I cross train in, ha ha. Given that the bike is longest leg of a triathlon, it helps if you enjoy it, which I do. But of course, running is my favourite. I feel like triathlon was invented by a runner who saved the best part for last, ha ha.

    1. I love both biking and running..the swimming is what holds me back from a tri!

  3. Fun comparison. I linked my biking vs. running post, and you'll see that I might not agree that biking is safer - at least when I was learning to use clipless shoes!

    1. I don't think biking is safer either! You're going too fast to react.