Cardio: Cycling vs Running

Let's start with the physiological or internal effects that running and cycling have on your body. When performing any type of exercise, no matter the load or duration, your body uses 3 main energy systems to generate the amount needed to perform that activity. Activities that are short and intense, such as sprints or weightlifting, use mainly a system that runs primarily off of protein. Activities of sustained exercise between 5-20 minutes in duration like swimming, rowing, jogging, cycling use primarily carbohydrates. Activities that go on for longer amounts of time breaking the 20-30 minute barrier, use primarily fat as an energy substrate.

All of these measurements are roughly assuming that you are starting from at rest. For instance, if you hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then take 5-10 minutes to put on your gear to go for a bike ride; then it will take a shorter amount of time to reach that "fat-burning" stage.

The amount of fat able to store in one's muscles can generate over 70,000 kcals of energy. In other words, your fat storage allows you to maintain long bouts of exercise like running a marathon or going for a 100 mile bike ride. Furthermore, this means that you will essentially have an unlimited amount of fuel to perform an exercise. The reason we tire and eventually have to stop is due mostly to dehydration.

Now we'll briefly go over the physical tole that both running and cycling take on your body.

When it comes to running, not everyone was built to be a runner. That is not to say that anyone is unable to run unless of a physical disability. According to the American Running Association, no person over 185lbs should attempt running if it is their first time, nor should they run for extended periods of time. If you are a runner and have been for some time, then it is okay to be above the 185 mark as long as it is a "good" 185lbs. The 185lb. weight threshold was established as a result of the amount of pressure your joints can handle from impact forces. Each added pound in weight equals 3lbs of on your joints (hips, spine, knees, and ankles).

Therefore, for those who are not long-time runners, the best option physically would be to ride a bicycle. Cycling removes the impact force on your joints and instead transfers it to a sustainable force for your muscles and joints. Don't be fooled...sustainable forces can do just as much damage as impact forces over time! So, the best thing you can do if you're wanting to take up cycling, is to purchase a "road bike" and have it fitted by a professional so that your knees are able to rest in between strokes and so that pressure can be distributed evenly along your spine.

For those unable to do either type of exercise, consider walking or riding a stationary recumbent-style bike that allows you to be in a "sitting-up" posture.

This is a topic that could be and more than likely will be dissected further in the future. For now, I hope this answers more questions than it creates. Bottom line, if you're main goal is to burn fat, then you'll need to devote a little more time out of your day to performing cardio past the 20-30 minute mark. If you're wanting to start running, consider the pro's and con's and be realistic on if your body is able to handle that type of exercise load. Cycling is the safest for your joints, but has it's fair share of risks as well. You're never going to get "there" if you don't start. So take the extra steps today to get yourself to where you want to be physically, professionally, and spiritually.


Fit Tips

Dehydration by definition is simply, "Dryness due to the removal of water." So it's simple, you just drink water to avoid it right? Unfortunately it's not that easy. With summer approaching it's good to know what exactly is going on inside your body during dehydration, and what steps you can take to detect and prevent it from occurring.