Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Adding Cycling to Running


Dale Matson

Traditionally my exercise drug of choice has been running. I learned the hard way about 15 years ago that, only running, as exercise is not prudent. Someone once said, “Runners are the fittest group of injured people I know.” I actually went two years with a tendon injury so painful that I could barely walk, let alone run. I had some relief in the winter cross country skiing.

As an ultrarunner, I had done miles upon miles of downhill running in training and developed Popliteal Syndrome. This kind of tendonitis is both very painful and under diagnosed. During this two-year period, I was not fun to be around and gained considerable weight.

Out of desperation, I began riding my mountain bike on the trails of the local park. I also bought a road bike and began riding with the local cycling club. For some, cycling is their drug of choice and I have learned over the years that most of my injuries were not really “overuse injuries”. They are muscle imbalance injuries. My hamstrings were so strong from long slow running that my legs would not even straighten out. By biking, I was able to rehabilitate and strengthen my quadriceps muscles. Take a look at professional cyclists and you can see what cycling does for the calves and quads. Their arms are another story however.

As I cycled, my aerobic capacity began returning and my weight began lowering. Other than crashes, cycling is a low impact exercise. Much to my amazement, my leg also began to straighten out and the pain behind my knee diminished. In short, I have cycling to thank for being able to return to running. I have cycling to thank when combined with running for finishing the Western States 100 mile endurance run. If I had only trained by running, I would have been too injured to make the starting line. A month later, I did the Climb To Kaiser here, which is considered one of the toughest one-day bike rides (it used to be done in July). The running also helped my biking. Biking, swimming and running complement one another.

Later, I added swimming to the running and biking and that led to triathlon competition but that is another story. I rarely compete in any of the sports today but continue to run, bike and swim regularly. I also train with weights to maintain my upper body. Bicep curls and triceps exercise transfers nicely to using ski and trekking poles.

Some of my older friends no longer exercise because they were solely runners and had chronic injuries. So for this category, there are runners and retired runners with no transition to other aerobic exercises.
I have triathlete friends in their 80’s who still compete in the sprint triathlons. Chuck Freuler at age 85 is the age group world champion in sprint triathlon. Another has had both a stroke and a heart attack. His quick recovery from both was helped by the fact that he was in such good condition as a multisport athlete.

My continuing goal is to have a quality of life that allows me to participate in athletics, remain relatively healthy and be in the mountains with the search and rescue team and as a hiker and backpacker.   

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