I was an early adopter of the Peloton spin bike; I bought mine 3 years ago! As part of my rehab following ACL surgery, I knew I needed the low impact cardio of a bike to get myself back on track. Because I am a cardio junkie, just any old bike would not do. Back then, the Peloton was relatively new on the market, so I visited my local Peloton store to try it out. I was immediately hooked…I needed a high-quality spin bike to fill the void I was missing from my regular outdoor running routine. My rides started with low impact classes and quickly progressed to more high intensity climb rides.
During those first 6 months, I quickly pumped out 100 rides and I found an improved rhythm in my legs. That fresh energy took my running speed to a whole new level once I was cleared to run post ACL rehab. In fact, my running speed was 1 minute faster per mile after ACL surgery than it was before! To think that simply adding a spin bike to my routine could impact my running so much...it’s amazing, to say the least!!
Fast forward to present day. My running speed and cadence continued to improve over the past three years as I added strength and outdoor interval training to my workouts. Yet, the novelty of my Peloton wore off and my rides dwindled to once every few months when outdoor weather conditions were undesirable.
Then COVID-19 hit. All gym and outdoor workouts were halted, so I dusted off my old friend, Peloton, and jumped on for a ride. I forgot how much my legs and mind enjoyed the rides. One ride turned into three rides a week and again I started crushing workouts both on and off the bike. My running speed dropped by another minute per mile! “Unbelievable,” I thought. Could the spin bike really be the x-factor to shaving off my time?
So, truly, what is the secret ingredient that makes spin classes so effective at improving run times? Here are some reasons why spinning may be the cross-training key to your running success.
1. Spinning minimizes running injuries by giving runners a break from high-impact training. Because spinning is low impact, like swimming and rowing, it supports cardiovascular endurance while decreasing the impact loading on joints. Another perk is that it requires full hip, knee, and ankle mobility, which is great at lubricating joints and allowing any nagging injuries to heal more quickly.
2. Spinning can be substituted for runs that involve speed-work, especially if the runner has tight muscles or minor pains. As we know from our blog 3 Tips to Improve Your Running Efficiency, a higher running cadence causes the feet to turn over faster therefore reducing the chance of injury because the feet spend less time in contact with the ground. A higher pedal stroke cadence is correlated with faster running strike cadence. Therefore, a high spinning cadence can produce the same running cadence response without the impact of the ground. This cadence chart taken from Runner's World Magazine (Rick Niles, June 1992) may be helpful at understanding the correlation:
3. Spinning builds muscle strength in the legs because a pedal stroke requires more muscle power than a running stride, especially when challenged through different levels of resistance. Studies show that greater leg strength improves the ability to use oxygen efficiently while running which leads to improved running speed and endurance.
4. Spinning provides interval training because the rides often have a variety of positions and cadences based on the instructor or song choice. One song may involve a flat road at a steady cadence while the next song requires a heavy climb out of the saddle followed by an immediate fast sprint in the saddle. The variability forces the rider to train slow-twitch fibers for endurance then switch fast-twitch fibers for speed and a quick finish during a race.
If you are looking to add some cross training into your running routine, consider jumping into a spin class! You may even start running faster! Peloton has made it easy to tackle a ride from the comfort of your own home. Even professional athletes like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield of the NFL and Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas of the PGA are jumping on the bandwagon!
If you are unsure of bike settings and appropriate rides for your level, let us help you out. We love to ride and would be thrilled for you to join us!
If you are interested in learning more about the rage surrounding spinning, check out this recent article!
Thanks for reading!
Lauren Sok PT, MPT
Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 18 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at www.functionizehealth.com.
1. Forman, Laura, "Why Runners Need Spinning," for Active.com.
2. Keating, Lauren, “Spin Class Obsessed: Why Runners Need to Ride,” for runnerclick.com, Jan 06, 2019.
3. Niles, Rick. “Spin Cycle.” Runners World (June 1992), p. 33.
4. “Could Spinning Be the Best Cross-Training for Runners?” breakingmuscle.com