Top Essential Bike Workout For Runners

Last Updated on March 29, 2021
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
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Top Essential Bike Workout For Runners:

Are you eagerly searching for ways to improve your running and cycling? Are you build your endurance so in your next run you can go for longer?

Well, stationary bike workouts may be your new best friend.

You may not believe me when I say this, but stationary bike workouts are crucial for running training. This is because they’re an easy, low-impact workout that will help build and repair damaged joints caused by running.

It is also essential for building endurance, so when you go on your next run, next marathon, next race, you will push faster, for longer.

But you may be asking yourself, are there any cycling workouts for runners?

Good news, there are many, and I’m here to break down the best cycling workouts specifically for runners. Cycling is one of the best cross-training exercises to build muscle and endurance.

Here’s a tip: The best way to build your endurance while not running is to practice riding uphill, cycling short sprints, going on a recovery ride, or building up steady riding for endurance.

Let’s jump into my collection of the top essential cycling workouts for runners.

The Benefits of Cycling for Runners:

For runners, cycling has to be one of the best cross-training exercises that will complement your running ability, and here are the main reasons why:

It targets all major running muscles: The main benefit of cycling is that it strengthens all your muscles in your legs, from your calves all the way up to your glutes. But it will also target abdominal muscles and your core as you push further, which also helps to build endurance.

Non-impact: Cycling targets all the key running muscles in a low-impact and great way. Pedaling helps improve movement impact without putting too much strain on your joints that could cause injury.

Brilliant for recovery: Cycling is a brilliant active recovery exercise; it is low-impact and doesn’t put weight on your legs while you cycle. It is brilliant for building muscles and repairing muscles after an injury or a hard workout.

Active recovery is brilliant for increasing blood flow, soothing muscle soreness, relieving joint stiffness, and flush out any toxins within your leg to help aid a speedy recovery for a runner.

Many workouts to choose from: Just like running, there is a whole world of cycling workouts you can do on your bike to improve your fitness. This includes interval sprint sessions, tempo rides, recovery rides, and long, steady pace rides to improve endurance.

The best cross-over workouts for runners that will build strength mimic standard and classic running workouts.

Improves leg turnover: At a high spinning cadence of around 90 revolutions a minute or more, it will improve leg turnover, which will massively improve efforts in the running.


Here are the best cycling workouts for runners:

While training, you shouldn’t forget to add a cycling workout to your weekly training list. This is vital for runners to build endurance, repair and strengthen muscle, improve aerobic capacity, reduce the chance of injury, and much more.

So what are the best workouts for runners?

Running and cycling go hand in hand, and here are my top training workouts to do to improve your running:

Endurance training:

Endurance is the top thing cycling helps to build, whether you’re cycling on the road, tackling a rocky mountain, or using a stationary bike for an endurance workout out, whatever you decide will help to improve your endurance.

Improving your endurance in a cycling workout will help to improve your aerobic capacity. I would recommend riding for at least an hour continuously during your rest days to improve your endurance training.

You should start with a 10-minute easy pace pedaling to warm up, then aim for 45 -60 minutes or even more if you want to push the limits

If you’re looking to push the limits, then try cycling for two hours at a low intensity. This will increase your heart rate by up to 70%, although I would recommend either doing it with friends or watching a good film while doing this to prevent you from getting bored.

Speed Interval sessions:

Intervals are the crucial part of any cycling training, they have many aerobic benefits and burn so many calories, you can do this on your own or in a group, indoor or outdoor.

On both indoor or outdoor training sessions, you should try to complete a maximum of six efforts of 30-second sprints under zone 5. It should be no more than an hour because your heart rate should be at the Vo2 max at 90% in these zone 5 sessions.

Before you start interval sessions, you should complete a 10-minute warm-up and then a 10 minute cool down at the end of your session. Plus, after your 30-second sprint, you should rest for 2-3 minutes after every interval.

It is the key to losing weight of increasing your speed for runners. It also works to enhance your endurance training as your working short, high-intensity sprints. It also helps to improve the VO2 max and strength of your body.

Remember your rest days for this cycling type; you should complete this twice every week (leaving a day or two recoveries in between).

Threshold training:

The threshold is a way to lactate your muscles to reduce fatigue and slow down your pace. Fatigue is likely to occur after long, steady climbs or high-intensity training for an extended period of time.

To reduce the change of body and muscle fatigue, you should design a lactate threshold program, which essentially means that you can do 30 minutes of cycling at your headrest pace, and then you can hold the workout for the same time.

This threshold holding time depends on performance and power meter, but if you don’t have a power meter, you can calculate the headrest pace at zone 3-4 for an hour.

Instead of working until you can’t anymore, try doing 3 sets in 15 minutes of riding what you would in one hour, or at zone four of lactate threshold. Then try easy spinning for 5 minutes in a low-intensity gear while keeping your RPM above 90.

Over time and as you build your lactate threshold, you can increase your riding length by repetitions every 20-30 minutes per threshold instead of 15 minutes.

Strength training:

While strength training, you should be doing climbing, sprinting, and creating gaps between yourself and the maximum using the pedals. You can even work on your core strength routine during off-season training to gain more strength for the following season.

To build strength while training, you should work on doing hill climbing and spring training while maintaining a zone 4 or 5. You can either climb steeply for 5 minutes then rest for 1-2 minutes between intervals.

You can also create 1-2 intervals in a lower gear and aim for a cadence of 70RPMs if you prefer.

Recovery Ride:

Recovery is crucial for building muscle, cadence, endurance, and overall progress and performance. Without resting and recovery, you are more likely to cause injury and may detriment your progress rather than improve it.

You should have rest days for at least 1-2 days a week, or if you go on high intensity and max pace ride, you should do a 2-3 hours recovery ride at zone 1 in a low gear.

Recovery rides help to recover muscles from high-intensity training and prepare them for your next toughest cycling effort. You should also consider a post-ride massage, stretching, and always completing a 5-minute cool down after every ride.

Recovery is crucial for building and repairing muscle and preventing the chance of injury or illness.

The Spinning Option:

Spinning is a high-intensity workout and you may have access to spin bikes at the gym without having to pay out for a whole new exercise bike (all you need to worry about is your membership cost).

It is a brilliant stationary spin bike workout for runners. 

Spin bikes come with pre-program training and even offer an interval session. All you need is your phone and a good playlist, maybe even a gym buddy to help with the boredom.

Spin classes are super easy to come by and a great way to get your heart rate up, build muscle, and overall a great workout for runners.

Road Bike Cycling Workout

Already got yourself a road bike at home? Brilliant news, here’s a brilliant road bike workout that will provide you with a brilliant interval session.

You can do this workout on flat sections or hills as long as you can have intervals of picking up the pace and elevating your heart rate.

Here’s how you do it :

  • 10-minute easy biking warm-up:
  • 5 minutes of moderate cycling
  • 2 minutes power sprint
  • 4 minutes to maintain moderate pace interval recovery
  • 1-minute maximum sprint
  • 5 minutes maintain a moderate speed
  • 3 minutes maximum sprint
  • 10 minute cool down after the workout for recovery.

Tabata Intervals Cycling Workout:

Tabata intervals workout has been designed by Japanese exercise physiologist Izumi Tabata and consists of 20 alternating 20-second sprints to increase the intensity and 10-second recovery intervals.

This cycling workout is brilliant for those who have little time and want to get the most intensity of every second spent on the bike. It is brilliant for getting your heart rate up too.

The benefits of your cardiovascular fitness are great too as a result of the hard effort and the number of calories burned per ride.

You should begin your workout with 10 minutes easy warm-up ride to get your body and muscles warm. You should then increase the intensity of the gear ratio or tension for 20 seconds intervals, cycling as fast a possible.

Then you should take 10-second intervals to recover from your first part of the ride. You should do this 8 to 10 x times. After the 8th interval round, you should pedal for 1-2 minutes and repeat for a further two to three times.

Climbing Intervals Cycling Workout:

Climbing intervals sessions and higher intensity sessions are a brilliant workout on a bike for building strength.

It helps you tackle hills with ease, and in stages of intervals. It will completely transform your muscular strength and endurance on your bike.

You can either tackle a moderate to the steep hill on a road bike or hop on a stationary bike with a riser block under the front hill to simulate a hill ride.

If you’re using a road bike in your session you should aim for a hill that will take you two to five minutes to ride, with an incline of 7-10%. Make sure this hill doesn’t have any traffic lights to stop you.

As always start with a 10 minute warm-up of easy pedaling. Then it’s time to tackle the hill aiming for 5-minute intervals. You should be aiming for 70-80 RPM and a power of 7-8.

Then you should coast downhill and repeat this session for up to 30 minutes. At the end of the session, you should also do 5-minute easy pedaling intervals to cool down.

How Can a Runner Get Started Cycling?

Now, cycling shouldn’t replace your running workout, unless you’re recovering from an injury or torn muscle. The best way to get into cycling is to balance out your cycling and running training program without having to detriment your running plan.

Biking does cost a lot more than running as you’re required to get more gear, you will need an entry-level road bike or exercise bike, which can put you back around $1000, running shoes, and a helmet (if you’re doing outdoor cycling).


Ways to improve your bike workout:

Improve your cadence: Cadence is the same for cycling as it is running and will massively improve your training as a whole. Cadence refers to the number of revolutions that pedals make per minute and you should be aiming for around 90 RPM per minute.

Relax your body: I know during a hard effort or high-intensity ride, runners tend to hold onto the handlebars as your life depends on it. It is the same in running, during your workout you should try and stay relaxed to save energy and prevent your muscles from tightening up as a result of stress.

Shift gear before you need it: You should practice shifting to gear before you need it, especially when approaching hills and stop light as this may cause the chain to slip.

Stay upright while climbing: Try to get your body in an upright position and aim for a circular pedaling motion when tackling climbs in your bike workout. This will put less strain on your legs and body.


All in all combining cycling into your fitness and running workout is essential to build and improve your performance as a runner. It has many aerobic benefits and overall brilliant for improving fitness.

Running is brilliant but it can put a strain on your muscles and joints, especially if they’re not strong enough. Riding a bike with consistent effort and cross-training can massively improve your performance as a runner.

Complete and combine one of these cycling fitness exercises with your running and gradually increase your riding effort and you will notice the difference after a few weeks. Cycling will work for the key muscle group in running without putting too much strain.

Don’t forget recovery fitness too, as much as cycling is brilliant for strengthening muscles at low impact, it can still cause injury.

Let’s improve our fitness and transform our runs together, happy cycling and happy running!

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