I need help. I started cross last year and one of my weak spots was my running. I am a big guy (230 lbs) and just don't run. Getting over the barriers was difficult and any prolonged sections of running would ensure I would lose ground to other racers.
So what I'm asking is for you folks to post up some running/training tips to improve my style(or lack of)
hopefully we'll get some coaching experts to chime in, but here are a few tips:
1) start slowly with a few short jogs and a lot of stretching to get your body used to the foreign activity of running before doing something hard. that'll prevent injury.
2) once that's done, focus on specific activities you'll encounter in a race - short sprints on flats or up hills. you can do them with or without the bike. many 'crossers just integrate them into their practice rides instead of going out for a run. the one downside is that the shoes aren't as supportive as a good running shoe for shock absorption and support if you're doing a bunch of running.
3) keep working on your mount and dismount technique. you'd be surprised how much time you can gain/save by simply slowing down less when you dismount as opposed to being a faster runner than others, especially on high-speed barriers and hills you can partially ride up. the downtube grab while on the bike is a lost art, but can be quite effective to helping you approach hills at a faster speed and hit the ground running without losing speed.
"For starters, running is what you when you are trying to get away from the cops. When I was a sophomore in high school I went out for the cross-country team. By virtue of the fact that our team was terrible, I found myself on the varsity team for most of the season and earned a letter to have sewn on my letter jacket. I went on to run track -- the mile, to be precise. I sucked. Had I actually had to get away from the cops, I am pretty sure even the fattest one of them would have been able to chase me down and tackle me without even breaking a sweat. I am really not exaggerating -- I was that bad. I once got lapped while running the mile. No joke.
dftI absolutely hate running. If I had only two choices -- either run a mile 3 days per week or become a fat slob, I would most likely be venturing off to Fried Twinkies R Us about now. With that said, somehow when I sling a bike over my right shoulder I can actually move pretty quickly on foot. But see, running and cyclocross are two separate things altogether, which is something that most people forget.
It seems that as soon as it starts to smell like cyclocross season, people put down their bikes for a few days per week and lace up their running shoes like they’re getting ready to go assault Boston or something. If you are one of these people and actually like to practice getting away from the police, have at it -- running is a great bang for the buck activity. However, if you’re like me and would rather drill holes in your feet than run anywhere, do yourself a favor and put those goofy shoes back in the closet underneath your bowling ball where they belong.
Aside from the occasional LeMans start, which is kind of a dumb name for it because they haven’t had a LeMans start at LeMans since before I could speak, you’re never really running that far in any cyclocross race. Typically, you’re either shuffling up a hill or long-striding to get over the barriers. With that in mind, cyclocross-style “running” is a much more beneficial activity than going out on a 6-mile jog. When I was still getting paid to ride my bike I did a bit of football-inspired footwork drills just to get the muscles used to movement other than just pedaling. Seriously, it is quick footwork that pays off in ‘cross, not the ability to endure the pain and utter boredom that running causes.
Training is not racing.
AdrieI know my grasp of the obvious is staggering, but I also know that too many people practice cyclocross at one speed. This is a mistake I learned to avoid while riding with the Van der Poel’s. If you’re the typical road or mountain bike racer you’ll be going into the cyclocross season with decent fitness and can adopt a slightly different style of training. We used to string together a ride that contained a few different sections of cyclocrossable terrain with some road sections in between. When we got to one of the sections we’d wick up the tempo a bit but would never hold the race pace for very long. As we moved to the following section the tempo would drop to a speed that a kid on a bike with training wheels could maintain. Think of it as the most organic intervals you’ve ever done.
Reconnoitering a race course is not racing either. Whenever possible, walk your course first and then check it out with your bike. Run and ride the technical sections fast but that is all. I’ve seen plenty of people who pre-ride race courses at race pace. You don’t learn enough about the course when you do this. You want to be intimately familiar with the parts that have the potential to make you crash instead of intimately familiar with the steep road climb section.
Finally, and this is really important, you’re going to need 4 of these beautiful Belgian cyclocrossers. Just kidding - 1 will do ... but 2 is better."
As interesting as this article is I have to somewhat disagree. What I will agree with is that that cyclocross specific running is better than a 6 mile run. The key to this entire difficult situation is a word that is becoming ever popular; specificity. Specificity refers to the body's ability to work a certain way under a different stress. Many articles have been written (educational and research based articles, not opinion) on the fact that muscles in the body function differently (although they may be the same muscles being used) when encountering different stresses.
Andrews three points are absolutely spot on. I race elite and UCI races all season and just this week I am kicking off my running. A whopping 5-7 minute run as conversational pace. The second article above makes it sound like many people run A LOT for cross. They may, but it's stupid. Specificity training for running requires that you run some. As you work towards cross (more than likely in a month or so) you want to start working on cyclocross specific style running, stairs, short burst sprints, even uphill (10-20 second sprints with possibly some foolish looking barrier type hopping. Again your muscles are adapting to the activity you are doing and in order to improve their adaptation to the specificity of the work at hand you have to do this repeatedly. Tues-Thurs can be good. These can be done with bike or not depending on how much time you have. I am limited in time so I tend to do these with bike in hand or along a ride to become acclimated to the shoes when running and simply to get better at cross.
Finally andrew stressed this and I will stress it 20=30 times over. Unless you have the most amazing fitness in the world, working on barrier technique will save your life and could make up the gap you lose on a runnup. Practice slow and safe dismounts and walking dismounts for the first week. Get used to mounting the bike propperly. Pick up the speed as you feel more comfortable. The more your body understands the bike and how to work in different terrain the more successful you will be. Unless you are a very fit person (which for myself I can say, and I still run) your body must specifically adapt to the effort you will be putting on it which is running. Whether through a barrier, up a hill or at a standstill turn one on the first lap, if your body is not specifically adapted to run, when you run your body won't understand what to do, your heartrate which is more than likely skyrocketed in a 'cross race (if not you need to ride faster) will explode on you and so will your legs muscularly.
If you have more in depth questions you would like to ask or are looking for advice on running workouts feel free to contact me either on the board or at huttondh(at)gmail.com
by the way, I am a level II certified cycling coach and cat I road and cyclocross racer. Feel free to ask me anything. I know this is a very dumbed down explanation of specificity. I can expand on it more if you would like!
I run a few sets of stairs with my bike at the end of my rides, and that's all the running I ever do (unless I'm traveling somewhere for work and bikeless, then I'll jog). There's also these concrete planters that are pretty similar to barriers in height, so when I pass them riding I pop off, hop them, and get back on. I would suggest incorporating something like that into your rides, so it just becomes second nature to run a few steps here and there.
I completely agree with the idea that being able to mount and dismount smoothly will pay off bigger than doing a lot of running. Barriers are definitely my weakest skill, and I pay for it every time.
All great points here. I would offer a few addition suggestions. The risk at 230 lbs is the potential damage to your knees, ankles, and lower back. You don't necessarily need great running skills but you do need the ability to safely "hit" the ground running after you dismount. Think about the stress on your ankles and knees after coming into a barrier at speed and dismounting. It was something I took for granted until I dismounted in some slippy stuff last year. Twisted my ankle and my knee buckled. Purely a joyless experience. It did cause me to retrain myself for better, more efficient dismounts/remounts but I also learned a valuable lesson on the little support muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are often overlooked. Try at adding a few exercises for your joints just to help add some stability to your game. The same thing with low back exercises too, just something to help keep you smooth as you get jarred around the course.
If you can shed a few extra pounds too that will definitely make you feel a lot better and hopefully faster. Loosing weight and retaining strength will automatically increase your strength to weight ratio. I've dropped 15lbs since the end of last season and I feel so much better. Percentage-wise it's probably easier and cheaper to drop some pounds off your body than to shed 150 grams off your bike.
I want to add a few things not mentioned (or mentioned and I didn't catch them).
First - running is a good way to help you drop weight. As a cyclists we get efficient and thus don't burn as many calories riding as we do running. That and running puts good stress on the cardio system (in a different way than cycling) and that's a good thing.
Plus you get the bone benefits from the impact. And plenty of studies show that running actually stimulates growth and production of lubricating "stuff" in your knees and joints, so doing it actually is better than not. All that is assuming you do it right and take it slow to start.
And like everyone says you don't need much running to improve your cyclocross. At most you'll be running for a few minutes (long sand beach runs), so anything more than 3-4 miles is just wasted time.
But you do always need to warm up (just like cycling training), and you should take it easy at first.
Start with a 5 minute walk, then run slowly for 5 minutes, and walk for 5 minutes, run for 5 and final cool down of walking for 5 minutes. Do that a couple times a week for a couple weeks, then go up to 10 minutes. When you can do 10 minutes without stress just do a 20 minute run with a 5 min walk on either end. When that 20 minutes is not feeling too overwhelming anymore, then you are ready to mix in some stair drills or sand runs or hills with the bike.
Don't try and just go out and start running with your bike doing "specific" stuff right away. You'll just wind up injured. Get those running muscles somewhat used to doing what you want them to in race day.
The benefits will pay off well after the cross race has ended.
YMMV and always make sure you know your limits and don't hurt yourself... we're just a bunch of know it alls on the internet ;)
A little to add out of my own racing and coaching experience:
a) Dave was dead on with starting slow, being specific, and tue-thur running... to add to this; allow 48-72 hrs between running specific workouts (times should vary based on your ability level and intensity on the bike). The one exceptions is EASY cross skills work, this usually can provide active recovery so long as it is EASY cross skills work, ie not Wed not cross 'practice' which turns into a race.
b) Both hit on doing things you will be doing in training you will be doing in races (springs, hill sprints)... one thing to add, its not good to go for a few easy runs and then start doing sprints; unless you want to drastically up your chances to get an injury or slow your fitness. Rather, grudually build up to 20-30 minutes of z-3 and even z-4 running. Then add in sprints. By that point you should have the required ankle strength and muscular adaptation to those short bursts.
c) just a few of these specific workouts along with cross skills work and racing will go a LONG way. I have had great success with myself and clients using this method, ranging from beginners to elites we've gotten several state championships and regional series wins. In each case the total # of running 'sprint/hill sprint' workouts are in the single digets.
Hope this helpful.
For more specifics on running and other cross stuff, you can check out some of Andy Applegates articles on our website www.ashevillevelosports.com
There are some good tips already, so I will be brief. Cyclocross racing requires a very dynamic type of running, similar to field sports, but with a 18lb weight over your shoulder. Plyometrics will improve your leg/ankle strength as well as your coordination for dynamic running. I like to incorporate 2-3 plyometric workouts into my training week. I stick with simple things like box hops, side to side hops, lunges, and standing long jumps into my work out. I will do these after I have warmed up on the bike for 20-40 minutes. How much running you do in training should be a matter also of the types of courses you race on. Very wet or very sandy courses require more running.