Dimity McDowell Davis is one of the two authors of Run Like a Mother and the recent Train Like a Mother books. She’s been a runner for years, and started cycling a few years ago to help with some knee issues.
Trek Women asked her to share her top reasons to try cycling for cross-training!
From Two Feet to Two Wheels
Please don’t tell my faithful companion running that I’m having an affair. With a bike. And I’m in love with her—and how fast and far she lets me go, how easy she is on my joints, how capable my quads look and feel as they poke out of my bike shorts. I’m not ready to commit to her forever, but I regularly take her on long, out-of-town jaunts and I plan on doing that for the rest of my life.
Truth be told, I’ve never been a monogamous athlete. Although running has been my focus in words and action for the past twenty or so years, I’ve always kept cycling tucked in my back pocket and pulled out her pedals when I need her. Which is often. I—like most runners—benefit every time I swap out a run for a ride.
Here are the top six reasons why runners should regularly trade their two feet for two wheels:
1. Pure and simple: Speed. I am not a fast or efficient runner. Unless I am facing a (dreaded) headwind, I will never feel the wind through my hair when I run. But on a bike? That wind whips so good. Sometimes, it feels like my bike can’t gobble up the pavement quickly enough. More than that, my legs feel so fluid and smooth, and seem to have a bottomless tank.
2. A break for the joints. After any run longer than an hour, my knees talk back to me. And not in a nice way. But I can ride for a couple of hours, and my ankles, knees, and hips are as happy as I am at the end. (The only part that can hurt are my most delicate parts from sitting on the seat. But a seat designed for women, like the Bontrager InForm RL WSD seat, and Bontrager Solstice WSD cycling shorts with a female-specific chamois and chamois cream help things considerably.)
3. Riding is a great equalizer. I have a friend named Katherine with whom I really struggle to run with; her easy pace doesn’t even compare to my fast one. But we can ride together for hours. On bike paths or car-free parks, we ride side-by-side, chat and laugh. I can also ride with my swift husband and my kids, who, sadly, are also becoming too fast for me to run with. If one rider is much stronger than the other, Wonder Woman takes the lead and her sidekick tucks in behind her, and both get a great workout.
4. Cycling=the best cross-training going. Not only it is easy on your joints, but focused riding can improve your cardiovascular capacity and make you a stronger runner. Because of a stress fracture in my heel, I trained for eight weeks on a bike for a marathon. I did endless intervals, quad-busting hill climbs, and long, steady rides. When my heel was healed, my legs and lungs were fresh and ready to go. (We’ve got a super effective eight-week plan, adopted from my training schedule, for training for a half-marathon on a bike in Train Like a Mother.)
5. A sense of adventure. I am a same-route, one-pace wonder when I run; adding an extra mile or two because I made a wrong turn means quite a bit more work. But put two wheels under me, and suddenly, I’m wanting to get lost. A few extra miles on a bike is nothing—and the feeling of figuring out a backway to the park or realizing that Road A connects to Road B is surprisingly empowering. Full disclosure: I used to not be adventurous because I was worried about flats, but I took a class (and then another refresher class) at a bike shop about how to change them, tried it a couple times at home to get my skills down, and went on my way. That’s really empowering too.
6. A cycling high. At the end of it all, the high is the reason that brings me back to my bike again and again. Every two-wheeled voyage is a delicious combination of velocity, power, energy, distance and rhythm. When I park my bike in the garage when I’m done, I feel mentally energized and physically solid; every ride reconnects my body, mind and spirit in a way only pedaling can.
Interested in getting a new bike? Trek makes Women’s Specific Design models, full details on their Women’s Collection.