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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Best reasons for Memphians to consider either running and/or cycling

Best reasons for Memphians to consider either running and/or cycling
By:  Michael Lander

With adequate training, cyclists can ride up to 100 miles or more in a
single day.  These cyclists are one of several hundred participating
in a two-day, 150-milebike ride in 2012 for the National Multiple
Sclerosis Society.
Some prefer to run, others would rather ride.  Though different in many respects, both runners and cyclists have much in common with one another, reaping some of the same health benefits, sharing some of the same roads, the same trails, and often many of the same goals. 

Often identified as two of the more popular forms of aerobic exercise that anyone can do, both running and cycling can be done either indoors or out, alone or with others.  For most though, when given the choice, nothing beats being able to take your workout outdoors, turning the outside world into your own personal workout area.

In Memphis, it is obvious that a growing number of people are doing just that with many taking advantage of the burgeoning number of multi-purpose trails and dedicated bike lanes.  This is coupled with an increasing awareness and acceptance of runners and cyclists who are becoming a very familiar sight as more and more Memphians are putting on their running shoes or getting out on their bikes and riding.

Cyclists have a number of places where they can ride with many
drawn to the Shelby Farms Greenline trail, among others.
Even though runners and cyclists don't exactly compete against one another, (and it wouldn't exactly be a fair race if they actually ever did), comparisons, invariably can and should be expected.  These can be especially helpful to anyone who is looking to get into shape and is considering whether to start running or to take up cycling.  Each of the two certainly has its own set of pros and cons and it should be factored into any decision as to which might be best and which will meet the needs for each and every individual.

When it comes to cycling, one of the biggest advantages that it has over running is that it allows you to cover a lot more territory, and to see more scenery, than you can typically get on most runs.  Cycling can also serve a more practical purpose in that it can allow you can travel to and from places, over longer distances, in which you can carry things that you couldn't reasonably do while running.   

Also, cycling is often seen by many experts as being easier on the body than running can be.  Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin said, "Cycling is a non-weight bearing activity, so it is better for your knees and joints."

Another option for cyclists is to do some off-road, mountain
bike trails. These can be a great workout and they can offer
an exciting alternative for those interested in riding something
besides the roads or other paved surfaces.
One of the biggest disadvantages with cycling, it would seem, is the cost that is often associated with it.  The most significant expense is the initial investment in the bike itself, but after that, there is the cost of routine maintenance and repair and then the added cost of any gear and equipment that you might want to have for your bike and then there is the money that you will need to spend on clothing and a helmet. 

In addition to that, cyclists are always going to encounter greater wind resistance and the hills are going to be much harder to climb than a runner is likely to experience.  Also, there is a greater risk of more serious injuries and accidents that can occur on a bike, especially when riding on the roads. 

To help minimize or alleviate some of the risks involved with that, it may help to ride with other cyclists and it might make it more fun by doing that.  If you are looking for others to ride with in the Memphis area, you can join a bike club like the Memphis Hightailers or the Hernando Bicycle Club in Mississippi.

Men's Health conducted a short comparative look at cycling verses running and which one of these is best.  They considered which will get you fit the fastest, which one will help build muscle better, help with losing weight, and which one will cause less wear and tear on your body.  Their conclusion was that cycling won in three of these four categories with running edging out cycling when it comes to weight loss.

Runners have a wide range of options in places that they can go to run
and a couple of running groups that they can join if they're interested. 
This group of runners are members of one of Memphis' running clubs,
Star Runners, crossing over the bridge from Mud Island and heading east
toward downtown Memphis.
Aside from helping lose more weight, running is also less expensive than cycling can be.  About all that you need is a good pair of running shoes and you are good to go.  Running, for the most part, also provides a high intensity aerobic workout that you may not always get on a bike ride and you can get away with being out in inclement weather conditions that are not necessarily practical or sensible to try to do on a bike. 

Like with cycling, runners may find more safety in numbers as well and they have the option of several running clubs in the Memphis area to choose from like Star Runners and the Memphis Runners Track Club.

Even though some may see running or cycling as an either or proposition, there are several good reasons for considering the idea of actually doing both.  Susan Lacke identified some of the more convincing reasons for doing both in her blog entitled "5 Ways Cycling Can Make You a Stronger Runner."  In it she said that cycling can be an excellent cross-training activity for runners, helping to strengthen complementary muscles, provide active recovery, and can get you well on your way to becoming a triathlete, should you have ambitions for doing that.

Running, as with cycling, is growing increasingly popular in and
around the city of Memphis with members of both groups
experiencing the cardiovascular and other health benefits
associated with each activity.
While it is not uncommon to see runners who are willing to try cycling, especially after suffering an injury or after experiencing some sort of knee or joint pain, there are probably a lot more cyclists who are reluctant to make any attempt at running.  Some, it would seem, would be willing to do it only if they were being chased by somebody. 

For them, this may be one of those times that they might want to look at this situation as if it were like a bicycle gear, but one that required a paradigm shift, so to speak.  By doing that, and considering the benefits of doing both, it can provide for an alternative workout that may help them with becoming an even better cyclist than they currently are.

Whether you run or ride or do both, the main thing is to get out and do something.   "Greater aerobic fitness is closely linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and a longer life span," Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka said and ultimately, in the end, you really can't go wrong with choosing to either run, to ride a bike, or to do a combination of both.  Either way, you will undoubtedly benefit with better health and a much better quality of life.

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