Cycling a decent alternative to running?

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Previously, I was too out of shape and thick around the middle to be comfortable doing much cardio beyond the 4mph jog. Running on the football field was a struggle, but I powered through it. I can't get the hang/groove of an elliptical and bicycle seats are too small/uncomfortable for my oversized derriere.

The problem I am running into (pun intended) is that I have pretty bad Achilles bone spurs that stick straight back out from my heel and dig into my tendon. I was told that at some point, I would need surgery to actually remove the heel, but I am avoiding that at all costs. I find that the more high impact jogging I do, the more it inflames the tendon and sets me back. Two steps forward, three steps back, so to speak.

People in my office are HUGE into the cycling scene. They do Spin classes in the am AND pm and are organizing road rallys. So far, I have been successful in fending off the peer pressure of these lunatics who ride hundreds of miles a day. But they are wearing me down.....

I would imagine that the repetitive cycling motion would still aggravate my bone spur. Does anyone have any perspective on this?

Also, I have heard horror stories about the intensity of Spin classes, especially for someone who doesn't ride at all. How do you START doing Spin classes without jumping into the deep end with the sharks? Is there a minimum ability level on the stationary bike I should achieve on my own before considering sitting in on one of these classes?

Replies

  • rcontr7
    rcontr7 Posts: 61 Member
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    Spin is really low impact. I spin between anywhere from 45-90 minutes per day on average and am seeing some awesome results. It's hard at first and the classes are meant to challenge you but the resistance control you have allows you to adjust the workout to your level until you can be on par with the lunatics in your office. Cycling is the most fun cardio I've found - plus, I can do it everyday because NOTHING hurts after and it's turned into a good way to zone out. I really enjoy it and think you should definitely give it a try. Also, wear a HRM if you have one! It's a good motivator.
  • LifeInTheBikeLane
    LifeInTheBikeLane Posts: 345 Member
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    Ahh, cycling is an amazing thing. I can't weigh in on whether or not it will effect your injuries but I know it can be an amazing work out. I have done spin before and liked it but nothing compares to an open road/trail. I hate ellipticals, love arc trainers. Arc trainers can be a great work out and I have seen a lot of people say it is low impact on their knee areas so perhaps that can mean low impact on your injured areas?

    I lost 80+ pounds on a bike. 60lbs of that I lost in under a year. I swear by my bike, I really do. Try that spin class, you may just get really into it! Good luck!!!
  • Cherimoose
    Cherimoose Posts: 5,208 Member
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    Cycling does the work the calf muscles (which pull on the Achilles), so you might get some pain, but probably not as bad as running. You can minimize calf involvement by sliding your foot forward on the pedal, so the axle is under your mid-foot or heel, instead of the forefoot.
    Also give your calves a good 30 second stretch right before the class, to relax them.
    mjtunney wrote: »
    How do you START doing Spin classes without jumping into the deep end with the sharks?

    Get out of the water early. Do 10 minutes the first day, 15-20 the next, etc.

    By the way, doing only cycling for exercise is associated with lower bone density, according to research, so i'd do some strength training too. ;)
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,865 Member
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    I primarily cycle. I'm trying to get back into running a bit as I really would like to accomplish my goal I set a couple of years ago of doing a sprint triathlon with my mom...but every time I start running a lot, my posterior tibial tendons in both feet get all cranky. They've had a nice long rest this time around and I've done some rehab work as well as I have primarily been cycling now for about a year without running and I'm starting my running very slow and easy...hoping by late spring I'll be rocking that sprint.
  • Chieflrg
    Chieflrg Posts: 9,097 Member
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    I run and cycle. Always remember though low-impact doesn't mean it won't hurt you. Cycling hurts my knees more than running by 100x.
  • habit365
    habit365 Posts: 174
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    The thing about spin classes is that you can choose your own level. The instructor may say to set it at 16 and keep it at 100 rpms, but if you need to set it at 12 to keep it to 100 rpms, nobody is stopping you. The room is dark, everyone is focusing on their own workout. When I needed to go lower than the instructor said, I just subtracted X off of whatever she said, so I still got variation and kept my lunch. :p

    My foot problems are more of the plantar fasciitis variety (spinning is fine for me) so I can't speak to that aspect.
  • hill8570
    hill8570 Posts: 1,466 Member
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    I live on a mountain bike in the summer. Didn't even attempt to start running until I was within 10 pounds of my goal weight (and, even now, I run, at most, twice a week). You can burn plenty on a bike. OTOH, I consider spinning the biking equivalent of the treadmill...and both are insanely boring. Can't say if biking would aggravate your bone spur / achilles issue -- there's still some ankle motion biking, although it's relatively minimal if you're properly pedalling "in the round". Only one way to find out...
  • ka97
    ka97 Posts: 1,984 Member
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    If you are looking for a good calorie burn, then yes cycling/spin is a great option. Personally, I love to run, and I just don't get the same stress relief from cycling. I had some similar issues with my ankle last year. Running was very painful, but no pain with spinning. After ankle surgery, I relied on spinning and cycling for several months before I was able to get running again.
    Spin class can be intimidating, but the great thing about it is that it's totally at your own individual level. It's dark, and everyone is focused on their own workout. The instructor will tell you when to turn up/down the resistance, but you are in control of your bike so you can turn it up to a level that is appropriate for you.
    Get there early the first time. Introduce yourself to the instructor and let him/her know that it is your first class. They will help you get your bike set up and give you advice as to how to manage their class. Bring a towel and prepare to sweat!
    I hate riding on the road with cars, so I actually prefer spinning to riding outside.
  • dbmata
    dbmata Posts: 12,950 Member
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    Neat thing about spin class, you are controlling the bike setting. Do it appropriately.
  • DaFibble
    DaFibble Posts: 152 Member
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    Not sure if the cycling motion would mess with your bone spur but its worth a try. Even if it does, you'll know soon enough. Chances are it'll be a *lot* less aggravating than jogging. Also you might find your muscles compensate to relieve the stress on your tendon.

    Incidentally, I HATED using a spin bike to begin with. I liked sprinting and very long hikes but then I injured my ankle quite badly, so couldn't sprint without risk of it happening again for a while. Reluctantly started using a spin bike at home. So boring. Although I've never enjoyed it the same way as running I tried HIIT and that made the difference. Started seeing some really significant improvements in fitness. To make it more fun I add techno and music videos.

    If you like it and take it outdoors, cycling is such a buzz. If you can ride in hilly areas where there is a lot of natural beauty its so good.
  • eldamiano
    eldamiano Posts: 2,667 Member
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    In answer to the original question, I wouldnt consider cycling as an alternative. It is a different exercise/sport in its own right. They both do good for calorie burns though running is more effective for this.
  • MaxPower0102
    MaxPower0102 Posts: 2,654 Member
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    Going to my 1st spin class tonight with my boss, who is an INSANE biker. *fingers crossed*
  • stackhsc
    stackhsc Posts: 439 Member
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    NO as a runner, NO its not a good alternative, cycling sucks lol. As a former cyclists, hopefully soon to be again yes it is a good alternative and is probably better for your joints etc. Have fun, its a hell of a work out for legs and cardio. really if it works for you then its a great alternative.
  • ChrisM32205
    ChrisM32205 Posts: 218 Member
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    mjtunney wrote: »
    Going to my 1st spin class tonight with my boss, who is an INSANE biker. *fingers crossed*

    Can't wait to hear how that went :D
  • jeepskate
    jeepskate Posts: 16 Member
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    I ride as much as I can. I prefer trail riding but I will road ride if I cannot get to the trails. Low impact and a hell of a cardio workout. Regarding derriere and seats, you can get fitted for a proper saddle. A large bum doesn't mean you need a tractor seat, you sit on a saddle on your "sit" bones. If you are uncomfortable on a saddle, it's not fitted correctly.
  • MaxPower0102
    MaxPower0102 Posts: 2,654 Member
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    1st class went so well, I have gone back for 2 more. Signed up for 2 more in the future. Last night my Watts were 66% of my Body Weight. I'm told that is good for a Newbie
  • bwogilvie
    bwogilvie Posts: 2,130 Member
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    mjtunney wrote: »
    1st class went so well, I have gone back for 2 more. Signed up for 2 more in the future. Last night my Watts were 66% of my Body Weight. I'm told that is good for a Newbie

    Congratulations! I take it the bone spurs weren't a problem?

    I just found this thread. I swam in grad school until my workout partner (my wife) developed an allergy to pool chemicals. Then I ran. Then I got lazy, gained a lot of weight, and found that my knees bothered me when I tried to run again. So I got into cycling (6-15 miles). And then I really got into cycling (20-50 miles, then 50-125 miles, and 9-day bike tours). It's great exercise, and a fun way to explore places too.

    And now I'm back into running, too, since I've lost 60 pounds and my knees can take it again. That offers its own rewards. The thing about cycling is that with gearing, you can make it as intense as a run or as leisurely as a stroll. I can ride my bike for over 10 hours at a stretch; there's no way I could run that long at my current fitness level. But when I'm doing a long hill climb, I'm burning as much energy as when I'm running a 7:30 mile.

    And if you like gear, cycling opens up a whole new world…. :D
  • momxs2
    momxs2 Posts: 173 Member
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    mjtunney wrote: »
    1st class went so well, I have gone back for 2 more. Signed up for 2 more in the future. Last night my Watts were 66% of my Body Weight. I'm told that is good for a Newbie

    Way to go!!

    I love spin classes! I think it's because you control the gears and speed etc... Not too much pressure on my joints.

    Good luck!!
  • alathIN
    alathIN Posts: 142 Member
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    Hate to come off like the triathlon nerd here, but the combination of swim, bike, run is hard to beat. Running is great, but as you have learned it is a relatively high wear and tear activity. Adding in some swimming and cycling can help distribute the injury load.

    Sounds like spin class is going well for you; keep it up.

    I found that getting real bike shorts was key. For actually riding a real bike on a real road, I do find the more pricey ones are worth it. But for beginning and especially for spin class use, they don't have to be great shorts. This is a great time of year to pick them up on sale at your local bike store (assuming you're in the Northern hemisphere). If they fit very tight and you think it will be shocking to wear them in public, they are the right size.