Cross-training with a short high-intensity training workout on the stationary bike can do wonders for your running performance, according to a recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, the researchers were able to pinpoint an exact workout that gets results.
Here's what they did: First, researchers asked 32 experienced runners to do a 3K treadmill test to establish their running stats. Then, they divided the runners into four groups. One group maintained their normal fitness routines, while the other three also cross-trained six times over the course of two weeks with short sprinting intervals on the bike that incorporated rest periods of 30 seconds, 80 seconds, or two minutes.
After two weeks, all runners re-did the treadmill test. The only group to see significant running performance gains was the cycling group whose circuit had the smallest rest period of 30 seconds. On average, people in this group shaved roughly 25 seconds off their times!
But you don't need to be a race-hound to benefit from this approach. "If you are looking to improve your running, but you don’t really like running, this would work for you," says study co-author John Babraj, PhD, a lecturer in exercise physiology at Abertay University in Scotland. "Utilizing high-intensity training allows you to reduce your weekly mileage, while still [improving] your running fitness."
Meet the 6-10-30 workout
Ready to try it?
On a stationary bike, warm up for three minutes by pedaling at a very low resistance at about 70 rpm. Pedal at an all-out sprint for 10 seconds at a resistance of around 15 to 17 on a typical gym bike, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat six times.
During the active recovery periods, maintain a speed of about 50 rpm against very light or no resistance. When you're through the six rounds, cool down the same way you warmed up, by pedaling at a very low resistance and about 70 rpm.
The entire circuit can be completed in just 10 minutes.
If you're currently training for a race, three times a week is the way to go to achieve that PR. But if you're just trying to improve your endurance, you can still see benefits by adding this work out to your routine twice a week, Barbaraj says.