The benefits of cycling
Cross training is using an alternative sport or activity to train and improve your performance in a particular sport. Many runners use cycling for cross training and it has the added benefit of getting you outdoors, trying something new and having fun.
Cycling helps improve running performance by developing fitness, stamina and endurance without damaging your leg muscles. It's a great low impact cardiovascular workout too and by adding it to your weekly training regime it will help you to do more with less stress on your body.
Building strength in complementary muscles
When you're running, you're building certain sets of muscles to perform certain functions. Initially, you'll be getting stronger and you'll feel great. But if your training is exclusively running, at some point you'll plateau, stop seeing results and get frustrated.
Cycling uses different sets of muscles to running, such as more use of your quads, glutes and core muscles. These muscles complement those used for running, making you a stronger runner. Your efficiency should improve too which will help you run faster. Try riding a bike uphill in a big gear to build strength.
After a long run, it's likely your legs will be sore and the thought of going out the next day won't fill you with joy. But a low to medium intensity bike ride the day after a long run will help your legs to recover. It's low impact too so your joints will thank you for it.
Cycling aids recovery by increasing blood flow to your calves, quads, glutes and hamstrings, flushing out lactic acid and helping them repair. The motion itself will also reduce muscle and joint stiffness and you'll be back out running much sooner than if you rested.