Runner Legs into Cyclist Legs

Hello, I’ve been a competitive runner for over 25 years. I’m 5’ 9" 135lbs and I have very skinny legs. This has generally been an advantage as a runner. I’ve recently switched over to cycling (body can’t take the pounding anymore) as a main form of exercise and I’ve even started to do some cyclocross races. My question is this: While my cardio is very good, I just can’t seem to generate the same kind of power that many other riders can. My FTP is around 190. My goal is to get to 240-250. I’ve been training with TR for about 6 months now. I started with an FTP of 160. In order to up my power do I really need to hit the gym and start doing weights, or will working with TR consistently eventually yield these results?


You don’t need more muscle, just spin them faster.

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Contrary to the last guy, I think you need stronger legs. (Not sure if you need to lift to get that, but pretty sure it’ll help)

When I use TR my cadence is pretty high. I can do 95-105 RPM and it feels fine. So I’m not too worried about my spinning.

@Deej your question is what I’m asking. Do I NEED to hit the gym (which is yet another time commitment in an already busy schedule) or will TR eventually get me there.

If you want to get faster riding bikes, ride bikes.

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No, you don’t need to.

It may help, so long as you can maintain the additional training load, but as mentioned cycling legs will come - from more cycling.

You’re in a good spot with a big aerobic engine so just be patient.

I would say you’re already on track. Lets compare:

  • your starting point is 160W/61kg = 2.6W/kg, mine was 198W/74kg = 2.6W/kg
  • after six month, you are at 3.1W/kg, I was at 3.2W/kg

I.e. we are roughly on same trajectory, and after 3y of structured training I was at 4.2W/kg at beginning of summer. It has fallen since then but this is different story (injury). Note: I haven’t done any additional leg training, just upper body and core exercises.

EDIT: mine power/weight ratio improved mostly by losing weight, in absolute numbers my FTP increase in 6 months was 14%, your is 18% :slight_smile:

@svens That’s helpful. And very good data. Thank you. I’m a small person and I’m 48 but I am also competitive. If I’m going to train, I’m going to try and do it right and if that meant I needed to go to the gym, I would.

But, if the general consensus is that time training on the bike (as in years not just per week) is the main factor then I can handle that.


Ride up a lot of hills. You’ll get stronger legs for sure then. Gym work might help a bit, but not as much as spending the time doing more cycling. it’s certainly not a necessity.

How are you placing in your races? Is the lack of power production impacting you in your races?

I have never hit the gym. I am 5ft9, when I last
jumped on the scales I was 131lb and use 260w to train off for TTs (AI FTP Detected somewhere between 274 and 287 this summer) it just takes time. Any runners I have known who have become cyclists have a terrific aerobic energy which eventually translates to awesome cyclists :+1:

My answer is that I don’t think you ‘need’ to but it’ll help.

190 is pretty low at 135 pounds and a good running background, so i reckon gym might be well be particularly beneficial to you.

If you do just do the bike, I would recommend big gear work, sprints, 30 secs - 5 minute hard efforts. Basically practice pushing the pedals hard. (I think riding outside and Wahoo Systm indoors are a bit better than TR for this kind of thing)

@Jolyzara I’m actually doing well in my races. I’ve done 2 40+ cat 4/5 cross races so far and placed 2nd in both. BUT the people that beat me were able to lay down WAY more power than me on the flat open sections. Turns out they were both cat 2 roadies doing a cross race for the first time.

That’s what got me thinking about all of this.

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@Deej Do you recommend trying to push lower cadence? More in the 80-90 range? That’s where my legs really suffer.

@HLaB Those numbers are impressive. To be someone under 135lbs and have an FTP above the 280’s seems great.

Little guys like Pidcock and Bernal. Small guys, big power.

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I was thinking more in the 50-60 range.

@Deej Oh man. I’m not even sure I know what that feels like. I’ll mess around with it and see what happens. If my knees explode I’ll send you the Dr. bill :wink:

Just my two pennies worth but when I think cyclocross I think strong Belgians in the mud, who tend to be far more than 130lbs! Your athletic background will transfer to cycling and more cycling is probably all you need to transfer. I would try some hill climbs as that could be your place to shine!

Ask yourself this: what did I do to get strong running legs?

Run for years and years? Work hard on technique, intervals, hills, sprints, endurance? Eat right? Stretch? Etc etc. You’ll get there - gym or no gym - and you’ll love every pedal stroke because you’ll get better each time you go out.


80 - 90 is a pretty normal cadence. If 50-60 is tough, just do it at a power that’s manageable and then build up the power from there.