30-Minute Workouts for Time-Strapped Cyclists

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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30-Minute Workouts for Time-Strapped Cyclists

Time-crunched athletes must deal with fewer hours than might be ideal for training. I like working with these clients at Smart Athlete because training is generally a highlight of their busy days. To create the most challenge the workouts I prescribe to a client, I consider how I would prepare these athletes if they only had two 30-minute sessions a week to train for their goal. Then, I double check that I am including these presumably important aspects in the client’s more flexible weekly plan.

Here, three other coaches weigh in on how they would program training for a client who is getting ready for a 60–90 minute ride or race on a minimal training schedule.

THRESHOLD: 2 x 12 or 15

Coach Chris Mayhew of JBVcoaching.com answered, “I’d say two workouts at threshold. So 2 x 12 or 15 [minutes]. Boring but effective.” Chris expands that as the rider’s big races approach, one or both of these sessions could evolve to shorter efforts over threshold to prepare for racing. Mayhew’s response wasn’t all suffering, though, “I would make one session more specific to their event. For instance, I’d have a cyclocross client do 10 start simulations and some cornering one day and a 2 x 12 the other day.

“Specificity and skills matter a lot. But at the end of the day bike races are a pedaling contest, so I’d focus on that as much as possible until it makes more sense to switch focus.”


CTS Coach Tracey Drews suggests a quick warmup, perhaps with some high-cadence work or one-legged pedaling drills followed by a focus on short and intense intervals, “20-second–1-minute efforts with rest equal to work [1-minute rest for 1-minute work interval]. I find the high-intensity intervals very beneficial.”

Drews also has a great idea to boost training, since many athletes might have more time beyond their two rides if they could do their workout anywhere, without much gear. “I also like these shorter training sessions to allow for more training time to revisit concentrated resistance/core exercises (like this one). I also encourage other exercise activities, especially those that promote multi-planar movements including swimming, skiing, yoga and Pilates to complement the training program.”



Skills coach, trials mountain bike rider and yoga instructor Ryan Leech makes the critical point that if you are very limited in training time, then choosing your goals wisely helps improve enjoyment and success. You can still progress but make sure to be reasonable and focused on one or two aspects. “I would want to encourage and allow for their competitive nature to flow, but not get bogged down with time-wasting structured protocol.”

Leech suggests a healthy dose of fun to offset a busy life. “I’d suggest focusing on improving technical riding skills that you’re weak with — and this can be done while getting a good trail ride in. Try repeating a few sections that are challenging to you, you could focus on skills one day and your time around the loop or section the other day. This can be supported in spare moments at home or work by reviewing online tutorial videos.”

My answer to this thought experiment is to ask the client about their experience in their goal. What is the most important moment in the ride? What moment do you need to be ready for? This is the moment we would prepare for with our 30-minute workout. If you find yourself getting slowed down in technical trails then Leech’s skills focus is going to be perfect. If you are struggling with on-and-off hard efforts (or back pain) then Drews’ intervals and cross-training is perfect and if you are always on the limit then Mayhews’ steady threshold workouts are quick and effective at increasing your average speed. Now your challenge is to pick a routine and get to work!

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.


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