I had an athlete come up to me after a strength class I lead at the local gym. She mentioned she wanted to be ready for long rides this summer but didn’t know how given the winter conditions where we live and the fact her time for riding the trainer is limited to 30 minutes. My answer was not that much different than when an age-group cyclist comes to me for help with their cycling performance with limited time. First, there is a lot we can do off the bike to make our riding better. The strength training this client was doing was a great start and nutrition, good sleep and making sure her bike was functioning and suitable for her goals are among things you can do to ride better.
These five ideas will take advantage of a 30-minute window to optimize winter cycling training and get you ready for spring:
1. A DOUBLE DAY
Find a day you can do two rides or a ride and do an outdoor activity like snowshoeing, fat-biking or cross-country skiing. You could do a harder, shorter ride early when you wake up and then do a longer ride or cross-train a few hours later. This day gets you used to doing a bit more work over the course of the day but also test you to work when you are tired from the morning ride and whatever you get up to over the day. Timing the morning workout before breakfast can also help with endurance adaptations.
2. A STEADY DAY
Cover the distance you can after a short warmup. We often ramp into a workout like this by doing 2–5 minutes at a low intensity, then increase a bit more (shift one harder or pedal faster), and do another period at that workout load. Gradually increase your effort and settle into a pace you can hold for 10–20 minutes. This is going to work on your muscular endurance and should be challenging. Track your average speed or average wattage over this block to watch your fitness improve and set goals for next week’s workout.
3. INTERVALS BASED OFF YOUR STEADY DAY
Building off the above workout, take the average wattage or the average speed from the steady day and aim to ride faster for 5 minutes, then spin easy for 1 minute, then do it again. This workout pushes you to work a bit harder because it is chunked up with those little recoveries.
4. HIGH-INTENSITY DAY
Warmup as needed, then do 30 seconds hard alternating with 1 minute easy for 10–15 repetitions. Go by feel, attacking the 30-second efforts then spin easy for the off periods. This will get you ready for the sprints, accelerations out of corners, hard pace lines and also boost your fitness.
5. ADD STRENGTH WORK
Time on the trainer is frankly boring, but one way to boost your time working is to combine 10-minute chunks of riding with 5–10 minutes of core/strength (like this stay-in-place core routine) and combine it with your riding. You might work on your cadence for 10-minutes on the bike, then get off, take off your shoes and spend 10 minutes on the strength circuit. Keep moving at a good pace to keep your heart rate up and your body working. Since you will be moving for an hour, you will be working on your endurance (working for longer periods) and breaking up your activity helps the time go by quickly as well.
These are five ways to effectively use 30-minute workouts to be ready for long rides this spring. Keep an eye on your work capacity, how fast you can go or how many watts you can push and how it improves each week. Push yourself once or twice a week and make sure one or two days are easy and one or two are off days where you walk and do yoga or other mobility drills.