Most of us are strapped for time. Yet the sport we love is incredibly time consuming. Training to maximize endurance performance with limited time can be done. While we may not be headed to the Tour de France on eight hours per week of training, it is possible for even experienced cyclists to continue to progress their cycling fitness, skills and performance without quitting their job or taking time away from family.
Try these five training techniques:
TRAIN IN THE MIDDLE: THE SWEET SPOT, TEMPO AND THRESHOLD
Training around Functional Threshold Power is a great way to get a lot of work done and ride around ‘race pace’ for many disciplines. These sessions can be overdone if done without purpose or an eye to the goals you are trying to reach. You can switch up the bike type, terrain and goal intensity depending on race goals, limiters and time of year.
Try it: 2 x 20 minutes and 4 x 8–12 minutes provide effective workouts that can be done in the 60–90 minutes working athletes typically have available. A couple of variations include mixing up your cadence during the sets, using the rough intensity range on a hard mountain bike trail or mixing up each interval by dividing them into chunks where you go hard for a minute then settle in at a moderate pace for 3–4 minutes before going hard again.
FIND MORE TIME: WEEKEND BLOCKS, DOUBLE DAYS AND MORNING SPINS
Finding extra time may seem impossible, but sometimes rethinking what constitutes a ‘workout’ and using a more variable monthly schedule can open slots you wouldn’t have considered. For example, instead of training 5–6 days, consider giving up one day to get more time on a mid-week workout. Doing a longer Wednesday workout may help improve your endurance better than riding that extra day.
On the other hand, don’t underestimate a short bout of exercise in the morning. Adding an extra 30-minute morning ride before breakfast or at lunch can be a great way to increase your training frequency or number of workouts each week. If you tend to ride easier in many of your rides, this session could be high intensity and could replace a longer ride, which is especially nice during a month of bad weather or when work takes over. One study suggests that even 5–6 x 30 second all-out ‘wingate’ intervals could provide a great training stimulus. Alternatively, if you have enough intensity from existing intervals and group rides, these short workouts could also be a casual commute to and from the gym for a strength session. Pairing these bonus workouts with a ‘normal’ workout in the same day to make for a ‘double day’ is another great stimulus to try during certain periods of the year.
Finally, aim to add a mini-training block of 3–5 days every month or two. Adding an extra workout or two and boosting your volume increases your fitness without much disruption to your work and family schedule. Try adding a Friday workout, perhaps with shorter intensity and then do a group ride or longer threshold workout Saturday followed by a big long endurance ride, hopefully with a good friend you can chat with on Sunday for a potent block of training that lets you take a lighter recovery week the following week.
MAINTAIN AN OFF-BIKE ROUTINE
Since your time on the bike is limited, your actions off the bike are extra important. Making sure to take care of your sleep, stress and nutrition can do a lot to ensure you are ready for your next workout, especially if you are pushing hard on sweet-spot or HIIT workouts that require a lot of focus and discipline. If you can keep your body composition on track, then you can make the most of the fitness you have.
DEVELOP YOUR SKILLS
Another way to maximize the results you get with the fitness you have is to be a skilled bike rider. While building skills takes time, you can fast track your skill development by investing in skill coaching, playing on your bike in your backyard and mixing up your disciplines so you can transfer skills like a mountain bike log hop to hopping curbs on a road bike or cornering on twisty mountain roads back over to mountain bike singletrack. Skills include things like shifting and cadence, if you pedal very slowly you will struggle with changes of pace and high-speed attacks or sprints and this can mean that despite lots of hard work you might miss out on results your fitness might indicate you could get.
There is a benefit for endurance athletes doing heavy strength training a couple times a week. As you become more experienced, more intricate blocks of training may be required, but many of us could keep it fairly quick and simple and still see benefits. Try doing 4–10 reps in 2–4 sets of a full-body routine making sure you do several exercises that work your legs (as in this routine) the evidence for including strength training for endurance performance are good. The often overlooked benefit of strength on keeping an aging body healthy, strong and capable should not be overlooked, and indeed is a great reason to include strength training. Squeeze in a quick strength workout at lunch and then on some days also train in the morning or evening to leverage double days of training to increase the number of workouts you get per week.