3 May 2016


Epic, multi-hour rides are vital training, but it’s hard to find the time. So what do you do if you’re not a pro and have to juggle work, family and a million other demands before you can even get time on the bike?

The good news is you can maintain a decent level of fitness with just three to four hours a week. Even better news is that three one-hour sessions will have a greater effect than one three-hour burst. Even the busiest of us can find an hour every other day, although it may still require some creative thinking to fit them in!

Fit in with ‘real life’
Commutes are the obvious place to start. If it’s at all possible to take the bike, do so – you’ll save money, get fitter and arrive happier. Either invest in a drybag to line a pack, or store clothes at work, and consider your fuelling – early carbs and an option of fruit or a bar when you arrive. And if there are no showers, is it possible to cruise in without getting sweaty? You can save the training efforts for the way home. On the home leg, work out alternative routes that take in extra kilometers, more hills, or both. Have a few routes to choose from, based on how much extra time you may have on each evening.

Even errands to the shops can present opportunities for a 30 to 40-minute burst, especially if you visit slightly more distant shops than you would in the car. Again, consider alternative routes – more likely to be beneficial on the way there – and the potential value and downside of the ‘resistance training’ of whatever you bought from the shop.

Lunch hours are another great time, and if the roads are just too busy around your workplace, you may get lucky – if your building has showers and an underground car park, you have a cool and safe place to use a turbo trainer. Lunchtime is of course, traditionally a time for fuelling, so consider appropriate food that’s easy and quick to prepare, and might suit eating at your desk if you spent lunchtime in the saddle.

Turbos may be dull but they’re great for maximizing ‘riding’ time. If you’re out on the roads, however, fit the best mudguards you can to reduce kit and bike cleaning time as much as possible.

Either way, if you’re using a turbo or commuting, it’s a good idea to get some training wheels to save your best set from the regular beating.

Short and sharp
But how much difference can you make in short rides of an hour, or even just 45 minutes? Plenty, so long as it’s around the right threshold. And that doesn’t mean nailing yourself for the whole ride. In this case, think of the threshold as the highest work rate you can maintain for 20 minutes.

Warm-up is important – do at least 20 minutes, gently increasing intensity for 15 minutes and ending with a few minutes spinning after a hard sprint.

Then a session of ten sprints, interspersed with 4-5 minute spins, will seriously boost fitness – far more than a much longer, less intense ride. These sprints need to be hard but sustainable.

For even greater effects – and fat burning – try six sets of one-minute sprints, where you thrash yourself past your threshold. It hurts, but keep the intensity and regularity up and you reap big rewards.

Just three or four sessions per week of under or around an hour will make all the difference. And if you find you really can’t get out, try high repetitions of squats and hamstring curls to keep your legs interested!