These days, seemingly more than ever, people’s schedules are filled from the moment they wake until their heads hit the pillow at night. The rare lucky ones get to ride their bikes whenever they like. For the rest of us, finding time to train is often a case of making the most of the time we have.
One way to accomplish this is to use your bike commute as training time. The average bike commute in the US is about 30 minutes each way. Once you add up your full day’s ride, it amounts to some pretty good training time. Depending upon the resources you have at your workplace, there are many different ways to make your commute double as training time. If you can take the long way in (or home) that’s great. However, when time is short, it pays to optimize.
USE YOUR COMMUTE FOR RECOVERY
The most pleasant training commute is to use your commute time as active recovery time. Cycling events mostly happen on the weekends, so an easy, ambling Monday commute is just what those tired legs need to help them loosen up and recover. Keep your cadence high, but your effort level low – you should be able to do this in your street clothes without breaking a sweat. Think of it as a gentle massage for your legs.
MAKE YOUR COMMUTE A STRENGTH TRAINING RIDE
Another way to make your commute more effective training is to use it for strength training. Take one of your commute days and make it a low cadence, high force interval day. For example, start in a big gear from every stop light or sign and pedal your way up to speed over 30 seconds. Once you’re done, spin easily until the next stop and then do it again. Incorporating five or six of these sets into each direction of your commute will help you build power without becoming drenched in sweat. Think of this as a weight-lifting session on your bike.
PRACTICE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Your commute is a great time to work on technique. While working on technique is often tedious in a normal training session, it is much easier to handle in a short session. Concentrate on your pedal stroke and focus on spinning in nice, smooth circles. Imagine your feet floating on the pedals. You may even want to do some spin-ups while you’re at it. These are short sessions where you start at one cadence and gradually increase it to 100 or 110rpm over about 30 seconds before resting for a bit. They’re like the strength intervals mentioned previously, but without starting in a big gear.
When you’re thinking about technique, it’s also worth remembering your position on the bike. Keep your elbows bent, your neck relaxed, and try to bend from your hips and not your back. After a long day at work, it’s easy to get hunched over the handlebars.
Making your commute useful training isn’t difficult, and it has a lot of benefits. Besides letting you optimize your time, it allows you to do two workouts in a day. This makes for more efficient training and a better training response. You’ve got all day to recover between sessions, and so you can make your second session more effective. If you work on your feet, consider doing your hard work on your way to work, and using the ride home for recovery. Remember to have a good, protein and fruit-rich breakfast, and stay well hydrated during the day. This will help you keep your energy levels high, allowing not only for better workouts, but also for a more pleasant day overall.
Most of all, have a great ride and be courteous to your fellow commuters. Sometimes when we get into our heads, whether we’re thinking through ideas or focusing on our pedal stroke, it’s easy to forget about the people around us. Using your commute for training and focusing does not get you a pass in the courtesy department! Sharing the road always reigns supreme.
Adnan is a USAC-certified Level 1 cycling coach who believes that in sport, as in life, it is important to strike a balance between the various aspects of what one does. Adnan has been a competitive cyclist and triathlete for nearly 25 years. His full-time coaching practice can be found at AeolusEndurance.com