Are you short on time to devote to your cycling training?
The fact is, most people are.
So, I thought I’d start a series of posts offering guidance around how to structure your cycling training based on how much time you have to train.
We’ll start out in this post with advice for riders with around 5-8 hours per week to devote to their training.
Don’t worry if you have more time than this though…
The following principles should still give you some tips and ideas that can apply even if you have more training time available to you.
Also keep a look out for the next post in this series, which will look at training strategies for those with 9-12 hours per week to play with.
Of course, this is a general plan for road cyclists or MTBers, but can be made more specific to a particular discipline by adding in a workout or two focused on the exact demands of your chosen discipline.
Generally speaking, the less time you have to train, the higher the average intensity of your training should be in a given week.
Mainly, this is to increase the training stress you induce with your limited time.
What you want to do is try and get the largest amount of fitness benefit from the relatively short training time you have, cutting out any fluff or wasted time that isn’t pushing you towards your performance goals.
Since manipulating the duration of your training sessions is largely out of the question, this is why we’ll make training harder by increasing the intensity.
Now, despite this increase in overall intensity, your training still wants to have balance in every week and you want to hit as many different systems and areas of your cycling fitness as possible.
It’s also important to keep training varied, even though a lot of your rides will likely be similar in terms of duration throughout the working week at about 1 hour.
Adding variety will help to challenge your body in different ways and therefore contribute to greater fitness improvement.
So, that’s some of the theory out of the way, now let’s get into some actionable workouts you can implement directly to your training.
First, we want to try and find time for a long ride somewhere in the week so as to not neglect our aerobic fitness.
Practically speaking, it makes sense for most time-crunched cyclists to do this kind of ride on the weekend, either alone or as part of a group ride, since this is the part of the week you’re most likely to have a few hours to string together.
Endurance training will help maintain a base of fitness that underpins our higher abilities like threshold power, VO2Max and anaerobic capacity, and it’s this that you’ll focus on throughout the working week.
Next, you’ll want to be doing the most potent and stressful training sessions with the hour or so you have here and there throughout the rest of the week.
The high quality sessions should include training at or above your lactate threshold.
When scheduling these workouts, you want to try and make sure you’re rested before each hard session, so using a hard/easy approach to your week will work very well.
Don’t concern yourself with recovery rides when you are pressed for training time, and instead take full days off to rest.
Allocate the time you save into workouts that will push you.
EXAMPLE TRAINING PLAN
So here’s an example weekly structure that you might want to follow for your training if you’re a rider with 5-8 hours/week to train.
Of course, these days can be switched around to suit your own unique circumstances and should be thought of as a guide rather than a rigid structure:
MONDAY: Rest day since you probably trained the previous day
TUESDAY: 1 hour: VO2Max – 5-7x 3mins @ Zone 5 heart rate or power, or paced like a 5min TT with 3-4mins recovery between each. 20min warm up/warm down either side of intervals.
WEDNESDAY: Rest day
THURSDAY: 1 hour: 30sec sprints – 6-8x 30sec sprints, with 3-4mins between each. 20min warm up/warm down either side of sprints.
FRIDAY: Rest day
SATURDAY: 2-3 hours: Endurance ride – 2-3 hours @ Zone 2 heart rate or power, or 2-3 on RPE scale. Hold back on hills so as not to drift into upper zones.
SUNDAY: 1 hour: Threshold intervals – 3-4x 8-9mins @ Zone 4 heart rate or power, or 7 on RPE scale. 3-4mins recovery between each interval and 20mins warm up/warm down either side of intervals.
So there’s an example week that you can use as a basic structure for your own training.
Your workouts will need to evolve to develop your fitness as you get closer to your target events or races.
To do this, try to get more and more specific with your workouts, which will usually mean making them more intense as you approach your events.
Where possible, also try to gradually increase your endurance ride time week by week, so that you’re constantly improving your ability to ride for long durations before fatigue sets in.
Many of the workouts outlined above can easily be ridden on an indoor trainer and if you’re trying to maximise your time, this could be a great option for training throughout the working week.
Stay on top of your recovery so that in the days off between your hard sessions, you can recover well and hit the next workout ready to go hard. It’s then that you’ll really see your fitness start to take off.
If you’ve any questions at all about your training or if you’re interested in a longer term structured plan to build your fitness, please get in touch via the contact form or leave a comment below this post.