Cycling Time-crunched Cyclist Training Plans

How much do you train? How do you balance work and racing?

So, I get this question fairly frequently from people that see me in person, both racers and non-racers. I’m definitely aware that most of the people I race against at the NRC level don’t work as much as I do, or at all, for that matter. A lot of them probably also ride a good bit more than I do, too. I also get the impression that people who know me at work don’t really see exactly how I can work pretty full-time and still make time to train for racing… and do well at it.

Anyway, I basically train around 15-18 hours most weeks. Sometimes I’ll do up to the low 20-hour range. The only way I think it works out is that most of the training that I do is relatively high-quality riding. I also cross train varying amounts throughout the year, both running and lifting weights. Still, I spend the vast majority of my workout time on the bike. Ideally, I would love to have an open schedule where I could ride 20-25 hours each week, but at the moment, I don’t have that luxury, so I work with what I have to try to maximize it. Like most things in cycling, I look at it like an optimization problem, where given certain parameters I’m trying to maximize a certain outcome or set of outcomes.

As for the breakdown, on any given week I’ll usually do 1-2 long rides that are 5-6 hours and will usually include 30-60m of threshold riding, 60-90m of tempo riding, and a few shorter aerobic capacity/VO2 max efforts and brief accelerations. I’ll usually do 1 ride that focuses on VO2 max intervals of 3-5 minutes in length, and maybe a longer effort of high-threshold riding. Then a couple of other rides that are a little more moderate, but will definitely include some tempo riding, seated accelerations, sprints, or shorter VO2 max efforts. Basically, I’ll do a lot of mixed intensity riding, a couple of focused workouts that emphasize a specific intensity, and then a bit of easy riding.

As far as how I balance it with work, I do work 30-40 hours pretty much all year when I’m not away at a stage race, but I do have the luxury of working at a bike shop where I can often have my days off separated from each other (say, Sunday and Wednesday, for example), and I am able to work in the afternoon/evening hours most of the time, rather than starting work at 8 or 9 like many people do. This schedule allows me to go riding for a few hours in the morning most days and to be pretty fresh for longer rides on my days off, so I can not only get through a 5-6 hour ride on my day off, but I can also really go hard for large portions of the ride.

Ideally I would like it if I had time to do more riding, and could routinely ride more than 20 hours per week, but if I were to do that now, I think I would be forcing it a bit, because it would require me to wake up early to go riding or would maybe cut into time I need for other things. Also, considering my work schedule, if I tried to fit in an extra few hours of riding each week to get 20 hours or more, probably some of those miles would be kind of junkie. I don’t want to ride just for the sake of riding, I want it to count for my racing and fitness gains.

Along those lines, the last couple of years, I’ve felt like adding an extra hour or two of training might be better spent lifting weights or if it’s during the winter, going for a run. I feel weights are useful, because they require a more neurological activation than I feel I can usually get on the bike. Running is useful because it’s such a focused aerobic workout and works your core a bit more than on the bike. Probably, if I had a rowing machine, I would use that once or twice a week to strengthen my back. Or maybe kayaking, for core strength, if I had easy access to that sport. Really, anything that will make you stronger or more aerobically fit, in principle, will help enhance your cycling up to the point that it compromises your ability to recover for your cycling workouts, builds muscle that you don’t need cycling, or gets you injured. So, basically, being sane and not getting hurt it is the first rule of anything sport related, but outside of that, anything you can do to build general fitness during the off-season and even a little during the season is probably well worth your time.