6 Training Tips For Time-Crunched Cyclists

Cyclists racing a criterium
You can still be competitive on 6 hours a week

By: Joe Laverick (former pro cyclist and current pro gravel racer)

As a cyclist, finding time to train can be a challenge, especially when faced with the time constraints of a full-time job, a family and a social life. However, with some strategic planning and efficient training techniques, it is possible to make the most of your limited time and still achieve your goals.

When you only have 6-8 hours each week to train, it's all about becoming the fastest cyclist you CAN be, not the one you COULD be. Follow these tips to help you get there.

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Consistency Is King

Consistency cycling
Don't neglect the importance of consistency in your training

While your training time may be limited, your training consistency should not materially suffer. Shorter rides (with purpose) 4-5 times a week will be more beneficial than a couple of longer ones each weekend. It's the accumulation of many sessions over time that will make you a faster cyclist.

Every Ride Has A Purpose

Make sure every time you get on the bike there's a purpose to your ride. There's no room for aimless pedalling when you're time-crunched unfortunately. Yes, it's boring, but it's important if your goal is to get faster.

If you're going for a low intensity endurance ride, keep the chain tight and the pedals turning as soon as you leave the house. Pick a route with the fewest stops possible. The purpose of the ride is to keep pedalling for 2.5 hours non-stop keeping your heart rate in the zone it should be.

Plan Your Training Schedule

Cycling training plan
Make a plan and stick to it

To make the most of your limited time, plan in advance. Identify the days and times when you have availability, and commit to sticking to those dedicated training slots.

A typical weekly schedule for a time-crunched cyclist with 6 hours to train might look like:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 60 minutes high intensity
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 60 minutes steady state intensity
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 90 minutes steady state intensity
Sunday: 2.5 hours low intensity endurance

Early mornings are generally the best time to complete your workouts as there's no risk of events during the day disrupting your training (extra busy day at work, late pick up from school etc.).

By treating your training sessions as appointments, you are more likely to prioritise them and ensure they don't get pushed aside by other obligations.

Planning also helps you structure your workouts effectively, allowing you to focus on different training aspects throughout the week.

Pro Tip:

Write out your training plan on paper, or on a spreadsheet to keep accountability. It’s all good planning in your head, but having it written down is even better!

Respect Intensity

Keep your hard days, hard, and your easy days, easy. Don't fall into the (albeit tempting) trap of making up for your limited training time by going hard every time you get on the bike.

You'll quickly reach a point where the accumulated fatigue means you won't be able to go as hard as you need to on the 'breakthrough' hard sessions that are required to get faster. Your motivation will suffer in equal measure and you'll find yourself in a fitness plateau that's difficult to overcome.

Utilise Indoor Training Tools

Zwift cycling
Indoor training platforms like Zwift have changed the game

When time is limited, indoor cycling can be an invaluable tool. Using indoor trainers or stationary bikes allows you to eliminate time-consuming factors such as traffic, making kit choices, or inclement weather. You can optimise your indoor set-up too.

Additionally, indoor training platforms, such as virtual cycling apps (see below), offer structured workouts, interactive challenges, and real-time performance metrics to keep you motivated and focused during your sessions. By taking advantage of these indoor training tools, you can efficiently utilise your available time and make significant improvements.

If you're new to indoor training, take a look at these indoor training apps to get started:

Pro Tip:

Zwift racing is fun, hard and a very very good workout!

Don't Neglect Recovery

While it's tempting to fill every available moment with training, it's crucial to prioritise recovery as well, especially with the added stressors of a busy job and young children.

Adequate rest and recovery periods are essential for allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger. Without proper recovery, you risk overtraining, injury, and diminishing returns in your progress. On your rest days prioritise sleep, nutrition, and hydration to support your body's recovery process.

Pro Tip:

You can only train as much as you recover. Sometimes you need one step back to make two steps forward.

Being a time-crunched cyclist doesn't mean you have to compromise on your training or performance goals. By implementing these six training tips, you can make the most of your limited time and optimise your cycling performance.

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