Seeing as the clocks have gone back and you’ve bought a pair of slicks to get away from the foot and mouth infested fields anyway, now is an ideal time to start commuting into work.
We’re using our very own Cullen as the guinea pig, dropping into the deep end of the rat run with a potential 25 mile each way commute from Epping to central London. The problems he’ll face and the advice we’ll give are equally applicable to most riders anyway so listen, learn and save yourself a fortune in fuel or fare costs biking to work.
Currently Cullen goes to the gym twice a week, doing resistance (weights) rather than cv (cardiovascular) work. He runs twice a week, once slowish 2 miles, once fastish 5 miles. He bikes 30 miles on Sunday, and 15 miles Tuesday evening on a diet of “mostly vegtables”.
Combined with a long working day looking after you lot and house training Scoop, this is a fairly heavy workload so it’s case of adjustment rather than piling on extra sessions. If he did that he’d stick with it for maybe two weeks then be absolutely knackered and either go down with flu or give the whole thing up, with his other training slipping as well through fatigue.
The important thing is to fit the training round other aspects of his life as far as possible too. Again, if there’s conflict with an established routine you’re less likely to stick to it.
So what do we do with the five days he has to play with?
Monday: Coming straight after 30 mile of singletracking (if possible) or a road ride, Cullen’s carcass will be fairly cooked and in need of recovery. Use Monday morning as the opportunity to take in changes of clothes or anything else you’ll need for work, plus crates of energy bars, towel, soap, bottle brush and surgical spirit (for those difficult to reach areas). Monday evening would be an ideal time for his slow two mile jog. This won’t knacker him too much (we’ll get to that later) but it’ll stimulate blood flow and processing of all the waste products left from Sunday’s outing. the notoriously rigid legs of cyclists mean a good stretch legs, back, shoulders should follow every run. Last thing get bike riding kit ready by the bed or in the bathroom before you go to sleep.
Tuesday: This morning would be an ideal time to ride in and get the train home but that’s only a smart option if there’s no evening ride otherwise you’re going too hard too early in the week. Don’t think riding in gently will get round the problem either as 25 miles is a lot of energy to replace however you look at it. If there’s time, slotting in a short but intense gym session before work could be tried but high intensity work is not a great idea before the body has had time to warm up and stretch after lying still all night. Whatever you decide on make sure that a good wedge of high carbohydrate food hits your belly as soon as possible after training, or your body will be fighting to make up lost lunch for days to come.
Wednesday: For most people this would be the day of the midweek evening ride, but Cullen has to be different doesn’t he. Tuesday was quite a hard day however you look at it but there’s still some good work to be done. If he rode into work in the morning then it’s time for some higher speed (otherwise you just get good at going slow). Seeing as the 25 mile distance leaves too long for keepng up a meaningful pace at this stage, we reckon it’s tube halfway home and then ride from there. As you sit there in your lycra with everyone thinking “tw*t” use that anger to really motivate yourself for the session, warm up to speed for 5 – 10 minutes, and then ride at the “aching pain” threshold for five minutes, ride easy for five and then go again. As soon as you start to get “ragged” on the bike or find it really hard to maintain speed or effort, back off and ride home easy. There’s no point training a tired body how to ride efficiently – it’s not character building, it’s injury building. If he rode hard and fast on Tuesday night, then Wednesday is a steady roll home at an even pace. Whichever session happens, make sure you eat a snack before you ride and save a bit to nosh on after the high intensity sprints, or halfway home. Again training on an empty stomach and empty muscles is just a short cut to serious long term exhaustion.
Thursday morning will not see you leaping gazelle like from the bed if you’re doing this right. So use the tube / car / motorbike commuting time to think through the sessions you’ve done and note where you felt good and where you felt puny. Despite the fact you haven’t trained, eat well and steadily throughout the day as you’ll still be refuelling. We’ve theoretically still got a run and a gym session to fit in but while Cullen adjusts to the greater bike workload we’re dropping them from his programme before they drop him. The best thing he can do Thursday night is stretch.
Friday: What you do today depends entirely on psychology. If you normally can’t get started on a Friday morning, the best strategy (perversely) is to ride in. That way the lifted metabolism and endorphins will carry you through the morning dead zone and you’ll collpase just in time for a long lunch. The best ride paln would be a “pyramid” starting steady and gradually accelerating to ache speed for 10 – 15 minutes and then dropping back down for a steady run into work. If you’re the type who goes home still cursing about the boss (of course that could never happen on the good ship ‘BIKEmagic’) or fretting about work then commuting in and riding home is the ideal solution. Againpyramid up to burn out all that frustration and then gradually relax, leaving all that anger on the tarmac ready for a relaxing weekend.
Saturday: In time this will become another short sharp training day, but for now it’s just a gentle half hour walk / jog or very steady trundle on the bike, just to flush those muscles through. Again stretch to finish.
Sunday: Thanks to yesterday’s recovery session, you’ll be feeling spry not creaky, and ready to give the Sunday best boys a good thrashing. Enjoy.
For the next week, repeat the same, and we’ll see how things are looking after easter.
Before you commit yourself to a training programme please bear these simple guidelines in mind.
- Increase workload slowly and steadily over weeks not days. Never add more than one extra session a week.
- Concentrate on quality not quantity. Always think about what you want to achieve and go out positive. Even ‘steady state’ rides should be controlled and truly steady rather than variable pace. If you can, get a pulse meter to keep track.
- If in doubt miss it out. It’s almost impossible to get significantly fitter in a day, but it’s very easy to get exhausted or ill, which will cripple your training a week or more. Sore throat, general knackeredness, irritability? hit the bed not the bike.
- Finally, enjoy it. Or even if enjoy is pushing it a bit make sure you keep reminding yourself of all the fitness and financial benefits you’re getting from doing it. Stay happy and you’ll stay focussed and committed.