Eamonn Deane’s training tips will get you cycling faster, without spending hours in the saddle

Fitness tips for time-poor cyclistsTrying to cram a decent-length bike ride into your working week can be a real challenge. If you’ve got a family, it can be tricky to find enough time at weekends too. Luckily, it’s still possible to be a great cyclist without having to spend hours and hours in the saddle.

I had to be very smart about my training, while simultaneously working full time and supporting my family. However, I still managed to go under nine hours for an Ironman and win two national cycle time-trial championships. Here are some of the methods I used:

Quality, Not Quantity

It’s far better to do one hour of hard training than three hours of aimless riding. This is the key philosophy that will help you make the most of your limited training time. Of course, quality training also requires quality rest. You will be working harder, so you need to make sure you build up your sessions gradually and get plenty of recovery time afterwards as well.

Double days

If you cannot get out for a long weekend ride, try doing a double day on an indoor trainer. It’s not as bad as it sounds! Start with a morning session of 30 minutes riding at 70-80% of your max heart rate. Then take a few hours rest and repeat the session, building up slowly to an hour eventually. Double days can be mentally tough, but they really bring on your fitness.

Commute With Purpose

If you commute to work by bike, turn it into a training session. I like using the terrain to decide what the workout will be. For example, hills can be ridden hard, while you allow for recovery on the flat. Or you could ride hard between sets of traffic lights. Unstructured intervals like these are often mentally easier than a planned workout.

Don’t Wait For Rain

If you have a turbo trainer, use it. An hour of tempo riding on the indoor trainer is a great way to build stamina and endurance. Include a warm up and cool down and you are all done in 90 minutes. This again is a time efficient way to train and it’s not weather dependant either. Turbo trainers are great for training but you do need some feedback, either heart rate or power, to get the best out of your workout.

Seize the Opportunity

Take advantage of a gap in your schedule and head out on your bike. Make sure your bike is always ready to ride. A pre-planned 15 to 20-mile circuit close to home or work is ideal. Don’t worry about the speed, just pedal hard but not at race pace. These sessions can be very productive if you are smart about it.

Leg Strength

For those days when the weather is too bad or time is short, the gym is a great substitute for outdoor workouts. You can do an effective session in just 20 minutes. To maximise your time, concentrate on your legs. I always found squats to be the most effective exercise for cycling, although many cyclists like hamstring curls too. Start with high reps with medium weight and minimum recovery. Over time, increase the weight, gradually reduce the reps and increase the recovery time too. The aim is not to build bigger muscles, rather maximise what you already have. Don’t forget to include a warm up and cool down, and always remember to build up your weights gradually.

Cycle faster fitness session

This simple cycling session works brilliantly.

Warm up: 10-15 minutes, gradually taking your heart rate to 80% of max.

Main set: Ride at 80% of your max heart rate for 40 minutes. It should feel hard and require concentration, but still be manageable.

Warm down: 10 minutes at an easy effort.

Note: For a change, split this into 10, 15 or 20-minute sections at the same intensity with one minute easy spin between efforts.