What's Cool In Road Cycling

Bike Commuting – Whistle While You Work?

Ask and ye shall receive! David Rizzo sent us a terrific question that cuts to the heart of our focus on real-life training here at Toolbox. If bicycle commuting forms a major bulk of your training time, what are some considerations that will help you maximise the benefits both from this limited training time and the double workouts?

What Should I Do with my Commuting Time?
“During the season I get my training in by commuting to and from work. My question is how should I best be using these two riding sessions? Typically a person only does one ride a day that addresses a specific training requirement. If a person is riding twice a day what kind of training regime should be employed to avoid over training and get the most from this extra time in the saddle??

Thank you,
D. Rizzo

Thanks for writing David. This is simply an excellent question, especially because this is my own situation in a nutshell! I have a young family, and that typically precludes evening group rides. As always, every single case is individual, and you will have to adapt your training possibilities based on what your commute and life situation offers you. Let’s go through my own commute as an example, and then look at what general lessons we can tease out.

A Day in the Life
I have a terrific commute. I live 15 km away from the university, and have three regular options for commuting: 1) a flattish semi-urban route with minimal stop signs/lights for the first 10 km; 2) a hilly ride along the ocean with minimal traffic and no signs/lights for the first 12 km; 3) a 40 km detour through roads with light traffic and no signs/lights for the first 32 km. The climate in Halifax permits safe commuting except for Jan-March.

I have a great workplace. Having my own lab, I can bike in with my racing bike. I can also leave my backup bike on my CompuTrainer and have ready access to it. I also have a set of rollers with double-fan resistance at home. My work, except for teaching, is fairly flex-time.

Using My Commute
With the above context in mind, here are some things I do with my commute and some things you might wish to consider:

?Make peace with indoor cycling, and embrace it as the most time-efficient way to perform controlled quality work. Most bike commutes are into urban areas with significant traffic or stops, so I generally treat commutes as endurance or active recovery rides.

?It’s almost impossible to do a quality interval workout in under an hour. There’s just not enough time for a decent warmup and sufficient quantity of work. I schedule my interval workouts on days where I have more flexibility in my morning schedule, and do them on the 40 k commuting circuit. Another thing I do is ride easily into work for a warmup and then hop onto the trainer at the lab for intervals. Alternately, I will spin easily on the trainer at home or the lab to warmup, then do a series of hard hill jams on the hilly route. A third option is to commute home easily as a warmup, and then directly hop onto the rollers for intervals. Be creative!

?I generally would do hard efforts for only one of the two commute legs for most of the year. At my fitness levels (competitive at Master’s/Cat 3 Senior), two hard workouts a day is not necessary, and I would rather focus on quality of effort and proper recovery. However, scheduling hard workouts for both the morning and evening commutes might be useful occasionally as you’re preparing for weekend stage races, which typically feature one double-stage day.

?I generally schedule the harder effort in the morning, even though there’s no physiological rationale favouring morning versus evening. I’m the type who likes to have a “positive?start to the day and don’t like to leave the quality efforts too late, and this allows me to use the evening commute as “active?recovery by spinning easy, especially on days where I do other workouts during the day.

?Avoid if possible doing your intervals in the evening and then the next morning. That usually does not leave sufficient recovery time.

Putting it All Together
As we’ve seen, commuting can be both good and bad. I have nearly an ideal commuting situation, but I still have to be creative to use the time properly. The difficulties of commuting into urban areas, coupled with bad weather and limited daylight hours during this time of the year, emphasizes using the commute as “easy?time on the bike to supplement indoor workouts. During the nicer parts of the year, try to plan out different commuting routes that will permit you to achieve specific workout objectives. And finally, avoid turning every commute leg into a hard workout to compensate for limited bike time, because you’ll end up overtraining due to inadequate recovery.


About Stephen:
Stephen Cheung is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with a research specialty in the effects of thermal stress on human physiology and performance. His company, Podium Performance, also provides elite sport science and training support to provincial and national-level athletes in a number of sports. He can be reached for comments or coaching inquiries at [email protected]

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