MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE
I've transitioned from being a full time competitive cyclist to focussing on running a business, and being a family man too. As you can imagine, there are times when my priorities clash.
However, with as little as 6-8 hours a week available to train, it is possible to progress and reach a strong level of fitness. In this range you can still perform at a high level with consistent quality. If you have less than 6 hours available, you will have to concede a little on your expectations.
To really get the best out of yourself on low training volume:
- Focus on high intensity, structured workouts
- Do fewer slower 'base miles' or rides where you are in fat burning’ zones for extended periods of time
- Don't worry about recovery rides
LESS IS MORE
A key thing to remember with training sessions as a whole is the more sessions you can fit in per week, the better. But when it comes to the individual sessions themselves, less is more.
For example, in a busy week it is much more efficient to fit in 4 x 1 hour sessions than a 1 x 4 hour session. This is obviously a much more simplified version of a structured training plan, but shorter, high frequency of workouts, (where you push yourself harder than you would in a longer session) are key to progressing quickly.
PLAN AND EXECUTE
By planning detailed sessions in advance, you'll waste minimal time and remove the decision making process around which session to do that day. Coaches are also a great solution for athletes with busy schedules. A good coach will help you to optimise every hour you have available to ride your bike. They will provide specific training plans and structured workouts that focus on short hard efforts, an often include sessions completed on a turbo trainer.
If you usually suffer from boredom on the turbo, then pair these sessions with Zwift - the interactivity and social aspects of the platform will give you a new lease of indoor training life.
Although indoor sessions are a great way to get the quality of training you need, as an overall rule, it's best to mix indoor training efforts with high-intensity road rides, to achieve the best results.
AN EXAMPLE 8 WEEK PLAN
Below is an 8 week plan which will build you up to a peak level of fitness. It's meant as a guide rather than an explicit plan, so will require tailoring depending on your fitness and goals.
Design a broad set of training exercises to assess levels of fitness over multiple time periods - from max sprint power short bursts to 20min max efforts, and a range in between. Assess these over a number of rides. The purpose is to log levels of power alongside perceived effort to provide a benchmark for where you are at. We will come back to revisit these again later in the program.
With the learning from week one, we can now work out the basic levels and zones you need to create a structured program which will provide the most gains.
I would hold back slightly from going all out at this stage. Make sure you are working hard during sessions with a bit of build up over these weeks Don't go into full max efforts repeatedly right from the off.
Maximum effort sessions should be included sparingly and with good recovery periods before and after. Consistency is one of the most essential factors to progressive fitness gains. Staying steady and consistent in your training will guard you against pushing too hard and getting ill and needing to take time off - which ultimately will result in a loss of fitness.
Step up the intensity and volume to take you to what you initially believed to be your max, then go a bit further and overreach. By these weeks you can throw in sessions where you work at 105-115% of power you assessed in week one. Paired with decent recover these kind of over-max sessions will form the foundation of fitness progress.
This period of training should be hard and will without a doubt make you tired. Carefully designed intervals sessions should be included that ask slightly more of you then you originally thought possible.
This week should focus on tapering, with a couple of carefully positioned max efforts. You can repeat the interval sessions from week one, and get a goo insight into the progress you've made.
A good training program should allows make the training gains visible, you increase in power and fitness should be obvious and easy to identify. For performance minded individuals, this helps a huge amount with motivation. Recognising how much you have improved will fuel your motivation for the next phase of training.
FOR ADVANCED RIDERS
If you are more experienced, then you can ditch week one and move straight into weeks 2-7. Create 2 cycles of weeks 2-7 before moving on to week 8, because you already have a good understanding of your base level of fitness. I would always include an element of week 8 and review fitness of specific interval tests on well-known sections of road to help identify improvements. No matter how experienced you are, benchmarking your progress is always important.
There's a collection of really useful indoor training sessions on British Cycling's website here and you can also find really structured and useful training guides and workouts on Zwift.
I'd love to hear how you manage your training schedule, what your barriers are and where you find the biggest successes in training. Comment below and let me know.