You hear it nearly every day; “I don’t have time.” Hell I say it most days, and I say it about many different things. The best thing I remember reading about this saying though, was that it comes down to priorities. If you are comfortable enough to replace; “I don’t have time” with; “That’s not a priority for me right now”, then you are fine. But if you are unhappy to change those words around, then you really need to have a look at how you are prioritising the use of your time.
Before I start, I want to make it clear – I am as regular as the next rider when it comes to ability. I own no Strava KOMs, and have never won a bike race. I can ride a bloody long way in one go though, so that’s something. The point is I have found a method to train for long endurance riding, whilst still maintaining maximum time for those things that are rightfully a higher priority in life than pedalling my bike around.
My priorities sit in order as family, work and riding. Well clearly wifi, THEN those other things, but for the sake of time, let’s focus on the other three…
Work is an obvious amount of time that I need to fill. 8:30am until 5:30pm, 5 days a week. It is what it is. I can’t train during this time, and in order to be an effective employee, I can only daydream about being on a bike so much. We all have to do it, so no need to spend much time pondering the time you spend there.
My kids are 4 and 2 years old, so they understandably take up a huge chunk of time (for example I just had to stop my 2-year-old from hitting random keys on the keyboard as I type, and as if to prove my point, my 4-year-old is shoving a balloon in my face…) On days my wife works, I need to be present from 6:30am until 7:30am to get the kids ready for childcare, whilst my wife and I also get ourselves ready for work. After work, I need to come straight home to help with dinner and getting the kids into bed. It’s not a chore when it’s your own ratbags, it does though, occupy a very significant amount of my time. Much the same on the weekend, there is a lot of time that I both want, and need, to spend with my family. On top of this, at some point in time, we are supposed to clean the house and yard and do grocery shopping.
But so what? These above issues are the same problems huge percentages of the population face.
The key is how to do these things, and do them effectively, still get in the quality time you want and need on the bike, AND not get so stressed from trying to do all 3, that your mental health starts to break down. No point in getting stressed about riding your bike. It’s supposed to be tops, like really tops. It’s supposed to be the release we have from the daily grind, not an added stress to an already busy life.
So my philosophy for this is really bloody easy – just ride lots. I didn’t even come up with it, I stole it from the great Eddy Merckx. I start by looking at what time I can have free. In my case, between 7:30pm and 6:30am each day, my kids are in bed, so I have some free time. I can also commute by bike to work. Then on the weekends, despite needing (and wanting) to be a very present husband and father, I can pinch one morning out until 9:30, to squeeze in a longer ride.
So commuting just straight to work and back will give me 60 kilometres total for the week. Sweet, there’s a start. I make this more effective training by riding a fixed gear bike. They are SUPER cheap, and are great for both strength and technique, especially if you can throw some good hills into the mix. If I am ready early for work, I’ll ride up a climb of 3 kilometres with a 6% average gradient, which means to get to work, I have a descent of about the same to ride the loop around to my office. On the fixed gear it is an out-of-the-saddle grind to get to the top, a recovery across the flat land at the top of the hill, and then a 140 rpm super spin on the way down. When you take away your free hub, you learn to turn your legs over really, really quickly! Or you crash horribly. I have so far taken the former option. Strength and spin training all in the one ride = efficiency.
I work in retail, which means late night trading Thursdays, so I altered the roster at work so that I work the late shift from 11am until 7pm. That way I can ride before my family wakes up. Then help with breakfast, and after they leave, ride again for another couple of hours before work. Then when work has finished, my kids are already in bed, so I can commute the long way home, and fit in another hour or two of riding. With a schedule like this, I can fit in 100 kilometres for the day, even if it is across 4 separate rides.
Now riding from 5am until 6:30am will allow me to get in a good, hard ride. I can go and ride hill repeats, I can ride a rolling course at a high effort, or I can go and ride one good hill at an effort. Even still an option can be to ride this same duration, but at a generally easy output, if I am still tired from a previous ride. Do this 2 or 3 times a week, and you are quickly adding 35 kilometres or so per session.
Weekends I can squeeze the morning ride out until 9:30am, without impacting my family heavily. If I start at 4:30 or so, I am riding for 5 hours, and can fit in up to 100 kilometres for the morning. This is only really stealing 2-2.5 hours of time from my wife, as the kids will wake up some time around 7. Any time before they wake up is free time.
My schedule then, will look something like this:
Monday – Either 5-6:30 hill repeats ride, or indoor trainer in the evening. (30 km)
Tuesday – Commute only (12km)
Wednesday – Commute only (12km)
Thursday – 5-6:30 hills ride, 7:40 – 9:40 MTB ride, commute to work, commute the long way home. (100km)
Friday – Commute the long way through the hills. (35km)
Saturday – Commute the long way down the coast (45km)
Sunday – Early start, long ride for 4 hours or so. (85km)
That schedule would get me 320 kilometres for the week. I only need to start early 3 times, I’m only riding in the evening twice, and for all of that, I have ‘stolen’ just 2.5 hours from my wife and kids. For a solid training week, I aim for 300 kilometres. If I’m preparing for something big, like an everesting, I’ll aim to ride 300 one week, 300 the next week, around 400 the following week, then 200 in a rest week. On top of this I’ll stretch most evenings before bed, and I aim to do a strength set in my lounge room at least once, if not twice a week.
Now by all means, I am sure there are more technical training methods out there, that could potentially get me to a better result with less time. I could eat better, I could drink less, I could ride to specific wattages, and I could do a lot of testing of my outputs to make sure I wasn’t wasting a moment of effort. Boring, boring, boring, boring, that would be so boring. I got bored writing about it. With this schedule, I can achieve enormous things. The feats I have achieved so far have been outstanding, and I am nowhere near done. But above all of it, I have loved every single moment of being on the bike. On this schedule, riding is not a chore, and I am still free to give all of the time that my family could need.
It’s not about how much time you have. It’s what you prioritise, and how you utilise that time. So just ride lots, when you can, as often as you can. Ride at different speeds, and on different terrain. Just enjoy riding.
This article was also published on The Sticky Bidon, and you can view that here
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