How to balance work and cycling

If the world was a fair and just place, cycling would be work and we would be paid inordinate amounts of money for doing it. However, unless you’re of the chosen few, that’s just a dream. Most of us mere mortals have to juggle work and family commitments as well as cycling ones.

Even the pros have to juggle PR commitments, sponsor duties and appearances as well as training so they aren’t completely immune.

That makes structured training during the week important so you can get the most out of the weekend. Whether you’re training for a sportive, making sure you can keep up with your club group or just maintaining fitness, planning is key.

Time management

At risk of sounding more like a business consultant than a riding geek, I think time management has a lot of potential to help balance riding and life. Scheduling training sessions during the week and setting them in stone goes a long way. Having specific times set aside for riding helps mentally prepare for them and lets everyone around you know that you need time on the bike.

Making the most of this time is next. Depending on what you want to achieve, some shorter, harder turbo sessions can help prepare for a sportive or race. Some HIIT or cadence sessions can pack a lot into a short time, so if you really are time poor during the week you can still maintain and improve form. This is especially true in winter when daylight is in short supply.

If you prefer structured workouts where you are guided through activities on your turbo trainer, Turbo Training can help. If you prefer to use your own workouts, Cycling Weekly did a pretty good piece on turbo training.

For the rest of the year, if you have the time in the morning or evening, there is nothing like getting out on the roads for a couple of hours. Not only does it challenge you more than a turbo can, it also allows you to decompress from work, clear your mind and enjoy yourself. I find recovery rides easier outside than on the turbo too.

If you can swap the car for the bike, combining commuting with training is the best of all possible worlds. As long as you stay safe and don’t go mad, cycling to and from work is a great way to combine an onerous time sink and training. Cycle to work in a controlled manner and save sprints and efforts for the way home.

Fuelling

I have always had trouble eating enough of the right stuff to help my cycling. Whether I worked shifts or 9-5, I could never seem to get into the habit of regular meals and healthy snacks. I always reverted to meal replacement shakes between meals to help boost energy and nutrition.

One rule of cycling club is to always have breakfast. While fasted rides are useful training tools, they should be irregular so your body doesn’t get used to them. A solid breakfast whether you’re riding or not is essential. You will not only find your riding improve but your daily concentration too. Opt for slow release energy such as porridge for best results. I hate the stuff but I eat it anyway because it works.

If you’re lucky enough to have a work canteen, choose wisely and make sure you get your protein and carbs. If you take a packed lunch, make it the night before and again, choose wisely. Try to avoid buying sandwiches or having fast food as they don’t contain much in the way of balance or nutrition.

Eat little and often where practical. Keeping healthy snacks around is fine if you work at a desk. If you don’t have a desk job, snacks can be harder to manage. That’s where I found meal replacement shakes handy. I could make one up and carry it in a bottle ready for when I needed it. Your mileage may vary.

Support

Finally, balancing the various commitments means getting the family to buy into it. Make sure you show the requisite appreciation for you being “allowed” to take time out for cycling. Show a willingness to forgo training for family commitments and repay that support in any way you see fit. It will pay dividends in the end!

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