Here we are, just finishing the craziness of the holidays and now, it’s time to hit the ground running for the new year. I’m a couple of months in with a new job, my 3.5-year-old and 19-month-old are nonstop (fun and work), trying to be a good wife, friend, sister, and daughter and YES, I have big cycling goals for the year. The plate is often overflowing, but it’s crucial to make time for your own personal ambitions. For me, cycling is exactly that, it’s my “me” time. I feel refreshed and energized after training and the feeling of accomplishment carries over into momentum to chase after other goals in the day.
This time one year ago, I had just landed in Hawaii for a ten-day training camp and I was already investing in a 25-hour week of training. That was luxurious, but let’s be honest, unless competing as a professional athlete within the top 5% of the field is your full-time job, this type of training isn’t the norm nor feasible for most. I feel lucky to have these opportunities, but I’m also excited about the other priorities and responsibilities in life that keep me diverse.
It can be hard to see others putting in the longer miles (hello, FOMO), but a gut check reminds me that a lot of productive work can come from a shorter workout window. Here’s what has felt good lately as I seek to train smarter and not harder.
Keep the Aerobic Engine Burning:
The trainer is pure simplicity and a time hack! My personal choice is the Saris H3 Plus trainer complete with an MP1 Platform and a TD1 Trainer Desk. No dealing with a half hour of prep as you dress for the elements, nor washing your bike after; for the time-crunched athlete, it’s a “hop on” approach with every turn of the pedals being productive, no coasting! Sometimes in my recovery or endurance workouts, I even sneak in some emails: double productivity.
We only have so much time. Winter is the season to keep the legs turning over, but it doesn’t have to equal long hours in the saddle. Make the most of a one-hour window by utilizing a training platform like TrainerRoad (my personal favorite). With the added bonus of the platform helping you structure workouts for your implemented time range and selection of zones, you develop a good sense of where your time is best spent. If you’ve been training in the endurance zone and skipping out on tempo, sweet spot, or VO2 workouts, the platform will help direct you toward more variation.
Don’t forget to get outside sometimes too.
Recently, I rode indoors throughout the span of two weeks without exercising outside. Upon returning from a Nordic ski, I was on an endorphin high all day long. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford scientist, reminds us that, “exposing your eyes to sunlight in the morning increases daytime energy & mood and improves nighttime sleep, but it also triggers a cascade of short, medium & long-acting peptides & hormones that powerfully modify the state of mind & body in other (positive) ways too.
Cross-training counts. Get in what you can. Sometimes a run, a snowshoe, or a ski is more efficient than prepping all your cycling gear. Sometimes, you’re just more excited to switch up the activity. Or, maybe you have the opportunity to meet a friend and get a workout in at the same time. These are all worthy reasons to swap a ride for a different workout. Unless you’re looking for the final 1% gains, you’re still going to benefit from the training.
Address mechanical issues:
As someone who is on the road quite a bit in the spring and summer, I have long put off bodywork and tending to small issues and niggles over the years because I can’t find a provider or I can’t follow through with regularity. This season, I’ve cut back a small bit on volume and prioritized bodywork, dry needling, and cupping alongside new strength training exercises. I wish I would’ve done this sooner. I feel altogether stronger and realized how many imbalances I had due to prioritizing only riding all the time; my more dominant muscles took over and some of my more minor muscles stopped recruiting and firing. No one benefits from the same plane of motion all the time, take the time to find someone who can help you become stronger in the little ways that will pay off over the long haul.
Strength has also helped boost some of my shorter workouts— a 60-minute hard trainer ride plus 30 minutes of strength can be a killer combination for a solid workout and can leave you feeling very accomplished.
Don’t obsess about those Strava numbers or other people’s rides!
Be confident that consistency is really what pays off in the end. One athlete may put together some monster weeks in a warm locale, but the athlete who puts in the time every day, bit by bit, is going to see big gains. It may not look as awe-inspiring on Strava, but trust the process, it will prove to be worthwhile.
Give yourself grace.
Some seasons of life are more about surviving. Maybe you lost a job, you’re caring for a sick parent, you’re a new parent or you’re going through a divorce. I’ve always believed that it is very challenging to muster energy for exercise when you’re emotionally tapped and exhausted. Taking care of yourself in this season might mean a walk for some movement and vitamin D, or it may mean taking time for a cup of coffee with a friend, a nap or any activity that feels cup filling rather than draining. Remember, a season is exactly that–a time that will pass and with it will come renewed energy and motivation. For now, maybe extending grace to yourself is the best training you can do.