One of the biggest barriers to successful cycling – whether it be racing, riding Sportives or just enjoying a ride with friends – is the time it takes to get and stay fit.
The Skylark team are very familiar with this problem. Cycling is a time consuming sport that requires you to put aside reasonable-sized chunks of time on a very regular basis if you are going to get the most out of it and yourself. We have busy family lives and have experienced the tricky conundrum of fitting two-wheeled activities into our packed daily routines. Here are a few tips on making it happen:
1/ Plan ahead – you’ll never fit enough cycling into your life unless you plan ahead. We’re not saying get everything down on paper, but do think through your training and cycling commitments and at least once a week make sure you compare diaries with loved ones to make sure you know when you are free to get out. Don’t just ride off on a Sunday morning when the rest of the family are expecting time with you. Similarly, don’t be surprised to find you can’t go for an evening ride due to childcare responsibilities if you don’t pre-inform your partner and agree who covers what nights. A little pre-planning removes stress, guilt and potential conflict. It also helps by pre-committing you to the training. A simple wall-planner calendar in the kitchen works best for us!
2/ Check the weather – Check the weather – most keen cyclists have an almost unhealthy knowledge and interest in the weather and you can see why. A 2 hour session in dry, still weather is a very different prospect to the same ride on a windy, wet day. So get used to looking at long-term (2-5 day) forecasts and being flexible enough to change your plans when the weather turns bad. Even if you can’t re-arrange the day or night of your ride, you can at least change where you go and the kind of training you’re expecting to achieve. A foul night can be a good time to get out on a run, a short MTB ride, or go ride some local hill intervals. Again, it’s all about thinking and planning a little in advance. Even the wind direction can be significant – generally it’s best to ride out into a headwind and home with a tailwind, so have ride options planned that allow you to do this whatever the wind direction.
3/ Work around your cycling – if you’re really pressed for time, making cycling part of your commute is a great way to squeeze more hours into your week. Not all employers have showers, but there are still plenty of options for fitting cycling into your day. Try going to work with your bike on the train and then cycling home. Drive half way to work and do the second part on your bike. If your cycling commute is very short, extend it into a training loop on the way home. Think creatively and turn the “dead” time of your commute into useful training time.
4/ Weekenders – a family day trip out at the weekend, however appealing, can seem like a day of training lost. However, if you take your bike with you, the journey at either end can become a bonus ride. Ride home after the day out, whilst the family return in the car. Get your family to drop you off 40 miles short of the in-laws house and ride the rest of the way there. Or set off early and ride all the way there. With a bit of help and support from your family (more planning ahead), you can turn journeys in the car into training time for you.
5/ Holidays – a week away with the family is always a great time, but it can be difficult to find training opportunities as you are often in a strand place without a bike. That’s where a bit of regular running or swimming can play a part in your training, as these are forms of exercise you can continue virtually anywhere on the planet. Do a little research before you go so you know where to run or swim and it’ll be all the easier to get on with it when you arrive. We’ve even been known to hire a pedalo to get in an hour or two of cycling-related training whilst on holiday!
6/ Join a Club – it may be blindingly obvious to many cyclists, but joining a club is a great way to fit more cycling into your life. We’re not talking about creating more time, instead we’re thinking about keeping motivated. Knowing there’s a bunch of riders waiting for you to join them is sometimes the difference between going for a ride and staying in front of the TV.
7/ Get Packed Yesterday – one of the toughest aspects of cycling is the time it takes to get ready and gather your kit before a ride. Overcome this by simply getting everything ready for your next ride at the end of your previous one. You should always clean your bike straight after a muddy/wet ride, so take that principle and extend it to cover your clothing, shoes, lights and spares/back-pack/saddlepack. Clean you shoes and put them to dry if they need it. Similarly coats and gloves. Get out a full set of riding kit and hang it together in a wardrobe or somewhere convenient. Put lights on to re-charge, replace batteries and replaced used tubes and other spares. Next time you are going on a ride, you’ll know everything is ready and waiting and you’ll be out the door that much quicker.