Training While You Work

Most of our clients at Cycle-Smart are not professionals. Or more specifically, they're not professional cyclists. The majority of people we work with are trying to be the best bike racers they can be within the context of their "real lives" - work, school, family - they have other commitments that they aren't looking to sacrifice in order to become a full-time bike racer. One of our biggest challenges as coaches is to help them find the balance between their professions and personal lives and their athletic goals.

Within that context exists a classic challenge for working professionals who are also amateur bike racers: the business trip. Training in the context of daily work is challenging enough, but how to train when you're on the road is an extra challenge. In most cases, increasing your fitness with a hard week of training is simply out of the question, and maintaining what you have may even be out of reach. There are some strategies to help you get through it if you find yourself on the road during the racing season when the travel is unfortunately not for racing.

One of the first things I do is try to plan ahead. If you know in advance that your trip is coming up and training will be difficult, try to set your training progression up so that you're on a rest week when you're away from home. There's no sense in trying to force a week of high volume or intensity when training and racing are going to have to take a backseat to work and travel. If your business takes you to a big city, simply getting out of town might be a challenge, never mind finding a place to do uninterrupted intervals. Scheduling a week of easy rides will take the pressure of training off at a time when you don't need any extra stress.

If you find yourself unable to plan a rest week because it doesn't fit your periodization scheme or the trip comes up unexpectedly, then you've got to make the best of what's available. Take a look at the racing schedule in the city you're headed to. Again, because finding new roads can be a challenge if you have limited time, try to find out about a local training race or group ride during the week. And if there's a race nearby on the weekend, see if you can schedule your trip to come back a few days later and take advantage of the opportunity to race in a different region and against different riders. Strava heatmaps have also become a favorite tool of mine for discovering the best routes around unfamilar places.

Even if you are able to schedule in a rest week, you might find that there's simply no way you can take your bike with you. That may sound like a fitness catastrophe, but it's not as bad as you'd think. Plan ahead by first calling the hotel and inquiring about any nearby gyms that have spin bikes or something similar. If you bring your own shoes and pedals, you can usually plug in and get set up somewhat close to your normal position. The hotel itself might even have a good enough quality exercise bike that you can put your own equipment on. Also reseach local bike shops that might be able to loan or rent you a real racing bike. Often if they see that you're serious and your willing to give them a credit card for collateral, someone from the shop might even have an extra personal bike of their own you can borrow.

Clients sometimes ask about running when they're on the road, but unless it's during the cyclocross season, there's nothing that'll slow you down faster. I'd rather see them find a pool to do laps in than deal with the impact running involves. Unless you're running regularly, an aerobically fit cyclists who is unadapted to running will almost always get themselves into trouble.

Above all else when you're on a business trip, don't force it. If you're changing time zones, spending all day on a plane, and stressed out from hectic meetings, the last thing you need to do is push yourself over the edge by training. If you need to recover from life, take the recovery and cut your losses. Getting greedy with your form usually leaves you worse off than if you simply tried to maintain what you had, and this is a case where off the bike stress needs to be accounted for in your recovery time and capacity for on the bike work.