Time Crunched Cyclist – Putting Structure Into Training

Over the past ten years I found myself working increasingly long hours for an investment bank, but always tried to squeeze in as much training as I could. The training was mostly a mix of circuits and strength training with a personal trainer, plus a couple of bike rides a month. It worked well. The threat of wasting money on a personal training session if I cancelled with less that 24 hours notice made me commit to my sessions, even if it meant having to go back to work afterwards.

I left the bank at the start of the summer to look for a career change, and with it free time went up and spare cash went down. I stopped personal training and made the most of the glorious sunny weather to get out on my bike as much as possible. I had some great rides out in the Surrey hills but I had a nagging feeling – was this actually the best use of my time? Was this the best way to improve my cycling? Without the routine imposed by work, I felt nervous. My days lacked structure.

This got me thinking – maybe I should follow a structured training plan. I didn’t have any time pressures, so why not? I had recently joined some awesome Facebook groups for sporty type 1 diabetics and one contributor recommended the Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. I was hardly time crunched, until I realised that not being time-crunched meant you could devote 20+ hours a week to cycling. As nice as it would be to spend 20+ hours a week on my bike, this was probably not going to help me find a job, which is something I really should do. So perhaps I was time-crunched after all.

The training revolves around interval sessions of very prescribed intensities and durations, with the intensities being determined by a field test. The field test consists of a warmup and the two 8-minute all-out efforts on a bike. During the test you measure your heart rate, and if available, your power. You take the maximum average power from the two sessions, and use this figure to determine the power for your intervals. For instance, if you record average power for your two sessions as 312W and 295W, you would take your test power as 312W. One of the interval sessions might be 3 x 10 min intervals at 88% of 312W, with 5 min rest in between, so for me this would be 3 x 10 min at 275W. You can train to either heart rate or power, but apparently power is a better way to train because effects such as the rise in core temperature as you train will tend to increase your heart rate and so to keep your heart rate constant you would have to reduce your power, causing you to train at a lower power than is optimal. I’m fortunate that our local gym has WattBikes which incorporate power meters, so most of the time I use them.

The training plan lays out a schedule of different sessions over an 11-week period, including rest days and interval-free endurance sessions. The interval sessions I do on a wattbike; the endurance sessions I do on the road. The road sessions I love. Some of the interval sessions are pretty brutal.

This series of blog posts charts my ups and downs following the training programme and exploring some nifty new technology. So saddle up and come along for a ride.

Next up: The Technology

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