Commuting as training?

girv73 Posts: 842
edited January 2009 in Commuting chat
Right, I was going to post about this anyway sometime, but it's come up in another thread so I thought I'd get right on it.

I know a lot of folk on here cycle competitively, take part in sportives and so on, and I was wondering if or how you incorporate your commuting miles into your training schedule.

I'm new to proper cycle training, so go easy.

My goal is to build up endurance so I can tackle road sportives in the 100k range, not too fast but with confidence of finishing the distance. My commute is 8ish miles one way, that I've been managing to do 3 days a week on a MTB (roughly 50 miles a week then). On the way in I try to sprint for a bit then ease off, and repeat. On the way home I try for a steady pace up the 500ft hill.

I'm short of free time, so how do I optimise my commuting time to help attain my training target? Do I change the tempo of the rides? Do I ride more days? Take a longer route?

I can't spare much more time in the mornings, but there's a 10 mile route in that's doable and quite scenic. I guess one day a week I could take the roadie and do a longer route home - an extra couple of miles maybe, increasing this distance as my fitness improves. I guess also I could make time for a long ride at the weekend, if I can get up early enough on a Sunday morning :lol:

Looking at the Lap The Lough (150km) training plan, they show a ride 6 days a week and weekly totals rising to 155 miles. I think my other commitments mean I couldn't stick to their plan religiously, but if I commute 8+8 miles 3 days a week, 8+long miles one day and do a long ride at the weekend, I guess I'm not far off.

Am I on the right track?

Your advice appreciated :)
(and yes I'll go away and build the fscking bike)
Today is a good day to ride


  • Feltup
    Feltup Posts: 1,340
    Sorry did you say you were going to build the bike?

    Building your road bike will make it so much easier to ride on those training days :wink:

    Adding miles to my home commute is something I try to do. Last night I added an extra 7 miles and 1200ft of ascent into my ride home with the aim of building up my weekly averages and hopefully make the Fred Whitton slightly less painful. I try practising techniques I know I am poor at too.

    p.s. once you have your roadie I think you will struggle to want to get back on your mtn bike!
    Short hairy legged roadie FCN 4 or 5 in my baggies.

    Felt F55 - 2007
    Specialized Singlecross - 2008
    Marin Rift Zone - 1998
    Peugeot Tourmalet - 1983 - taken more hits than Mohammed Ali
  • I fully agree with your idea about adding miles on the way home.

    In addition I invested in a fixed because I had similar issues to you i.e. not much time to get the miles in. Everything I read suggested that a fixed would be more effort for the same time and so far I do seem to be getting something out of it.
  • cjcp
    cjcp Posts: 13,345

    Training on the commute will get you only so far. I learned that the hard way at Highclere sportive last year even though I was commuting 15 miles each way, 150 miles a week. Thus, you need to do regular longer rides, not only to get your legs and body used to the distance, but so you also know what to eat, drink and what not to eat and drink.

    If you can't always do the distance, increase the intensity (ride along Embankment and this is practically unavoidable :) )

    I've heard it said that your body can take a third or half more than what it's used to, but there's no substitute for distance, particularly if you'd like to enjoy the event too.

    I'm adding some more miles onto the commute each night, with some short sharp hills thrown. With a backpack, so it makes hills without a backpack easier.

    And, yes, ride as much as you can.

    Can you lose weight?
    FCN 2-4.

    "What happens when the hammer goes down, kids?"
    "It stays down, Daddy."
  • whyamihere
    whyamihere Posts: 7,708
    My commute makes up my intervals sessions. It's just under 17 miles each way, with the start and end being pretty flat. It means I have enough time to warm up for 5 minutes, push for 15, spin for 10, push for 15 then warm down for 5. I also do a long ride at the weekends, generally followed by using the bus on Monday or Tuesday to allow myself time to recover. On an 8 mile commute I'd be sprinting all the way, my old 8 mile commute was about 22 minutes on a singlespeed MTB.
  • gtvlusso
    gtvlusso Posts: 5,112

    A, Build your bike first.

    B, Go fixed for short distances (man up for hills!)

    C, find alternative routes with distance and hills to get to and from work. I managed to find a 36 miler each way in lovely countryside - 72 miles and a couple of nice hills. Also have a 20 miler route in or my usual 6 mile each way SS route (won't go fixed until I can get up the big hill without killing myself!)

    Get on google maps or mapmyrun.

    In terms of training - in the morning, I ride fasting (no food). In the afternoons, I am on banana's and flapjack. In terms of fitness, it is my total prep for Ironman tri......but who knows if the swimming or running will follow suit.....
  • girv73
    girv73 Posts: 842
    OK so:

    - build the road bike :roll:
    - increase to 4 or 5 days commuting
    - do intervals on the way in
    - find longer routes on the way home, twice a week, or ride harder if that's not an option
    - rest on Saturday (well, no cycling anyway)
    - do a really long ride on a Sunday morning
    - if I can do 100k regularly, I've a fair chance of completing the 150km LtL

    Going fixed isn't an option, I've no budget for another bike. It was sheer luck I got some extra work and could afford the roadie.

    Belfast is surrounded by hills so finding climbs won't be a problem. The sportives I'm looking at are all flat courses around loughs anyway :lol:
    cjcp wrote:
    Can you lose weight?
    Yes, there's definitely room for improvement there. I've lost 10Kg since the summer and could probably safely lose the same again ... and a bit more if I'm honest.
    Feltup wrote:
    p.s. once you have your roadie I think you will struggle to want to get back on your mtn bike!
    I suspect you're right :) For road rides anyway :twisted:
    Today is a good day to ride
  • Worth investing in a Heart Rate monitor as well if you haven't one already
  • girv73
    girv73 Posts: 842
    @OldSkoolKona budget is tight, can you recommend a cheap one?
    Today is a good day to ride
  • itboffin
    itboffin Posts: 20,062
    Good thread Giv73 and I'm sure relevant to many on this forum, me included.
    Rule #5 // Harden The Feck Up.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
    Rule #12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    Rule #42 // A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
  • JGS
    JGS Posts: 180
    I use my commute (5 miles each way min) as part of my training for longer rides. I make sure I have a few different routes which take in either short flat sprints (the bike equiv of Phartlek training), some hill-climbing sets (climb as hard as possible, descend slowly to recover). Some medium and long routes home to get used to the miles, these vary from quite flat to long lingering climbs.

    The main thing to do if you are going to include commuting to work is to make sure that you vary it as much as possible. Otherwise you'll be used to doing a set route in a set time, and any variance on that will generally hurt.

    Also if you have the option, once a week run to work. If you are not used to running take the bus part way and the run the rest. I find that running helps keep a balance with my muscles and is a fantastic way of cross training.
  • girv73
    girv73 Posts: 842
    @JGS unfortunately I have problems and constant pain with my feet and running would be a no-no. I'd heard rowing machines would be a good alternative for cycling cross training.

    The subject of heart rate has come up now. I know about HR zones and (roughly) where mine are, so what HR should I be targeting and when with this training plan?
    Today is a good day to ride
  • JGS
    JGS Posts: 180
    Have you been to a proper running shop to see if they can help with those feet problems? I went to a local shop and they did a proper fit session, and reccomended some shoes that were a lot cheaper than I expected and really solved my issues (mainly knee pain due to flat feet). Even a gentle 1-2 mile jog will really benefit you a lot..

    An alternative to running are those stepper machines at the gym. They build similar muscles but don't have any of the associated impact. Also a good swim twice monthly helps keep your core muscles in check, which in turn helps keep a more aero position on the bike for longer without pain.

    As for heart rate I tend to go all out when doing sprint sets, and make sure I have rests in between sprints. Long rides I tend to go for a low-cardio zone, medium rides a higher-cardio zone and hill-climb sets (short hard climbs of 30-45 secs) it's max HR to the top with full recovery before repeating.
  • girv73
    girv73 Posts: 842
    I'll be attending a foot doctor (podiatrist?) in the not too distant future to (maybe, I guess) see about inserts for shoes - I'll ask about running there. I don't mind those stepper machines though, so that could be a workable alternative. Thanks for the tip re: swimming too. Not that I'm much of a swimmer :lol:
    Today is a good day to ride
  • The good thing with swimming is it is low impact and you use the whole body - certainly helps to shift the weight as well.

    A good podiatrist will sort you out with inserts - though be warned they are not cheap.

    A good running shop should have a treadmill and the staff will either watch you run or have a video on you so they can analyse how your feet land and give you the appropriate shoe - I don't run much but always get my shoes now from Runners Need - unfortunatlely the assessment usually means you have limited choice so end up with lurid colours - but as i'm not a fahion geek prefering function over form it doesn't bother me

    As others have said, your commuting will give you some fitness but it is no substitute for training in what you are actually doing - so if doing long routes you need to get some long routes into your training. There was a very good post by Digging Deeper back on page 214 of the SCR thread on the difference between commuting and raceing fitness (the points in the post were criminally ignored INHO)

    I've got a few leisure rides (London Oxford and London Paris) coming up so I too need to get some training sorted beyond my daily commute. Good luck
    Pain is only weakness leaving the body