Time-Limited Training

By Rebecca Charlton

Sometimes I feel like my only conversations are about how busy we all are. It seems we’re all performing a juggling act and as spring approaches, it can be hard to see how it’s possible to fit in enough training around day-to-day life.

This is the time to start focusing on how to realistically ramp things up, quite literally when it comes to the elevation gain involved in Dragon Ride 2024, without compromising your health and energy for the rest of life’s commitments.

It’s easy to look to professional cyclists who are regularly fitting in five-hour rides during the week and making it seem easy but they’ll have professional massage on hand, nutrition consultants and constant support to make sure they’re not depleting their immune system.

With that in mind, a bit of planning goes a long way in optimising your training, to keep progressing your fitness and minimising setbacks.

Plan your harder sessions

Without a plan it can be difficult to achieve the volume and intensity you need within your training. You’ll be looking to get in some longer rides at this point in the year, and preferably some hillier sessions too. I’d suggest looking at the calendar and planning days when you can not only fit in enough time to prioritise your quality hours in the saddle but also when you have the capacity to recover. Is there a social occasion the night before that you can skip to increase the number of hours you can sleep before heading out first thing? We may not be pro riders, but when you’re training like one, finding a window to recover can make all the difference. Sometimes, or perhaps more often than not, this won’t be possible, so if this is the case, prep a recovery meal and drink to take straight out with you to help that process, even if it is on your feet rather than in front of a Sunday afternoon film!

Eat well

When you’re squeezing training in around a busy life it’s very easy to forget how important it is to maintain good nutrition, and as you increase your training load this becomes even more crucial in order to avoid illness and setbacks. We all start out with good intentions when it comes to healthy eating but when you’re rushing in and out of the door it can be the first thing to slip. Just like scheduling your sessions, try to stock up on foods that will assist you on and off the bike, or batch cook some meals so you don’t even have to think when you return from a ride and you’re exhausted. It’s easy to find yourself past the point of hunger and that’s when most of us will reach for accessible foods that may be lacking in nutritional value. It might not seem like the most exciting exercise on a Sunday night but writing down the meals you’re going to have each day of the week, on a wipe clean fridge planner for example, can go a long way in taking the stress out of thinking what to cook everyday and means you can get in the ingredients you need in advance.

Fuel your rides efficiently each ride

Similarly you’ll need to take food with you on longer rides. Many of us will want to make that elevation gain feel easier by improving our power to weight ratio and if that’s a goal, it’s important to do that in a healthy, sustainable way. The more we ride, the more we’re likely to improve conditioning and lose some body fat but it’s crucial to continue to fuel your sessions. Taking short cuts to lose weight, like not eating enough during and after rides, will leave you in a calorie deficit but if you’re not replenishing yourself enough your immune system could take a bashing. So unless you’re under expert guidance, which most of us mere mortals are not, I would suggest you focus on keeping your body happy with nutrient-rich foods during heavier periods of training. Not only will starving yourself on the bike not help your well-being, it’s very likely to impact the quality of your training. Topping up with healthy snacks will allow you to push much harder on the bike, and recover well. Real food is important but nutrition products can also take the thinking out of it. There are several brands out there that offer a range of bars and products that mean you know you’re taking on enough carbohydrate per hour. As a rule of thumb that’s around one gram of carbohydrate per kilo of bodyweight, per hour, so you’d want to start eating, or topping up with a carb drink after one hour on a longer ride. There are arguments as to how much an individual can absorb so some nutritionists would suggest you can aim for 30-60g per hour.

Turbo training

I’m a big believer in adding variety to your training to keep things fresh while maintaining fun, motivation and offering a change of scenery. Anyone who’s read my previous articles will know I’m a self-confessed Zwift addict because I believe it’s one of the most efficient tools you could possibly have when it comes to time-limited training. While you need to get outside where you can, the turbo trainer can play a vital part in your preparation for Dragon Ride. It will allow you to have an intensity-focused, consistent session, or get in intervals that will work on your ability to suffer. By testing your FTP (functional threshold power) on a platform like Zwift, you can structure every session to your ability level and see when it’s improving towards your fitness target. With a toddler at home, I find squeezing in an indoor session when I can’t get outside is invaluable.

Get creative

Sometimes when you’re training for a big target it feels like you’re saying no to everything else but a nice solution can be riding to an event to join friends or family. I once turned up to a Sunday afternoon birthday bash by bike, around 50 miles away, had some cake and chats and arrived home after a decent out-and-back. Once my friends realised I was likely to turn up to social events in Lycra, or needing a shower, they were very accommodating! Tell people you’re training for Dragon Ride 2024 and they can embrace the journey with you. A nice option is asking a family member to meet you at a lunch with some spare, warm clothes! You can always blag a lift home too.

Just do something!

Plans change and life gets in the way, so if you can’t do the session you set out to do for whatever reason, remind yourself that something is better than nothing. Do what you can, whether that’s half an hour on the turbo, or a core session at home, it will maintain your movement and conditioning.

Photo by Jorge Ponce on Unsplash

Let me know how your training is going over on @beccacharlton_insta and good luck with this month’s sessions!