How to get maximum benefit from short rides

Ride little and often

Three one-hour rides will keep you fitter than one three-hour ride – because your body gets used to the activity, and regular exercise keeps your metabolism high.

If you are short on time, opt for shorter efforts, and consistency, rather than one long effort – commuting to work is a great way to squeeze a little activity into your daily routine.


Don’t drop the intensity


Racing cyclists will complete long ‘base miles’ in the winter months – these are about keeping the intensity low, building endurance, and teaching the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. They would then build towards shorter efforts come spring.

If you only have an hour a day to ride, you can instead increase he intensity to get a better workout in a short space of time.

Interval training refers to a training pattern that includes short bursts of raised effort, followed by brief rests – repeated. For example, after a 10 minute warm up, you could ride 3 minutes as hard as you can, followed by 3 minutes very easy – repeating this 5 times before cooling down with easy pedaling.

The efforts should feel hard – this forces your body to adapt – however, you then need to give yourself time to rest or you’ll just get tired, not fitter. Only do 2 or 3 interval sessions a week, and do easy rides or take days off between them.


Try indoor training


If you’re trying to squeeze training into a small time frame, riding outside – where there are traffic lights, roundabout, and long hills to free-wheel down arguably leads to wasting valuable minutes. Training indoors removes all so you can use your limited time to best effect.

Entry-level turbo trainers cost about £100 – they can be attached to your bike so you can ride indoors, with the rear wheel positioned on a resistance unit. Because on the turbo, you are pedalling constantly, one hour of turbo training is equivalent to about two hours on the road.

If you don’t have space to set up a turbo trainer, many gyms offer spinning classes – where you can use the gym bikes, and an instructor tells you when to pedal hard, and when to ease off. This keeps the session interesting, and you’ll be exercising with other people, which will keep your motivation high.


Exercise before breakfast


Exercising as soon as you wake up, without breakfast, is called ‘fasted training’ – and it’s often said to encourage your body to burn through fat, as you’ve not filled it with carbohydrates yet.

Fasted training works well if you ride to work – as it cuts out time taken to get out the door, and you can enjoy breakfast at work. The intensity should always be kept low, so these are good easy rides to do between your interval training days, if you’ve decided to adopt these.

Fasted training is not for everybody – some people need more to eat in the morning than others, so if you find you just feel hungry, or even weak – stick to your normal routine.


Change it up


The body likes consistency – and exercising often is good for you. However – a change in the exercise you give it can do you good.

A little bit of non-cycling exercise – perhaps an easy jog, swimming some weights at the gym, pilates or a brisk walk with a friend – will encourage your other muscles to chip in and get moving. The added benefit is you can choose an indoor option if the weather is bad.

If you do opt for jogging, mix it with walking if it’s new to you, as it’s easy to get injured by jumping into running too quickly.


What does all that look like put together?


We’ve discussed plenty of ideas – but what would they look like over a week?

Every person is different – individuals will have their own level of fitness, and amount of time to ride and exercise. However, here’s an example week that would help keep you in good shape for summer:


[tabby title=”Mon”] 1 hour interval session – outside, turbo or spinning
[tabby title=”Tue”] 1 hour Swim/Easy jog mixed with brisk walk
[tabby title=”Wed”] 30 minute easy ride, fasted if possible
[tabby title=”Thu”] 1 hour interval session – outside, turbo or spinning
[tabby title=”Fri”] Rest
[tabby title=”Sat”] 2 hours steady riding
[tabby title=”Sun”] 1 hour swim/Easy jog mixed with brisk walk

By Michelle Arthurs