Tuning Your Life: Finding Time to Ride, Cross-Training, and Life/Bike Balance - Cycling Magazine

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Saturday, 29 July 2017

Tuning Your Life: Finding Time to Ride, Cross-Training, and Life/Bike Balance

Tuning Your Life: Finding Time to Ride, Cross-Training, and Life/Bike Balance

WE’VE TALKED ABOUT TRAINING AS BEING A PATTERN OF stress and rebuilding, but your life is actually the same way. If you aren’t balanced in terms of how you fit cycling into your life, you’re not going to get stronger, faster, or healthier, or (worst of all) have much fun.
The truth of road cycling is that it takes time—not just in the sense of months or years, but in the hours. There isn’t really such a thing as a quick, 20-minute training ride. Unless you’re commuting or not as concerned with gaining fitness, you have to put in a minimum of an hour per ride (usually closer to an hour and a half and up to as much as 3 hours).
Riding that much can be a fun escape, but eventually the same routes will become monotonous, and all that time on the bike can even lead to injury. It’s also a good idea to add in fun alternatives off the bike that will help shape up the rest of your body (and mind). Some of us need a little extra inspiration to get on the bike, so finding people to ride with who challenge you or an online forum to “race” other cyclists can be motivating.
Of course, with all this activity and your regular, hectic life schedule, it’s sometimes a challenge to get enough sleep or to see your friends or family. Making road cycling a part of your life should never mean sacrificing quality in other areas, so here are some tips on how to integrate your new road cycling interest into your already busy life.

Carving Out Time to Ride

The most common pitfall to regularly getting on your bike is finding the time to ride. “My life is hectic enough, how am I supposed to find more time?” cry many new cyclists. There are spaces and ways to find time. Most involve manipulating the little pieces that are already there—most of us are just too busy checking in on social networks (again) to find it.
You likely just invested a good amount of money into your bike and gear, so don’t let them languish in your basement. You’re going to have to get creative about finding time. It will not magically appear like sunshine breaking through a cloudy day. The first step is to make riding one of your priorities: looking ahead at your week and planning your times to ride. Sit down and take a close look at your daily schedule. Where can you trim? Can you go to bed earlier and start your day a little sooner? Can your commute to work be a part (or all) of your ride?
Making the most of weekends is key. One tip is to prepare your dinners on Sunday evening for the whole week. You’ll create more evening time to ride during the week and have lovely, healthy meals to come home to. As for rides, starting early—before your kids or significant other is awake—allows for your ride time and a way to have a great breakfast with your family when you return—bed head meets helmet head. Maybe there’s a weekend family picnic you could ride to instead of driving, and your husband can meet you there with a clean change of clothes. If you can, consider investing in a babysitter or hiring the kid next door to mow your lawn. It’s a few dollars well spent if you consider riding a part of your mental health as well as your physical well-being.
Once you find the time, write it down on the calendar and stick to the plan—without pushing the start time back or skipping it altogether, both of which can quickly become a bad habit. Keeping a log of your rides—whether that’s uploading your cycling computer’s data to a program or simply keeping a little ride journal to track your miles and how you felt—will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated. Always remember: The key to cycling is momentum, and going for rides inspires going for even more rides.

Rise to the Occasion 

The quietest time of day is the morning, so take advantage of it. This is when your ride is least likely to be sabotaged by the rest of your life, and it gets checked off your list for the day. Mornings are quiet on the road, so you’re also least likely to be hounded by traffic. Guaranteed, you’ll also have more energy in the morning than after work.
It’s a little harder to be motivated early in the day, but this is where good prep work makes all the difference. The pull of a warm bed or hitting the snooze button one more time is a little less tempting when your riding clothes are laid out, your water bottles are waiting for you in the fridge, and you have a quick, easy breakfast planned to get your blood sugar boosted.
For example, Elise works full time and is the mom of three rambunctious kids under 12 with a husband who is in his residency on his way to becoming a doctor. There’s not a lot of extra wiggle room in her day, but most days of the week during her racing season she manages to get up an hour before her kids to ride her trainer. This time not only keeps her sane, but also has helped her create a successful, winning strategy for her local races.

Get to Work 

This is where commuting by bike starts to look like a great idea. It gives you the chance to readily add on more miles at the beginning or the end of the day, and you’ll also get to work wide awake and in a great mood—making your entire day more productive. To pull this off, it really helps to have a workplace that provides showers and lockers so you can put your damp clothes somewhere other than your desk, but there are a lot of innovative ways to get around this. One is a gym membership so you can use their facilities. If you can’t fully shower, use baby wipes or a washcloth and a portable, quick-dry camp towel.

Break Into Your Lunch 

Like commuting, this can be a little tricky to execute, but it’s worth the effort. It’s not only the perfect mid-day pick-me-up, it also feels a bit like you’re getting away with something. Remember how great recess was? This can help you capture that feeling again. Ask around to see if your building or local club has a regular ride. It’s so much easier to get motivated if you know other people are joining you—and if you’ve told them you’ll be coming.


Although this might seem like the go-to time to get your ride in, remember that you’ll have a whole day behind you, so your energy may not be the brightest. You’ll also have to contend with traffic, working late, and all the other little things life tends to throw your way—like your kids’ schedules or community activities—that can interfere with your two-wheel time. To make the most of it, schedule your time carefully and absolutely stick to it. Finding a riding buddy who can go with you or posting your planned workout somewhere public like social networks can give you accountability so you stick to your plan.


If you find yourself always wanting to be on the bike, you may have fallen for road cycling pretty hard, which is great, wonderful, exciting, and motivating. However, like the rest of life, your body needs balance. If you find yourself wanting to ride year-round, you might want to take a little time either during your week or seasonally to switch things up a bit. This will not only refresh your muscles, it’s also a much-needed boost for your mind to wrap itself around another activity.
Most importantly, road cycling is an activity that is repetitive and holds your body in essentially the same position for the entire time you’re exercising. Which means your legs and butt get a great workout, and everything else . . . well, that just kind of tends to waste away a bit. Moving the focus to all those neglected parts of your body is important if you’re cycling 10 or more hours a week.

Weight-Bearing Fitness 

One of the great things about cycling is that it’s a non-weight-bearing activity, which essentially means it’s easy on your joints. This is a good thing if you’re recovering from an injury. However, without bearing weight on your joints during exercise, your bones can actually start to weaken. This is partially caused by all the calcium you’re sweating out and partially because impact exercise helps your bones strengthen. Between the two, it’s important to add in other exercises that help your bones buck up and keep their density.
This can be as simple as hiking, jogging, a step-aerobics class, circuit training, or even a dance class. Yes, swing dancing can make you a better cyclist. Don’t overlook weight lifting as well. High-rep, low-weight lifting for strengthening and toning can do a world of good for not only your legs, but also for those poor arms that are neglected while you’re riding.

Yoga, Pilates, and Isometric Exercises 

Speaking of neglected, let’s talk a moment about your core. These are all your muscles in the middle—in the front, on the sides, and around the back, too. Most of us think of them only in relation to situps or crunches, but those hit only a small portion of your total core muscles. All of these are so much more important than you’d think—especially on the bike, because any strength or power from your legs actually radiates from your core. If your middle is mushy and neglected, it won’t really matter how strong your legs are. It’s a little like trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe. You’re not going to get good results.
Yoga and Pilates not only help you strengthen these muscles—both are based on starting from a strong core—but also give you the added advantage of stretching. This will help stretch, strengthen, and lengthen your muscles and connective fibers after all the hard work you put into riding. These types of exercises often don’t seem hard—which doesn’t mean they’re not working or that you need to seek out an extra hot yoga session or the hardest Pilates class they offer. Feeling sore for 2 days after is not the goal here. Keep this part of your cross-training light, and you’ll have great results and be motivated to keep it as part of your routine.


There comes a time of year when the days become too short and the weather too cold to cycle outdoors, so this is a great opportunity to explore. If you still want to brave the outdoors, skiing makes it easy to keep your legs and glutes in shape. Downhill helps keep up your agility, cross-country is a great aerobic workout, and backcountry gives you the best of both worlds. Or slow down a bit and try snowshoeing.
If you don’t have as much time, or weak knees or hips are a problem, head to your nearest indoor pool and take the plunge. It’s a power workout in both strength and cardio while being easy on your joints. Swimming is one of the best all-around exercises. It strengthens your core; relieves your poor cycling- and computer-hunched shoulders; builds up the little muscles between your ribs that help you balance and steer on the bike; and lengthens your tight hip flexors.

Life/Bicycle Balance: Paying It Forward 

At some point you may find yourself falling in love with road cycling. It’s a beautiful thing: the freedom; the call of the road; and gaining fitness, confidence, and an eagerness to explore. Although we talked a bit about finding time to ride, it’s also worth mentioning how to balance your newfound passion with all the other things in your life you love . . . like your friends, your family, your husband or wife, your kids. Let’s face it: Most people have insanely busy lives these days. Add in family and friends and your other hobbies, and it can be really tough to balance them all out.
Here’s a common scenario:
It’s Friday night and you’re ready to relax, already dreaming of your ride tomorrow with your friends. You have a beer, get your chain oiled and tires inflated, and are all ready to roll for the morning. As you head back upstairs, your wife asks, “So what time do you want to head over to Chloe’s game tomorrow?” A quick flash and you remember your daughter has her big league final soccer game, and you promised to be the driver.
These conflicts happen all the time, so it’s important to have a game plan to make sure that your time on the bike doesn’t take over and your friends and family aren’t getting the short end of the stick. There is no bigger troublemaker than taking off to leave your significant other saddled with the task of keeping the household running smoothly and taking care of all the details. Not only will he or she feel neglected, it will likely come with a big side serving of resentment, too. Here are a few ways you can make it all work so that cycling isn’t something that takes away from the rest of your life, but rather adds to it.


Organization is the key, and some of us are terrible at it. If you want to fit cycling in, you have to be clear about what your other obligations and responsibilities are—as well as who wants a piece of your time. Sit down and make a list of all the things you have to do (lawn, laundry, cooking for the week), all the things you have scheduled like work or appointments, the people you want to spend time with (your daughter, your best friend who’s having a hard time right now), and, finally, your cycling goals. By being able to look at them all, you can get a better sense of what you’re up against.


Sit down with the other people in your life and ask them what they want or need from you that week. Maybe your husband wants a night out for a date, so it’s best if you tell him you were planning on riding after work Thursday night. Talk about when you’re available and coordinate so you can be around (maybe after your rides?) to do things together. Ask what you can do to give your partner some free time while you take up the slack. Volunteering to help take care of a bigger part of the household when you do have time will earn you big points and create reciprocity for when you want to train or ride more.
If you’ve got kids, ask them how they would like to spend time with you. Have them write down a list. Pick an activity or two a week to do with them so they realize that your bike isn’t more important than they are. Asking what’s important to them and truly listening to your husband, wife, kids, and friends about what they need will go a long way.
On your end, it’s very important for the people in your life who care about you to understand why cycling is important to you. Not as a justification for why you’re never home, but to give them perspective: Explain why you’re a better person—less stressed, happier, healthier, saner—when you get to ride your bike.


Take the list and make some cuts. Your daughter’s soccer game should always win over the ride, but maybe you can hit the road early and make it back in time to be superdad and cheer her on. If the house needs to be cleaned, coordinate with your boyfriend’s schedule so you can do it together before you head out on your ride.

Get Them Involved 

You have a built-in support crew at your disposal. Maybe your wife would love to try out a new recipe for a nutrition bar (which are nice to snack on at home, too). Your boyfriend doesn’t ride? Ask him to go out with you. Bike needs to be cleaned? Teaching your kids about bikes and maintenance is a great way to connect and make them feel like they’re a part of that thing that keeps taking you away from them. Get them on their own bikes. If they’re not interested, still make an effort to connect with whatever makes them happy.

Take Off and Pay Back Your Time

Sometimes things get a little out of whack. Say you get to ride all day on your first century (100 miles). Next weekend, make sure more of your time is spent with the people who love and need you. Give your husband a free day from the house to go to a ballgame all day with his buddies.
If you can’t balance the time, try a nice night out to dinner, some flowers, or another special way of letting them know how much you appreciate them and the extra effort they give to help you spend time on two wheels. Keep giving as much as you get and your cycling, as well as your life, will be better for it.

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