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No Time to Ride?

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the year

Question: “I have summer cycling goals but sometimes I don’t have the time, or the motivation to ride my bike. What should I do when I feel like that?”

Diane’s reply: Many of the cyclists I coach face this problem. During the winter months most cyclists set a goal for the following summer but then life gets in the way and before you know it summer is here and you don’t feel prepared. Everyone has obligations and responsibilities, which need to be seen to, but when you’re busy something has to give. And that often ends up being the training you need to do in order to prepare for the upcoming riding season.

There are two issues here: one is time constraints and the other is motivation. Sometimes being short of time leaves you tired, frazzled and simply lacking the energy to put in hours on the bike. And that can lead to a lack of motivation. Here are some suggestions that may help:

1. Schedule into your calendar the workouts you would like to get done in a week, then prioritize the workouts by colour coding the various rides.
For example:
Tuesday: Interval – colour coded blue for most important
Thursday: Hill repeats – colour coded red for least important
Saturday: Long aerobic miles – colour coded blue for most important
Sunday: Recovery ride – colour coded yellow for less important

Once you’ve entered the rides into your calendar and colour-coded them, plan to do at least two out of the four workouts. If time allows, you can do one of the less important rides.

2. When push comes to shove, quality miles are always more important than quantity. After a warm up, go straight into some 3 minute intervals, where you ride as hard as you can for 1 minute then spin easy for 2 minutes. Do 8-10 of these in a workout, and you’ll push up your maximum sustained power, which will help you to become a faster cyclist.

3. Organization is always the key when you’re time-crunched. Get all your clothes, fluids, food and gear laid out ahead of time (or packed if you’re driving somewhere to ride). That way you won’t waste precious workout time getting ready.

4. Allow 10 extra minutes before your scheduled ride time to allow for circumstances that come up that are beyond your control. That way you’ll be more relaxed on your ride days.

5. If you cycle in the city, plan to ride at times of the day when the roads are less busy so you spend less time fighting traffic and waiting for traffic lights.

6. Get two workouts done in the same workout. On a long ride include periodic bursts of high intensity riding to work on your power and high-intensity heart rate ranges. For example, on a long bike ride every 5km insert a 1-2 minute high intensity/speed effort. Then, back off to your regular pace.

7. The more efficient your pedal stroke the better cyclist you’ll be. Focus on the optimal pedal stroke by riding in circles not squares. Do this by working the full pedal rotation of pushing down on the pedal as well as pulling up. An improved pedal stroke will generate more power and produce faster times.

8. Be realistic about the amount of time you have to spend on the bike and then reduce the mileage by 10%. For example, if you want to go out for a 50 km ride, instead do 45 km, that way you’ll have achieved the goal of getting a ride done even if it’s less than what you’d like to do.

1. If you tend to ride on your own throughout the week and are only able to get together with a group or friends on the weekends, buddy up with someone and become accountable to each other. Tell your buddy what rides you have planned, and collaborate to help each other achieve your goals.

2. Sign up for a race or event well ahead of time. Committing to a goal makes it easier to stick to a training plan.

3. Training on your own allows you to ride when and where you like. However, riding alone can become de-motivating. Join a bike club or team up with one or more other cyclists. Do at least one ride per week with a group. This helps you to become more accountable, and it also helps get you out the door.

4. Enlist a coach to plan a riding schedule for you so you make the most efficient use of your cycling miles.

5. Set yourself mini-weekly goals so you stay connected to your bigger goal. For example, if you have a distance goal for the summer, set weekly distance goals and write down the rides you complete in your calendar. That way each week you will feel that you’re moving closer to your end goal.

6. Do some self-testing on your bike each month to monitor your progress. You can do this by selecting a 10 km route that you know well. Once a month, after a good warm up, ride the course and either time yourself, and/or track your heart rate to see if you’re completing the route in a shorter time or at a lower heart rate. Even if initially you don’t get faster, you may notice that your heart rate is lower. And that’s an indication you’re getting fitter. Eventually a quicker pace will follow. And seeing progress helps motivate you.

7. Share your goals with someone you’re close to. Knowing someone else has an interest in your riding goals helps you stay motivated.

8. Remember that in addition to riding goals and fitness, cycling has many other benefits. Weight, health, and mood, and sleep all improve when you ride consistently, so keeping track of these variables will also help you stay on track.

Use these tips to stay motivated to get outside and ride!

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, visit Diane’s website or contact her at

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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