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Top 5 Bike Workouts for the Time Crunched Triathlete

Out of the 3 disciplines of triathlon, the bike (being over 50% of most triathlons) is obviously the most time consuming. However finding time to put in hours upon hours in the saddle is often hard when you have a job, family, school, etc. The following 5 bicycle triathlon workouts will still build your cycling fitness without wasting your time. The first 3 workouts are on the indoor bike trainer. This can truly maximize your time. When training on a bike trainer, there are no down hills, stoplights, or any other reason where your focus should shift from pedaling. When doing a bike session on a trainer, think of it as time and half. Meaning 45min spend outside can be done for 30min on a trainer.

1.   Bike Tabata intervals on an Indoor Trainer (30-45min): This bike session is perfect any time of the year and can be substituted for another bike session to spice up your training. This 30-45min workout can be done on a spin bike at the gym after a swim session, or in the convenience of your home on a bike trainer after work.

The Workout: Warm-up 15-20 minutes. Then move on to your Tabata set: complete 20 seconds hard, 10 seconds easy for a total of 4 minutes. The 20 seconds of effort must be as hard as possible. Recover easy for 10 minutes. Repeat the Tabata set one more time, then cool-down with easy spinning.

 2.   Monster Indoor Session (50min): This bike session focuses on muscular endurance and is one of my personal favorites for truly punishing your legs. As good coaches always say “cry in training and laugh on race day as your hammering past your competition”.

The Workout: Warm-up 15 minutes, including 4×30 quick sprints. Then proceed to a 10 interval: first 5min hard (Z3 heart rate), then the last 5min harder (Z4 heart rate). Recover with 5min of fast pedaling for 10min then repeat the first interval one more time. Cool down 10 minutes

 3.   Force and skills (1hr): This bike session, as the name implies, focuses on two important aspects of cycling that should be developed in the off season. Force to climb hills, and skills to increase your bike efficiency. This allows you to smoothly pedal along while using less energy.

The Workout: Warm-up 15 minutes including 4×30 quick sprints. Then proceed to 2min of hard climbing at a low cadence (50-60rpm), this needs to be hard. Then for 2min, pedal at a high cadence (90-100rpm). Try to keep your effort steady the entire workout. Heart rate shouldn’t drop below Z3. Recover for 2min then repeat 5 times. Cool down for 15 minutes.

 4.   High Cadence Bike Spin (45-90min): This bike workout will train your body to increase muscle recruitment and pedal more efficiently. It can be used as a commuting workout or as a stand-alone workout. I would personally do 15min of this workout on the way to work, 15min on the way home, then 45min after I drop my book bag off after work. Do whatever is most convenient for you and remember to have fun with this workout! It’s totally fine to do this workout on a mountain or cyclocross bike as well.

The workout: Ride for 45-90 minutes (choose longer time for Half-Iron to Iron distance training) at a cadence of 90-100RPM, no slower. Use a gear that has you breathing deeply for the ride, but without the legs burning so much that cadence slows. If you cannot maintain the RPM for the full time, split this into 10min high RPM efforts separated by 1-2 minute recovery periods.

 5. Tempo (60– 80min): This workout is really fun to do outside, for when wind is flying over you as your hammer away, you can imagine yourself in your race passing your competition all the way to the bike to run transition (T2).

The workout: Warm-up well for 15-20min Then ride 45-60 minutes non-stop in the heart rate 3-4 zone on a mostly flat course. 80-90 rpm. Smooth pedaling. Aero position if possible.


About The Author

Brad Haag is a Triathlon Coach, Personal Trainer, and a National Qualifying Triathlete. As a graduate of Ben Greenfield’s Superhuman Coach program, Brad specializes in coaching endurance and warrior class athletes to peak performance. He can be found at HaagsAthletics.com or as a featured coach at PacificFit.net

About Eric H. Doss

Eric is a triathlete and writer. He has competed in all distances of triathlons, from sprints to full Ironman distance races. He founded FitEgg.com in 2009 to meet the increasing need for professional, unbiased reviews of triathlon gear.

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