Trying to improve in three disciplines at once is a demanding juggling act. For athletes wanting to step up the distance or focus on getting better on the bike in particular, improvement often necessitates an increase in volume. Riding more miles means more time, which is not always easy to find with, say, a full-time job, family and social life.
One creative solution is to ride twice a day. Between time constraints and lifestyle challenges, a two-a-day cycling plan may help you become a better cyclist in a more efficient manner. Before you try it, here’s what to consider.
Aerobic miles: It’s safe to say most time-constrained age-groupers can benefit from additional aerobic training. Coach and physical therapist Carrie Smith has used this method with success in the past, riding twice a day for 4–5 days in a row and encouraging her athletes to try the double ride during training camps. “I felt like I could have a higher quality of volume during that week by doing two 2-plus hour rides instead of one long ride each day,” Smith says.
Recovery: Though it’s common for high-level runners to run twice per day and label one a recovery workout, an easy cycling workout can be an even better workout for promoting recovery. Consider a very easy ride to loosen up the legs several hours after a hard workout.
Efficiency: Practicing the motion of a simple pedal stroke thousands of additional times is a way to work on your efficiency. And while technique is less of a factor in cycling performance than swimming, it’s hard to watch a beginner pedal a bicycle and say that technique doesn’t matter.
Metabolic boost: Everyone has different goals for cycling and not everyone sees success solely through the lens of performance improvement. As far as keeping your metabolism stoked, more frequent bouts of aerobic exercise is a great way to keep your engine burning all day long.
Time management: Many age-groupers would like to do longer races but always run into the same issue: When can I do my long ride so there’s minimal impact on work and family? You can squeeze in your longest run into a late night or early morning window if you have to, but a six-hour ride is nearly impossible to do on a weekday. While it’s important to do some long rides as a single session, splitting up the long ride is a way to work around this time issue.
If you’re ready to start adding in more rides, first consider your current fitness level, the proximity to your upcoming race(s) and session timing. “Logging aerobic miles might be easier and [result in] better quality with twice-a-day rides for experienced athletes needing more miles,” Smith says. “But for lower fitness levels or beginners who are wiped out after a 30–60-minute ride, two-a-days are not a great idea.”
The timing of hard and easy sessions is also an important consideration. Although you can do an easy commute in the morning and a tough interval ride in the evening, doing your structured ride as the first workout of the day will ensure you’re not trying to do hard efforts on tired legs.
Finally, consider your priorities. If you’re having trouble already getting in your runs and swims, the additional benefit of more riding may be wiped out by the cost of missing other key sessions. The off-season is a great time to cut back on other disciplines to give something like two-a-days a try.
As an age-grouper with family, work and other demands, how can you rack up 10 hours of riding per week and still have a weekend? Here is an example of a time-constrained athlete training for a longer race during a bike-focused period. This athlete rarely has more than a two-hour block of time to spend cycling but wants to prepare himself for the demands of riding 50-plus miles during a race.
A.M. 1–1:30 Trainer interval ride with threshold, VO2max or anaerobic work, depending on focus and point in the season
P.M. Casual 1–1:30 group ride
A.M. or P.M. 1:00–2:00 Recovery ride
1–1:30 Trainer interval ride with threshold,
VO2max or anaerobic work, depending on focus and point in the season
4:00 total, split ride due to schedule:
A.M. Early morning 2:00 workout with race-specific (Zone 2/3) intervals
P.M. Casual 2:00 plus a 30 min run off the bike building into race intensity