How to train on your work commute

Is it possible to get in a beneficial workout on your daily work commute, asks one of our readers? Coach Dermott Hayes says yes, and here's how…

All training is advantageous as long as it has an objective and is executed as you plan

“I cycle to work every day, 5.5km each way. Can I get any training value out of it? I’m on a heavy hybrid bike with solid tyres, inc. 60m of climbing.” Rachel Brown, 220 reader. 

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All training is advantageous as long as it has an objective and is executed as you plan. So yes, there is some training value here.

However, a 5.5km commute on a heavy bike means that you should really consider what goal you’re looking to meet from the commute; it’s a short distance and if you have to encounter traffic and stoppages for junctions or lights then the effectiveness of the training time is certainly reduced.

Include some HIIT efforts

Ideas for how to spice up the commute and turn it into a training session could include some high-intensity interval efforts of approx. 20-45secs, broken up with 2-3mins of easy recovery.

Or, alternatively, you mention there’s 60m of climbing, so maybe you could turn the uphills into an opportunity to ‘overgear’ and focus on building strength by riding in bigger gears.

However, if I was advising one of my athletes on what to do with this training time it’d be to use it as lower-intensity, fat-burning, recovery-style rides.

Spin your legs out

In the time it takes to ride 5.5km, if you were going to turn it into a proper session, you should include warm-up and cool-down time, but there really isn’t enough time for this.

So instead, I’d take the opportunity to spin your legs at low intensity and save energy for your more focused training sessions where you can go full gas.

You can set your parameters in the same way as for other training and possibly include a heart-rate ceiling that you mustn’t exceed, or spend some time focusing on your pedalling technique or cadence.

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But don’t think of this as ‘junk miles’, just save the big training for when you have more time.