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Make the most of it: training with limited time

I only have an hour each morning to train. How can I make the most of each workout?

Pros have all the time in the world to train—that’s their job. But life seems to get in the way and we all end up with a limited amount of time to sneak in a training session. It's a good idea to compile a few workouts that can be done under almost any circumstance; whether stuck in an airport hotel gym or on a layover, during the last 30 minutes of a pool being open or a quick run during a rest stop. Mini workouts (anything less than 45 minutes) can be fit into even the busiest days. The key is to make up in quality what you are lacking in quantity. Here are some favourite “quick and dirty” workouts that will give you the most bang for your buck.

Bike

The most efficient way to get a quality workout in a short time on the bike is on the indoor trainer. Most coaches agree that a solid hour on the trainer is worth 1.5–2 hours on the road due to the constant resistance and lack of traffic lights, descents and coasting.

Trainer set: 10-minute spin warm-up, increasing resistance every 2 minutes. 15x1-minute big-gear hard effort with 30-second spin between, straight into 10 minutes steady state (Zone 3-4 or 40K race pace) then 5-minute easy spin cool-down.

If you have quick access to a short hill you can get a complete workout while only venturing a few miles, if that, from home.

Hills: 10–15 minutes easy spin warm-up, increasing effort every 3 minutes. 5x3 minutes (max effort) 4–6% grade with 2-minute spin down between, then 10-minute easy spin cool-down.

Run

A key track workout is essentially a half-hour of 400s: 10-minute warm-up jog to the track, then run 400 repeats at 5–10K race pace with 200 easy jog between (continuous). Do as many as you can in a half-hour, then 5 minutes easy jog home.

Fartlek: Silly name, serious workout. 10-minute jog warm-up into 1 minute hard, 1 easy, 2 minutes hard, 1 easy, 3 minutes hard, 2 easy, 3 hard, 2 easy, 2 hard, 1 easy, 1 hard, 1 easy. 5–10-minute cool-down. Paces are as fast as you can consistently hold for each interval.

Tempo: 10-minute jog warm-up, straight into 20-minute tempo: 4x(3 minutes steady state/2 minutes 5K pace). 5-minute cooldown. This workout is deceptively hard due to the incomplete recovery.

Tips:

The key to making the most of a tight schedule is to minimise time wasting and maximise training time. Here are some tips to help:

1. Have training clothes in the car and go straight from work to the pool, track or trails.

2. Work out first thing in the morning. Putting it off until later in the day guarantees that something more important will come up or fatigue can win out.

3. Plan to meet a training group or anal-retentive friend for a workout. A set time creates a deadline to get out the door and a scheduled workout means you are less likely to let other things take over your training time. An unforgiving training partner means you won’t dare be late.

4. Brick workouts are effective to combine two sports in one session, and they don’t have to be monster workouts. Instead of spinning down after a ride, finish your intervals at your door and grab some running shoes to cool down for 20 minutes on the run instead.

5. Deodorant and baby wipes = shower in a pinch. This can cut at least 10 minutes off your morning routine. Done occasionally, no one will notice (hopefully).

6. Try using the pool/ trails/track near your house to cut down on the commute.

7. Try moving your work schedule around. Flexible work culture is more present after the last few years, if your work allows try starting a little later and get after those goals!

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