By: Heather Nielson
Since moving to Seattle in the fall of 2013, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the sheer number of cyclists, mainly commuters, I see everyday. It’s just one of the many reasons I love this city. What’s more, I see nearly as many on very cold, wet & dark streets; still commuting, training or just enjoying a ride as I do on the many sunny days in the PNW.
I-90 bridge between Mercer Island & Seattle
Whether you’re a bike racer or training for the next STP, many cyclists struggle with the time management and logistics it requires to get in that precious training time in between work, family & social life.
When I used to live in Sacramento, I would commute on the American River bike trail most days of the week to Folsom, nearly 15 miles one way. After a few months of nailing down a safe route, the approximate time it took by bike, driving in on Mondays to bring all the week’s clothes & food and driving on Fridays to take home all the week’s clothes & empty food containers & running errands only on those two days, I had the working-bike-racer’s-training-while-commuting down to a science. Everyone is different but for me, I’ve always been an early day endurance athlete. My endurance is much better in the morning while lifting in the gym seems to be easier for me at night. A one-way commute took about 50 minutes, give or take. I would go backwards on the trail in the morning and add time to get in the ‘meat’ of whatever work-out my coach had given me that day, then I would just ‘spin’ easy home. All the time in the saddle adds up! Not to mention, less gas, wear & tear on my car, and that commute home turned out to be welcomed ‘decompression’ time from the day at work….where I was inside a chemistry lab all day.
Now as a coach, many, if not all of my athletes commute one or more days a week to work. Learning from my own experience as well as learning what works for each athlete has taught me a lot about how it might be easier than you think to not only commute to work instead of using your car but also to train at a competitive level.
Rule #1: Don’t waste those miles! Yes they all add up but make sure you’re not just ‘toolin’ around’. Get the most out of those miles. Follow your plan: if you’re supposed to recover and go easy…..THEN GO EASY! If you’re supposed to get in a series of intervals, make sure you do them during the part of the day you know you’ll be freshest so you can get the most out of that work-out.
Rule #2: Plan ahead! Logistics are a large part of commuting. Get your bike, gear & lights ready to go the night before. If you need to make a car run once a week to drop off/pick up a load of clothes, food etc make sure you get all that ready in time. Check the weather for the week to make sure you have gear at work or to carry with you if needed. I remember the first time I tried to do a sprint work-out with a back pack on with the day’s necessities in it and it wasn’t safe….AT ALL. So think about the kinds of rides/training you need to do and how much you want to carry on your back &/or bike on those days.
Rule #3: Don’t be a fred! Don’t be that one co-worker that everyone dreads coming to work because you’re dripping wet, tracking mud & debris everywhere and have that lingering bike-wet-chamois-stinky-&-sweaty-skin smell. Two words: Baby wipes.
Besides all the obvious saddle time, saving gas & efficiency bonuses, you may even find that you want to drive your car less and less for even all those small errands!