No time—or motivation—for long rides? No problem. Here’s the least you can do to maintain your fitness until you’re back on track. By Selene Yeager
There are times life gets in the way of riding. Looming deadlines, family obligations, and a to-do list that is quickly becoming a to-do-or-die list can conspire to form an insurmountable barrier between you and your bike. Don’t sweat it. You can save the epic rides for when your time and mojo return, and still stay sharp, with one-minute workouts. Yes, I said that. One-minute workouts can help you stay fit and on form when you simply can’t get out and ride. (Truth in advertising: The interval workouts are one minute total. Ride time from clip in to clip out is a grand total of 10 minutes).
A recent study published in PLOS ONE reported that men and women who performed three 20-second all-out high-intensity intervals on exercise bikes three times a week for six weeks boosted their muscles’ mitochondria (the energy-producing furnaces in the cells) and increased their endurance by 12 percent. Yes, the folks in this study were fairly sedentary, but when I called study author and longtime high-intensity interval training researcher Martin Gibala, PhD, of McMaster University in Ontario, he confirmed that research shows even highly trained athletes can make greater gains when they swap volume for intensity.
So in the spirit of keeping it short and sweet and a little sweaty, here are five high-intensity micro-intervals to keep your fitness topped off while you take a little time off. You’ll need to include a short warm-up and a little recovery—in this case a two-minute warm-up, two minutes of recovery between intervals, and a three-minute cooldown. But it’s still a quick hit that can fit into even the busiest day. These are clearly easiest done on the trainer, as you don’t have to gear up, find an open road, etc. Increase and decrease the tension as needed to keep your effort in the recommended range. Just pull on a chamois, hop aboard, and go!
The Hat Trick
Warm up for three minutes. Pedal as hard and as fast as you can for 20 seconds. Pedal at an easy to moderate effort for two minutes. Repeat two more 20-second intervals followed by two minutes of easy to moderate pedaling. Done!
Warm up for two to three minutes. Pedal as hard and fast as you can for 20 seconds. Go really easy for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 10 times. Cool down for two minutes.
Warm up for two to three minutes. Pedal as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. Pedal at a moderate pace for four minutes. Pedal as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. Cool down for two to three minutes.
Warm up for four minutes. Pedal as hard and fast as you can for 15 seconds. Pedal easy for 15 seconds. Repeat sequence three more times. Gradually cool down for four minutes.
The Whole Enchilada
Warm up for five minutes. Get out of the saddle and start your sprint. Then sit and push it out for a full 60 seconds. Gradually cool down for four minutes.