Five Ways to Make Your Commute Count

I had naively thought that my commute hours would be adding much needed saddle time but it’s adding nothing.

After a few rides in I’m reminded that there’s no way you can impose mugh structure due to the stop start nature of the journey. It’s not going to give me any miles or the gains I wanted but I have had a few thoughts on what to do to get added benefit.

1. Speed Work – very few cyclist at my level know how to pedal properly. The idea I’m told is that it should be like ‘scraping shit off your shoe’. Basically pulling down, across then up; engaging your hamstrings on the last part. A good way to improve this is by riding with one leg so that you’re focused on getting the maximum efficiency from each stroke. When you improve your stroke efficiency you can expect a reduction in heart rate of about 5 bpm to keep the same speed which is a significant reduction in effort which would make a difference over a long course.

2. Sprints – I have a few decent stretches on the way to work that can afford me a good few 20 second sprints where I get out the seat and really go for it, trying to get my heart rate up to max with a short powerful burst before calming down and waiting for my breathing to recover before trying again. Not always easy if there’s traffic.

3. Intervals – harder to achieve if you have traffic lights on your route but there are some stretches that would allow me a few longer burst where I’d be looking to get up to zone 4 heart rate for 5/6 minutes then recovering for 2 to 3 minutes, if I’m going in early when the road is  quieter I try to race sections to lights.

4. Recovery – just using the small chain ring on a nice comfortable spin is great for the legs after a long ride the day before, especially good for beginners or old people like myself…

5. More Hills Please – I’m lucky enough to have a 12% gradient road (Canonbie Road in Honor Oak) nearby, not hugely long but I’ve added this to my route, I’m going to start adding LAPS of this so that Fred Whitton isn’t too much of a shock to the system…

Any other ideas gratefully received.


4 thoughts on “Five Ways to Make Your Commute Count”

  1. I thought commuting would make me super fit and strong, but all it really did was make me really good at riding 25km twice a day at a fairly low intensity. I did the odd extension once or twice a week but adding too much more to the commute just drained me, especially with a full day on my feet in between. I do think it needs to be mixed up with some harder efforts, sprints but super easy days are also very important. Some weekends I was so fatigued I hardly wanted to get out on the club ride.


    1. I hear you! We’ve just been out in a 120k ride this morning – got onto discussing you get what you train for. I used to do 40k quite regularly for triathlons but whenever I got into one that has a slightly longer distance even by 2 or 3k my legs would be useless. Probably just psychological but certainly felt physical.


  2. I guess it depends on your commute, could you change the route to have less traffic lights and more hills? Try a bit of Strava bashing on some hills and racing the traffic through the faster sections


    1. It’s about 11k across London from SE4 in heavy traffic so pretty stop start. There’s a ‘nice’ 10% to 15% at the end of the commute home so going to be adding a few laps as a tiny taster for Fred Whitton. Quite enjoying isolated leg though despite the weird looks. (Or maybe because of the wired looks?)


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