In the last article, we covered what a time crunched athlete is and what they could do to stop the loss of fitness associated with decreased training time availability.  In this article, I would like to set some realistic expectations for the time crunched athlete as well as give some pointers to avoid common pitfalls associated with this type of training scheme.

How Strong Can I Get?

This is a loaded question as it depends on a few things, mainly: your previous history of training, age, and genetic makeup.  These 3 factors alone and together define how much training stress and intensity you can handle without the risk for burnout / injury.  Thus, how fit you can become.  Once you hit that maximum overload for training availability, your fitness will plateau.  The following is an example of what I mean showcased by a TrainingPeaks PMC chart:


As you can see, the blue line (which represents Fitness or CTL) has a nice ramp initially, but gradually starts to level off as the athlete reaches their fitness potential based on training availability.  Once this level-off of fitness occurs, you can try to increase intensity of the workouts further (be cautious with this if you’re already feeling tired), increase your workout frequency, or find time to ride long bi-monthly (as this athlete did, notice the 2 jumps in fitness?) to increase training stress.  However, if these aren’t an option for you, and you are literally at maximum training density, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the drawbacks of being a time crunched athlete:

  • Consistency is KEY!  Missing even 1 workout per week if you are time-crunched can result in fitness losses.  Make sure the time you set aside for your workouts is time that cannot be filled by other things.  I suggest working out first thing in the morning, or last thing in the evening (most find more success with the former).
  • During long rides, pace yourself – If your normal ride is only 1 hour in duration, that hard 3 hour group ride is going to be pretty miserable for the last 2 hours.  Be sure to pace yourself according to how you feel for the long rides, and if you are fatigued mid-ride, take shorter pulls and try to hide in the paceline.
  • Use matches uber-cautiously – One of the first things you lose as a time crunched athlete is your ability to respond to repeated hard surges in pace and micro-accelerations.  So, in a race setting, or hard group ride, try to bring that wheel back slower and more gradually (within reason, you don’t want to get dropped!) instead of jumping on  the pedals and surging back up to it.  You will be able to do this a few times, but after the 4th or 5th time you are going to start regretting it!
  • If you are competitive, pick events that suit your training – Criteriums, time-trials, MTB races, and cyclo-cross races are the best things for the competitive time crunched athlete because the events are short (usually under 1 hour) and mimic the intensity of the workouts performed.  Stage races, road races, and long circuit races aren’t the best thing to shoot for, but can be used for fun or as a way to get some additional training stress in.
  • If the stars align, RIDE!  The kids are at grandmas, your honey-do list is done: the stars have aligned and you have the afternoon free, yippee!  Use this time and RIDE LONG.  I suggest keeping your intensity level at Endurance / Tempo zone, but feel free to throw in some Threshold intervals throughout the ride or go for that KOM you have been eyeing.  Remember from the PMC chart above, these long rides can do wonders for your fitness, so be sure to utilize them!

Being a time-crunched athlete means resetting your expectations, training differently, and racing intelligently.  This doesn’t mean your competitive days are numbered, or you are going to get dropped at your weekly group ride though.  Stay positive, consistent, and embrace your new challenges.  You will be surprised at how much more enjoyable training can be!

Check out our Time Crunched Athlete plan here.


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