Quite the contrary of being a bike bum, I work full time as a mechanical engineer at Robotiq. However, I still manage to train on average 12 hours a week and to perform as well as I expect. Personally, I would say that, finding a balance between work and sport is complementary. Meaning that I have professional and athletic drives that pushes me towards performances as much as an engineer than as athlete. And if lets say that one day I lack motivation on my bike, well I find consolation at work or vice versa.
I recall times when people tell me how lucky I am to be able to train and ride my bike for such an amount of time. Well maybe this doesn’t happen miraculously. I am not some sort of supernatural; in my 24hours/day, I sleep for 8, work for 8 and still manage to workout between at least 1-2hours. In fact, I believe that I create my opportunities through time management and that I work hard to achieve my goals.
Here are 7 tips on how I manage to work full time and train for 10-15 hours a week.
- Get a flexible schedule
First, I have a great employer that allows me to manage my schedule pretty much as I want and I am grateful for that. Having a flexible schedule is a major input in a successful training plan. Most importantly, my boss allows us to develop and succeed in our social lives and at work. Precisely, he has understood that by giving employees latitude and by letting us be ourselves, we are happier; perform better, which leads to terrific productivity.
- Get a coach
Choose a coach that can understand your reality and that will not give you a 4 hours ride on Tuesday. Creating fatigue and recovering from it is the essence of training in order to improve its fitness. But be careful, working plus training equal fatigue if not resting properly. In a descent training program, there is planned times for fatigue and others when you are not supposed to be dog-tired. Besides, you are probably the worst person to listen to especially when exhausted. As a matter of fact, a coach is more aware of fatigue signs and will most likely give you better training tips and feedbacks that you can ever get by yourself.
Also, try to keep weekdays short and more intense. Otherwise, weekends are perfect for long endurance rides. Sarah calls them “weekend’s shock”; it seems to be really popular in trail running and works fine for people with our reality.
- Optimize your day
Work like if you were racing! “À BLOC, To the Pine” ! Organize your day to be the most efficient. Prioritize things you want to accomplish within the day and schedule your time for maximum impact. For examples, take small lunch break, find a way to be focus to the maximum during the day and upload your Strava sh%$ before going to work.
According to a performance expert Tony Schwartz, our body is programmed to go from state of alertness to fatigue every 90 minutes. Moreover, in a famous study Professor K. Anders Ericsson noted that the best elite performers practice three uninterrupted sessions of 90mins throughout the day and start in the morning. Thus, I tend to break my 8 hours workday into intervals. Meaning that I try to never work on a project for more than four and a half hours a day. Instead, I divide tasks into 90-minute intervals and take pauses of 20-30 minutes after each 90-minute interval. Besides, I spend the afternoon doing less demanding work such as answering e-mails.
Typical training for Mathos: I wake up at 5:30 am, get on my bike at 6:30, ride or do a specific workout until 8:00-8:30, leave at 9:00 and get at the office for 9:30. I eat my recovering snack and drink another coffee on my way to work. Once I am at my office, I am good to go for the day.
Sarah works on a standing desk. It makes her feel more energized and productive. Cautious, it’s a bit like training for a marathon; you don’t go from running zero kilometers to 42 overnight. If you want to try it, make sure it is well adapted to you size and increase progressively the time of utilization…
- Eat well/sleep well
Just eat well. Simply eat fresh, non-processed food with a variety of veggies and fruits, carbs and a bit of protein. Couple years ago, I discovered the cookbook series “FeedZone” and it had influenced my diet. It essence, it is full of advices and strategies to find the best out of your food for trainings and racing. Dr. Allen Lim and Biju Thomas are the principal chiefs who put their effort together to make these cookbooks. They work with pro-cyclists and share their energy-pack, wholesome recipes that they gave during pro-tour and tour the France.
Oh and drink a lot, tea is good way to get hydrated during the day. Sarah and I love carbonated water, and we just bought a sodastream couple weeks ago, it helps us to stay hydrated.
On the caffeine side of thing, if you are starting to need more coffee than usual during your working day, you may need a bit of rest, just sayin’. Personally, I drink Kicking Horse decaf on working days and the Kick ass on the weekends when I have big trainings and races.
Sleep has a massive importance in your productivity. Thus, get enough sleep. There is no one size fit all formula for the amount and quality of sleep you need for optimal productivity, time management and performance. For my part, I know that less than 6 hours per night will substantially decrease my productivity. Get to know yourself. Moreover, ever had a dip in the afternoon sometime after lunch? You’re not alone! According to your circadian rhythm (24-hour sleep-wake cycle) you get a dip in the afternoon depending on your sleep cycle. To avoid them, the best way is to take a nap during the day. The benefits of daytime naps are many; among others it increase alertness, reduce stress and improve perception. According to Tony Schwartz a nap of 20-30 minutes is ideal to increase. On the other hand, napping is hard to do at the office, but even a moment with closed eyes is better than nothing.
5.Play hard, rest harder
Simply follow your plan; train as hard as you can when you have to and stay cool when you have an easy ride scheduled. Because I have hard time controlling myself, I tend to choose my training partners depending on when I am looking for a tough ride (hey guys from Collective Parlee) or if I am laidback (my girfriend).
Also, don’t think about going out and partying when having a regular working schedule and a decent training program. If you review your priorities, you may want to go to bed early.
- Is this training really worth it?
If you have more disadvantages than advantages of doing this training, just don’t do it. Turn away the feeling of culpability because it really doesn’t worth it. To picture this, let’s say for example you have a cough and that it’s 5 degree Celcius out, raining cats and dogs, and you have a 4h endurance ride scheduled. What would you do? I would say: change your plan, stay at home and spin on the roller for an hour (or more). In the long run, it is better for you. You will gratify yourself for not being sick or injured on that very particular racing day, because you’d had listened to your body when you needed to.
- You only have one body
This is a feedback from my actual coach. The essential idea here is that you don’t have a working body and another training body. In fact, there is a certain amount of energy that you can get in a day. If you are going to use it all on your bike, fine, but don’t expect to be effective at work. Above all, if you are having a busy week at work, take more rest days and shorten your training week. On the other hand, take the advantage of having an easy week; mention it to your coach so he can schedule some harder workouts.
Besides, keep track of your fatigue and don’t be nuts about it. You are doing it for fun, keep that in mind; you don’t want to mess up everything for a couple of trainings that were just too much.
If you have more questions, I would be glad to help you out or at least point you in the right direction.