5 Killer Cycling Workouts You Can Do in 20 Minutes

So you don’t have much time but you still want to make progress. As cyclists, we tend to think that short workouts aren’t worth doing as our goals are to ride fast for many hours. Well here is the secret to getting the most gains from less time training. Go hard. I’m not talking about picking up the pace a bit but really going hard. Sprints, hill attacks, other tough intervals and circuit workouts that demand a huge amount of oxygen and create a lot of lactic acid. The accumulated oxygen debt will overload both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems leading to improvements in both.

As well high intensity intervals and off the bike cross training workouts spike your bodies production in growth hormone and testosterone leading to an improvement in body function without resorting to cheating. As we age these hormones decrease so spiking them up with exercise will help with fat burning, recovery and growth of new red blood cells. It literally will turn back your bodies internal clock letting your feel and perform younger. Not bad for such short workouts.

Enough of the preamble. You’re reading this because you want results, so on to the workouts.

Due to the intensity of my workouts you will want to warm up at least 10 minutes before doing the workout. As you get fitter you will need a longer warm up for optimal performance but a quick one will do to reduce the chance of injury from trying to do these workouts cold.

Tabata Interval Blocks

The basic Tabata interval is becoming well known. The basic premise is 20 second hard / 10 seconds easy, repeated 8-10 times. 8 repeats is a 4 minute block.

If you are pushed for time, do a quick warm up and then 10 x 20 second hard sprints with 10 seconds easy pedalling between the reps. This is a 5 minute workout. Don’t be deceived by the length. Even the fittest athlete will get a training overload if each interval is attacked at maximum effort. Due to the intensity level these are best done on an indoor bike trainer. I’ve done them outside and by the sixth or seventh interval I’m weaving all over the road.

If you have a little more time to work with then I recommend doing a couple of blocks. After warm up, do 8 x Tabata intervals (4 minutes) then a 4 minute recovery and do it again. Two blocks of Tabata intervals overload just about every system in the body and it only takes 12 minutes. As you get fitter you can attempt to add another set during times you want a huge training load.

20 minute Time Trials

Some of you may be familiar with 20 minute threshold repeats. These are up a level in intensity. You can do them indoors or out but if outside find a 20 minutes long hill climb for the lucky folks that live in the mountains or level terrain into a headwind. You don’t want the terrain to give you a break so try to find a route that has no downhills. The rest is pretty simple. Cover as much distance as you can in 20 minutes.

A variation of these I use for my clients is a 12-15 km time trial as this takes most fit cyclists around 20 minutes. If you picked the pace right your legs will be burning but you will be just barely able to keep the pace going for the full distance. Because lactic acid is accumulating faster than your body can process it, the last 5 minutes really hurt. These will raise your aerobic capacity and improve your ability to process lactic acid. If you do time trials in competition they are really good for getting a feel for pacing as well. Go out too hard and your legs will blow up. Go out too easy and you won’t be as fast as you could.