Using your commute as part of your training

So today is the annual Cycle to Work day in the UK…

A day where the benefits of cycling to work are highlighted and people are encouraged to swap their usual mode of transport for pedal powered two wheels…

It’s an interesting choice of day I think? Buried in August when many people are taking holidays or their schedules are a bit varied due to school holidays and childcare changes, however that aside it still raises awareness of getting outside and using your own power to get you to where you need to be and this should be commended.

Many people might find the idea of cycling to work daunting, especially if you work in a big city. You might be a bit nervous about finding the right route, being late, cycling in traffic etc. So here I’m going to share my own hints and tips for getting yourself into using your commute to supplement your training schedule.

Which route to use?

There are many apps that allow you to plot a route that you can cycle (or walk or run, just because it’s cycle to work day that is highlighted today walking and running part of your commute is also a great option), google maps has a cycling or walking option, the TFL journey planner allows you to select cycling or walking, other apps such as Strava, Garmin Connect or Komoot also have mapping capabilities.

But mapping your route online may not give you full confidence in the route, junctions etc can feel very different when you are riding them to how they look on an online map.

So I recommend a test ride (or run). Pick a day you aren’t working. My first ever attempt at cycle commuting was about 5 years ago. I had no idea if I’d make it (my commute at the time was 11miles) so I enlisted some friends to do a test ride with me, this was done late Sunday afternoon and ended with a beer and a burger when we reached our end location (which was Canary Wharf) the route was quite empty as there was less traffic and far less cycle commuters using the path on a Sunday afternoon but it allowed me the chance to check the route, familiarise myself with the junctions etc without the pressure of needing to be at work on time.

Route planned but still nervous?

Could you break the route down into sections? Perhaps there is a train line on your route that you could join partway along? If the idea of cycling in the city is putting you off look in to local services that may be available to you for help or coaching. For people in London or some of the surrounding boroughs check out Cycle Confident, they have partnered with TFL and offer coaching including familiarisation with city riding and commuting. Everything feels easier with a bit of support. Also check out my previous blog post on getting into cycling as some of the recommendations there will be relevant for gaining the confidence to commute by bike.

Being prepared

Nothing is worse than getting to work by bike or having run in and realising that you have forgotten something… Shower Gel, Hairbrush, work shoes, pass to access the office the possibilities are unfortunately endless.

If I cycle to work I pack my bag the night before, I make sure that I have swapped my purse and work pass from my handbag to my commute bag (I use a KitBrix CityBrix that unfortunately isn’t available to buy any more but I really do find it fab, il have to look for an alternative soon as I’m sure it won’t live forever)…

Work clothes, underwear, tights, hairbrush, make up, clothes to cycle home in all go in the bag, I am lucky in that I have a locker at work so things like shampoo, deodorant and shower gel live in my locker ready for use.

If I run any part of my commute then I try to carry as little as possible. I will take my clothes etc into work the day before so that I carry the absolute minimum on my run. Being prepared really does help to make things a lot easier and gives you less to think about on the day of your active commute.

My current commute is 14.5miles, so I don’t run into work, as there are too many variables and I wouldn’t want the time pressure of having to run at a certain speed in order to be at work on time. But when I am training for long events I try to run home once a week, leaving all non essential items in the office, and I usually do this towards the end of the week on a Thursday or Friday so if it leaves me fatigued at all I have the weekend to recover. If I want to add a run to my morning commute I will get a train to somewhere 4-5miles away and run the last bit into the office. For me a nice way of doing this is to swim at The Olympic Park in Stratford and then run along the canals into the city (something I haven’t done in ages and must get back into)

Storing your bike whilst at work

I am super lucky, my office has bike storage and shower/changing facilities so I don’t need to worry.

London (and many other facilities) have designated bike racking areas. It can be a bit nerve racking leaving your bike outside if your office doesn’t have secure bike parking, make sure your bike has insurance (some home insurance policies may cover your bike, I use Bikmo to insure mine) and check the locking requirements of the policy, different standards of lock will be required for different bikes, and it’s usually a requirement that the lock fixes the frame to an immovable object (such as the bike racks fixed into concrete etc) but each policy will differ. If you use a D-lock that comes with a cable often only the D-lock will meet the insurance requirements so be sure to lock the D-lock through your frame to the racking to ensure you are covered. Cable locks can provide some additional security for your wheels etc. And if you are leaving your bike in a public place remove any accessories such as lights or bike computers.

Many office buildings, gyms or stations hire out secure bike parking facilities so do check what may be available to you.

Struggle with motivation?

Buddy up! Persuade a friend to join you, everything is better with company, even if you just meet someone halfway into your commute external motivation can be fab for getting you up and moving.

Remember you don’t need to do an active commute everyday. Allow yourself appropriate rest time, maybe cycle in twice a week with some rest days in between. Or run part of your commute once or twice a week. Fitting training into your commute time can be surprisingly liberating when you end up with extra free time.

For me my cycle commute takes the same time as the train journey so it’s a win win situation I just get up and get straight on the bike then get ready at work, rather than getting ready at home and heading for the train. A run commute home takes approximately 1hr longer than my train commute which saves me needing to fit in a 2hr plus run at the weekend.

So if you don’t already – why not try and add an active commute to your working week? Let me know how you get on.