How to Combine Bike Commuting and Interval Training

Don't have time for a training workout? Maybe a work meeting dragged on a little too long or an empty fridge prompted a last-minute run to the grocery store. Perhaps snarled afternoon traffic zapped your final smidge of remaining motivation.

Whatever the reason, a daily exercise routine can be hard to maintain.

Take Daniela Diamente. She's executive director of El Grupo Youth Cycling, a non-profit organization in Tucson; director of Cyclovia, an annual bike promotion event; a mom and triathlete.

Diamente is like many busy working moms. There's only so much time in the day and workouts can get pushed aside. Diamente looks forward to her morning fitness routine. When that doesn't happen she finds it difficult to squeeze in a workout.

But Diamente has discovered that her daily bike commute is an ideal time to shoehorn in a little training. "It's all about interval training for me," Diamente says.

Interval training involves repeated bursts of high intensity. The workouts are intense, but short. It can pay dividends for any triathlete looking to improve their finishing times.

More: 10 Reasons to Start Biking to Work

Start With a Warm-Up

Diamente begins her bike commute with a five-minute warm-up before she begins the interval training session. After the warm-up, riders should ramp up their pedaling intensity to near-maximum exertion. "It's not meant to be a sprint," Diamente says.

In the beginning, intervals should last between 30 seconds and one minute. Diamente believes riders should try to work up to two-minute intervals.

At the end of each interval, riders should continue to pedal, but at a low-intensity recovery rate. Ideally, these recovery periods last as long as the interval. For example, if a high intensity interval is two minutes, the recovery rate should be of equal time.

More: 4 Tips for Finding a Bike-to-Work Route

"Try for four to five intervals in a single commute," she says. "It'll give you a boost in training and help increase your lactate threshold."

This is especially important for athletes who participate in longer endurance events, like century rides. Lactic acid is typically produced and metabolized at equal rates. But when the exercise is intense enough, it will begin to accumulate in the blood and eventually will force the runner or cyclist to slow down. Interval training helps athletes temporarily exceed their lactate threshold and then recover. If done often enough, interval training can help improve endurance.

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