Consistency over time is the surest way to becoming a faster cyclist, but staying consistent doesn’t always come easily. In this week’s Successful Athletes Podcast, Michael Brophy shares the real strategies that have helped him train consistently, nail his process goals, and reach 5w/kg amid a busy schedule.

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Aiming for Consistency

Michael Brophy’s weekly training goal is to nail all three workouts in his low volume TrainerRoad training plan. If he can follow this up with a few extra rides, then that’s even better. Physically, Michael knows he has the bandwidth to achieve both of these goals, but logistically, getting on the trainer can frequently be a challenge. 

As a full-time physical therapist, partner, and father, Michael’s days are often busy. Michael and his wife have a two year-old son and a daughter on the way. On top of that Michael’s job has him working long days on his feet and he’s currently in the process of opening his own PT practice.

Even with a busy schedule, Michael manages to achieve his training goals most weeks. How exactly does he do it? Michael has a set routine that works with his schedule and strategies that help him maintain this routine. For Michael, the key is early morning training.

Early Morning Workouts 

When Michael began training with TrainerRoad he’d fit his scheduled workouts in wherever he had available time. While this strategy sometimes worked, Michael quickly found that he couldn’t train consistently in the afternoon or evening. There either wasn’t enough time to train, or something would come up that was more important. With evenings and afternoons an imperfect option, it left early mornings as the best choice.

With fewer interruptions, scheduling conflicts, and distractions, the early hours of the morning are a great time to schedule workouts. But, it can also be one of the most challenging times to start training, especially if you’re not accustomed to it.

Adjusting to Early Mornings 

If you haven’t done a lot of early morning workouts it can be a shock to the system. Without practice and time to adjust it may even increase the rate of perceived exertion during your workout. The truth is, it takes time to get used to early morning workouts and to find a routine that works for you. Even as a morning person Michael had to start slow with endurance spins and shorter rides before integrating intensity.

Michael’s Early Morning Tips

Now, Michael is a pro at early morning workouts. Most days he wakes up at 4:30 AM and spends an hour waking up, drinking coffee, and eating some pre-made oatmeal. Between 5:30 AM and 5:45 AM Michael gets on the bike and starts his workout. 

Early Morning Tips 

  • Create a set routine.
  • Leave your alarm in another room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
  • Make your breakfast and mix your drink mix ahead of time. 
  • Budget time for waking up. It’s really hard to just get on the trainer and go.
  • You don’t have to be an early bird to train early in the morning.
  • You do need to go to bed early to wake up early to train. 
  • It takes time to get used to early morning training. Be patient with yourself and start small.

Michael’s early morning routine begins the night before, when he puts his alarm in the bathroom. Putting his alarm in another room forces him to physically get out of bed to turn it off. Once he’s out of bed, half the battle of getting up is already over and he can make his way to the kitchen to drink coffee and make breakfast.

Before the Workout

Michael also preps his breakfast and drink mix at the beginning of the week so that he doesn’t have to do it early in the morning. All he does is heat up his pre-made oatmeal, start the coffee maker, and put mix in his bottles. Michael also maintains a steady intake of carbs and fuel throughout his regular day so that a meal before training (and 90g of carbs per hour on the bike) are enough to keep him fueled.

In addition to this, Michael wakes up a full hour before the start of his workout. This ensures he has enough time to get everything done without rushing and lets him fully wake up and get into a training mindset.

The Night Before

If there’s one thing Michael feels certain about, it’s that you have to go to bed early if you want to workout early. Michael and his wife usually find themselves getting ready for bed as soon as their son has fallen asleep. Which tends to be sometime around 8 p.m.

Training With a Friend

To add motivation to his morning ritual Michael meets with his training partner for daily Group Workouts. Planning to ride with someone early in the morning offers accountability and motivates him to get out of bed and prepare for the hard work ahead. 

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Michael’s training partner is also a long time friend and training buddy that he wouldn’t get to see on a daily basis without Group Workouts. With an agreement to train together virtually, the two connect multiple times each week. This companionship and support helps Michael push through his hardest workouts and stay motivated during slow mornings.

Weekly Maintenance

Outside of his daily TrainerRoad workouts Michael sneaks in 15-20 minutes of mobility and strength training, 3-4 days each week. Michael knows he doesn’t have a full hour to dedicate to the gym three days a week. At best he’d be able to go to the gym for a full hour, once a week. But he fears that even that would have him skipping more than going.

The gym is on his way too and from work so Michael just hops out of the car on his way, does a few sets of circuit exercises, and then hits the road again. All without even changing out of his work clothes. Going to the gym 3-4 days per week, if only briefly, allows Michael to cash in on some of the benefits of strength training, without a big time commitment.

Dealing With Interruptions

As hard as he tries to stay consistent, sometimes life gets in the way and interrupts Michael’s training flow. When this happens, Michael focuses on the achievable process goals. Michael’s primary goal is to nail the three structured workouts in his low-volume training plan each week. The additional rides he adds on top of his scheduled workouts are just a bonus if he can get them. So when things get tricky, Michael narrows his focus and aims to stay consistent with this core goal. 

Even after breaking his pelvis last season, Michael still made a habit of joining his friends for early morning group workouts to cheer them on and maintain his process goals. This helped him keep his early morning habits, and got him excited about future workouts.

The Benefits of Consistency

Consistency with TrainerRoad has helped Michael raise his FTP from 290 watts to 330 watts to prepare for mountain bike races. At 146 lb, his personal record FTP also puts him at 5 w/kg, an impressive figure. Additionally, Michael has found that training consistently has had positive effects on his relationships and sense of wellbeing. Training is a way to take care of himself, so that he can show up at his best for his family and his patients.

Coming up, Michael is planning to put his fitness to the test at Pisgah—a challenging and technical off-road stage race in North Carolina. Until then, he’s happy to focus on consistency and reaping the benefits of being on the bike and staying connected with friends.