1hr commute = training?

Hi all.

I’m trying to figure out how to slot together the jigsaw puzzle of a 70.3 triathlon training week into my new routine. It’s at least an annual issue for me to resolve, but now is different because previously my bike commutes have been much longer and out of the city where you have more freedom. This way I get what I get out of it, there’s no space to align effort to an outdoor workout.

Now I have a 1h - 1h15m each way in city traffic, dozens of traffic lights, a river crossing, you name it. Twice per week in and out (ie 4 sessions), and I swim at lunchtime. The ride home is usually pretty tired, but it’s 4-5h bike time per week and avoiding the Covid ridden trains, right? :+1:

I have a preference for the High Volume Half Distance plan which is ~6hrs bike, usually 1 vo2, 1 sweet spot, 1 tempo, 1 sweet spot/endurance in base and build then switching to basically 1 threshold, 1 tempo and 2 endurance in speciality. I don’t think any of my commutes replace these workouts and adding them on top takes me over 10hrs on the bike alone…

These are the typical values in and out, around 50 TSS per ride, but the time in zone makes it hard to view as an endurance ride:




No, go for low volume quality training and take your commutes easy


By experience trying to consider commutes as intensity , or even just as a workout is not possible.
It will always be an ineffective workout.

So I’d consider commutes as a bit of endurance, even though it’s not efficient endurance training, its better rhan adding fatigue over somewhat of a workout.


Sensible, I’ll consider that. But what I’m trying to get to is what value are my commutes giving me?

If it’s nothing, I’ve got to reconsider my routine. 4hrs just getting tired isn’t something I can afford. If it’s something…well what value is it?

There was a time when I thought my commute should be part of my interval training. With hard FTP sessions or VO2max work. I ended up being ill so much. The lowered immune system, plus non perfect post ride showers and then being around lots of colleagues was not a good mix.

But by keeping intensity low I had much less problems.

Maybe just one day of bike commuting, basically you’ll need to prioritize your time in zone and life quality. I think there’s something to be said for riding as much as you can while still allowing time to adapt but you’ll be riding the edge I suspect

When I commuted 5 day’s a week my ex coach built it into my plan at the time. The morning would just be an active recovery and any structure would be at night. But I commuted on quiet lanes in one post and the Cambridge Busway cycle path. In my current post I sometimes extend the PM commute to be an active recovery if its in the plan but for most part I don’t treat it as part of the plan.

My tuppence. All the stopping and starting probably makes it not very useful as a low intensity, zone 2 type of training. But, contrary to others, if you ride to work as fast as you can it’ll be a good high intensity work out.

If you can find a few short hills to detour past, all the better.


27% coasting could be reduced to make it a little more beneficial but like others have said; doing efforts or intervals on a commute is sub-optimal and you would be best served to reduce your commute time and plan some effective training.

I think time on the bike is always better than time sat on a train! Before I had TR or a power meter I got myself in pretty decent shape for both bike racing and long distance triathlon with nearly all my midweek bike volume coming from commuting on a route that sounds very similar to you (4 days a week going in/out of London, ~1 hour each way), supplemented with a weekend ride. I’d just go hard (by RPE) a couple of times a week and steady/easy the rest of the time.

If you can’t fit anything resembling quality structure into the commute then just keep it all z1-2 and do the quality elsewhere. Other option is if the commute goes anywhere near some decent roads for riding then maybe you can sometimes extend the commute to fit in the structured work before/during/after. E.g. If you live in a good riding area then can you get up early, get an hour of high quality riding in before the traffic gets bad, then ride into work after? Or use the ride home as prep for a brick session and run off the bike


I’d add if you can work skills into the commute it can be beneficial… track stands at lights - standing at longer durations, high cadence work…etc… just think of what can be done with those typical city interruptions and you might find some additional skill time on the bike.

Agree with the conencus that just count these as extra miles and don’t try to sneak in a structured workout with them…

I have about an hour bike commute each way … But I can work in long sections where I can do a few minutes intensity without lights or junctions.

Things I’ve done to get through a week of LV triathlon plan (2 rides, 2 runs, 2 swims a week):

Plan your route around the workout. If you have at least one good stretch, or you can work in a circuit somewhere, plan to hit it at the right time, or go back and forth on the good bits.
Take a slightly longer route - an extra 10 or 20 minutes doesn’t hugely change your day but can add a lot of flexibility for roads
Plan a shorter than 1 hour (but more intense) workout to maximize the useful roads, then z2 to work.
Follow an easy endurance or recovery workout for the other ride. I much prefer going hard in the morning and easy home, and following something like Recess takes an effort to stick to a low power but really does help recover to be good for the next proper workout.
Force myself to use the car/bus more often than I’d like… I’d much prefer to ride every day, but if I want to have good lunchtime swim or run sessions I have to sit in the traffic. But I’m lucky to have the choice…

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If you commuted by car, how long would you spend parking the car, in traffic, etc? I bet you spend about 20/30 minutes each way.

Would you rather not ride your bike?

For almost a decade, I rode 25/30 minutes each way to work, every day, and even though people will say it is not training, I rode at intensity (read this as hard sprinting for every light, every hill at vo2max or even higher, chase urban KOMs) and spent less time in my bike commute than I would have on the bus or in the car. Additionally, I would add the odd mid-week ride and a big weekend ride for fun, and my FTP hovered from 280 to 300 for years. Perhaps structured training would have served me better, but I think a bigger problem was more the partying and bad recovery. But I digress…

I can’t say commuting is a more efficient way to train than actual training sessions, but I think it is time-efficient and for me it was about 50% of my fitness regime for a long time.
I think it also built some mental fortitude that some of my roadie friends lack. If the weather isn’t perfect, they won’t ride outside, but commuting in the rain, in the snow, in the extreme heat, even if it is just a short commute, is a good exercise for all-conditions riding.
Sorry for the long post, TLDR: I am team commute

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When I was in grad school I commuted one hour each way, everyday. It was a similar time to drive or take transit, so I opted to at least get some exercise and fresh air. I also live in the PNW, so the weather was pretty horrific for half the year.

I did all my training at the University after my ride. This was a time saver as I would need to change and shower before class regardless. Then on the weekends I would do my long endurance rides. I hammered the bike ride usually just to get through it as fast as possible.

This was absolutely the fittest I have ever been in my life (in terms of general fitness), but definitely wasn’t particularly good for my bike fitness. I needed to sleep like 10 hours a night and I needed an absurd amount of food. I also was tired all the time and it was a boring existence, as I would crash so hard every night.

IMO commuting miles are just “junk miles” in terms of bike training. You can’t get enough structure to get any measurable training benefit. However, I am also a firm believer that time on bike is always good: you can become a better rider through skills work at lights, or even just having to be hyper aware of traffic. Definitely keep it low intensity in Z1 or Z2, or the rest of your training will suffer.

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i commute ~ 1 hour each way every day, do zero interval training, and am somewhat competitive at a Cat4 level. If it was strictly junk miles I wouldn’t stand a chance right? You can structure your weekly intensity distribution by varying the length, intensity and periodization through the year. All I know is that I smoked a few of my friends who have been doing tons of TR workouts indoors the past few month in my CX race yesterday while my computrainer has been tucked away in the closet since last winter.


I’ve let the conversation veer well away from my actual question which is fine, but I think you’ve missed what I’m asking. This particular commute, done four times per week, what training value does it have? The consensus so far is none. A general we-like-commuting doesn’t really help me here :wink:

When it could all add up to 17hrs training, then I may well prefer to lie down than ride my bike through winter. :slightly_smiling_face:

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So there is the option of turning off the power meter :scream:

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…If I just record HR and pretend I don’t spend 5minutes in anaerobic and vo2 then it does look like a Z2 ride.

I could add some structure - anaerobic sprints. Forget endurance, sweet spot, tempo, threshold. They’re all too long intervals. Even a 3 min vo2 interval need a sizeable hill that’s quiet. But I don’t really need anaerobic work.

So I do tend to go for the crazy, and I’m considering bike in, swim lunch, run home. Then run in, swim lunch, bike home.

I prefer to separate my bike and run days though.

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Honestly I’d consider it aerobic activity and wouldn’t worry that much about the power distribution. I think it will help building a base, but you might need to cut down on your other bike sessions because of accumulates fatigue. I’d probably take out the tempo/endurance sessions. Maybe every other week, do less bike commuting, and instead do a longer endurance ride over the weekend, so you get consistant TiZ.

If you can take your bike on the train, it might also be an option to do one leg of the commute by train, and then instead do a longer ride the other direction. Or to avoid the worst of the weather etc.

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All riding has value. Generally, keep them easy enough so they don’t impact your other training. There will always be a more ‘optimum’ option but more often than not the one that fits in with your lifestyle will be the most effective over the long term.


Agreed. As I mainly race cross, I found value in the frequent hard starts and mad sprints for the lights, but not sure if that’s any good for a triathlete. The only intervals I could ever do on my (long) bike commute were tabata-style sets.

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