Getting a training effect from a bike commute

I am hopefully going to be starting a new job in a couple of months and will probably be in the office 3 days per week (Tuesday through Thursday). I’ll have a good setup to bike commute for at least one or two of those days along the route in the map below. I was thinking I will probably have to treat the commute as endurance work, since there don’t seem to be any great stretches for interval work along here (though maybe Nimitz or Harbor would work). Any suggestions for getting something out of my anticipated commute aside from just the joy of bike commuting?

Looks like a good opportunity to - at a minimum - build your aerobic base, simply from being on the bike more often. Are you able to take a longer route home where you can add in some additional volume and/or intensity?

Years ago, I had a similar commute distance that I would do 1-2 times per week in addition to my other regular riding. My morning commute ride would be an easy Z1-Z2 pace for about 1 hr. I would make my ride home 20-30 miles, sometimes including a long bike path section for steady-state tempo work, or sometimes some climbing. The extra volume was very beneficial for my overall fitness.


I commute ~5 days a week. All Z1/2, no intervals. I do interval work as a separate ride

Edit: though you could hit up plenty of places enroute, including Fiesta Island.


The majority of my commutes are Z1/2 stuff, especially at this time of year (UK winter). In the summer if its been dry for a bit I’ll do intervals on RPE once a week on the rural part of my commute. The commuter hasn’t got a power meter but I think I prefer having nothing to distract me when I’m doing intervals. But mainly I do the intensity stuff indoors. Our office is about to move though and I’ll either be left with a commute that too short to do intervals or on roads which I’m not sure are suitable for anything more than Z1/2

Can’t believe I didn’t think of this on my own! I can add time to the ride on at either the beginning or end and Fiesta Island is a great idea for doing some intervals.


1hr commute is perfect for training - I do this 2 or 3 times a week, and I do a TrainerRoad workout (usually intervals of some kind) in the morning, then Recovery or Z2 on the way home. I prefer doing harder sessions in the morning as I have a bit more mental energy, there’s a shower at work, and I have a better evening with the family if I don’t arrive home a complete sweaty mess.

In the summer I’ll maybe extend the ride home for some extra volume.

I do prioritise safety over workout quality - if there are red lights or people on the cycleroute during an interval then too bad, I’m slowing down. However, I’m lucky to be able to manage the route to hit some good long clear stretches.

As the suggestion above shows, it’s worth being openminded about how you can adapt or change up your route. It’s very satisfying to hit appropriate stretches of road/track for your main set, and roll into work just a few seconds off the end of the workout! But if your normal route is too complicated, then yes just do Z2 - although you could always try doing an hour Z1/Z2 on the way home then hop on the trainer to do a short interval workout.


Similar to the other posters here, it’s a great opportunity to add lots of volume - having a 1 hour each way commute a few years ago increased my aerobic base massively

When the weather is good add on some miles, I would do around 90 minutes in the mornings and over 2 hours sometimes in the summer evenings

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As a former SD resident, I am jealous of your situation :rofl:

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why do you think there isn’t a training effect from commuting 2 hours, 3 days a week for a total of 6 hours? Taken to an extreme, you might very well be faster on 20 hours/week without intervals, than just doing a TR LV plan. Its how endurance sports and training works. Volume matters. So do intervals.


INCREDIBLE commute. i’m super jealous.

my commute is ~ an hour but I found routes that are longer. just takes some planning. I like strava. I usually train on the way in and go straight home Z2. (sometimes my “train on the way in” is Z2). that just works for my rhythm of life best time-wise

I label all my courses with how many km it is then pick one based on what I want to accomplish (or if I just wanna get in right away). (2W = to work - labeling it this way makes them come up first on my Garmin). here’s a few. if I wanna do short intervals I have a go-to spot and go bang them out then just head over to work.

so I have some long routes then some routes that take me somewhere where I can do intervals. there’s gotta be somewhere that has a long enough stretch for intervals even if it means going in the opposite direction then doubling back (or passing work and doubling back).


I usually reserve my commute for Z2 as well. If I do intervals it’s typically on the way in as my energy just isn’t there.

I usually create 2 separate workouts similar to the prescribed workout in TR at the length of my commute (15 miles/1hr).

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I am in the process of learning what you’ve posted about volume. I’m coming to cycling training from a strength training background, so am having some trouble wrapping my mind around the notion that lots of relatively low intensity work is one way to progress. In the strength training world, that wouldn’t do much for someone past the first few months. Wrapping my head around the fact that endurance sports are different has been a bit of a challenge.

One long game in endurance sports is about increasing metabolic fitness of the muscles. Not hypertrophy or strength. Metabolic fitness is about making the muscle more efficient/economical at using oxygen to produce energy. You probably had enough strength at age 15 (?) to push the pedals ‘hard enough’ to get an ftp in 300-400W range.

Most cycling (excepting track), is a game of endurance and efficiency and economy. Use the least amount of oxygen and glycogen (fuel), and the most amount of oxygen and fat/lipids (fuel), for the long periods of time at (cycling relative) high contractile force.

Your leg muscles are a mixed fuel engine that use oxygen along with either glycogen or fat/lipids (and a pinch of protein). Increase the number and size of mitochondria in your legs, and you’ll burn more fat and less glycogen. And assuming you aren’t oxygen limited (your heart provides that via capillaries in leg muscles), you’ll also increase your FTP. Increase FTP until you are oxygen limited. So many of the newbie gains are simply from the heart getting better at sending oxygen, and your leg muscles getting better at consuming oxygen. And then the real training starts…


I was commuting about 3-4 hours a day for 6 months (Vista to Claremont) with no other training at all. I ended up with an FTP of around 4 w/kg.

Many years later and with a lot of dedicated training, I barely got stronger.


I find this both depressing and encouraging at the same time.

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maybe these articles from the strength training world will help you:


and under 3. Q&D see the bits about mitochondria biogenesis and mitochondria respiration

riding easy is about mitochondria biogenesis - making more mitochondria. Sprint interval training is a quick way to improve mitochondria respiration. Other structured training is on a spectrum between the two. And ultimately, from a performance point-of-view, other structured training is about improving ability to improve power and sustain power at specific durations. For example, focusing on tempo/SS work would allow you to hold power for hours, while 3-5minute intervals is more about making a break or a hard effort over a short climb.


IMO commuting in busy traffic can be quite stressful, ie, not the ideal state to arrive at work. Likewise getting to work all sweaty and hyped up isn’t ideal. So modify your route to use the least stressful streets. Most competitive athletes avoid doing easy paced endurance level rides, despite coaches telling us they are very beneficial; so I’d treat them as you suggest as an easy paced enjoyable ride. Such a ride home can be a great de-stressor, hence you are a better person when you get home after a hectic work day.

The route I can take to work is on relatively low traffic streets. And I will have access to a shower at work, so arriving sweaty isn’t a problem.

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I’m suggesting you chose your easy paced enjoyable ride, because coaches tell us we need to do a lot more of that level of training, which most of us don’t do! Secondly it has a de-stressing benefit, for arrival at work and at home.

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I get what you meant now. I’ll have to see how many days per week I end up riding my bike in. If it is all three days I go into the office, then I’ll definitely have to work some intervals in on one or two of the rides.