You can definitely train during residency, but you need to temper your expectations and realize that one, your residency training should take priority, and two, that it will get better after residency for most specialties (I’ve been told). I’m a PGY3 and have been training all through residency. I got into cycling in medical school and started racing in 2021 near the end of my intern year. So it is doable. And you can get really good results with low volume training. I hit my all time high FTP last year at 335W on about 6hrs per week. But you really need to be ok with missing training, skipping workouts, and canceling races. And this is from a single guy so you have even more on your plate being a new dad. Here’s what has worked for me.
Low volume plan for sure. Don’t even think about Mid or High volume. My schedule is mostly M-F with 2 weekends off per month. So out of 4 weekends, I’ll usually have a 24hr shift on a Sat and a Sun, and have the other 2 weekends free. Then I’ll have 24hr shifts throughout the month, but nothing is consistent so my schedule changes week to week. I have no control over my schedule, so I’ve learned to be very flexible. I’m always in the mindset to train that day, but some days I’m late at work or just tired from the day. So that’s what I mean by tempering your expectations. Some days you want to train but just can’t, and you have to be okay with it. Don’t beat yourself up over missed workouts because cycling is the cherry on top. There are higher priorities in your life.
During the winter, I plan my key trainer workouts for the weekends when I know I’ll be off and fresh. I try to nail 2 workouts minimum per week, then get that 3rd intensity workout during the week if I can. All the other days are Z2 or nothing. Just depends on when I get off work and how I feel that day. So for example, a week plan might look like a day off Monday, Z2 Tuesday, tentative intensity Wednesday, Z2 Thurs and Fri, Intensity Sat and Sun. But then I get in the week and Wednesday I have to stay late, so I push the workout to Thursday. Or I get off early Tuesday and feel good, so I do it then to bank the work so to speak. Some weeks I have late days all week and barely get to ride at all, so I go all in Sat and Sun. Just be flexible. Rarely, if ever, does a week pan out like I plan it.
Other tips. I prepare all my bottles for the week on Sat or Sun. Get the drink mixes ready to go and in the fridge so I just have to grab and go. Same with kit, wash and dry everything on the weekend so I always have kit ready. You can even leave your kit on the bike ready to go so you just change and hop on. Have music or entertainment ready, have your devices charged. Minimize any barrier to training that day. Fuel as best you can throughout the day with a good amount of carbs. Do not try to train hungry, it never ends well. I love a PB&J sandwich in early afternoon to give me some fuel for a late afternoon/evening workout. I try to hop on the bike as soon as I get home, so I’m also usually eating on the drive home. I literally park, change, grab a bottle and go. No excuses, no time wasting. Hopefully with med school, you’ve learned how to maximize your time. It’s all about minimizing time wasted. Whether that’s trying to pick a workout or deciding if you feel like riding that day. If anything, hop on and ride Z2 and see how you feel while you’re debating. My success has come from being very meticulous with the very limited free time I have.
Another added bonus is studying on Z2 rides. Studies have shown increased retention with mild exercise. So on those easy days, sometimes I’ll load up a podcast or video lecture and watch it. They’re boring, but it’s just an added bonus while training. When I used to lift in med school, I’d do flash cards in between sets. You can try something similar between intervals, but anything above sweetspot I can’t think and just need to recover, so maybe just Z2 days.
Last thing is races. I pick out races that I want to do, but sometimes they fall through because I have to work. I try to request call days on certain days to let me race, but again, cycling is the dessert so I understand I can’t always race. Look into race insurance or email the race director. I’ve emailed race directors saying that I want to signup, but I’m a medical resident so my schedule is flexible and ask about their refund policy. You’d be surprised how many times they’ve assured me that I can signup with a refund guarantee if I need it. Early registration helps them out so most are willing to work with you. If not, you can always think of it as a donation to your local racing association.
Hope this helps. I ramble sometimes and get scatterbrain so hopefully it makes sense. Let me know if you have any other questions.