Programming around an unbalanced work schedule…


I’ve been using TR since the early Spring and I really enjoy both the structure and the progress. I wonder about one adjustment I’d like to make if its possible. I’m a hospital based physician (pediatric critical care) and as such my clinical schedule is a little unusual. I work a number (12-14) of “clinical service weeks” at my hospital a year. These weeks are Monday through Sunday and high stress long hours. Its pretty challenging to maintain my training and get in enough sleep etc. However, I’ve noticed that when my service weeks land on endurance/deload weeks its a lot more salubrious! I can even on occasion extend my e-bike commute home to do perhaps one of the rides I actually have a power meter on one of the bikes so I can really hit the target! When I work out this way I’m so much better off with better sleep and more energy after the week of service. When I do more interval based weeks its close to impossible and I have a terrible time getting adequate sleep since my workouts end up being late. (In my off service weeks I do administrative work for the hospital and teach etc so its not totally off but much less hours)

So here is my question(s):

  1. Is there a way to schedule these specific service weeks as endurance weeks?
  2. Should I do this? My service weeks are not evenly paced: I have a few this summer then I don’t have any in September then I’m every other week in October and November. So I would be doing the harder programming longer sometimes or even toggling week by week between more intervals and endurance. (I train TR because I want to be a strong cyclist and as of now I don’t race).
  3. If I can’t program it in should/could I just use workout alternatives on my service weeks and would AI note this and make corrections?

Does anyone else work their program around these types of rather disruptive schedules? Im 52 and I LOVE my job so I’m going to have to figure this out for at least another decade…

I’m interested in any advise I can get…


Hi! Just found this thread, sounds like you have a challenge in front of you!

Sounds like the endurance weeks maybe be the way to go for you. Better to have a little less optimal training than to chase your tail the whole time. Maybe you’re a little less fit but at least fresh and mentally felling good!

Also, I just wrote an answer here that fits: Training and 12 hour shifts - #2 by schmidt

check out Matt Dixon’s book Fast-track triathlete. A lot of good ideas on how to balance “a big life” with training (his words).

There was also a thread on medical residents training recently here: Training during medical residency

Hey, Maude!
First and foremost, super impressive that you train with so much tenacity despite your super demanding work schedule. Kudos for that, but also for being able to listen to your body and know when its time to step back and ensure there’s some balance so you can crush the super key workouts. This takes most athletes years to figure out! Nice work.

So to answer “Should I do this?”: Yes! De-loading training during those weeks is a great idea for you, especially when it means you’re setting yourself up to be more successful in your training progression when you are able to really concert time and energy to structured training and hard workouts.

The thread that @schmidt posted will have some good shared athlete experiences, and you’ll see recommendations for using TrainNow as a standalone plan. It does seem like you dig the Plan Builder format though, and we can absolutely help make that work for you.

Many TrainerRoad athletes who aren’t targeting a specific event or type of fitness use TrainNow to select each day’s recommended workout, and this works well with Adaptive Training.
You can select endurance workouts presented for your work-heavy week, or use TrainNow with a plan assigned by Plan Builder.

TrainNow + Plan Builder would look like using a ‘Time Off’ annotation as an efficient way to remove your assigned workouts too (or you can just skip/ignore assigned PB workouts), so you can keep a visual record of your de-loaded training weeks with the time off annotation, and still add endurance TrainNow workouts when you’d like.
This way,
you’re still getting the periodization benefits of Plan Builder to keep you moving forward and progressing in fitness,
Adaptive Training accounts for the TrainNow workouts you do when suggesting adaptations for any originally assigned workouts you miss, and
you get the flexibility to do the exact chill-enough workout you need on the demanding work week.

Finally, if you do feel like you want to try to adhere to the plan to some degree, you can choose an Alternate for the workouts assigned from Plan Builder to still achieve the overarching goals of that workout, but at a shorter duration.
I could see this being a 1x a week thing you do during those tough work periods when you feel up for it, and supplementing the rest with an endurance TrainNow workout so you stay fresh.

Let me know if this makes sense, of if you’d like to go over your calendar with specific weeks as examples so we can help get you set up!


Hi @IvyAudrain and @schmidt!

Thanks for the responses I think Ill try the TrainNow +Plan Builder option for the fall. I really like the progression and cycles of periodization in PlanBuilder. Also there are workouts that I would NEVER choose on my own that are teaching me a lot. I’m athletic but a total nube on the bike so Im currently enjoying the learning curve!

I’m also thinking about signing up for and training for a gran fondo in the spring (Sea Otter? Something else in the Bay Area?) as a goal to train towards.




Perfect! Love that approach, and YES you should totally dip your toes into fondos! You’re definitely building the right kind of fitness to have a blast and feel strong at events like that. :sunglasses:


I do adult pulmonary/critical care with a similar number of weeks (mix of days/nights) on service each year. I happened to have a recovery week align with clinical service in the ICU last week and 100% agree, it was great.

I have also had pretty good luck with higher intensity work even while on service, by staying on low volume plans and using workout alternates like Ivy mentioned-I usually get up early to workout regardless, and when I’m on service I’ll pick an alternate that’s slightly shorter (e.g. 45 min, as opposed to 1h or 1:15). Many of these are almost as hard (if not harder, since they often have less warmup/cooldown or shorter rest intervals) and help me get to work on time. Low volume also helps keep up with strength training and nutrition (e.g. meal prep to avoid eating hospital food on call) while on busy weeks, which for me have been just as important as the training itself. During lighter weeks I’ll add in extra z2 rides in between the prescribed intensity.

Good luck!

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@dclaf That’s super helpful… Its so hard to explain what a week of service looks like! Ive pulled off higher intensity workouts on service weeks so far but the price ends up being pretty steep! The next day (or week) I am a total zombie… (Sometimes Im a Zombie after a 60-70 hour week anyway :slight_smile: )


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This is actually a great idea, I will try this. Should also help those who need space in life for other reasons (travel, family obligations,…).

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