Shift worker and training advice for a beginner

Hi to all you wonderful guys,(got to try some flattery), I have recently discovered the Podcasts and enjoy listening whilst on my commute.
I have just signed up to TrainerRoad and completed my ramp test although it’s only an FTP of 205 I know that it’s early days, but it’s a start. I am a 117kg 48YO so have no aspirations to race. part of my weight increase happened after having surgery for testicular cancer and messed up hormones. The rest is due to my lack of willpower and a sweet tooth.
I work as a Paramedic in the UK and have a shift pattern of 2 days on 2 nights on 4 days off. y shift is basically an hour commute 12-hour shift then an hour drive home
this is on a 7-week rotation with 18 days off at the end of the 7th shift block.

I signed up for the Ride London 100 at the end of May so have 6 months of training to get in
I also want to complete the Flandrian Challenge at the start of September as well.

I want to run a structured training program but have a few questions
based on my 14hr work day how much sleep would you recommend as I currently get 5-6 you guys recommend 8-10 hours?

Due to the shift pattern, I can manage a session on the daytime of my first night shift so I could manage 3-4 sessions per week, does it matter that I have to move things around including what everybody else would term their weekend ride but would be limited on rest days. any help and advice would be awesome- keep up the great work.

I think there are some podcasts covering shift work, I’ll have a search.

I’m the same age as you, my starting FTP was 170 iirc. You’ll be fine.

I’ve trained for years with 5-6hrs sleep. Could I have got much faster? Almost certainly with more sleep alone. But we live our lives right, you’ll still make progress just try not to let it affect your work.


Here are a few existing topics I found in search:


I can’t find the podcast, but I’m sure somewhere over the years it’s been discussed.

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tl;dr no, just focus on riding your bike consistently.

I’m a resident physician so I also have a hectic, unpredictable schedule with day shifts, night shifts, and 28 hour shifts (lol). The number one priority for us of course is taking care of sick patients, so you gotta prioritize whatever habits will allow you to do this. Unfortunately, with your commute, you’re basically working 14-15 hour days…it doesn’t leave much time for training. Here’s how I would structure something:
Day shifts: try to do something easy one of the days
Night shifts: something during the day leading into the first night, easy spin after your last night after you take your nap
Off day 1: easy, gotta recover from nights
Off day 2: quality session
Off day 3: easy
Off day 4: longer easy/tempoish session

I recognize that might be a lot of sessions for someone just starting out, so peel back prn. The most important thing is getting into a routine that you can stick to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I die: you’re better off doing 80% of 100% than trying to do 110% and ending up doing 50%.

Other people will definitely chime in and say “win in the kitchen”, “don’t snack”, etc. I recognize that the snacking part is really hard on these shifts. Our brains need the sugar to stay awake. So what I’d say is try to stay away from the high calorie items that are hanging around when picking your snacks.

(written from my trainer on my pre-night shift ride where I’ll be eating q2-3h to stay awake :slight_smile:)


Emergency Dept physician here, so I feel your pain on residency:). Having had a screwed up schedule for years I’d generally agree with what you say as far as when to do quality sessions etc. If I have an evening or overnight shift, I try to get a ride in during the day, generally shorter, but still can be quality. An hour long TR threshold workout for example. I know I am basically trash on post overnight days, so I assume I won’t be riding those days. Maybe a quick recovery spin or a walk. I try to save my long rides for days I’m fully off and ideally haven’t worked a 3-11 or 5p-1a shift the night before. I’m not currently training for anything as we have a 14mo old, but when I am, I try to sit down at the beginning of each week and schedule my workout week instead of winging it. Often times that involves doing things out of order, really planning the rest time etc.

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