3 Awesome 1 Hour Cycling Workouts

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3 Awesome 1 Hour Cycling Workouts

Imagine you're training for a big event and life starts to get in the way.  You start to get tired, overworked and stressed out.  Your cycling workouts are probably going to be the first thing that suffers, right?

Maybe, but with some clever planning, they don't have to.

There's an old adage that some training is better than nothing at all.  If you've only got an hour to burn among all kinds of other obligations, you can still knock out some effective training.  In some cases, a 1 hour cycling workout can be more effective than hours in the saddle.  You just have to know what intervals to do and how to execute them.

At the end of this post, I'll give you three examples of 1 hour cycling workouts that will boost your fitness and keep you on track to meet your training goals.  So click through the jump and pick up some new workouts for those times when life gets in the way.

Is it worth training for just an hour?

Sometimes life gets in the way of your cycling workouts.  Occasionally, you can find an hour here and there, maybe a lunch hour or before work.  Is there value in a 1 hour cycling workout or are you just wasting your time?  Can an hour long workout give you enough benefits to be worth it?

The answer, of course, is yes to all of the above.

If you've got an hour to burn, you've got plenty of options in terms of cycling workouts.  You can do some high intensity work, you can do some efficiency work or you can do some sweetspot training.  Let's take a look at what you can get done in that hour.

1 hour cycling workouts

What can you do in an hour?

The kind of workout you can do in an hour depends on what you're trying to accomplish.  If you're looking to get a load of endurance based work, you're going to struggle.  Endurance training generally requires long days in the saddle riding at lower intensity.  Even though you may only have an hour, you can still get some aerobic benefit be specifically training lactate shuttling and sweetspot muscular endurance.  You can also train some higher intensity aerobic recovery intervals by doing an over/under type or workout.

If you're really pressed for time, one of the best things to do in an hour is a high intensity interval workout.  By cramming the majority of your training stress into shorter, harder intervals, you'll get multiple benefits.  Not only will you increase your VO2 max capacity, but you'll improve anaerobic fatigue resistance and raise your functional threshold power.  An hour workout is the perfect amount of time to execute one of these high intensity workouts.  You'll get a solid chunk of training stress in the hour and you'll have plenty of time to recover before your next workout.

So you've got a couple options for what you can accomplish in an hour.  The question is, how do you choose which kind of workout to do?  You need to keep these things in mind:

Where are you in your training program?

If you're in the base phase of your training program, you probably don't want to go nuts with a couple hours of high intensity work per week.  But if you're into the late build phase of your training program, an hour os VO2 max work might be just the ticket.  Take a look at what point you are in your program and make a decision what kind of workout you need to dial up for the day.  Of course, if you're in need of a little intensity, you can still dial up some VO2 work in your base period.  Just make sure that you don't start doing things well outside your training program for the sake of getting some training time in.

What kind of training would you normally do on this day?

Take a look at your training plan.  Are you scheduled for an endurance day?  Maybe you have some muscular endurance intervals on the docket today.  Or do you have a tabata day scheduled?  Let the actual training plan dictate the kind of training you're going to take on for the day.  This can sometimes make it easier to pick your hour workout.

On some days, you may have a variety of workouts scheduled.  In some cases, you'll have some FTP work or ME work followed by some VO2 max training or sprint work.  In this case, take a look at what you did yesterday.  If you did a high intensity workout yesterday, go for endurance today.  If you did endurance yesterday, aim for a high intensity day today.

What caused your workout to be shortened?

Consider what caused that workout day to be shortened.  Since you're swapping to an hour workout, there's probably a reason that your training day was cut short.  Consider what caused that workout to be canceled: if it's something that will take a lot of your energy, try to execute a workout that won't wreck you.  Remember, training stress is just another kind of stress on your body.  It's above and beyond the stress that your body will suffer on any normal day.

So if you've got a busy day scheduled, a lot of travel or a very stressful event going on, keep the training to a lower intensity workout.

What do you feel like doing today?

Most importantly, if you wake up in the morning and realize you can't bring yourself to knock out two and a half hours, try to figure out what you DO feel like.  If you're just tired, maybe a day of sweetspot work is just the ticket.  Perhaps you feel like just killing yourself for a short hour, so plan up a high intensity workout.

Bottom line: if you're feeling like swapping out for an hour long workout, pick something you're enthusiastic about.

muscular endurance cycling training with zwift

Three 1 Hour Cycling Workouts to Boost Your Fitness

Now that you have an idea of how to choose a 1 hour workout to fit your day, here are a few of my favorite 1 hour cycling workouts to help get you started.

Short VO2 Repeats

Total time (with warmup and cooldown): ~65 minutes.

This short VO2 repeat workout will take you through 27 minutes of intervals.  Start with an 8-9 minute warmup to get your legs loosened up.  I recommend something that actually takes your intensity up to 110% to 120% of your functional threshold power.  Once you're warmed up, dive right into your intervals.  Jump up to 120% of FTP for 3 minutes at your sweetspot cadence.  Rest for 3 minutes of easy spinning.  Repeat a total of 9 times for 27 minutes of intensity and another 27 minutes of rest.

*Bonus Workout* – If you want to modify this format, switch to 5 sets of 5 minute VO2 intervals at 115% FTP with 5 minutes rest in between.  This ends up giving you 25 minutes of intensity and 25 minutes of rest.  Total workout time is right around 60 minutes including cooldown.

Two by Twenties

Total time (with warmup and cooldown): ~ 60 minutes.

Two by twenties are a great staple of endurance training.  In this workout, you'll get a total of 40 minutes worth of work at either sweetspot intensity or functional threshold intensity.  Start with an 8-9 minute warmup to loosen up your legs.  Once you're warmed up, settle into a sweetspot intensity for 20 minutes.  Cadence can either be self-selected OR between 65 and 75 RPM to get some muscular endurance training.  Rest for 10 minutes between intervals with easy spinning, then jump into the next interval.  Finish off with a couple minutes of easy spinning and you're done.

If you want a little FTP workout, keep your interval intensity up around 100% of your FTP for the duration of the intervals.  Everything else stays the same.

Lactate Shuttles

Total time (with warmup and cooldown): ~ 65 minutes.

Lactate shuttling intervals are a variety of over/under workout that is designed to make your body more efficient at processing metabolic wastes.  They also help to build aerobic enzymes that break down fat for fuel, making you aerobically more efficient.  This workout will give you 2 sets of over/under type intervals.  Start with an 8-9 minute warmup.  The first part of the interval is 2 minutes at 70% of FTP, followed by a minute at 130% of FTP.  Repeat 7 times for 21 minutes of interval work.  Rest for 10 minutes worth of easy spinning, then repeat the interval set again.  Cool down for a few minutes and you're done.


With these 1 hour cycling workouts, you're perfectly primed to knock out a quick workout no matter what the circumstances.  If you're looking for a few other

About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.