New 30-Minute Cycling Workouts That Really Work!

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Some days your well-planned schedule is going to go off the rails. Training is one of the first activities to get jettisoned when deadlines, emergencies, and dance recitals require our attention. Rather than skip training altogether, I have two 30-minute workouts that will help you stay on track.

Consistency is perhaps even more important than the specific intervals included in your workouts. The workouts I have included with this article are not intended to replicate the exact training stress that was featured in the workout you no longer have time for. Rather, these are two short training sessions that each provide a relatively small but meaningful training stimulus. They will help you fill the workload gap between your previous full-length workout and your next, and keep you from feeling stiff and stale the next time you get on the bike for a longer training session.

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Is 30 Minutes Worth The Trouble?

For a long time I had an aversion to doing or prescribing workouts shorter than 60 minutes. The debate within my coaching staff is whether a workout that’s too short to deliver the prescribed training stimulus in an athlete’s program is worth doing? The coaches who believe short workouts do more harm than good cite the fact the short workout contributes to fatigue, but without adding enough training stress to move the athlete forward. The coaches who think an occasional shortened workout is a good idea look beyond the strict physiological response to the training session and highlight the benefits of consistency, stress relief, and mood elevation that come from staying active and maintaining good habits.

I see merit in both viewpoints, but when I step back and look at the bigger picture I think that, for Time-Crunched Athletes especially, completing the shortened workout is the right choice. For competitive athletes who are on high-volume, high-intensity, very focused training programs, taking an extra rest day or completing a short recovery activity is typically a wiser choice because they’re already near the upper limit of the training stress they can handle. In contrast, the vast majority of Time-Crunched Athletes have plenty of extra/underutilized capacity for additional workload, so the shortened workout is useful for maintaining consistent activity and good habits.

The Workouts

I have two workouts I like when I only have 30 minutes to ride. For rides this short, I think an indoor trainer is a great tool because it cuts down on the time required to gather the gear for an outdoor ride, and I don’t have to spend time riding to a good location to do intervals. Because these are good indoor cycling workouts, I have also created structured workout files you can use with Wahoo Fitness smart trainers (and other smart trainers), sync with your Zwift account, or load onto a computer on your handlebars.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD .ZWO, .FIT, .ERG, OR .MRC FILES

The workout is available as a .zwo, .erg, .mrc, or .fit file. The .zwo files are for use with Zwift. You can use an .erg or .mrc files with TrainerRoad or Cycleops Virtual Training software, and .erg with Computrainer. You can use .fit files with Garmin devices. If you have a smart trainer and you’re not sure what to do with these files, here are some resources:

Import Instructions for .zwo, .erg, .mrc, and .fit files

Using a .zwo file with Zwift

Using an .erg or .mrc file with Cycleops Virtual Training

CTS-30-Min-Sustainable-Power

This 30-minute workout starts out with a 5-minute warm-up that leads into 4 x 20-second max-effort accelerations separated by 40 seconds of easy spinning. All of this is prelude to the meat of the workout, a 12-minute OverUnder Interval that features 4 cycles of 2 minutes slightly below lactate threshold and 1 minute slightly above threshold.

5:00 Warmup
:20 Max Acceleration
:40 Recovery
:20 Max Acceleration
:40 Recovery
:20 Max Acceleration
:40 Recovery
:20 Max Acceleration
4:40 Easy Spinning Recovery
12:00 OverUnder
2:00 at RPE 8/10
1:00 at RPE 9/10
2:00 at RPE 8/10
1:00 at RPE 9/10
2:00 at RPE 8/10
1:00 at RPE 9/10
2:00 at RPE 8/10
1:00 at RPE 9/10
5:00 Cooldown

Total Time: 30:00

CTS-30-Min-Max-Power

The great thing about very-high intensity intervals is that you can get some good work done in a short period of time. The intervals in this workout are a bit too short for you to truly reach VO2 max, but you’ll be riding at an intensity of 10/10 for 9:30 out of 30:00. This workout is challenging, but it’s also really engaging, so the time goes by quickly!

5:00 Warmup
:30 SpeedInterval (accelerate to max power and cadence over 30 seconds)
:30 Recovery
:30 SpeedInterval
:30 Recovery
:30 SpeedInterval
:30 Recovery
:30 SpeedInterval
3:00 Recovery
7 x 1:00 PowerInterval (Max effort. Perceived effort 10/10)
Separated by 1:00 Recovery
4:00 Cooldown

Total Time: 30:00

Remember, consistency is really important when it comes to keeping your training on track. These workouts aren’t going to deliver the same benefits as your normally prescribed workouts, but doing one of these instead of skipping training altogether will help you be better prepared for your next full-length workout.

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS


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Comments 8

  1. .fit file won’t upload to training peaks. — error “couldn’t parse file ” keeps showing.

    any help would be greatly received

    thanks andy

  2. As you see it’s purely a spartan minimalist approach for the Time Crunched Athlete. If you notice the intensity levels are based on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or the Borg Scale of 1-10. If you go 100% through out as instructed you should be by the end putting out 90+% of max power “if” you were measuring it. But you won’t be because you’ll be throwing out the heart rate monitor and ditching the Power Meter for these sessions, or you should be because you don’t have time for all that, right? That’s part of the allure and mental break.

    Just get the bike set up, throw on your shorts, grab a towel, turn on the fan and get busy. Going as as hard as you can when it indicates a 10 and Recover in the recovery portion. Keeping cadence high and smooth, no bouncing and don’t over complicate things. It works. My .2.

  3. As a Master’s Athlete (going on 54 yrs young) I have been advised that a warm up should be 20-25 min long. 4.5m Low Z2, 30s @ 150%, alternating for 20-25m. Thoughts?

  4. The second of the two 30 minute workouts is easy to blow if you overdo the power level of the 1 minute max power interval. I know from my experience to peg it at 400 watts with an FTP of 300 watts (133%). My 2 cents for this amazing workout.

    1. I feel the same – try asking a kilo rider to do a kilo and then have 1min rest and hit it another 6 times. If its flat out then each interval will drop power. It can’t be at MMP1min. I would try MMP3mins or 150% of MLSS or FTP. 550W is my best MMP1min so around 400W would be about right I think. I think its one of those where you try it and be conservative to start and then increase as you go on if you can. A nice short VO2max session that I like (been shown to increase buffer capacity) is 10-20x2min @ PPO (MMP5mins approx) w/1min Z1 rec. Advanced riders may be able to knock out 20. This gives you volume and intensity @ VO2max efforts.

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