Problem: Short daylight hours and work can make it difficult to block out a full hour to train, let alone ride. Solution: Micro workouts.
What is a micro workout? It is any workout that you can fit into your daily routine in the time it takes to make a coffee. Think of it as a quick shot of espresso for your fitness, but you can have 10 a day.
Each micro workout can be a single exercise that you perform just one set of, or it could be multiple movements that you link together in a flow workout. It doesn’t matter which you do, the idea is that each time you get up from your chair or at regular intervals throughout the day, you perform a pre-planned physical activity. Your eyes will thank you for the screen break too.
By squeezing in short bursts of exercise throughout the day you’ll be amazed at how much work you get done, without actually having to carve out an hour in your schedule to train. Let’s say you decide to do 10 air squats on the hour over the course of a standard work day; that’s 80 air squats a day when you had no official training planned.
So it’s easy to see how you can benefit from gains in strength, mobility and fitness that directly improve your riding. And with the right exercise selection you can also help reverse some of the negative effects of sitting all day. The best thing about the micro workout is that with most of us now working from home, you won’t get any funny looks for exercising at your desk.
And don’t think for a minute that breaking the time we allocate to train into smaller chunks makes it less effective than the traditional one-hour training slot. On the contrary, if performing micro-workouts help you stay consistent, that could be game-changing.
Here is an example of the micro- workout principle. Let’s say you have a pull-up bar in the doorway of your office, each time you walk under it you perform a single set of pull-ups on the way out. If you want more benefit, on the way back through the doorway perform a single set of push-ups to balance push/pulling movements. Over time, you will get stronger and be able to perform more reps on whatever movements you choose as you can accumulate more volume without the acute fatigue associated with longer workouts.
Probably the best way to think of micro workouts is that you use a trigger, which could be a timer, a kettlebell in the hall or the pull-up bar in the doorway as a signal to train. Best of all, the rapid burst of exercise is so short you won’t even break a sweat.
The real beauty of micro-workouts is that you can work on a particular weakness by focusing on a specific area and performing just one or two of the above workouts sequentially throughout the day. Ideally you’d get as much movement variety as possible by rotating through as many of the exercises as you can and even adding in some of your own.
Putting it into practice
We are going to show you a few ideas so you can choose the ones appropriate for you. We do recommend varying the movements day to day to get maximum benefits and avoid imbalances.
1. Bodyweight for good movement
- Circular reach with arms
- Walk out
- Down-dog for 10 seconds to Indian push-up
- Push-up to side reach each side
- Lunge reach for five seconds each side
- 1 Cossack squat to airborne lunge to curtsy squat each side
2. Capacity builder
- 5-8 rounds: 3 burpees, 6 jumping air squats (OK, this one will make you sweat)
3. Pull-up bar strengthener
- 2-5 pull-ups
- 5-10 push-ups
- 10-15 air squats
4. Something a little difference
- Dead hang from pull-up bar
- Push-up hold at 45-90 degrees
- Ski sit/single-leg ski sit
- Single-arm plank
Quick and regular
Quick upper body strengthener
As described above, perform a single set of pull-ups when you leave the room and a single set of push-ups when you return. The sets don’t have to be to failure, simply do a few each time and build on your progress.
Quick lower body strengthener
Each time you stand from your chair perform five ultra-slow air squats, five regular air squats and five fast air squats for a total of 15 reps. Finish with six back- step lunges on each leg.
Every 30 minutes perform a 20-30 second side plank on each side.
Jonny Thompson is head coach for Fit4Racing, an online fitness programme for mtb riders. Once a forensic scientist, Jonny has devoted the last 10 years to coaching athletes, from Paralympians to world number one enduro racers. His main focus with the Fit4Racing team is developing and delivering fitness programmes to pro and amateur riders.
Training the likes of Adam Brayton, Jonny also sends digital programmes to riders all over the world, many of whom ride professionally.