Q. I struggle to find the energy to train after work. How can I get the most out of after-work sessions?
A. It can be hard to find a balance between work and an active lifestyle. In my experience, the key is training in a time-efficient manner. A two-hour bike ride after work may seem daunting. However, an interval session of less than an hour can provide the same physiological benefit and can even be more fun to perform.
Quality, not quantity
We know from sports science that it is possible to trade duration for intensity. In other words, hard training has more positive impact on your fitness per minute than easy training. The trick is adding intensity in moderation, and building it up over weeks. This prevents burnout.
For instance, instead of running for an hour, you might schedule a track workout for 30 minutes. Do an easy warm-up, and then run 4x400m at your 5K pace, with an easy 200m recovery jog between intervals. You can add a repeat every 1-2 weeks, until you're up to, say, eight. If you find your fatigue building after a couple of weeks, take a few easy training days, and then carry on.
You can do similar things in other sports as well. Try a set of hard 100ms in the pool, or two-minute intervals on the bike. By training this way, you can become quite fit in a relatively short period of time. Moreover, you do it without adding many hours to your day. Of course, to race triathlon, you occasionally must do longer duration workouts. However, there is no reason you cannot save those for the weekend.
Dr. Philip Friere Skiba
Dr. Philip Friere Skiba is a physician specialising in sports medicine, and is the CEO of PhysFarm Training Systems. He works at the University of Exeter, in the department of sport and health sciences. He has trained a number of amateur and elite multisport athletes, including world champions Joanna Zeiger (Ironman 70.3) and Catriona Morrison (duathlon). You can read more at physfarm.com.