: The idea that short trips are pointless is a stupid cycling myth
There are many jaded myths and theories about road cycling, most of them dating back to the days of woolen shorts and Mars Bars for breakfast…and while there is an element of truth and logic in some of them, I can confidently say is complete cobbler is the idea that each journey should last several hours to “count”.
Yes, for some strange reason, there are still cyclists who believe that you have to be outside for more than two hours to make a ride worthwhile, and yet that’s just not the case. All journeys matter, and depending on how you do them, they will have different effects on your fitness and overall well-being.
This isn’t some deep technical or scientific training I’m about to get into; rather, it’s about highlighting the huge benefits that can be found in taking short trips, from 20 to 75 minutes.
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Of course, most of us probably like to go out and take epic long drives, arriving home feeling like we’ve earned our tokens for the weekend, and of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; however, circumstances, and especially the increasingly busy lives we all now lead, do not always allow us that longer commute time or even the energy to motivate us to get out, especially not during the days of dark week.
Although I was introduced to a cycling scene based on the merits of rides that were always longer than 2.5 hours, I still based a lot of my own riding on the shorter rides and then added longer rides when weather and circumstances permit. It’s been through a mix of choices and circumstances, and I’ve found it’s entirely possible to even stay competitive by doing that.
Over the years, many cycling friends have simply dismissed the hassle of gearing up for just a short ride (which I get when it rains), and in some cases simply masked those in-between days, preferring to wait until until the clocks go back and the weather warms up. I can’t help but think they’re missing out on so many benefits by doing this, maybe hitting the indoor trainer all winter long.
The first thing to consider is that if you want to, you can get a lot of fitness training benefits in a short ride, and without the lingering, lasting fatigue of longer rides. Over the years, I’ve found that (for me) intense 50-75 minute rides are particularly beneficial, both physically and mentally.
These short trips are easy enough for most of us to fit somewhere into our daily schedules, and without that time impacting other commitments too much. You can put a lot of intensity into an hour ride if you want, especially if you have access to hills where you can do tempo or interval work more easily. It doesn’t necessarily have to be precise and scientific in its approach, it can just be about riding how you feel at that particular moment and then varying it to keep things fresh.
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One of the most notable and important benefits of short commuting is its impact on your mental health. It’s something we didn’t talk about years ago, but was always the most obvious to me.
Not only does it give you that break from other commitments, but a short commute is more than enough to get that endorphin boost, fire up your metabolism, and get your glands sweating. This greatly helps your overall state of mind and body. Come rain or shine, a short strenuous ride will almost certainly make you happier.
Even on days when you really don’t feel like it, going out for a short drive will help keep you turning, both physically and mentally. In my experience, doing this outside (if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with fairly peaceful roads or trails nearby) is so much smoother for most of us than hitting a home trainer , not to mention the benefits of fresh air .
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Even 20-30 minutes at a slow or steady pace is worth it when recovering from illness or injury. All of this helps keep you moving naturally as a cyclist, and it’s an approach that even top professional cyclists have taken to recovery over the years.
A great quote from the distant past that still holds true is from the great Eddy Merckx himself, who said, “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel like it.” But drive.
Whether it’s before lunch or on your lunch break, a quick commute or an intense night out, don’t overlook the benefits the short commute can have, no matter what level of cyclist you are. Short rides can be epic if you do them, and adding a bit of epicness to your day works wonders every time.