Question Any advice for work-cycle-commute: increase my energy levels?

Feb 17, 2020
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Hi all,

I'm 51, and I've cycled all my life to and from school and work. As a teenage schoolkid it was 16 miles per day, and through my working life—before redundancy—a few years ago it was 10—15 miles per day.

These days I feel knackered after a ride. I do a decent pace for the exercise, but I'm not breaking any records.

Thing is: I'm starting a new job soon and the bike commute will be 17ml/28km a day. In preparation, I'm cycling 5 mornings a week, for about 8.5ml/14km—with many steep long hills—for an hour (half of what I'll do per day in the job). I cycle a bit at weekends, and go to the gym 3 times a week. The bike's serviced and running nicely, and I eat a good clean diet.

So my question is:
How can this 51 year old keep my energy levels up so I can cycle 8.5 miles, work all day—often on my feet giving guided tours, and cycle home 8.5 miles—without total burn-out and exhaustion?
  • Eat slow-carbs before the cycle home—like banana, brown bread, bit of porridge?
  • Keep a drink bottle during the cycle—maybe with glucose in it?
Also: in this cold winter weather, my knees are getting pretty sore and stiff sometimes—even in long trousers—maybe I should wrap my knees in something warm? Cut sections from woolly socks?

I'm looking forward to your thoughts. I want to crush this new commute and get myself really fit, instead of sitting on a bus for 3 hours a day!

Best regards,
John
 
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Your current commute is 12-18 miles a day and your new commute is 16 miles a day, so I'm not sure why you'd have to change anything if you can manage it at the moment?

Knee pain can be caused by lots of things, but if you're pretty sure it's the cold I'd recommend some wool long-johns. Something like this:


I use them if I'm marshalling/spectating at an event where I know I'll be stood around in the cold all day and they work well under a pair of jeans.
 
Feb 17, 2020
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Hi There,
Thanks for the reply.

Your current commute is 12-18 miles a day and your new commute is 16 miles a day, so I'm not sure why you'd have to change anything if you can manage it at the moment?
I'm cycling 8.5 miles/14km each morning for exercise, but in the new job I'll be doing that distance twice a day. In between, I'll be on my feet a lot, giving guided tours etc. I know that usually when I get home from work—my house is uphill, and that's the worst last 2 miles of slogging—I feel wrecked, barely able to cook dinner, then I'm on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

I suspect I need to fuel myself before and during the evening ride especially.

Yes, I definitely think the cold affects my knees. When I was in my 20s I was cycle-commuting in shorts—in winter for a few months—and I remember my knees became like an 80 year old's! Getting up and down from a chair was always an "argggh" moment. It improved when I switched back to long trousers. I think it makes sense that activity with icy cold knee tissues isn't optimal—stiffens it all up.
John
 
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Feb 17, 2020
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I'm heading out for my morning 8.5 miler now, and I'm going to take it easy for a change. My knees are fairly delicate lately.
-----
UPDATE: I did the usual ride with lots of lower gear cycling and it was much easier and still took around the same amount of time!
 
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It sounds like you don't ride to work now, but you want to start with your new job. One concern is finding time in your schedule for the extra riding - and having the energy to shower / meal / etc. at the end of the day.
When I commuted I kept items such as shoes, belts, sweater, at work so I wouldn't need to carry them all the time. You might also want to accessorize your bike for all-weather and night time riding - fenders and lights. And then there's the concern about being stuck at work if the weather is too bad.

Jay
 
Reactions: MartinGT
Don't want to sound like a broken record but..intervals. If you do extreme leg speed drills in a small gear in the saddle you will notice a bit more snap..
Example every half mile do a 5 second interval for a week. Or every 5-6 minutes do 8-10 second interval in the saddle at a leg speed above 100-110. In a gear that offers little to no resistance..just mechanically to simulate a sewing machine..trying to have a quiet upper body and a consistent cadence.

View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiVa0zTRHJk


View: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sVbwngNoHm0
 
You need to commute with a totally different mindset. You're going too and from work. You're not smashing yourself for PB's. Keep it steady and don't get caught up in commute racing.

I do 50km a day commute wise. I cycle differently than when I am out on my own or with the lads.

Do you ride with a rucksack? If so, look at getting a pannier and rack, that take the burden off your body.

You'll get fitter dont worry. Commuting is a superb way of keeping a base fitness as you'll know. Sleep is a massive thing. I am up at 6:10 and in bed for 9:30 most nights. I know if I don't get a decent nights kip it causes me to feel drained for a day or so even more if I am not riding.
 
Feb 17, 2020
13
1
35
It sounds like you don't ride to work now, but you want to start with your new job. One concern is finding time in your schedule for the extra riding - and having the energy to shower / meal / etc. at the end of the day.
When I commuted I kept items such as shoes, belts, sweater, at work so I wouldn't need to carry them all the time. You might also want to accessorize your bike for all-weather and night time riding - fenders and lights. And then there's the concern about being stuck at work if the weather is too bad.

Jay
Hi Jay,
That's right, I've been self-employed from home/unemployed for a few years, but I've kept up the cycling anyway.

I've never had to shower on arrival in work—I don't seem to sweat much—and my wife's never said that I pong. I just take off the t-shirt, wipe down, fresh shirt on, and I'm ready. I think I will keep my work shoes in work as you suggested, that'll help.

I need to get decent lights. The ones I have from Lidl are good and bright but unreliable. They switch themselves off a lot due to vibration...or just nothing. I'll find out what "fenders" are. If the weather's dangerous, I'll just get a bus home and a bus back in in the morning.

UPDATE: Ah, Fenders = Mudguards. Yep I have proper mudguards, not the clip-on ones that get loose or fall off.

Thanks ;)
 
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Feb 17, 2020
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Don't want to sound like a broken record but..intervals. If you do extreme leg speed drills in a small gear in the saddle you will notice a bit more snap.. Example every half mile do a 5 second interval for a week. Or every 5-6 minutes do 8-10 second interval in the saddle at a leg speed above 100-110. In a gear that offers little to no resistance..just mechanically to simulate a sewing machine..trying to have a quiet upper body and a consistent cadence.
Thanks Unchained. 100-110, is that RPM or BPM?
 
Feb 17, 2020
13
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You need to commute with a totally different mindset. You're going too and from work. You're not smashing yourself for PB's. Keep it steady and don't get caught up in commute racing.

I do 50km a day commute wise. I cycle differently than when I am out on my own or with the lads.

Do you ride with a rucksack? If so, look at getting a pannier and rack, that take the burden off your body.

You'll get fitter dont worry. Commuting is a superb way of keeping a base fitness as you'll know. Sleep is a massive thing. I am up at 6:10 and in bed for 9:30 most nights. I know if I don't get a decent nights kip it causes me to feel drained for a day or so even more if I am not riding.
Hi Martin,
Thanks for this. This idea of taking it easier is really working for me. Instead of being macho, in the last 2 days I've started using much lower gears and making it easier on myself and it's paying off. Very little time difference, and I don't feel wrecked. Today I cycled to a friend's house 8 miles away, and returned 3 housr later, and for the first time I don't feel physically tired at all, just good.

I have paniers, much better than supporting a rucksack and having a sweaty back.

I will need to get to bed by 10 or 10:30 at the latest, Up at 6:30. I think 8 hours should be loads. Since I gave up caffeine a year ago I get better sleep and feel pretty good in the mornings.

I also think my gym work this year is helping. It's all core and back work—totally ignoring the legs—but seems to be making a difference to the cycling
 
Reactions: MartinGT
This is what I usually have on a typical cycling day. I do roughly 45-50km and 700m of climbing a day;

Breakfast I have in work 3 weetabix and a banana with a coffee
About 10:30 ill have an apple of similar fruit or a rice cake with some jam on
Lunch will be either a wrap or soup and a sandwich. I may treat myself midweek at the local cycle caf with a coffee and they do a nice salad with lentils or quinoa I usually have a danish too!
Then before my ride I have a banana.
Evening meal I eat are very veggie based. I don't eat a lot of meat tbh. But Love stuff with grains and the like.

Make sure you're drinking enough water too.
 
Feb 17, 2020
13
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This is what I usually have on a typical cycling day. I do roughly 45-50km and 700m of climbing a day;

Breakfast I have in work 3 weetabix and a banana with a coffee
About 10:30 ill have an apple of similar fruit or a rice cake with some jam on
Lunch will be either a wrap or soup and a sandwich. I may treat myself midweek at the local cycle caf with a coffee and they do a nice salad with lentils or quinoa I usually have a danish too!
Then before my ride I have a banana.
Evening meal I eat are very veggie based. I don't eat a lot of meat tbh. But Love stuff with grains and the like.

Make sure you're drinking enough water too.
You must be as slim as a whippet, Martin!
I switched from a breakfast of porridge, to a more fattening muesli with soya milk--but with most calorie dense sugary raisins and sultanas removed for the birds--because after a lifetime of porridge I was literally sick of porride. I think muesli's more nutritious than porridge anyway. I'm sure that's enough fuel for the cycle to work. A good mix of nutrients/food types.
I have a mid-morning snack
of proper wholemeal brown bread with cottage cheese or hummous. I need it. Otherwise I'll eat a huge lunch.
Lunch: is usually a salad wrap with salmon or egg--but lately I've returned to making healthy soup (cabbage, broccolli, caulifower, onions-all blended up, with mixed beans added and a bit of tomato puree. (Very low carb, with protein) plus a tin of herring.
Afternoon snack: digestive biscuits and maybe an apple.
Dinner: healthy vegetarian or pescatarian meal.

It's the cyle home I'm more concerned about energy-wise: Before cycling home, like you, I'd usually have a banana at least. But I don't know how long that lasts or how fast it metabolises. It'll have to sustain me for an hour. My instinct is that a chunk of wholemead bread might be good--or better. What do you think?

I'll certainly get a water bottle. In hot summer weather I think it'll be essential. Maybe with a bit of fruit juice mixed in for a quick sugar boost if I feel fatigued.
 
I personally and through shared experience of those I ride w that there are lots of @ biometric@ issues,like seat height and cleat position that are revealed when you attempt to raise your cadence. The correction makes you more comfortable on the bike and most likely will fend off injury or just ineffectiveness on the bike..
I have also personally found that equal distance commutes can do something to you mentally also.
example if you need to commute @18-25 pick a breakfast spot at that distance and double up 1 or 2 days a week,remove 1 activity from home and do it on your bike..even bring your breakfast with you and eat on your longer ride to work..or if weather and sunshine allow increase your ride home and meet for a lighter dinner at the halfway point.
I have found that doing things on the bike can break up boring.
In my height of commuting I skipped Friday. I would bring all my clean clothes for the week on Friday and drink and eat greasy food w my coworkers to establish that people w shaved legs were semi relatable. I was lucky enough to have a small space to store clothing and I used an emergency chemical wash station as a shower.
also electric tea pots work when you have to invent a shower alternatives. I used a five gallon bucket a room temp water and combined the small amount of scalding water from the teapot for a behind the dumpster wash down. I always wanted to try and get some intensity before work instead of physically and mentally limiting myself..calming my on bike efforts for fear of being a stinky sweathog all day at work.
bringing clothes, @2-3 shirts,pants socks and undies in the car to work,even in a small suitcase or hang type garmet bag worked for me. A couple of belts and a change of shoes or 2 was possible in my experience..I wore penny loafer looking shoes,,@3-4 days a week.
I suggest this because I personally hate,despise weight all over my bike and a meaty backpack set up. I to this day try and shuttle my logistics needs using a car or motorcycle so my bicycle feels more nimble.
But if that is not in your cards..the seat post mount racks allow you to carry a decent payload and easily detach the cargo and ride a less donkey like feel.
I also recommend getting picked up, trailer home approach were 1 or 2 days a week you ride somewhere other than home,have your loved one or friend pick you up w the bribe of food or drink being full or partial payment for shuttling you home after a longer mid week ride..
You may be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to put yourself together after a pretty hard pre work ride or how much benefit you get from semi trashing yourself one or two days after work..
In S.Cal things are always a little different. When I cross a traffic jammed roadway on my bicycle or motorcycle it often reaffirms why I like being on 2 wheels besides the physical health benefits..
When I commuted in NYC I was about @5-15 minutes slower than a couple of co workers who drove the @23 miles..
 
Feb 17, 2020
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I personally and through shared experience of those I ride w that there are lots of @ biometric@
(...)
When I commuted in NYC I was about @5-15 minutes slower than a couple of co workers who drove the @23 miles..
Hi 'Unchained',
Thanks for the advice.
I'm going to adjust my saddle height today, and I certainly will want to mix things up a bit. The same rides every day can be a drag week after week, year after year. So I'll look for alternative routes. As you say, why not stop for food sometimes. I've always ground on non-stop, but there's really no reason--other than time--not to stop for a rest for 5 minutes, and a little snack maybe. The lost time will probably make itself up in added energy and pace afterwards.

I don't think I'll need to carry much weight in my panier/s other than all of my healthy food for the day and a clean shirt.

You're right about relative commute times: if I pay money to sit miserably on a bus, getting no exercise, catching bugs and getting headaches from people's perfumes, it'll take up to 1.5 hours each way to get 14km across the small city of Dublin.
If I cycle, it'll be FASTER, 55--60 mins each way, at my current fitness level!
 
Feb 17, 2020
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I'm just thinking that the sugary calorific raisins and sultanas that I remove from my muesli and give to the birds in the mornings, could be saved for my cycle home in the evenings :)
 
Hi There,
Thanks for the reply.



I'm cycling 8.5 miles/14km each morning for exercise, but in the new job I'll be doing that distance twice a day. In between, I'll be on my feet a lot, giving guided tours etc. I know that usually when I get home from work—my house is uphill, and that's the worst last 2 miles of slogging—I feel wrecked, barely able to cook dinner, then I'm on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

I suspect I need to fuel myself before and during the evening ride especially.

Yes, I definitely think the cold affects my knees. When I was in my 20s I was cycle-commuting in shorts—in winter for a few months—and I remember my knees became like an 80 year old's! Getting up and down from a chair was always an "argggh" moment. It improved when I switched back to long trousers. I think it makes sense that activity with icy cold knee tissues isn't optimal—stiffens it all up.
John
In your first post you'd said that you commute to work, but I see that you've not been doing this for a couple of years, that was what was confusing me.

But does anyone have advice about what food to eat before the ride home, and what to drink during the ride to keep the energy up?
Re eating and drinking on an 8 mile ride. Honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if you really need to, I think you're probably over-thinking it. Everyone has a different level of fitness and everyone's metabolism differs, but if I was you I'd just do it and see how you go. Maybe have a flapjack and some water ready for when you arrive at home/work in case you're hungry.
 
Feb 17, 2020
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In your first post you'd said that you commute to work, but I see that you've not been doing this for a couple of years, that was what was confusing me.
Re eating and drinking on an 8 mile ride. Honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if you really need to, I think you're probably over-thinking it. Everyone has a different level of fitness and everyone's metabolism differs, but if I was you I'd just do it and see how you go. Maybe have a flapjack and some water ready for when you arrive at home/work in case you're hungry.
Hi there,
Thanks for the reply.
I'm definitely less worried about the new work commute now. I'm doing my 8.5 miles each morning, in 60-65 mins without any fatigue afterwards, despite a lot of very long steep hills. Following advice on here, I'm taking it easier--with no loss of time--and I'm using lower gears instead of punishing myself.
It just remains to be seen if I can do this twice a day around work. I'm feeling a bit more confident about that. If there is a day when I'm too wrecked to cycle home, I'll leave the bike in work and get the bus.
Boredom, and repetition, as someone mentioned, could be a negative psychological factor so I'll mix it up as much as I can. I might try listening to news and talk radio too (but not too loud).
 
Hi there,
Thanks for the reply.
I'm definitely less worried about the new work commute now. I'm doing my 8.5 miles each morning, in 60-65 mins without any fatigue afterwards, despite a lot of very long steep hills. Following advice on here, I'm taking it easier--with no loss of time--and I'm using lower gears instead of punishing myself.
It just remains to be seen if I can do this twice a day around work. I'm feeling a bit more confident about that. If there is a day when I'm too wrecked to cycle home, I'll leave the bike in work and get the bus.
Boredom, and repetition, as someone mentioned, could be a negative psychological factor so I'll mix it up as much as I can. I might try listening to news and talk radio too (but not too loud).
I would think you'll be fine. One of the biggest issues I see for people is when they treat their commute as a training session and try to get "as much as they can" out of it. They end up knackered during the day or complain they can't do anything when they get home. Work is tiring enough without wearing yourself out beforehand. Not every ride has to be a training session. A commute should be just that, getting from A to B in a state that allows you to do what you have to do. If that means taking longer, pedalling easier etc. then that's what you should do. This is on top of the increased risk you'll generally experience if treat it like a training session. I know a few people who have had accidents in rush hour traffic because they wanted to build their commute into their training plan. It's really not worth it.

It's the same length as my commute. I have a waterproof, bluetooth speaker that I clip to my rucksack and I listen to music while riding. Works better than a bell. I would highly recommend you don't listen to news or talk radio. Anything that requires concentration will reduce you concentration of the environment around you.

I also mix my route up a fair bit and it definitely helps if you can.
 
Feb 17, 2020
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Hi King.
I agree. Cycling with lower gears has been fantastic. If it feels easier, but my legs aren't flying around like crazy, that's good.

About listening to music and radio. The distraction element hadn't even occurred to me, just the 'not being able to hear vehicles' problem. I'm disinclined to listen to anything now. I can really get lost in music.
 

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