Here’s How to Pack Your Lunch With Power

How do I find more time to ride? If you’re a cyclist, you’ve asked yourself this question numerous times. We all struggle with squeezing enough riding time into an already packed schedule. Jobs, families, and other interests make 24 hours shrink faster than cheap cycling socks.

You could commute to work on your bike, but you’ve never been able to get past the classic excuses – time, convenience, safety. There is another option. Join the lunch bunch.

Noon rides free your evenings for other activities and invigorate you for the afternoon droop that hits most people between 1 and 5 p.m. But is it really possible to fit a worthwhile workout into 60 minutes, desk to desk? Masters racer Dave George of Grand Junction, Colorado, says it is.

George squeezes a training ride into his lunch hour with 4-8 of his Rust Geotech, Inc., colleagues every day. “During the season, it’s plenty of quality work,” he says. “And in the winter, it’s enough maintenance so I can start riding more in February and be going well in a month. The ride makes our afternoons much more productive, and it’s a great stress reliever. It really changes your outlook.”

Follow along with George and we promise to get you on the bike and back at the desk in one hour. Clock’s ticking…

12:00-12:07 Change

Grab your duffel and head for the changing room. If your workplace doesn’t have locker rooms and showers, try the restroom. Other possibilities are a private office, a janitor’s closet, or a storeroom. Can’t find a lockable door? Post a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Save time by packing your riding clothes so the items on top are what you put on first; for example, shorts, undershirt, jersey is a good order. Some riders wear cycling shorts under their regular pants so they can change quickly and without baring everything (a ploy perfected by Superman). Hang your work clothes or fold them neatly to save time when you put them back on. Head for your bike – walkable cleats make the journey easier. If the bike storage area is secure, you should have left your gloves, helmet, eyewear, and jacket (if necessary) hanging from the bars. Put them on and head out.

12:07-12:15 Warm up

Spin easily, increasing gearing and cadence every minute until you’re cranking pretty hard. As you’re doing this, you should decide what route you’ll ride and be pedaling toward it. Ideal cycling roads might not unroll directly from your office door, but you don’t need scenic splendor to stay fit. George chooses from 4 main loops his group can cover in predictable times. (Out-and-backs seem to work best for time management.) If the weather is bad, they stay close and do hill repeats. Another option is a training criterium on a 1-2 mile loop on quiet suburban streets or in an industrial park or office complex. Ease off for a minute before the workout begins.

12:15-12:50 Train

Crank away. The Geotech crew goes hard every day. “The rides are so short that we recover,” George says. But listen to your body. Five days of intervals or sprints might drain your energy and enthusiasm for weekend riding. (Afternoons at work won’t be much fun either.) If you need easy days, spin and enjoy shorter mileage. Here are 6 workouts that cram a lot of training into 35 minutes:

  1. Do 15 minutes at time trial pace, 5 minutes easy, another 15 minutes of time trialing.
  2. Ride 4 sets of 5 minutes each at time trial pace with 3-4 minutes recovery between.
  3. Do hill repeats. Ride hard up a 1/2-mile hill, then roll down easily. Repeat.
  4. Jam into an all-out sprint every 5 minutes. Roll easily in between.
  5. Do ladders. Go hard for 1 minute, then 2 minutes, then 3, 4, 5, and 6. Separate each effort with 2-3 minutes of easy spinning.
  6. Team time trial. Trade pulls at the front of a paceline (set a limit such as 1-2 minutes or 30 pedal strokes) and go as hard as you can. This works better with a closely matched group.

12:50-12:53 Warm down

Three minutes isn’t much time to cool off after a hard effort, so time your last training effort to end with a 2- to 3-minute recovery. The combination is good enough to loosen your legs.

12:53-12:59 Clean up

Stash your bike, head for the changing room, and strip. Save time by stuffing your cycling garb in the bag instead of carefully packing. If you have a shower, jump in and rinse off. Ten-minute steam-soaks are nice, but the mission here is to get presentable for possible afternoon meetings. Company doesn’t have a shower’? Use rubbing alcohol and a washcloth to sponge off. The alcohol removes odors and cools you enough to stop perspiration. In cool weather it’s possible to skip the cleanup entirely.

1:00 Get Back to Work

George eats at his desk and sipsĀ sportsĀ drinks to rehydrate and replenish carbo stores. Or you can snack at your afternoon break.


Trying to fit a quality ride into the short time you once used to chomp down a burger and fries can be intimidating. Here’s how to start.

  1. Sell supervisors on the idea. Remind them that increased fitness reduces absenteeism and increases productivity. “Our lunch hour is only 30 minutes,” says George, “but we have a policy that we can take an hour for exercise if we make it up.”
  2. Try it for just one day a week. This will let you practice and get the bugs out without losing big chunks of time over the course of a week. Once perfected, shoot for 2-3 times a week. Coupled with longer weekend rides, you’ll get plenty fit for fast cycling.
  3. Practice clothing transitions. This is where major time can be wasted. Think of your lunch hour as a triathlon with a bike ride in the middle and a clothes transition at either end. Practice. And think about your ‘do. Short hair (for men and women) can be quickly toweled dry and combed. Primping elaborate coifs can lessen your valuable workout time by 10 minutes or more.
  4. Refuel. Lunch workouts can deplete your energy stores and leave you drained for afternoon work and evening activities. To stay alert (and employed):

Eat a good breakfast. Noon rides are fueled by the food you ate at breakfast. Try oatmeal, skim milk and a banana, along with a bagel or whole wheat toast.

Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle at your desk and sip all day.

Plan a 2-part lunch. At your morning break munch an energy bar, bagel, or jam sandwich on whole wheat bread. Fruit is good, too. Try apples, bananas, or melon. In the afternoon, chase the workout with a carbo replacement drink and a turkey sandwich on whole wheat.

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