Training & Nutrition

Achieve the work-life – bike-riding balance

Heavy workload, busy job, going out with friends, spending time with your partner, washing, paperwork, children – there are many important things that take up our time and energy, and it can be hard to fit in some quality bike-time around them. Rachel Sokal reckons it’s possible, and shares her experience and some advice on the matter.

Escape! Image copyright Ant Jordan

“I love riding my bike.  I really do. But if I’m honest sometimes even the thought of it is too much.

I think it’s because it’s a time-consuming venture and it’s not always easy to just hop on the bike and go. There’s all the associated cleaning of self and bike afterwards and it seems a good proportion of the time there’s something to fix before you can even get started. By the time you factor in all the other things you need to do in life and all people you need to see, there often doesn’t seem time to get out and ride.

So, how do you go from this to having the time to put in enough time to train for an event, a challenge or to improve your fitness?

It’s hard. But it is possible.

In my experience you need a little organisation, some focus and a lot of determination.  I’m not really an expert on this aside from the fact that I’ve done it – and hindsight tells me I haven’t always got it right.  But I do know it is achievable. As I’m not the only one who’s managed it, I’m pretty sure that it’s do-able for all. Here’s a bit of what’s helped me fit it all in:

Set yourself a challenge…

…that you believe in and want to achieve.

The more concrete the better.  For me it was to complete a 24hr solo mountain bike race but it doesn’t need to be a race, it can be anything that you want to achieve – to ride to work three times a week, to learn to wheelie, to go on a cycling tour.

Tell other people about it, set a date for it, have a plan of how you are going to achieve it and believe it – you’re going to need to because training for it won’t always be easy.

Buddy up

It might be that you are lucky enough to have people locally you can get out and train with. Arranging a ride just once a week can be enough to keep you motivated, and clubs or classes at gyms are great too. But it doesn’t need to be in person; there are on-line communities where you can find other people training towards similar things.

When I trained for my first 24hr event I had a friend who was doing similar training. This was brilliant, except he lived 200 miles away so we never actually rode together although we still managed to offer each other lots of moral support.

Late in an evening, after a long day but with a training session still to do, I’d often text him with some moan or another. I’d like to say that he would offer me something supportive but most of his messages read “Man up princess and get on with it” – that always made me smile at least.

Be organised

Riding your bike and doing structured training for a goal is time consuming and does affect your ability to do other things in life so look how you can build your riding into your other responsibilities. For example, if you can ride to work this is a perfect opportunity to take a detour and do your training before you get home.

Even if you can’t do this, a bit of forward planning always comes in handy. I often do a session first thing in the morning which saves me at least one shower a day (!) and my Sunday evenings tend to be spent cooking up a vat of something to eat in the week when I come in late, tired and hungry – there aren’t many problems in life that Tupperware can’t fix.


It might seem ridiculous to say enjoy riding your bike but training for something can be really tough – quite frankly if it wasn’t tough it wouldn’t be a challenge – so remember to enjoy doing it.

It’ll be worth it in the end. Tired, but happy having completed the TransAlp 2013. Image copyright Sportgraf photography

Enjoy it when you ride with your friends, enjoy the satisfaction of getting through a challenging training session, enjoy those post-exercise endorphins. Keep a log of what you’ve done; it can be really motivating and it’s very easy to ignore what you’ve achieved and how you’ve progressed.


One of the things I love about riding is escaping on my bike – escaping physically and getting into the great outdoors and escaping mentally and getting away from work, people, lists and jobs.

When I trained for my first 24hr solo mountain bike race I was working full-time, doing a part-time PhD, splitting up with my long-term partner and moving house all alongside some unplanned family responsibilities (personally I think I had it easy, I don’t have kids).

Although on the surface of it as my life got more complicated it seemed crazy to keep training (when I first decided to do a 24hr race I only had a job to worry about!), but the more that got piled on, the more important my training and my goal became to me – it was something that I was doing for me and no-one else. Over time I have come to realise that the more busy and stressful my life becomes, despite its foibles, riding my bike and achieving a goal offers me something I can’t get elsewhere and so is well worth the time it takes.

But it’s still all easier said than done. As I’ve spent the day writing this article ironically my training session that I had planned has started to sit more and more heavily upon my shoulders. I’ve just proof read this all again and although I believe what I’m saying none of it is sending me skipping downstairs and out the front door onto my bike. I will go though.

Told you it wasn’t easy. But it’ll be worth it in the end!

Rachel Sokal is the 2012 UK and European 24 hour solo MTB champion. Follow her blog or catch her updates on Twitter.


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