How To Build A Cycling Habit (Even When You Have A Full-time Job)

Which is an aspirational title for a blog post, if ever there was one.

And I should probably be clear. This post will not contain the solution to all your time vs cycling vs motivation challenges (well, it might but I can’t guarantee it…).

Essentially, as I’ve done before, I’m committing publicly on this blog to (re)build a cycling habit, with a view to kickstarting my cycling fitness for 2016.

Last time, I successfully completed a (self-imposed) challenge to ride my bike every day for 30 days. This time, things are going to be bigger and better.

I’m going to ride every day for…. (wait for it) 35 days!

(Which is…. *wrangles calculator* …16.66% (recurring) more challenge).

Go Hard Or Go Home

In facticles, this time things are going to be harder, even without the 16.66% (recurring) more challenge.

It’s January (last time it was June). I now have a full-time job with an hour-long commute (last time I was footloose and fancy free). This time my pain cave is a slightly damp garage (versus a sunny conservatory at our rented gaff).

This will be a much truer test of whether someone with low-to-middling cyclo-motivation (right now), a young family, work commitments and a few stored Christmas calories can implement a (sort of) cycling fitness plan, and get back on the (broom)wagon.

As before, my objective is simple. All I have to do each day is get on a bike and ride for 15 minutes.

Any bike ride, be it outside or inside on the turbo, that lasts for a minimum of 15 minutes constitutes a success.

Why A Cycling Habit?

Extreme selfage
Extreme selfage

I admit, it’s a bit of a strange expression (and has nothing to do with nuns).

However, as long-time readers may recall, I am persuaded by the habit-science (my term) summarised in the book ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change‘ by Charles Duhigg (affiliate link), and specifically the practical use of so-called ‘keystone habits’.

Keystone habits are small, seemingly insignificant repeated behaviours which, over time, can build into much larger lifestyle changes.

To put it in Sportive Cyclist terms, my 35 days of (at least) 15 minutes of cycling on an indoor trainer are going to translate into epic sportive success later in the year.

(Or, come 1st February 2016, I’ll at least be somewhat better off, cycling fitness wise, than had I sat on my aris for 35 days straight).

What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

Those aforementioned long-time readers may also remember from my four-part series on how to lose weight get lean for performance (the first of the four parts being available here) the importance of weighing yourself regularly if you’re looking to reduce those winter fat stores.

Whilst there are many varied dietary strategies employed by successful weight losers (i.e those that get lean and subsequently stay lean), one of the most frequently-exhibited behaviours amongst the get-lean brigade is the undertaking of frequent weigh-ins.

We humans frequently fool ourselves. It’s very easy to ‘forget’ that that sneaky biscuit ever happened (it was small, it was consumed so quickly, no one saw me…). I went for a big bike ride today, I’ve definitely burnt off sufficient energy to warrant a Chinese takeaway. A handful (or ten) of salted peanuts each time I walk past the Christmas sideboard nibbles station…

The scales don’t lie. (Which will be the name of my first music single.)

So, in Sportive Cyclist terms again, this means that whilst later today I am planning to consume Beef Wellington with lashings and lashings of red wine, tomorrow I will weigh myself and determine that I shouldn’t be eating quite as much pastry-wrapped cow in the future.

I digress.

Aria In F Major

The view from the cockpit
The view from the cockpit

A quick squiz at my Fitbit account (which automatically updates with my weight and body fat percentage each time I use my funky Fitbit Aria Wifi scale) tells me that I currently tip the balance at 67.2kg / 14.6% fat.

To be honest I was expecting worse than this. I consider Wednesday 10 June 2015 to be my ‘fittest day ever’. It was the day before I started back at work. It marked the end of a long block of reasonable quality cycling training (for me). I won the dad’s race at my son’s school sports day (not on a bike).

According to Fitbit, my vitals on that day were 65.1kg weight and 14.4% body fat.

It’s safe to say that my fitness has not stayed so relatively stable.

I’ll attempt to weigh in every day, in a bid to stay conscious of my weight, and thus what I eat, but I won’t be deliberately attempting to make specific changes to my diet. There’s only so many new habits you can lock in at any one time.

What’s The End Goal?

I’m not too focused on an end goal as such. The goal is to complete the challenge.

Assuming things stay on track, I’ll think about the next stage of my 2016 cycling journey as we get closer to February.

That said, we do have another summer training camp family holiday booked for Majorca in August, where I shall be reacquainting myself with the Sky-famous Sa Calobra climb. I’d quite like to have sufficient fitness to ride up that without suffering a Connery.

The All Improved Pain Cave

The all-improved Pain Cave. Complete with chop saw.
The all-improved Pain Cave. Complete with chop saw.

So where will this cycling challenge (mainly) take place? In my new, ‘all-improved’ pain cave.

I fantasise that one day I will have my own climate-controlled cycling studio with all the toys.

The sound system will blare out. The resistance on my indoor trainer will be controlled automatically by my iPad, mimicking the climbs of the Tour de France. I will spend hour upon winter hour in the zone.

For now, however, I will be in my (slightly decrepit) garage. The only climate that is controlling conditions in there is the same one that deposits rain and wind upon the good people of Derbyshire.

Why Not Join Me?

You could, you know.

Decide what you’re going to do.

Decide how you’re going to keep track of your sessions (you could join me on Strava).

Build that habit.


Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

8 thoughts on “How To Build A Cycling Habit (Even When You Have A Full-time Job)”

  1. Just 15 minutes ! That’s not even a warm up. Man up and do 35 minutes (bet you watch tv or surf the net for longer than that ).

    Get organised and you could surf net and watch tv from the pain cave while riding! Making double use of your time.

    Failing that you could cycle part do your commute (I know the weather is rubbish !)

    • Hi Ron(insteel) – I’m afraid I’m going to disagree forcefully. For what I’m hoping to achieve (re-establishing the habit of getting back on the bike), 15 mins is absolutely the right number. The key here is to dial in the habit of getting on the Lycra, filling the water bottle and going out into the garage, even if it’s cold, dark and I’m tired. As it happens, each time I’ve gone I’ve, so far, spent around 30 mins on the bike (once you’re there, it’s easy to add on a bit longer), but the key is to make the objective that allows you to continue the run of days ridden (a run which I now don’t want to break) almost too easy.

  2. Go, Monty! 15 minutes may be a good target, in that it’s kind of hard to pretend you can’t even find 15 minutes to ride. Start small and build on it; that’s what all the behavioral experts say. And I see from Strava that you’ve been riding more like 30 minutes each time, so possibly after 15 minutes you don’t feel like stopping. Ride on!

    • Ex-ackerley. Thanks James. You’re habit of course appears to be daily rides with 2000m of climbing in each one…

  3. Nice read. I’m pretty much in your exact situation albeit minus the pain cave (my previous pain shed is stuffed to the rafters with possessions following a summer of house renovations) so I can’t even get to the turbo let alone use it. I’m definitely wanting to up my cycling intake and have already done a couple of decent rides this year and amazingly I’ve managed to get back in the saddle and ride 30 miles without any issue. Maybe my 2.5 miles walking a day has baselined my fitness over the winter. Have read an article recently that says having body fat is actually beneficial to being healthy. I’m going with that philosophy. Your 15 mins a day sounds like a good challenge. Maybe if I spend 15 mins a day tidying the shed I might be able to use it by June…


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