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Aspiring pro cyclist Verita Stewart balances a full-time job with a full-time race calendar, putting in the bulk of her training before the start of the work day. Add in daily life upkeep (paying bills, grocery shopping, doing laundry), family obligations and the occasion social activity, and it’s no surprise that her sleep often suffers.
In an effort to maximise her time spent in dreamland, Verita has developed some impressive habits that allow her to get out the door for her training ride 15 minutes following her early morning alarm. She writes about them in her second Ella column.
Like many in the female peloton, I work full time. I think I successfully juggle life, which for me consists of a 38-hour working week to pay the bills, alongside social activities, partner time, quiet time plus training and a full race calendar.
One thing I quickly learned about cycling is the more you ride your bike, the earlier you need to get up, and the more you come to value the sleep you get (or don’t).
I need my sleep. It is the only way I can successfully cram in work, then life, as well as training and racing. The less sleep I have, the grumpier and more unproductive I am. A good night’s sleep is crucial in so many ways. It’s a tricky balance. I need sleep yet need to get up at the crack of dawn to fit everything in my day.
To give myself the best chance of maintaining that balance, I’ve developed an evening and morning routine that allows me to prioritise my sleep.
Monday through Friday, my days begin like this:
My alarm goes off at 5:15am. (I try not to press snooze.) I leap out of bed, putting my kit on with one eye open and hope that my socks aren’t inside out. By 5:30am on the nose, I’m out the door and training begins.
The early start allows me to get my training in before riding straight to work where I get showered, fed, with coffee in hand at 8:30am, ready for the day.
My day ends at 6:00pm when I finish work. I commute the 50 minutes home by bike. Once home I cook dinner whilst browsing Instagram, and hope that I’m in bed before I turn into a pumpkin at 10:30pm.
Add in social activities such as family dinner or catching up with friends, and sometimes I don’t feel like I have time to scratch my head!
To maximise the time I spend sleeping, I am slowly mastering the art of getting ready in 15 minutes. I’ve learnt that it is all about the prep you do the night before. It has taken me a few years to get this right. The more organised you are at night, the less time you will spend faffing about in the morning, wasting valuable time you could be sleeping. Those extra ten minutes add up to nearly an hour over the course of the week – which is very, very, valuable in the long run!
Here are my tips that will allow you to get that all important extra few minutes of zzzzz before your alarm abruptly blasts you into consciousness:
1. Charge your lights. Then put them on your bike the night before. There is nothing more dangerous than riding in the early hours (or in bad weather) without working lights.
2. Pump your tyres. Pumping tyres takes a few minutes, so do it the night before. Also, make sure that your bike is clean and ready to roll out the door in the morning. Doing this now is also a good opportunity to check your bike over for any slow leaks or mechanical issues you may have. It is very annoying to go to leave in the morning to discover that your Di2 battery has run out or you have a flat tyre.
3. Fill those bidons. Then put them on your bike. This will save precious seconds while you stand at the sink watching them fill.
4. Check the forecast and temperature for the morning. This will help you plan your kit. You don’t want to be caught out to find it is going to rain at 6:30am and you don’t have a clean jacket. Also if it is going to rain in the morning it will give you time to plan an indoor session instead. Obviously this information is not always accurate, so be prepared for everything (especially in Melbourne)!
5. Pick your kit. Choose the kit you will wear in the morning and lay it out ready to go. Spend the time now to decide rather than doing a million kit changes and avoid standing at the mirror wasting sleep time. I’m lucky because I only wear a team kit everyday, so I don’t need to choose. The biggest decision is what colour socks I will wear (black or white? Just so you know, always white, unless it’s raining).
6. Stuff your jersey pockets. Put any food, money, keys, jacket etc. in your jersey pockets now. This is a huge time-saver.
7. Put your helmet, sunnies and shoes next to your bike. Have them all within reaching distance; this will aid the transition to the door. Imagine the transition zone at a triathlon (minus the ankle socks). You want to see an image of order, preparation and a little OCD forming.
8. Plan your breakfast. What will you eat in the morning? To save time, I generally smash a banana or muesli bar to get me through until I can have a proper breakfast at work at 8:30am. If you require a more time-intensive meal, you need to plan this into your time required in the morning. Allow time for digestion if necessary. No-one wants you ruining their clean shoes after hill repeats.
9. Set your alarm. This is the most important step in the process. Make sure you leave enough time to get your kit on and eat your food. Remember to include any travel time you may need. If the bunch ride leaves at 5:45am, that’s when it leaves. Don’t be late.
10. Practice makes perfect. It may take you a few goes to master the flying transition. Practice it so that you aren’t the person that is always late or you miss the bunch. I suggest that if you are prone to dawdling or changing kits multiple times, get up 10 minutes earlier. Imagine the pits at a cyclocross race, you want to grab your bike and have a transition out the door that is just as smooth.
As my training load increases, the value I place on sleep does too. Those few extra minutes I spend in the evening mean that I get a valuable few extra minutes sleep in the morning.
It’s not all love hearts and roses. Sometimes there is not enough time in the day. If I miss my alarm, it means I miss training. Sometimes I borrow from Paul to pay Peter in terms of the sacrifices I have to make in training and life. I’m lucky that I don’t have to factor in kids, pets (yet!) or the queue at the post office into my routine. I know I don’t have it that bad compared to some, but one thing I know is, regardless of what you’re juggling, those extra few minutes sleep count for a lot.
What does your juggling act look like? And what sort of routines have you developed to keep those balls in the air?
About the author
The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.
She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.