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The Time-Crunched Cyclist, Edition 2

Review: The Time-Crunched Cyclist, Edition 2

Elaine Bothe's picture

We Liked

Chris Carmichael has been coaching cyclists at the very top elite levels now for decades, has written many books on the topic and leads his own coaching outfit, Carmichael Coaching. So he does know a few things about training and racing. Carmichael's latest book, published in late 2012, "The Time-Crunched Cyclist" promises "Fit, Fast, Powerful in 6 hours a Week" right on the front cover.

Sounds too good to be true, so I wanted to find out for myself. What I really love about this book is that we are all time-crunched athletes, and there are some solid, interesting and fun workouts and a plan to improve your fitness in 6 weeks. I also love... here comes the other foot... Carmichael also disclaims that if you're looking for a long race or riding season, this isn't the plan for you. That's not to say this book is not worthwhile.

This book is very well suited to working people who want to improve their fitness and speed for a particular event like a century, short race series, or get generally faster. I love how Carmichael compares this Time-Crunched program to the classic philosophy of base training with long rides at lower heart rates, then gradually increasing efforts with intervals. Carmichael does not dispute the effectiveness of such a program, his thesis in this book is that a lot of people don't have the time to ride for long hours every week to ensure success, and this book provides a viable alternative.

I like how Carmichael covers all the relevant topics from nutrition to very specific training programs you can actually follow, to strength training and definitions of VO2 max, lactate thresholds, defining heart rate intensities nicely ("How HIgh is High Intensity?" ) and the importance of rest. He provides variations for experienced racers as well as beginners and even commuters. There are sections and training plans for mountain bikers, roadies and even cyclocross. It's a very comprehensive book.

"The Time-Crunched Cyclist" is well written, moves along nicely and balances some very technical training philosophies and science with more down-to earth explainations. I did have to re-read a few sections to make sure I understood what Carmichael was discussing, as I don't have an extensive physiology background. I do like how the book is based in reality for many people, and the testimonials and case studies are fun to read.

We Didn't Like

For the audience that will most likely pick up this book, I think "The Time-Crunched Cyclist" is still pretty technical. Someone new to a formal training process will get bogged down and lost pretty quickly. Additional reading material is going to be necessary, though not a bad thing. Anyone picking up a book will be likely to pick up another book as well. I recommend for Edition 3 a bibliography of books, articles and websites that people less familiar with the topic will find useful for more research.

There is one section about how Carmichael fine-tuned a lot of his Time-Crunched philosophy coaching Lance Armstrong as he was recovering from cancer and during his Tour comeback. Assuming that Armstrong's training performance was also likely drug enhanced during these periods, how is this training program relevant without the drug use would be interesting to read now, in hindsight.

All that is really just interesting information at this point, what doesn't sit well with me is how obviously proud Carmichael is of Armstrong's "accomplishments," as any coach would be. The result of unfortunate publish dates and production timing, most definitely, but since the book was released in the fall of 2012, after initial allegations were coming to light, I would think that even some kind of aknowledgement about the drug use may have been appropriate. Or, maybe the drug issues should have prompted a quick last-minute decision to pull Armstrong as the crowning case study example of how well the Time-Crunched principles really work.

The Final Say

Armstong or no, Carmichael's book "The Time-Crunched Cyclist" is a valid and worthwhile read for anyone learning about different training philosophies. The information is comprehensive, mostly easy to read and very thorough. If you don't have the time to train to a classic program but you have some experience with one, and you do not have expectations of long season or just want some improved fitness and speed, the Time-Crunched program is worth trying.

If you're on a classic training program, the workouts offer variety to what you may already be doing. I found some great ways to mix up my interval workouts and learned a lot about a program I wasn't familiar with. I know athletes training to other Carmichael books, so it's always helpful learning the lingo so I know what they are talking about.

If you're a beginner, you may need some additional reading first. If you're a student of sport training and particularly cycling, you'll probably still learn some new stuff. It's a good read regardless.

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