Whether you ride on the trails, on country roads, or ride to and from the office each day, winter cycling can take its toll. But if you keep on riding through the winter, the increased exposure to sunlight (yes, even on grey days) will also boost your vitamin D levels and give you the natural high you are looking for. Plus, your body burns more fat if you exercise in a cold climate, so get out there and enjoy the ride!
If you’ve been finding it hard to resist the call of the sofa on those cold winter days, read on for the second part of our series, with our top tips for cold-weather cycle training and riding.
Winter Riding Tip #3 – Set realistic goals
To get the most out of winter riding and stay motivated on those cold, bleak days, you need a plan. Now is the perfect time to think about your goals for the year ahead. Time to sign up to your first sportive or triathlon? Ride the London to Paris? Race Enduro? or Cyclocross? Start time trialling (or do a sub-24 minute 10-mile TT)? Prepare for a long-distance tour? It’s good to be ambitious and set yourself challenging targets – but be realistic about what is within your capability, and about the time you have available to train.
Trying to fit in heavy midweek training sessions when you’re already overloaded with work and family commitments will just exhaust you and make you ill. Work out how much time you really have, and then plan how best to use it. Think about what your total ‘training budget’ would be, and then work out how you can spend it most efficiently.
Don’t peak too early
If you’re training for a specific race, make sure your plan builds up as the race approaches. Most people tend to have a taper period, usually seven to 14 days preceding competition, with the hardest part of training peaking 14-20 days out. Work out what is the maximum number of hours you can dedicate to training during those peak training weeks (could you take a day off work, for example?) Then work back from your peak training week, reducing the time you train each week by one hour. If it seems like you’re not training for long enough in the first few weeks, then up the intensity of your training, rather than increasing the time on the bike. Follow this plan and you’ll peak just when you need to.
Start off by setting yourself some achievable goals, and you’ll feel great when you hit them – and motivated to get out on your next ride, even when the weather’s cold! If you’re addicted to Strava , training apps and the like, then take note of your base fitness level now – as you see the numbers improve, this will also help you stick to your training plan.
Multi-task your training
A final tip: try to build training into your weekly routine. Could you commute (or part commute?) into work – or take your bike out at lunchtime for a quick spin? How about cycling over to your friends’ house at the weekend? Or going for a ride with the kids?
Winter Riding Tip #4 – Keep moving
Once you’re out on the bike, try to keep riding without stopping for extended periods. If you’ve ridden in very cold temperatures (and you’re not blessed with the best circulation), you’ll know that it can take 15-20 minutes for your extremities to get warmed up, even with the best thermal gloves and overshoes. So once you’ve built up the heat, don’t lose it! Taking extended breaks (that’s anything more than a couple of minutes) while out in the cold, especially when you’ve been exercising and building up a sweat, can make your core body temperature drop very quickly, and it can take a long time to get that back. Your muscles perform better when they’re warm, too, so don’t let them stiffen up by delaying too long at the top of that climb!
Winter Riding Tip #5 – Vary your training
Confused about whether to stick to long, slow rides through the winter, or keep doing high-intensity interval and threshold training? You’re not the only one, and you’ll find plenty of advice out there recommending one or the other approach. In truth, a balance is best – it’s the way the pros train, and it’s also the best way to get the most out of the time slots you have available for training - or as the Americans say, “more bang for your buck”. Plus, it’s a good excuse to try something a bit different – so if you’re a tarmac addict through the summer, why not use that one-hour training slot in the winter to dig out (or hire) a mountain bike and pound the local trails? Or get up close and personal with the winter mud and get into cyclocross? Off-road riding is more intense than road cycling, so an hour’s riding on the trails is equivalent to two on the road.
And if the weather really is too bad to get outdoors, you can always resort to turbo trainer sessions, or some indoor strength training.
Strength in numbers
Finally, joining a regular organised ride or club is a great way to keep yourself motivated through the winter, and learn more training tips from experienced cyclists.
Enjoy the ride!
Got a question?
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