It’s that time of year again. The leaves are covering the roads, there’s a chill in the air, the club WhatsApp is gaining more and more traction (or annoyance) for groups getting together on the weekend. Winter training has started, we’re about to set the foundations for what will come next year.
Frankly a lot of the time blog posts and coaches promise “x amount of improvement this winter” or “turn yourself into a new rider via this new training method” when realistically a lot of it is the same old stuff in disguise or perhaps some of it has no real foundation of evidence other than it worked for me.
This post isn’t about telling you how to train this winter, why, because everyone is different. We all need different things at different times of the year. So here we’re going to try and convey 5 ways to make your winter training enjoyable, productive and sustainable this year.
1. Make sure you took a break
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you must stay on top of your game year-round. If the 2-3 weeks after your last competition were filled with volume and intensity, then you’re not ready to get back into structured training and you should take a break. We’re not saying become a couch potato – enjoy some cross training, spend time with your family, ditch the bike computer and ride on feel, address any on-going health issues that were niggling you all season, the list goes on and on. The aim of the break is to make sure you’re in the best shape mentally and physically to start back training.
2. Don’t be afraid to switch up disciplines
Have you been thinking that your bike handling isn’t up to scratch, are you slightly sick of riding the same roads over and over – if yes then switch it up! Go to a trail center and rent a mountain bike, ride some cyclocross, explore backroads, ride fire roads and I guarantee you you’ll finish with a smile on your face. We always recommend some form of off-road riding – it’s great for bike handling, builds excellent pedalling technique on technical climbs and most importantly is great fun.
3. Don’t be afraid of the gym
No, it won’t make you “bulky”. Quite often as cyclists we’re excellent in one plane of motion at one speed. Winter is the time to buck that trend. Gym work or strength and conditioning is key for developing bone health, preventing injuries and has also been linked to improvements in certain performance metrics on the bike. Start with simple movements, don’t be afraid to get help from a professional and progress from there. Don’t conform to the idea that weights need to be light and a lot of reps need to be conducted when in fact you’re building this level of muscular endurance on the bike. For sure there’s a place for it just as there is a place for lifting heavier weights for lower reps. We won’t get into the nitty gritty here of how to programme it but know that almost anything you do in the gym from the perspective of a beginner will most certainly be of benefit to your bike performance and general health.
4. Have a plan and be organised
Have a plan, it doesn’t have to be detailed to every day if you don’t want but ensure you have over arching principles for each week, month or training cycle you’re doing. Our plans come from reflection of the past year along with goals for the coming one (bonus tip set goals). If you thought to yourself during the year that your sprint was really lacking, then now is the time to work on it. Build workouts that specifically target what area of sprinting your weak in e.g. peak power, sustained sprinting, the speed component or any host of things. Being organised can refer to getting on top of equipment issues or even setting up a specific area at home where your turbo lives for a few months, putting these things in place means that when the time comes to train you minimize the effort it takes making it easy to jump up on the bike when you’re not really feeling it.
5. Ride with groups
Finally, ride with a group. Join a club if you’re not in one already. Having a weekly or even monthly group spin where you get out and brave the elements together, get pushed on by stronger riders and generally have a laugh is one of our personal favourites about winter training. Meeting up with your mates and seeing everyone get progressively fitter week to week is so rewarding. Riding with a group will also expose you to a whole host of new routes, etiquette, bike handling skills and general knowledge that will prove so beneficial for the coming year!