Winter cycling training tips
Winter in the UK can be anything from mild and wet, to freezing and snow. It is changeable and you are never guaranteed the same conditions each year.
Winter is regarded as the off season. It is when you can take a few weeks off and allow your body to recuperate from the previous season, and regain motivation to do it all again next year.
Set a goal
This is a great time for setting goals.Your goals are personal to you, they could be a distance goal i.e. to go a certain distance, a time/distance goal i.e. to complete a certain distance in a certain time; an event; or to lose weight, gain fitness. Whatever your goal make sure it is realistic and attainable. This is what will keep you going when the training gets tough, and the cold/wet weather sets in.
Take a break
Be sure to take time off, otherwise further down the line you may become stale and lose your motivation due to mental or physical fatigue. When you do take time off be sure to cut back on your food portions at meal times.
After a few weeks off, you can then steadily get back into the routine of training. Be careful though, as some people take a few weeks off then before they know it, it’s been 3 months since they were on their bike. Start easy and build up steadily. Don’t do too much too soon. Listen to your body, and allow enough time for recovery.
It is the time to ease back on intensity, and instead concentrate on building a base. Think of your base as a foundation, this is what will help you to absorb and gain benefit from all your future higher intensity sessions. It improves your cardiovascular systems and helps you become a more efficient rider. In the past it was thought the best way to build a base was, get out on the bike and ride lots of miles. This resulted in a lot of ‘junk miles’. ‘Junk miles’ refers to miles added into your training plan with no purpose other than to increase your mileage count.
As we all lead busy lives these days, thankfully, a lot of research has now been carried out and riding endless miles at a low intensity doesn’t have to be the answer. It has been found that doing shorter sessions with a medium hard effort can be just as effective, if not more so. These sessions can de done outside on the road, or indoors on a Turbo trainer.
Another aspect to consider is strength training. If you have the time, a short session of 30 mins, 2 or 3 times a week, can pay dividends. This can be in the gym or at home. A good strong core can help prevent injury and will help eliminate unnecessary upper-body movement. You don’t need specialist equipment; you can start off using your own bodyweight and do exercises such as press ups, squats and crunches etc. Just like your cycle training, be sure to stretch afterwards.
If you find your training getting a little monotonous maybe consider going to a Spin class once a week/fortnight. These can be great to keep you motivated, as you will be training with others. They can be as hard or as easy as you make them. However, remember not to get carried away with the intensity, it’s winter so you don’t really want to be doing max efforts until you have built your base.
Out and about
If venturing out, be sure to wear the appropriate clothing for the conditions, and carry some food. Even though it may be cold your body will still sweat, so make sure you drink enough fluids, despite maybe not feeling like doing so.
It’s a good idea to have mudguards on your bike over the winter. This will stop your back from getting wet which would be the ride less enjoyable and may lead to you getting a chill. It’s always a good idea to have mudguards when riding in a group, as this would prevent the rider behind from getting spray off your back wheel.
Make sure your tyres are durable. You can buy tyres specific for winter.
These will be heavier than racing tyres, as they will have a puncture resistant band built-in and the rubber compound used will be more durable. Racing specific tyres are lightweight as they tend not to have the puncture resistant band. If you ride race specific tyres in the winter you will find you puncture quite a lot as there tends to be a lot of debris on the roads over the winter. After every wet ride, give your bike a wipe down and lubricate any moving parts, as winter can be very harsh on a bike with salt on the roads.
Above all, whatever training you do – enjoy it.