Winter. It seems like the perfect excuse to ignore the bikes for a few months and go into hibernation. After all, you deserve it after all the long months of hard riding and intense training. It’s time to switch over to interval training between the couch and frig, right? Wrong! Unless you want to start your spring well behind your cycling comrades and spend the first few months in agony as you try to regain your former performance level you should consider at least a maintenance program. Winter can be a time for rest for cyclist, but not total hibernation. Here are some ways to maintain your cycling fitness and even make some improvements throughout the dark and cold of winter.
The first step in having a successful winter training program is formulating a plan. Just like your spring and summer training program it really helps to sit down and set some goals with specific steps laid out to achieve those goals. Writing them down is also important. This makes them ‘real’ and will serve to remind you of your plan. Take this written program and paste it somewhere you will see it everyday. This serves to motivate and remind you.
There are all kinds of ways to continue your cycling fitness into the colder and shorter months of the year. The indoor trainer is a ‘good old’ standby for those rainy, miserable days. There are lots of trainers on the market and just about any of them will do the job. Some are fancier than others, but they all essentially perform the same function. The main differences in quality are that the more expensive models are quieter, smoother, offer a wider range of resistances, and may have adjustable resistance devices that allow you to change the intensity of the workout without getting off of the bicycle. The most difficult part of exercise on an indoor trainer is the boredom. I’ve found that watching TV or listening to an MP3 player can help, but it’s still painful. Another option is to watch cycling videos. This way you can ‘mimic’ the actions of the riders on the video. In other words, if they are cruising then you cruise, it the are out of the saddle climbing, then you climb, it they are sprinting to a waypoint or finish, then you sprint. It really helps to mix up the workout and keeps it interesting.
Spin classes are also a great way to turn the cranks during the winter. I know that a lot of upper level riders feel that ‘spinning’ is simply below them, however, I think they are missing some of the benefits of this type of training. Spinning is great for peer motivation. After all, you’re in a room with a bunch of other riders and no matter how hard you try, its impossible not to be a little competitive. This helps you push yourself harder than if you’re at home on your trainer. You can also talk your summer riding buddies into going with you. Now the competition really picks up. They are also scheduled classes, which helps to add some structure to your winter training program.
Strength training is not something that we all want to do in the summer when its nice outside; and we shouldn’t. Winter however, is the perfect time to spend some time ‘pumping iron’. Strength training is often times overlooked by cyclists because it associated with the steroid infused human mutants of the weight room. Again, it is time to set aside judgments and do some leg presses and hamstring and quadriceps training. By taking advantage of the winter weather and spending some of these days under the weight bar, you will find that the gear you push next season is one notch up from last year.
Cross training can also be a part of winter. Let’s face it, there are a lot of other sports out there besides cycling (don’t hate me for saying it). Good cross-training sports to consider are running, cross country skiing, alpine skiing, and swimming. Do your best to stay injury free, but go out and expand yourself into some new areas.
So with all of that said, put down the remote control and make out your off-season training schedule today. It’ll make for a better winter and an even better spring of cycling.