5 Tips to Keep Riding During WinterBy: By Peter Glassford, November 2, 2016
Planning your training with a purpose is the first step to having a successful season. Too often, riders will follow a plan that doesn’t take their northern location into consideration. While it is possible to do 20- to 30-hour weeks indoors, this is unnecessary and too often ends with burnout, overuse injury and, at best, a very narrow training stimulus.
What I prefer to see is athletes following a tailor-made plan that works on their weaknesses, and also makes the most of their current environments. This lets us create a better “real-life” plan. Many of the athletes I meet have enough endurance, but struggle with injury, motivation, skills/coordination and force application issues that can be addressed well during winter training.
As your final races wind up, start increasing cross-training like running and strength. Most cyclists will need to start very easy with both: Three sessions of 10–20 minutes for running and core are plenty to start. A very slow build will have you ready to add more cross-training load once your cycling is restricted by weather.
Outside of preparing your body, start looking for routes, roads, trails and small circuits you can use to gain shelter from the winter when you’re able to do some outdoor riding. It is possible to add hours of riding in urban subdivisions, sandy town trails and on gravel rail trails where the wind is blocked and spray is reduced.
You’ll also need to gear up properly for winter weather. Good riding clothes and accessories (think: fenders, booties, coats, jackets, hats) are very important to successful outdoor riding. Try using gear you already have. Much of your cycling gear will work for skiing and running too. Even some normal winter clothing, like neck warmers and scarves, can be used during workouts.
3. DON’T FORGET YOUR SKILLS
Skills can limit cyclists of all types, and cycling skill often gets neglected during the winter. While indoors, rollers require a bit more thinking and balance than a trainer—this keeps you engaged in the act of riding—so that’s an easy place to start.
For any drills or intervals you do, make sure at least some of them make you control the resistance by shifting to ensure you stay accustomed to smooth shifting and not jamming or breaking chains. Skill training can also be found on a winter bike outside: Bundle up in your snowsuit, even with boots and flat pedals, and go ride around. You’ll develop awesome skills drifting corners, hopping curbs, and pedaling on slippery surfaces. And, increasingly, indoor bike-parks, such as Joyride 150 in Markham, Canada, Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wis., and the Mega-Cavern Bike Park in Louisville, Ky., are locations that are making year-round skill practice very possible.
4. MIX IT UP
The biggest mistake riders make on long rides in a snowy area: They try to complete the miles only on the bike.
Most other sports have a “general preparation period” where cross-training is encouraged. Building your work capacity, muscular balance and overall athleticism are all things that can be done using a cross-training sport. It is important to challenge your body to engage different systems (think: your heart or lungs) by increasing stimulus to different muscles and the ranges of motion used.
Leave specific bike training for later in the year.
Get more hours of training in during the winter by combining sports. While most cyclists may not be able to run for three hours—or at least they can’t recover quickly from a run that long—the majority of cyclists could easily do a 45-minute trainer ride, 45-minute run, 45-minute trainer ride, and end up with a fairly “easy” couple hours of work that would have been a mental slog if done all indoors. If you learn to ski, run, snowshoe and bike outside, then you have four options to combine with indoor training—and huge potential for adventures and building your work capacity.
5. USE YOUR INDOOR CYCLING FOR SPECIFIC WORK
Indoor cycling should be like batting practice for a baseball player or sparring for a boxer. We can’t be “in the ring” all the time, so we work on the elements of our sport. A trainer can provide a very high and consistent resistance that’s comparable to riding outside. Many athletes can make great improvements by working on very steady muscular endurance intervals (tempo/threshold), high-cadence drills and hard-low RPM efforts.
Winter training should be viewed as an opportunity. Done right, it should leave you feeling athletic and re-energized for the hard rides to come next summer. If you find yourself in less-than-optimal conditions, do some planning, think about limiters you can work on, and mix it up rather than committing to full-on winter hibernation.