It’s that time of year where the weather is bleak, the festive cheer has disappeared, we’ve all eaten and drunk a bit too much and feeling perhaps a little less motivated to get back on the saddle. It probably doesn’t help that when we wake up it’s dark outside and being under the covers, wrapped up in bed, is so much more attractive than trying to wiggle our post-Christmas tummies into lycra that was already snug to begin with!
One of the hardest parts about living in the UK as a cyclist is that our sport is almost seasonal, and for six months of the year we are plagued with rain, gusty winds, mini storms and [the dreaded] black ice. BUT, that doesn’t mean that our two-wheeled friends have to be locked up in the shed for the Winter, there is still plenty we can do to combat what the weather throws at us. Below are my five main motivations to stay on the bike from autumn until spring, allowing me to carry on enjoying and focussing on my most beloved sport.
- Snow / ice doesn’t rule out ALL outdoor cycling
Living in London I get the added bonus of the temperature always being 2-3 degrees warmer than out in the country. So although I adore getting on my bike and hitting up those little scenic lanes in Essex, I won’t risk a skid or a crash when the weather is less favourable. Instead, I’ll stay in the city on salted roads and do some TT laps of Regents Park. The cycle super-highway is dead on weekend mornings so it’s the perfect time to head out. A lap of the park is about 4.5km so a decent distance to lay down some speedy rounds with friends, especially if you get a peloton going! I normally go with my other half and we take turns going up front and sitting on each other’s wheel. We’ll also do ‘chasers’ where during a lap we have to over-take each other as many times as we can, getting the friendly competition going and working on those racing skills. If I’m on my own it’s a good opportunity to do an interval session on a flat course and if I’m feeling really brave I’ll tag on the back of a few other riders and try to hold onto their pace for dear life!
- Get that trusty turbo out
Yes, I agree. Sitting on the turbo is not the same as being in the great outdoors, but it’s a solid way to train in the winter months. The variety of what you can do on a turbo is endless, from pure riding to leg-destroying hill sessions and, because you haven’t got downhills or traffic lights, you don’t coast or stop, keeping you consistently training for the duration of the session. I get bored very easily so I mix it up where I can, for example:
High intensity: 25 x 30s all-out effort, 30s rest
Lower intensity: 3 x 20mins (increasing your watts by 10 every 5mins and then dropping back to the start to repeat the next block)
*10min easy warm up and cool down for both
Don’t forget about the steady state stuff either, recovery riding for 45mins will better your aerobic engine, just pop on your favourite series on Netflix and keep those legs turning. If you need ideas, I highly recommend ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ (you’ll be laughing and/or crying so much you won’t even realise your cycling…)! Check out British Cycling’s list of indoor workouts:
- Sign up to Zwift
Following on from the above, Zwift has changed the face of ‘indoor riding’ forever. My other half very kindly got me a 3-month membership for Xmas and I have to say it’s truly the ‘gift that keeps on giving’! It brings people together so you can ride with friends from all over the world or just next door, creating that competitive spirit that encourages you to work harder. You can choose different locations and the best bit; the pros are on it too, so you can ride with your idols! Lucy Charles did a session a couple of weeks back which I was gutted to miss as soon as she announces another one I will have my butt on that turbo faster than Alistair Brownlee goes through T2! Photo credit goes to bikeradar – I’ve already been on the trainer today, just forgot to take a photo ;)
- Drills & Strength Training
It’s absolutely true that the more you ride the more you will improve, that’s inevitable, but where you can make the biggest gains whilst preventing yourself from injury comes with resistance work and drills. I am well aware how tedious drills can be, but trust me when I say, compared to running or swimming drills, cycling drills are the dream. You can pop them into your warm up before taking on your main set, here are some good ones you can pick and choose from:
Strength training is your other fickle friend when it comes to improving your pedal power. This time of year when the weather is rubbish means you can spend more time in the gym working on compound movements such as barbell squats and deadlifts – strengthening the main muscle groups in your lower body. As I do more endurance based races, I lean towards conditioning workouts like:
AMRAP 5mins / 5mins rest x 2
(AMRAP = as many reps as possible. So I’ll do 21 KB swings, then 21 squats, 15 swings, 15 squats, 9 and 9 then repeat for 5mins)
Don’t forget about your core either, even just doing a simple plank for 60s x 3 (30s rest between) will be beneficial and if you need something more challenging, use a TRX!
- New Kit
Nothing gets me more motivated to train than new gear. I want to test it out, I want to show it off, wear it in, if it involves the new kit, let me do it!
January is the perfect time, new year, new you. I know I’m slightly biased….but I can highly recommend Stolen Goat’s Orkaan collection, it’s weatherproof, keeping you dry and warm in the UK’s harsh winter conditions, not to mention giving you a splash of colour amid a grey skyline! They have a great mix of designs from bright and bold patterns for those who want to stand out, as well as more subtle pieces for the shyer cyclist. One thing I’ll guarantee for everyone though is the comfort and fit, you can stay perfectly content for a 150km ride.
I’m keeping my eyes peeled in February for when they drop their SS18 collection, make sure you subscribe here to their newsletter to get priority access before launch!
Along with your physical training, I should also mention the importance of emotional and mental training. In the off-season, it’s good to think about what you want to achieve, the events/races you want to complete and really map out what your 2018 season will look like. Reflect on the last year, where you struggled, where you were victorious, how you can improve and make your aspirations for the coming year. I’m a bit geeky and put together a vision board of the things I want to accomplish in the year, but even just making a simple list of five goals is more than enough to motivate you. Targets give us a focus and it’s that focus that drives us to make each year better than the last. So all the best to all of you and an awesome 2018!