After a long season your body and mind may be feeling quite jaded. Although it is quite possible that a lack of motivation makes you feel like your body is tired when in fact it is not. What you do during the winter will form the basis for how you perform through the spring and into summer. For this reason you need to be able to balance good quality training with a positive mental attitude. This will allow you to continue to aim for your goals as the days get colder and darker. With less hours of daylight it can be hard to balance training, work, family time and leisure time but if you follow a plan and are careful you can get through the winter with your targets in sight.
One of the biggest barriers during winter is the lack of motivation. Bad weather and darker days can sometimes make it hard to push yourself to the level you need. When you factor in the added temptations of your social life and seasonal festivities it can be very easy to let yourself slide. For this reason it is vital to have a plan, to work with your coach and to look at ways to keep yourself motivated. The key to winter training is quality, not quantity. Hitting set targets over the winter will be good for your body and your mind.
Rather than focusing solely on riding on the road or the turbo-trainer, you should try and mix up your training a bit more. Many people like to vary their training mixing in mountain-biking, cyclo-cross, running, hiking, swimming and gym work. Not only can activities like mountain-biking and hiking be great ways of staying fit over the winter, they also offer the opportunity to spend valuable time with friends and family while enjoying the beauty of winter in peaceful settings. Gym-work and weights are another important aspect of your winter training as they allow you to tackle weaknesses which you would find very hard to tackle during the cycling season. They can help to raise your fitness levels and core strength in focused sessions which are shorter (and warmer!) than a road session.
Many people try and get to a warm-weather training camp during the winter or in the spring. Camps such as these are generally quite reasonably priced as they take place outside the main tourist seasons of the destinations. They also offer a high chance of good, steady weather along with the opportunity to train on good quality roads. A warm-weather training camp will give you something to look forward to and one aspect of a camp like this which is often over-looked, is the fact that you can get good quality rest between spins and generally live the life of a pro cyclist.
It’s important to eat soon after your spin as this helps to restore the immune system, build muscle, and stop your legs from feeling sore. You should try and eat something before showering or washing your bike even as this is the most valuable time. Make sure to drink plenty during the winter as in some ways it is more important to drink than at other times of the year. Drinking is also something which can be very easy to forget during winter so make sure to keep it prominent in your mind. During the winter you should increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables. They will bulk up a meal and fill you up while reducing the chance of gaining weight, and they are also excellent sources of antioxidant vitamins and minerals which are important for maintaining a healthy body. Warding off illness during the winter can be a challenge in itself. Vitamin C, Zinc and Iron are great for boosting the immune system and decreasing your chance of illness. Vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight and a lack of Vitamin D can lead to SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This can have a negative effect on your training and your everyday life. You should look at taking vitamin and mineral supplements to keep your levels up, however it is also important to include foods in your diet which are high in these vitamins and minerals. It can also be a good idea to use an antibacterial handwash or hand sanitiser when you are in an enclosed environment such as a workplace or on public transport.
Be organised. It can be hard enough to drag yourself out of bed on cold winter mornings and it can turn into an ordeal if you find yourself running around looking for gloves and mixing drinks before you set off. It is best to have everything prepared the night before. Have your clothes set out and your food and drinks ready to be prepared. Not only will this make things easier on you but it will also see you head out on the road in a better frame of mind. It is best to get out early in the day during the winter as this is generally when the light is at its best and there will be less chance of distractions popping up to slow your departure. Getting your training in early will also give you more time to take care of day-to-day activities and plan your meal times better.
When you’re on your turbo-trainer it is vital to follow a structured plan. This will help relieve the monotony and see it become less of a chore and more of a positive aspect of your overall training.
Good quality training goes hand in hand with good quality rest. Trying to get some extra sleep during the winter is advisable however not necessarily always practical. To make the most of your sleep you should avoid training within 3 hours of going to bed as it can make it difficult to get to sleep. Avoid big meals close to bed time, however a light snack can help avoid hunger pangs and help you get to sleep. Caffeine, alcohol and fatty foods will make sleep more difficult.
Having good quality clothing and equipment can make a huge difference to the success or failure of your training plan. When you are putting in the effort to train and keep yourself motivated it would be a shame to lose out because of poor clothing or equipment. Technology relating to bike equipment and clothing has come on in leaps and bounds in the last 10 to 20 years and there are a vast array of items which are specific to any imaginable weather condition.
When to ride outdoors during the winter is a matter of some debate. While many cyclists love nothing more than hammering around in the rain for a few hours, there are many coaches and cyclists who feel that training in the rain is unnecessary and can be detrimental to your training. It can increase your chance of illness, which will set your training back, and it can also lead to higher chance of injury. Coaches such as Morgan Fox would suggest that it makes much more sense to focus on the turbo trainer and other indoor exercises on wet days.
Finally you should always remind yourself why you are doing this. You may wonder why you are punishing yourself but you have to remember that this is how you are going to achieve your goals.
Keep focused, keep motivated and most of all, keep happy!
For more information on specific winter training, strength and conditioning, nutrition, goal setting, zone setting, clothing and equipment you should take a look at our ‘Winter Training Pack: Phase 1 – Laying the Foundation’ Click Here