Winter may be the time when we recover, regenerate and build back stronger, but next season’s results hinge on the quality of our winter training. When we emerge from winter with a strong base and a healthy weight, we avoid spending the early spring months shedding extra pounds and rescuing a crumbling FTP. Here are six tips for training smart this winter.
1) IS THERE A PLACE FOR BASE TRAINING ANYMORE?
In recent years, there has been a shift away from traditional base training among cyclists. It turns out that if you’re training for events that last for between 45 minutes and three hours, then you likely don’t need the traditional base that the pros seek — in fact, many coaches suggest that it may be a complete waste of your time.
For many amateurs, FTP and V02 max are what tend to matter most, and it’s perfectly fine to incorporate some sweet spot and above threshold workouts to hone these zones.
Traditional base training requires an investment of fourteen to twenty hours per week, and most of us simply don’t have this luxury. Consider adopting a training plan specific to your goals and don’t be afraid to rev the engine and test those upper zones throughout the winter. With Tacx Training Plans or Zwift, you can easily find a plan that will meet your needs.
2) SHOULD I TAKE A WINTER BREAK?
No one wants to burnout, and for those of us who have already had a hard season, then it’s always a good idea to take time to rest and recover before we reignite for a new season.
Fatigue follows form in the cycling world. And if you’ve been hitting the high power numbers throughout the season, then chances are that your body will eventually require a rest period. Early winter offers us the perfect chance to do this and to avoid the inevitable plateau followed by slow burnout.
Many cyclists take two or three weeks off the bike in early winter. It not only gives the physical body a well-deserved rest, but it also rejuvenates the mind.
It’s during this period when we get the time to focus on low-intensity activities that can complement our cycling goals. We often overlook the importance of activities such as yoga, upper body strength training, or tending to niggles until it’s too late. The early winter break is the perfect time to retune the body and prime it for another assault next season.
3) REEVALUATE YOUR BIKE FIT
We all alter our position on the bike over time, and regularly checking our bike fit is something that many cyclists ignore. Whether through weight fluctuations, the niggles we pick up, or the changes in our postures as we slowly become more flexible through consistent yoga or stretching, there are several reasons why you may wish to reevaluate your fit.
Winter is the best time to align both body and machine optimally as it gives us the time to adjust to a new position before having to conform to new positions under the stress of intense training and racing.
By fine-tuning your bike position, you also stand to gain precious watts through an improved aero profile and a more efficient riding style. Adapting the bike fit to our anatomy helps ensure that we remain injury-free and helps avoid any issues associated with overcompensation of particular muscle groups.
4) STAYING MOTIVATED AND AVOIDING THE WINTER BLUES
There are few greater struggles for winter cyclists than staying motivated. Long solo rides indoors can take their toll on even the most zen-like cyclists, but thankfully there are many things that you can do to help maintain motivation.
One is the creation of a comfortable indoor training environment. Consider setting up your own little pain cave and make it somewhere you actually want to hang out.
It’s also important to reduce the hurdles that stand between you and an effective training session. By setting your cycling gear out the night before, or leaving your tablet set up by your trainer, you make it easy for yourself to follow the intention to train rather than opt-out.
For those who require some technological stimulation to excite the reward centres of the brain, then online training platforms like Zwift or Tacx Software Solutions can really help spice up the experience and provide the much-needed motivation boost.
Ultimately, the one thing that delivers boundless motivation is the act of working towards a worthwhile goal. Whether that’s weight loss, a PB next season, or targetting a specific event months down the line, then training with that goal in mind and monitoring your progress will help you maintain motivation by giving a constant sense of progression.
5) MIXING THE INDOORS AND THE OUTDOORS
Incorporating a healthy mix of outdoor and indoor riding can be extremely beneficial for both mind and body. But deciding which workout to do indoors, and which to do outdoors is often challenging.
The rule of thumb is to do your short and intense workouts inside and do the longer, less intense ones outside when the weather is suitable. Modern technology allows us to take our training plan anywhere, and by downloading specific workouts to a bicycle computer, we can still quantify and measure our progress regardless of where we do it.
6) AVOID THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE OF WINTER TRAINING
The number one mistake that cyclists make is riding for too short a time at too low an intensity. While it may do wonders for mental health, it likely won’t stress the body enough to meet lofty long-term performance gains. The body quickly adapts to low-stress training and riders can quickly plateau. Those doing long, slow volume on a regular basis, will likely require four to five-hour sessions. But a lack of time for many of us means that we simply must introduce the intensity and training stress to bring about any the beneficial adaptations that will stand to us come the start line next spring. Remember, riding slow only serves to make you slow!