The short dark days of winter often mean blue moods and a lack of motivation for cyclists. But when this year’s season hinges on how you train over the winter, every aspiring cyclist must find a way to keep the winter blues at bay.
Between icy roads and seasonal affective disorder, winter can be a challenging time for active cyclists. But by changing up your environment, embracing technology, and supplementing for optimal brain health, there’s a lot you can do to ward off the winter blues. Here are our top tips to ensure you don’t find yourself on the back foot come this spring.
REPLICATE THE COLOURS OF NATURE
Many things affect our mood, and scientists have recently discovered that our perception of colour is an important factor. A UK study carried out on indoor cyclists determined that the colour green has a notable effect on our psychology. By viewing images of rural cycling routes with abundant greenery while riding, cyclists reported a notable increase in mood along with a decrease in perceived exertion.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO BRING BACK THE SUMMER
In the pre-internet days, it was no easy task to bring some greenery into your home for a session on the smart trainer. But with modern technology, there are several software solutions available that help boost both our motivation and mood.
With Tacx software solutions, you can now set up a widescreen TV in front of the smart trainer and bask in the HD greenery of the top European classic routes and alpine climbs. While you may be snowbound in your basement, your body doesn’t have to know it.
THE VIRTUAL WORLD: THE LAND OF THE ETERNAL SUMMER
Putting in the hours on the smart trainer is a lot easier when there’s a menu of training and virtual racing platforms to choose from. While technology can be a hindrance in many walks of modern life, it provides the time-crunched indoor winter cyclist with endless opportunity.
At Tacx, all of our Smart trainers are compatible with Zwift. The popular online platform ensures you get to train with the best all year round from the comfort of your own home.
LONG AND SLOW OR SHORT AND FAST?
Cyclists have traditionally accumulated long, slow miles throughout the winter months. But for the competitive cyclist, this approach only works if you’ve got 15-20 hours per week to train.
Modern amateur cyclists are a time-crunched bunch. And if we want to keep the winter blues at bay, then a 2017 study from New York University suggests that the intensity of our training really does matter. According to researchers, intense exercise improves executive functions, enhances mood states, and decreases stress levels.
Those looking for an intense workout will find it on Zwift. The hard racing, relentless attacking, and the sheer quantity of riding at threshold will ensure you stay sharp and happy over the winter months.
GOING SLOW WILL MAKE YOU SLOW
The problem with long and slow winter miles is that the body quickly adapts to the low training stress. We simply find it too easy and bad habits quickly build where we ride at low intensity for a short time convinced that we’ve done a worthwhile workout.
While the pros do require a solid base, we amateurs aren’t doing 200 km stage races. Most amateur events last from 1 to 3 hours, so our time isn’t best spent doing slow 6-hour rides over the winter. Any time-crunched cyclist seeking improved fitness and mood simply has to ride at intensity.
HOW TO THRIVE RATHER THAN SURVIVE THIS WINTER
While exercise has some real benefits, there is a lot you can do off the saddle too. We can all survive a cold winter in northern latitudes, but to truly thrive, we have to supplement effectively.
The lack of sunlight in winter means that many of us burn through our summer stash of vitamin D. Vitamin D receptors are found in every brain cell and scientific studies suggest that it plays an important role in brain function. Anyone with low levels of vitamin D is more susceptible to symptoms of depression. Those living in colder, darker latitudes in winter should consider supplementing.
Get it when you can. Sunlight exposure is vitally important to health and our mood suffers without it. Sunlight stimulates the release of endorphins, something that leads to optimal hormonal regulation. Sunlight also increases the release of dopamine — that all-important neurotransmitter that can help ward of seasonal affective disorder. And what’s more, unlike expensive supplements, sunlight is a free resource!
Light therapy lamps are used to replicate natural lighting conditions. They are clinically proven to improve both mood and energy levels. They work by bathing the body with the same light spectrum as a blue sky on a sunny day. With as little as 20-30 minutes of use per day, users may notice significant improvements in mood. You can even set it up on a table beside your smart trainer during your morning workout!
With a little greenery, a little more dopamine, and some hard intervals on the smart trainer, there’s less reason to succumb to the blues this winter!