If you’re training for a big event in the summer, or you’d just like to keep your pedalling prowess in good order over the course of winter, then you’ll need to take a slightly different approach to training than you might do in summer. Let’s take a look at a few tips that might help you get the best out of the season.
Whilst it might be tempting to shun the cold weather and get into a gym, most professional cyclists will recommend that you shun indoor training in favour of the outdoor stuff. A stationary bike might provide a good, consistent means of upping your pace, but for endurance racing, it’s too dissimilar to the actual experience of outdoor cycling to be of much use. Note that, if you’re cycling outdoors, then you’ll be at the mercy of the wintry weather, so be sure to check the forecast before saddling up.
Get indoors, too
This isn’t to say that a few gym sessions won’t be useful in developing strength, and cross-training to avoid injury. Indeed, many Olympian cyclists will stay within the velodrome during the winter, citing the risk of injury on icy roads, and the constant pressure of chasing an improved split time in the velodrome.
Which approach you favour will tend to depend on your psychology, and your goals. Keeping a steady focus without slacking in outdoor training will require discipline and intensity – but if you’ve got it, you might find that you get better results out on the road.
Calculate and track your progress
In order to make marginal gains every week, you’ll need to keep track of your progress. This might mean keeping track of your body fat, or heart rate, or the speed at which you can cover a given stretch of track. After all, if you don’t know where you are at any moment, then you’ll not be in the best position to improve upon your position.
One of the best measures of performance is Functional Threshold Power (or FTP), which describes the highest average power you can keep up for an entire hour. In order to track this, you’ll need a special trainer or a bike with a power meter. The latter is preferable, as cycling for real allows you to generate more power than you might on a stationary bike – and thus your readings will be more accurate.
Wrap up warm
Cold temperatures will prevent oxygen from flowing to your muscles quite as effectively, so you should be aware that your performance might suffer. To combat this, wear proper insulative cycling gear. A set of gloves and a hat will help you to do this. Going a proper warm-up before you put your clothing on will help to raise your body temperature quickly; do a few star jumps and press-ups to get yourself nice and limber. If the conditions are especially frosty, cover your face with breathable fabric – that way you won’t lose so much heat from your mouth, nose and face – and you’ll prevent moisture from condensing as you breathe out.
In order to stay lean, most cyclists will recommend a diet that’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The latter are often stored as fat rather than going toward muscle-building and performance bolstering. If you’re going to be cycling outdoors in winter, however, then you’ll need all of the energy you can get – since shivering will eat up your stores of energy.
One vitamin that’s especially lacking during winter is vitamin D. This vitamin helps to ensure correct bone density, bolsters the immune system and keeps your heart in good condition. Controlled studies by the University of Edinburgh have revealed that a vitamin D supplement will produce a significant boost in cycling prowess – so be sure to supplement regularly.
It might also be worth keeping a warm drink stored in an insulated bottle for a quick burst of energy when you’re halfway through a ride. Hot chocolate is a particular favourite.
Equip your car
During winter, the chances are that your bike will be attracting its fair share of mud and dirt. You’ll therefore probably want to store it on the exterior of your car rather than the inside. Fortunately, there exist a plethora of high-quality roof-racks and other bike carriers. If you’ve got a trailer that needs to be towed, like a caravan, then it makes sense to invest in a towbar fitting that incorporates a cycle rack; that way you’ll be able to carry up to four separate bikes with you wherever you’d like to drive!