Riding through the winter months

We all know what it is like - you had a great New Year with family and after a week or so of thinking about it you were finally ready to get back to training and get on track to reach your goals - and then the reality hit you - how many of us have been out on our bikes in the last couple of weeks?

The most challenging training time of the year is upon us. We have seen what January could do to scupper our plans - and we have February and March still ahead. Here are my thoughts to keep you riding through the winter months.


dean hughes

The Long Ride

From working with age group athletes over the years, and from personal experience, the long ride is always the most difficult to fit in over the colder months and shorter days.

Most of us can fit a couple of turbo or roller sessions in during the week, that important long run at the weekend but the long ride is the most challenging to squeeze in. Quality winter cycling clothing is much more affordable these days and hopefully you are all kitted out with a few additional stocking fillers hat you can't wait to try out. Check the weekend weather and plan ahead, swapping your days around on a Saturday and Sunday if necessary.

Staying motivated

How many times have your training partners cried off because of bad weather? How many of you have said 'I'll do my long run instead'? It's too cold?

For me, I would sooner be on a bike for a few hours in February than in a freezing lake at barely 10 degrees in May!? Which session will get the most gains come race day? Remember, it may be awful weather on race day and I don't think race entry fees guarantee good weather for race day too - some should…!

How much do you really want to improve on that bike split?.

In the December newsletter Louise Jones, our resident professional Sports Psychologist, made reference to imagery and other excellent tips to help stay motivated through the winter months. Developing strategies that will quickly change your mental attitude will help. For example, visualise how you want to feel and how fast you want that bike split on race day or use motivational cues like taping a motivation quote on your bike stem.

How long should you ride? I'm not suggesting you go out for 4-5 hours whatever the weather through the winter months and obviously you need to be mindful of recent injury/Illness. However, you do need to keep reminding yourself that the largest portion of any triathlon distance is the bike leg so don't leave it until the spring to get the miles in. 3 hour long rides are enough this time of year and you can easily clock up that time each week - additional to your weekly turbo/rollers session. If the weather is awful and you are cramming too much in the weekends with family stuff and can't get out the office early a day in the week, why not try the following:

  • 90min turbo session in the morning followed by a 60 min on the rollers later that day
  • 90min ride outside and 60min on the turbo later in the day when a little tired. A great way to increase the time in the saddle and keep the work rate up and pacing when tired
  • Spring is just around the corner so remain consistent with your long (ish) rides and you will reap the rewards come the better weather and your bike split on race day!

    Here are a few more ideas to help you keep motivated and keep that bum on the seat over the next 2 months:

  • The winter training bike. Treating yourself to a winter bike can really motivate you to get out on those drizzly days and you won't be too precious about cleaning it too often.
  • Clean and lubricate your chain and cassette though as soon as you've finished your ride to remove all that salt and grit. This also gives you an opportunity to check your bike over in a few minutes ready for the next ride. Mudguards will make you and your training partners ride more pleasurable, keeping bikes and clothing cleaner and dryer. The group you're riding with won't thank you if you haven't got any fitted! Heavier, wider tyres are much more puncture resistant too. Check those tyres regular to save being stuck by the roadside in the freezing cold trying to replace an inner tube!

  • Cyclo cross bikes with knobbly/bigger tyres make a great winter training bike and safer than your road tyres. Why not enter a local race; ride to the race, do the race and ride home.

  • Mountain biking will add variety to bike training - great fun, improves your strength, fitness, skills and confidence and you generally keep warmer with the change of pace etc. If the trails are too far away, get out on the roads mixed up with a few bridle ways - great fun and you know you've had a session! Check out your local trail centres though and it's well worth an hours drive once a month to break the training up schedule - maybe on your easier week.

  • Rollers: If you haven't got any yet, 'what are you waiting for'? Great for balance and pedalling efficiency. After a few sessions of falling off trying to look as if that was part of the session to your entertained audience you will be more confident and ready for a more challenging workout. Single leg, no hands, one leg one hand, superman, removing and replacing a jacket are some ideas to keep you entertained! Great for warming up and cooling down after hard sessions with an easy spin too.

  • Spin Classes last approx. an hour and are a great motivator in a group. Why not ride to the gym on a mountain bike, enjoy the class and catch up with your gym buddies then ride home.

  • Schedule in a Sportive event in March/April, which will help you focus on those longer rides - especially for the longer distance athletes.

  • Schedule in an overseas training camp - places are still available on Spring Training Camp being held in Spain March 5-12.

  • Try new routes when the weather is a bit unpredictable and make a circuit of climbs and descents which isn't too far from home. Great skill development for that spring training camp!

  • I always advise my athletes to tell everyone you know what your aims/goals are for the season ahead. The more people in your life that know what you're aiming for in 2013, the more motivation it gives you to get out in that weather!

  • Keep your training log up to date and logging feedback from sessions on training peaks is a great way to keep on track and communicate with your coach.

  • I'll finish with another mention about SPOTY. ALL the award winners expressed a genuine gratitude to all the people in their lives that have contributed to helping them achieve great things. An athlete's support team is a crucial piece of the jigsaw but ultimately it's the athletes that need the motivation/determination and dedication to succeed within.

    "If you want to be the best, you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do" Michael Phelps

    "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." Albert Einstein

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