As the nights draw in, and with fewer events on the calendar during the winter months, it’s easy to lose focus without a solid and well thought out plan to keep you on the right track. If you’ve had a full summer of cycling then after a short rest to refresh both body and mind winter plays an important part in laying the foundations to build on your fitness for an even better following year.

Mike Cotty and epic sky after the 2014 l'etape recon Winter plays an important role in laying the foundations to build on your fitness.

With fewer events on the calendar during the winter months, it’s easy to lose focus without a solid and well thought out plan.

Goal Setting

It’s all very well riding regularly, being a gym class hero, circuit training and generally getting a sweat on but, whilst being active will help maintain fitness, without a goal to work towards after a few weeks you may find yourself asking the question ‘why am I doing this?’ Setting goals and seeing progression are two key ingredients to maintaining motivation.

RCUK1_SetGoals Write down your goals and remind yourself of them on a frequent basis.

Setting goals and seeing progression are two key ingredients to maintaining motivation.

The first step in planning your winter training is to determine some basic goals. Are you looking to improve your endurance, speed, efficiency, lose weight or improve strength? Write them down and keep them in a prominent place to act as a reminder. Although it may not seem natural, often setting goals that challenge your weaknesses will provide the best results in the long-run.

Endurance vs Intervals

From long steady miles to short, sharp, intense efforts there’s a time and a place for every type of training but when to apply each also depends on what level of fitness you’re starting with and what your end goals are. If you’re more geared towards a 2014 season packed with sportives then, for the most part, your winter may include a larger emphasis on endurance whereas if you’re more interested in criterium racing or time-trials it’ll be important to simulate and adapt to such efforts.

RCUK2_EnduranceBase Even if you’re training for speed, never underestimate the importance of a solid endurance base.

In its simplest terms, endurance riding is most used to improve stamina and efficiency whilst interval training is used to increase speed and threshold.

In its simplest terms, endurance riding is most used to improve stamina and efficiency whilst interval training is used to increase speed and the threshold that you can comfortably work at. So if you want to go faster why not just do intervals? Whilst that may seem logical, to get the most from intervals it’s important to first of all build a solid endurance base so that you can really get the benefit. Think of your body as an engine. With little endurance, intervals will be the equivalent of bolting a turbo onto a 1 litre engine, whereas with a good endurance base you’ll be starting with a 2 or 3 litre engine before you head to the tuning shop.

Increasing Training Load

When it comes to training, piling on the hours or intensity too soon can often lead to prolonged periods of fatigue, lost motivation and a weaker immune system – not good when winter colds and flu are at their most rife. Consistency is the key, build your fitness over time and remember that moderation is the key to progression.

RCUK3_IncreaseTrainingLoad copy Be careful not to up the hours or intensity too quickly. Moderation is the key to progression.

It’s very important to make small changes to your training plan as your body goes through the process of adaption.

Increased training load can be broken down into two areas (1) more hours and (2) higher intensity. In both cases it’s very important to make small changes to your training plan as your body goes through the process of adaption. Never overlook the importance of recovery and make sure you include an easier week at the end of a period of harder training to give your muscles a chance to properly repair, rebuild and be ready for the next block of work.

Off the Bike Workouts

There’s no doubting that if you want to improve as a cyclist then you need to spend time on the bike, but there are also benefits that can be found away from two wheels that can be used to improve areas such as aerobic capacity and efficiency.

One such area that is often overlooked, and can be done in the comfort of your own home, is core training. Strengthening your core muscles helps support your spine, improving balance, posture on the bike and also gives your legs a solid platform to push against.

There are benefits that can be found away from two wheels that can be used to improve areas such as aerobic capacity and efficiency..

RCUK4_OffBikeWorkout It’s not all about the bike. Core strength and weight training can play their part too.

Weight training can also be used to build strength and improve your bike performance, although in most cases you’ll be looking to simulate exercises with higher repetitions and lower weights to condition your body as opposed to building muscle.

Beating Boredom

Winter can seem like an impossibly long time of short days and long nights so it’s important when creating any training plan to ensure you actually want to do it. Setting yourself five months of training that you’re struggling to stomach after the first week is only going to go the wrong way. Break the months down into ‘blocks’, give yourself a goal for each block and keep a diary to track your progress.

Mix it up and keep things fresh. Be flexible, modify your plan based on feel.

RCUK5_KeepADiary Keep a diary and track your progress. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing improvements.

Mix it up and keep things fresh. Be flexible, modify your plan based on feel. Listen to your body, if you need time out then take it. You’ll return more motivated when you do. Try and include sessions with others, group rides at the weekends or after work. Look for alternatives when the weather is bad – turbo training, gym work, swimming and circut training all have their benefits. Work on feel and remember to keep it fun!

Train well and ride safe everyone!

Mike.

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