Winter is a tough time for cyclists.
Yes, you can layer up. Whack on your waterproofs and strive to score some serious “man points” (whatever they are) through the harshest winter.
Personally, that isn’t for me.
Now, I love cycling. I’ve been riding for over 16 years.
I love the outdoors. Exploring. Discovering.
I love it.
But I also do sensible.
Riding in the winter does bring risk. Wet makes crashing more likely. Cold makes braking in an emergency more risky.
I’m certainly not anti outdoor riding either (I feel I have to make this point).
For someone like me, who is time restricted, wants to see improvement in their riding and take part in events. I need to become more innovative with my training when winter hits.
So today I’m going to share 7 tips on how I personally survive winter and how I use indoor training to my advantage.
Your program can quite literally make or break your winter.
From experience, the number one reason for giving up is feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere. I have frequent conversations with riders about how they go out riding all the time. Clock up loads of miles, but still aren’t getting quicker.
The reason – unfocused training.
Now unfocused is fine if you are happy with where you are.
Unfocused is NOT fine, if you are disappointed with yourself. If you are unhappy. Life is too short to be frustrated and angry with your progress.
The problem with this part is for a lot of cyclists lack of knowledge on what to do. Do you focus more on short, hard intervals? Should you do longer rides? Is it about doing more hours than you did last week?
Your starting point if you aren’t going to seek a coach for help is to get one of the following books:
– Training and Racing with a Power Meter (Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan). This is a great book (with session ideas) for anyone who has a power meter, you don’t have to have one (but it would help) as you can just ride to your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), i.e when the book says ride above 100%, you want to be around a 7/10.
– OR The Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. This book highlights how you CAN train well without adding loads of volume to your cycling plan. It’s just a case of making sure your training sessions count (this book also has various plans to get you started too).
Netflix (or any other distraction)
Indoor training can be dull on your own.
I’ve tended to use something like Netflix for helping get me through a session. Something with a half decent storyline but not so engaging you have to concentrate too hard (as some of those tough intervals makes following stories quite tough).
You can also use something like Zwift, I’ve used this in the past, but find with other people riding at the same time, if you aren’t following a structured workout it can get a bit too competitive following other groups on the ride! I find it hard to switch off my competitive spirit.
Another recent discover is FulGaz, it does need a smart turbo to get the full effect, but in this app you can literally ride anywhere in the world (providing someone has filmed a route and uploaded it).
Want to take on Alpe D’Huez, it’s in there.
Want to ride the Ironman Kona course, that’s in there too!
Taking your mind away from the pain, or at least looking at anything other than your wall is a great way to boost your motivation.
Being comfortable is high on my list. I hear riders talk about buying cheap shorts to ride in. This is one way to fail straight off the bat.
You want to be the most comfortable you can be. Sitting indoors on a trainer is static, there’s barely any movement laterally as you pedal, unlike riding outside where the bike (and your bum) will move a little.
Prioritising comfort is key, a good saddle, a good pair of shorts, in fact, ensuring your bike set up is the same (or as close as possible) to the bike you ride outside is an overlooked area to ensure comfort.
Do this and you’re well on the way to a comfortable session.
Meaning you’ll do it more.
Trust me, I used to take spin classes in awful cycling shorts. The useless saddles they come with were enough to make me numb “down there” within minutes.
Get comfy, get a good saddle, good pair of shorts and the winter won’t seem so bad.
Theres another area you simply can’t skimp on either, and thats a good fan. Spend well in this department and it’ll make your rides a breeze…
I’ll get my coat…
If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it is one famous saying.
Measurements are just one way to track progress and boost motivation.
Indoors I’d recommend starting with an FTP (Functional Threshold Power) Test. Usually a 20 minute effort to gain the best average power or if you don’t ride with a power meter then you can use the same test to work out your threshold Heart Rate (HR).
Simply warm up for 5-10 minutes.
Then ride for 20 minutes hard, recording your heart rate, power or speed (or you can record them all). Note down your averages and every 8-12 weeks repeat the same test and monitor progress.
As I say to a lot of riders, these tests aren’t make or break. They are merely benchmarks for the coming weeks. Whether you go up or down, it doesn’t matter.
I love a reward.
A goody bag at the end of an event. A coffee on a long ride. A good slice of cake.
Rewards are perfect for boosting your motivation riding indoors too. Just because it’s wet and cold outside and you are on the turbo doesn’t mean you should miss out on your coffee and cake. Just save it for the end but only if you hit your target duration.
Obviously the biggest reward will be after sticking to your plan for 6-8 weeks when you’ll feel stronger and faster out on the road.
This falls into your long term reward, but of course if you are creative you can create your own short term rewards too.
Do you have a core cycling group that you ride with?
Perhaps a spouse that rides too?
Someone who you can either work closely with or discuss your weekly routine to help keep you on track.
I know when I’m dreading a certain session I’ll let someone else know that I am doing it.
Just verbalising it is enough to start to cement it in my mind. But I also think about what I’d say if I didn’t do it when I spoke to them next. I would hate it, and this goes a long way to ensuring that I complete it!
Treating your indoor sessions as hard indoor training sessions sounds obvious, but when it comes to it, so many riders I talk to just fuel their tough efforts on just water and oxygen.
Before my intense sessions on the turbo trainer I’ll make sure I take on a gel or energy drink to ensure I am
a) testing that my stomach can handle taking that product on board when I am working hard and
b) giving myself some fuel to make sure that I don’t fall off the bike and unable to function for the rest of the day (especially important if you are going to work or spending quality time with the family after your session).
Just think, if you’ve done a morning session and heading to work afterwards but you are in a huge calorie negative before you start, you probably aren’t going to function that well and the boss might have something to say. Taking on some energy during that session might not give you Stephen Hawkins level of intelligence, but it might stop you falling asleep at the desk by midday.
Have you got any other tips you’d like to add to get the most out of your indoor rides over the winter?
Comment below to let us know.