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Top Principles of a Proper Winter Training

By Adam Marsal

Cycling has been traditionally regarded as a summer sport and so sometimes it’s difficult to convince not only your relatives but even yourself, that a great January ride isn’t the easiest way of ending up in the intensive care unit of your local hospital. But no worries. Be brave and don’t stop riding, because with a correct portion of motivation and some knowledge, this winter can make you a much better cyclist than you’ve ever been.

Move to warm countries

Well, it’s hard not to start with a portion of winter cynicism. You don’t like riding around your block from October till April? The first advice is go for the warmth. There are a lot of beautiful cycling destinations where you can freely enjoy your beloved sport at its best. However, there are still many of us who cannot afford to travel on account of our jobs or just because someone else needs us to stay at home.

Determined giraffe chases riders down the trail during Cape Pioneer race in South Africa.

Get motivated!

This article can be cheerfully skipped by all participants of Rapha Festive event who managed to accomplish 500 km between 24th and 31st December. We know that particularly you guys don’t need any more of our written assistance. For the less motivated of us, it is hard to get used to the idea of getting on the bike when the conditions outside wrap the whole world up into a bright veil. Good part of the motivation is the feeling that while most of your cycling friends gave up long ago and buried their season at the end of October, you still carry on pedalling through these bleak months with the highest expenses for house heating. Sometimes, the hardest part is simply to get out. When your determination starts to fade away, use a time-proven method and try to arrange a ride with your cycle mates. It’s much harder to find an excuse to stay in bed when you’ve made an agreement with the guys standing nervously on your front porch. Another advantage of team riding is that as a group you’re much more visible on the dull winter road than a sole rider.

Winter safety

Almost not worth repeating, it is advisable to ride equipped with a head and a tail light and have a proper cycling kit. These are themes for a completely different article. Just remember that your visibility in winter is a critical issue because, especially in the morning, many drivers are looking through misted and iced-up windscreens.

Plan your season

Winter is also the time for your self-reflection. It’s a period when you can summarise your achievements from the past and resolve what to do in the time to come. Let’s plan your future tours, trips, or events you would like to participate in through the upcoming year. In addition, you can think about how much time you want to spend on a bicycle every week or every month. As soon as you record your intended schedule into a diary, your plans will become more binding to follow.

Add some new sports to you training menu

For all those who like to sweat on machines in the gym, there is a splendid world of magical winter spells such as leg press, squat, stiff-legged deadlift, or regular deadlift. Love it or hate it, a reasonable exercise at the gym has never hurt anyone and, as with any other workout, diversity is the key. For example, Peter Sagan has often mentioned that every sport has its specific benefits for your general fitness. The famous Slovak rider recommends changing cycling for some other activities.

Take an one-hour jog and swim, or arrange a weekend trip to the mountains for skiing or snowboarding. Especially mountain bikers regularly enhance their winter program with various kinds of hardcore training or cross-fit exercises in order to gain more strength in their upper body, required for better bike handling in rough terrain. A separate chapter is the winter conditioning on indoor trainers. If you still doubt the benefits of these devices, read our dedicated article.

Mind what you eat

You can find this chapter in every list of training tips and it’s for a good reason. Especially in winter, when the temperature drops below zero, your body is exposed to a much larger energy expenditure, which should be evened up by appropriate intake. So never forget to take enough food with you on a ride. At home, it’s recommended to increase the intake of foods with plenty of vitamins such as prophylaxis, to ward off common seasonal diseases. Immediately after the ride, supply your body with a balanced amount of carbohydrates and proteins for muscle recovery. You may either use some of the many products available on the market or prepare a homemade milk-banana smoothie as a fast snack.

Riders eating spaghetti during a Giro stage in 1966.

Find the time to have a rest

Even in winter, you should follow the basic principles of relaxation, which allow your muscles to recover. It is usually recommended to slow down regularly in intervals of once in every four weeks. For a couple of days, you should take some time out. However, complete leisure for a longer time is not a good idea, because your fitness starts to drop down only after two weeks of inactivity and it’s proven that it takes almost triple amount of time to regain it. Keep it in your mind and don’t grow lazy!