Being that we're currently in single digit temperatures here in Pennsylvania and bracing for up to a foot of new snow (and we're counting ourselves lucky compared to those in New England), I thought that this post might be timely.
The end of winter is in sight and the racing season is right around the corner, but there are times when it seems like it couldn't be further away. Many of us look at our training and shake our heads, thinking that there is no way we can actually do this, short of getting on a plane and flying to San Diego, Miami or Mallorca. But alas, all is not lost! In fact, there are many benefits of living somewhere with a real winter. Aside from toughness and grit, one of the biggest benefits is that training in winter forces us to be flexible and creative. Here are a few tips to help you through these dark, cold and snowy days.
1. Look at the weather forecast and play the "shell game". In a word, plan. If you know that there will be one or two days when you won't be able to train outside, move your workouts around in order to get your long outdoor rides in when you can. Of course, this doesn't help much when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground and the mercury never rises above 20 degrees, but it does help when your ability to ride outdoors changes from day to day, as it often does towards the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.
2. Embrace the snow and ice. Sure, it's not great for riding a road bike, but it is for skiing, skating, snowshoeing and fat biking. Be creative and try something that you don't normally have the chance to do. Don't worry too much about it not being exactly what your training says. There will be plenty of time to ride your bike later in the year so go out and enjoy the outdoors in a different way.
3. Add variety to your indoor training. Replacing a 2 hour outdoor endurance ride with 2 hours of endurance indoors on the trainer sounds miserable to me. But if you replace a 2 hour endurance ride with 2 hours of structured intervals, 2 hours indoors might not seem so bad. This doesn't mean that you have to add any intensity. Variety can be added to a workout just by changing up your cadence every 5 minutes or adding some fast cadence or one legged drills to your workout. You might also consider switching back and forth between the trainer and the rollers.
4. Misery loves company. Whether you're indoors or outdoors, having a training partner or a group to train with can help you out. If you're on the road on a cold day, having other riders to hide behind may keep you from getting too cold. Training with others also adds a sense of accountability and possibly a little competitiveness to the workout. Though competitiveness may backfire at times by encouraging us to go a little harder than we should be, most of us give our best efforts when our pride is on the line.
5. Be patient and hang in there. It may feel like winter will never end, but it will. Maybe you'll have to ride indoors for a couple more weeks. Maybe you'll have to keep freezing your butt off outside, or find other non-cycling aerobic activities to try. It's not perfect, but it never is. Of course, no race will ever play out exactly the way you expect it to and the ability to adapt and respond to changing circumstances is not something you're born with. You have to practice it.
Colin Sandberg is the owner and head coach of Backbone Performance, LLC. He is a Cat. 1 road racer, a USA Cycling Level II coach and a UCI Director Sportif. He is also head coach at Young Medalists High Performance and race director for Team Young Medalists. If you have questions or comments, feel free to use the comments section or email us. Thanks for reading!