November 30th, 2018
There’s no doubt that we all need a bit of help with motivation over the Winter. But these cold, dark months can also provide a great opportunity – to build strength and improve body conditioning. When you find the right way to train in Winter, you’ll set yourself up for the Spring and Summer.
In our last blog, Cycling Coach, Holly Seear, talked about goal setting and planning your training routine. In this blog we share insights from Personal Trainer, Melissa Tarver from The Training Works, into the huge benefits of strength and conditioning training.
The primary objective of strength and conditioning training is to prevent injury. Then it is to improve your sports performance by working all of the muscle groups and – crucially – your core.
For cyclists, retaining and building strength often has a lower body focus – it’s your legs you want to stay strong through the Winter. But now is also the opportunity to get balance back into the body after being crouched over the handle bars all Summer.
Many of those who come to us at The Training Works are runners and cyclists. They have decent leg strength but are suffering with back, knee or shoulder pain from repeat exercise. The key is to move in different planes – sideways & rotation – to work less-used muscles with a particular awareness on posture, back and core strength for stabilisation.
When you’re cycling, you will feel the benefit of this stability. If you’ve got a strong core you are able to ride more efficiently by reducing body movement and driving more power through the legs.
Yoga and Pilates are a great way to increase your flexibility and use your core – moving sideways, backwards and twisting.
In Yoga the focus is on stretching out and improving flexibility in your whole body while in Pilates you’re working specifically on core, breaking it down to the very basic components of engaging the different core muscle sets.
They also both work the ancillary muscles that stabilise you. This will all help with the cycling confidence techniques Holly highlighted, such as tighter cornering, eating and drinking while you’re on the bike, or adding/removing layers of clothing.
Sometimes no amount of stretching gets the tightness out of your muscles so seeing a massage therapist is really useful. Regular massages reduce tightness and promote circulation. A good massage therapist can actually tell how well you’ve been looking after yourself. In addition to training, if your nutrition is not right, or if you’re dehydrated, knots form in your muscles. It’s really important to have all that straightened out but just bear in mind that it’s not particularly relaxing if you’re having a really good sports massage – consider it part of the training!
People have different sleep disruptors and there’s a lot of talk about sleep hygiene – dark, cool room, warm bath before bed, and so on. It’s easy to get really obsessed about this.
But the main cause of disrupted sleep is overheating/dehydration.
Aim to drink 1.5-3 litres of water a day. Try to load it towards the beginning and the middle of the day so you’re not drinking loads in the evening and then getting up in the night for another reason. For those who want a better nights sleep, a good, straightforward approach is outlined in The Effortless Sleep Method [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Effortless-Sleep-Method-Incredible-Insomnia-ebook/dp/B004UC4ZNM]
NUTRITION THAT WORKS FOR YOU
Some people want to be prescribed timed meals to the gram, and know the exact amounts of protein, fat and carbs they should be having. You eat for energy, and aiming for a balanced diet that covers your additional needs for training should not be too difficult to achieve. Apps like myfitnesspal are great for helping you keep track. If you enjoy snack foods and find that ‘the pack is the portion’… then don’t put the temptation of packets of biscuits or large bags of crisps in your way.
At the most basic level, you can simply aim to keep a proportion of your meals really clean and healthy following an 80:20 rule. This means in a normal week, assuming you have three meals a day, try and keep 17 of them healthy. No junk, mainly vegetables, plus protein and fat. Try and prepare as many of your meals as possible yourself and at home. Stay close to nature. If something needs advertising you probably shouldn’t be eating it. If you are thinking of taking supplements other than a basic multi-vitamin, it’s best to consult a doctor first, or you can do more harm than good.
MELISSA’S TRAINING BASICS
If you are cycling through the winter and you want to spend some time in the gym or indoors doing some strength and conditioning I would recommend resistance training twice a week, and altogether with cycling, a maximum of five days with two full rest days. Training should include Pilates and/or Yoga, but you can also do these on your rest days. Here are some specifics on training different muscle groups.
You need to Lift to get your legs strong. Squats and deadlifts will work the large leg muscle groups, your glutes, quads and hamstrings. If you’re at home without weights (and no knee issues), you can try some HIIT or plyometric workouts including jumping which are great for increasing strength. Single leg work is really important for stability and strengthening your ankles, knees and hips.
If you’ve been on a Wattbike, or anything that measures your left versus your right power, there normally is a difference. Single leg work can really help bring that back into balance.
Being stretched over a bike all Summer can lead to stretched, weak muscles and tension around the neck, upper, mid and lower back. Now’s the time to strengthen those muscles and activate the length of the spine. Pulling exercises are great so head for the rowing machine, include lat pulldowns and single arm rows in your workout.
CHEST, SHOULDERS & UPPER ARMS
These are the muscles you use when you’re pressing down on the handle bars – so you can get tight in the chest. Focus on chest presses – lying or sitting, you will strengthen the pecs and can stretch them off a little as you release back to the starting position. Shoulder presses work muscles not much used on the bike but important for stabilisation.
It always comes back to the core, the key to overall strength, conditioning and balance. Side planks are great for working obliques. Lying on your back, try hip hitches to work the TVA (the muscle that works like a corset below your belly button and is the main support for your lumber). Remember, you can work your core every single day because it’s a muscle set that recovers quickly.