Winter Training Part 1: Goal Setting
November 21st, 2018
Clocks have gone back and it’s already feeling colder, wetter and a whole lot less appealing to get out on the bike. Not only that, there is less daylight to ride by. But we still have aspirations for the Spring and don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve built up so far.
Deciding it was time to get a professional take on what to do, we invited British Cycling coach Holly Seear from Spring Cycle Coaching and Melissa Tarver, Personal Trainer from the Training Works to the shop to share their insights about approaching Winter Training.
Here we share some of Holly’s top advice.
THE GOAL DIFFERENCE
Autumn is a really good time to reflect on what you’ve done this year on your bike. Think about what you enjoyed, what went well, what didn’t go so well, what you are most proud of. Then it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.
Your goals don’t have to be massive. But you’ve got to know what you’re aiming for. It helps to plan some stepping stones. Your big, main goal is your A goal, but you also need some B and C goals – smaller events or milestones. If something goes wrong with your A goal, circumstances out of your control mean that it doesn’t happen, you’ve still achieved your Bs and Cs so you’ve still got something to be proud of.
Once you’ve set your A goal, tell the world. Tell your friends, post it on social media, stick it on your fridge – anywhere you’re going to see it all the time over Winter. So when you are in those dark, cold months and things are getting hard, you can remind yourself why you’re actually doing this.
Quick Tip: Make sure your goals are yours and not because someone else wants a buddy. You need to be 100% IN or you’ll be more tempted to back out.
You’re highly unlikely to meet your goal if you just wing it. Don’t wake up in the morning, look out the window and think, “It’s sunny out there, maybe I’ll go for a ride.” Spend some time planning your training.
It doesn’t have to be hugely complicated. If you’re training for a sportive in 20 weeks’ time, break that down into five blocks of four weeks. Then make sure your training progressively builds to reflect the demands of the event you’re aiming for. This is called periodisation. The closer you get to your event, the more like the goal the training needs to become.
TIME TO TRAIN
Traditionally in Winter cyclists tend to do lots of high volume, low intensity miles. If you’ve got the time and the weather to do that it’s a great approach to Winter training for endurance. It gives you a solid base and a deep level of aerobic conditioning which you can build on later in the season when you start adding intensity. The disadvantage of these slow, steady Winter miles – apart from the cold, dark conditions – is that you’re only ever going to be good at riding slowly.
MIX THINGS UP
Why not take the opportunity now to mix things up and work on your speed, strength and skills?
What can you be doing to make you a better cyclist, a more confident cyclist, a faster cyclist? How good are you at going round corners, can you click your second foot in without looking down, can you eat and drink while you’re on the bike, or add or remove layers of clothing?
If you usually ride on the road, try mountain biking or cyclocross. Fantastic for fitness, skills and bike handling, you can do them in almost any weather conditions. Don’t fancy being outside? You can do really time efficient, accurate sessions inside on a turbo trainer or on a set of rollers. Or sign up for a session at a velodrome. It’s great fun. And dry and warm.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Constant high intensity and/or high volume training will eventually lead to burn out and injury. It is important to build some rest and recovery into your training plan. Many riders base their training on a four-week cycle. Three weeks of building fitness, then a week of rest and recovery when volume is significantly reduced – allowing the body to repair and adapt to the training demands. Complement training with Pilates, Yoga or similar stretching and core conditioning workouts.
And if you’ve had niggles, aches or pains on your bike this year, now is the time to get that sorted. Book yourself in for a Bike Fit and then you can spend the whole Winter training in that new position and adapting to it – especially helpful if you’re thinking about racing or time trials, where you’ll be riding in a more aggressive position.
It’s perfectly normal to have a dip in motivation come Winter. You’ve probably done loads of miles this year, all your exciting events have finished, and it’s getting dark and cold. Don’t panic. Even professional riders take a break at this time of year. You’re not going to lose much fitness if you take a couple of weeks off, but you may well find that it’s enough to bring you back to training. You’ll be mentally and physically refreshed and ready to crack on.
Join a club or find a group to ride with in Winter. This is great for motivation, gives safety and visibility in numbers and means that, should you have mechanical issues or similar, you are not on your own in grim conditions. Richmond Cycles have group rides you can join including Friday flats and Sunday climbs. They always involve cake.
Now is also the perfect time to think about getting a cycling coach. They’ll tailor your training plan, help develop your skills and give you motivation through your performance plateaus.
And finally, what better way to increase your motivation in Winter than to invest in some good kit. Decent winter gloves, overshoes, and a really good waterproof jacket will make a big difference to how much you enjoy your Winter riding and how likely you are to keep training. So get your bike serviced, fit those lights, mudguards and decent winter tyres, and get going!
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