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For those of you whose only worry at the moment is how much sun screen to apply, you are probably either feeling the benefits of a solid winter training programme and flying, or you are once again castigating yourself for adopting the bear in hibernation approach to winter and are just about getting back to your former glory.

This winter I’m committed to keeping riding.  Between the bad snow (sledging is a sport too…) of last year and an unhealthy appetite for all things yummy and scrumptious I lost my way a bit, leaving me with more work to do in the spring to keep up with friends who had been a bit more dedicated and were quite happy to open the hurt locker.  Equally I’m a big fan of taking a break, sometimes a rest is just what you need and after a few

Wrapped up and catching up.

weeks off you come back refreshed and ready to go.  Combine those factors with the balancing act that are the day job, a long commute, family, friends and housework, it strikes me that winter is the perfect time to have a bit of a break and maximise what time you do get on the bike.

So in this well intentioned vein I thought we might take a look at some of the ideas out there to keep your legs going this winter.  I’m really keen to hear what you do as well – it would be great for these training blogs to become resources with input from everyone.  If for no other reason than to make me feel lazy and spur me into action!

In my opinion you really can’t beat the feeling of a crystal clear winters day.  Put some lights on (check out our NiteRider range review here) for extra visibility, wrap up warm with a quality base layer (we love merino), windstopper, gloves, over boots and the all important ear warmers and get out there!  Winter is a great time for base training, long steady rides keeping your heart rate down (so you can happily maintain a conversation) will help you store some good steady miles in your legs improving your endurance.  Why not make it a group

Gratuitous carrot cake image.

thing?!  Call some friends (or check out the new Rapha Rendezvous iPhone app and organise a ride) and go for a spin.  It’s a great way to catch up, discuss the X Factor (just me?) and have a laugh fitting in with my winter philosophy of having fun quality time on the bike.  Throw in a cafe stop too, carrot cake is both yummy and one of your five-a-day (surely?)!

I couldn’t really talk about winter training without mentioning turbo trainers and rollers.  Not for a minute am I going to suggest you spend hours at a time doing your finest hamster impression in the front room three times a week – while potentially beneficial, I’m fairly confident you might also lose the will to live and find family members moving out.  Instead, how about a 30-45 minute session as time allows once or twice a week.  A ten minute warm up, some intervals followed by a warm down is a great way to work on strength and push yourself efficiently in a short amount of time.

There are loads of interval plans out there – what do you do?  At the moment my session is as follows:

  • 10 minute warm up.
  • 5 minutes gradually increasing the effort.
  • Pyramid interval session with sessions going at about 95% effort interspersed by a one minute recovery, I usually start with ten seconds hard effort followed by a minute rest, then twenty and rest, thirty and rest, forty and rest, fifty and rest, 1 minute and rest, and then I work my way down but decreasing by five seconds so sixty seconds and rest, fifty-five second and rest and so on down to ten seconds.
  • I then do a 5/10 minute warm down.
  • Stretching!

I tend to talk to friends and change this round quite regularly, the basic pyramid structure is a good one and can be adapted to longer intervals depending on how fit you’re feeling and how hard you want to push yourself.  Just don’t forget to warm up and down!

It is also my duty to inform all you lucky souls on the other side of the equator that turbo training can be a great way to maximise your limited time on the bike during your summer too.  If you have a quick half hour after work, or if it is too hot to go riding (we can only dream!) then a turbo session, working on a pyramid type program, can do wonders for your strength, power and lactic thresholds.  Perfect quick, covert training to help you surprise your mates and get one over on your next ride/event.  You could also work pyramid interval training into your commute, not only a good way of getting a bit more from your journey to and from work, but also really easy to monitor progress to find out what works for you.

Apparently it's fun...

Finally, in this concise look at winter training, how about a bit of variety?  A change is as good as a rest so why not take this opportunity to try something new.  Cross-training can be really beneficial; swimming, running and rowing are all great for cardio fitness and general well-being as well as making a change.  Or why not mix it up a bit; indoor climbing (great for balance and core-strength) and skiing (indoor ski venues are popping up all over if the Rockies/Alps aren’t on your doorstep) are both great fun.  If you want to stay on the bike check out cyclocross and mountain biking.  Good for your handling skills, a bit different and you can get muddy (just don’t make the same mistake as me and walk it through the house…)!
Check out Levi Leipheimer honing his skills and having fun, he’s quick:

Levi Leipheimer on a Mountain bike from Roger Bartels on Vimeo.

So now it’s over to you – let’s hear about your winter or indeed summer training plans.  What’s your favourite turbo routine?  What other sports or cross training do you want to try?  Any favourite carrot cake stops?!

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