Winter is the most important season for a cyclist. Sure the weather is less than motivating, sure the lack of events means we can lose our focus and sure other commitments such as the festive season can distract us from our bike, but winter is the time of change. Unlike nature, the goal driven cyclist does not hibernate during the winter, they are out there getting in the miles, changing their bodies and strengthening their weaknesses.
Due to the lack of competition it is the winter months where we can focus on training consistently over longer distances to improve our base fitness. This is one of the keys to developing as a cyclist. Consider your form like the construction of a house, the base miles being the footing and walls, whilst the roof is your speed and top end power. If you do not have a good foundation, strong walls and a strong foundation it does not matter how much work you do in the roof, your speed, your house or form will not be strong.
So what makes a good winter training programme?
Winter is a long time so it is easy to get distracted and lose your focus, then before you know it you will be into the spring, unfit, playing catch up on your condition. With this in mind it makes sense to sit down at the start of the winter and make some goals for the following year’s cycling season. Whether it be an event or simply just to improve your weaknesses you need to make sure you know what you are working towards. Write it down, tell your friends and reinforce this goal to yourself.
Once you know what you are working towards, it is time to figure out how to achieve your goal. There are various ways you can go about this, depending on what your goals are. If it is simply to improve as a rider then there are numerous books out there which will give you a basic training programme to follow. PBK stock a full range of training related literature to aid you with this. For those with a more specific goal, it makes sense to look at getting a coach. British Cycling has a list of all the registered cycle coaches in the UK, so you can contact them to get their guidance. This may cost but will be a worthy investment; many times an outside perspective on your training will give you the perspective to improve quicker.
For those who are planning to set their own training programme here are a few things to consider and for those getting coached knowing the below will make sure you are more informed, so you can take more of a part in you training plan.
The principles of training:
Specificity: Your training programme needs to be tailored to you. The majority of training books give you a stock programme to follow. It will be down to you to tune this to yourself. When doing so you need to be realistic, asking yourself the following: What is my current level? What training can my body realistically cope with? What time do I have to train? What are my goals for the following year? When are those goals? Once you know the answer to these questions you will have the information to make a realistic training programme. If you work 40 hour weeks you cannot get 25 hours in on the bike. If you are new to cycling and not very fit, then you cannot physically cope with the demands of a six hour ride at 20 miles per hour. By tailoring your training to you, you will have a programme which you can fulfil and by doing so will be more motivated to follow.
Overload: Like the body builder doing very few reps with an enormous weight, the principle of overloading your body to make it improve is relevant to winter training also. By placing a higher demand on your body than it is used to (but one which is realistic to achieve) your body is given a stimulus to react to. By riding longer than you normally do, or at a higher rate, you stress the systems of your body. We are programmed to adapt to these changes and thus get fitter. Though note, it is only during resting that the body can improve. Training is a two part process, stimulus and recovery, one without the other will not achieve an improvement in your fitness.
Progression: As we noted above, our bodies adapt to the new demands placed upon it. This means that as you train and get fitter you need to progress your training. Increase the work load which you put your body under. If you only ever do the same about of training then you will plateau. So as you get fitter you need to increase your training, in either length or intensity, to continue to improve.
Reversibility: This is the least favourite of all the training principles. Going hand in hand with the body’s ability to adapt to new demands put upon it, when those demands are not present then it reverts back to a normal state. In layman’s terms you lose fitness when you do not train, very quickly. With this in mind it makes sense to be consistent in your training, little and often. This will limit the losses during down periods, or when you are limited for time to train.
Winter is the time for change for a cyclist and now is the time to plan that change. With goals and a realistic training programme you will start 2013 fitter and faster than ever. PBK stock a wide range of products to help you achieve this because we know that riding a bike faster is always more fun.