The winter can be a tough time for cycling enthusiasts, but with a few good training tips you can not only maintain your fitness level throughout the colder months, you can improve other aspects of your cycling skill set as well. The key is to take advantage of the weather when the climate is favorable, but when it’s not, to have a smart training plan with focused goals to fall back on. While nothing may compare to the feeling of being on your bike with the world whipping past, the winter months provide a much-needed break from the repetitive muscle movements of cycling. Filling this time with a variety of exercises that work the rest of your body and develop other aspects of fitness will make you a stronger, better cyclist come spring.
Winter doesn’t mean you have to hang your bike on a hook and forget about it until the weather breaks. If you keep your weekly workout plan flexible, you can squeeze a little outdoor pedaling in here and there. Check the weather report and arrange your schedule accordingly, planning cross-training, weight training, or indoor cycling for days where it’s likely to be snowing, raining, or excessively cold. If you see a good day, however, swap out your indoor cycling or cross-training for some outdoor fun.
When winter prevents you from getting outdoors, keep your cycling skills sharp by hopping on a stationary bike or putting your bike up on rollers. While this may not be as visually stimulating a ride as your usual bike route, you can use this opportunity to focus on perfecting your pedaling technique. Once you’ve removed speed from the equation, you can really focus on your cadence and the smoothness of your stroke. To make the experience more palatable, consider getting a few friends to ride with you or try pedaling to a race video and alter your pace to fit the terrain.
The winter season is also a good time to devote some serious energy to weight training. Building muscle and strength will make pushing through tough terrain a bit less taxing. Don’t just focus on leg muscles, though. Cycling tends to overuse some muscles while it allows others to get off scot-free, and a balanced weight training program through the off-season will lead to a balanced, healthy physique which means better performance and fewer injuries once it’s back to business as usual. Be sure to include lesser-used muscles in your weight training routine, such as hamstrings, as well as abdominal and back strengthening exercises to build a strong core. Make upper-body a focus by spending some time on a rowing machine or working with dumbbells. Start out the off-season by just getting used to the exercises and focusing on performing the movements correctly, then move into heavier weights and actually building muscle. End your winter weight training with faster, more explosive lifts to build power.
Limiting your exercise routine to stationary cycling and weights can get boring quickly, but incorporating some cross-training will keep things interesting. Swimming is a great whole-body exercise for those who have access to an indoor pool, or you could get outdoors and engage in some running or cross-country skiing. Just as with cycling, be sure to leave a day of rest in between your cross-training schedule.