Maintain the benefits of summer
Tim is an Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) Level 3 Coach and owner of www.blackcatcyclecoaching.com
Although there are still plenty of weekend road riding opportunities left before winter rears its ugly head again, as the days shorten the short sleeved summer evening rides become a thing of the past…and cyclists generally look for other ways to keep their hard-earned fitness. But… how much fitness will you actually lose if you can only complete one ride a week from December through to March?
The physiological effect of detraining is an area which has been extensively researched and the good news is that, whilst you could lose up to 10% off your VO2 power after 4 weeks’ inactivity, you don’t need to do too much to maintain the gains you made in the sunshine when the clocks go back.
So…make the most of the weekends now. Where you can, try and ride on both days – make Saturday a shorter, faster ride with some hill efforts or sprints – make these
fun, against riding pals or just as the whim takes you if you are riding solo. On Sunday do a longer ride at an easier pace…but don’t leave out some sprints/hill efforts: the key to maintaining fitness as you go through the winter months is to keep the intensity of the effort, even if you don’t ride for as much time in a session.
As this month goes on, the days get shorter and unless you don lights and ride after work, you may be limited to a commute, or to no session. If you can ride in the evening, steady but brisk work at around 30-40bpm below your max heart rate will give you a good return, and avoids the risks associated with very hard, fast efforts in the dark. Around 1 hour including a warm up and cool down is perfect. Pick roads that are well-lit, and be aware that if you are travelling at 20mph plus in low-light then it isn’t advisable to look at your computer display for your average heart rate for more than a second or two at a time.
No commute? No lights? Want to do something that will help you keep the extra mph from July and August? When this coach started training back in the 80s, cyclists used to run, do weight training, circuit training and maybe swimming in the off-season. In fact, I recall well looking at an example weekly winter training plan from my then coach and being surprised (and horrified) that there were no rest days at all! You don’t need to go to these levels… but if you do want to cross-train then by all means do. Be cautious with running and circuits, though: cyclists have “big engines” and often get injured quickly when their ambition exceeds their flexibility and specific running fitness – start slowly and build.
Next month I will look at the equipment you may need if you want to keep things cycling-specific through the dark months…and begin the process of hopefully adding some speed and endurance in 2019.