Cold temperatures, occasional snow, the dreaded freeze/thaw of the local trails, and darkness when you get home from work... it's winter. For the majority of endurance athletes, it becomes difficult to train and maintain fitness through the winter due to all of those limiting factors. The majority of us have full-time jobs, families and often other commitments that make it more difficult to carve out the time to train when the days get shorter. Here are some tips that I've picked up over the years, that can help you maintain fitness throughout the winter and holiday months.
- Zwifting!- Smart trainers and Zwift are changing the game of riding indoors, this revolution has gotten huge over the past few winters. I typically try to avoid riding more than an hour or hour and a half on the trainer; and the best way to make the most out of this time, intervals. Nothing makes an indoor ride go by faster than hitting that lap button every few minutes. Zwift has excellent interval workouts as well, such as 12-week FTP Builders to get you prepped for race season or give our Workout of the Week a try!
- Weekend Group Rides- Finding some local group rides on the weekends or riding buddies are a great way to get the hours in when the weather might keep in off the bike otherwise. Nothing like the company of close friends for a few hours when the mercury is close to freezing. Group rides add camaraderie and a sense of accountability to your weekly hours. Maybe add a coffee stop in halfway or towards the end of the ride.
- Hiking- This winter I've really been embracing this type of off-the-bike activity; hiking is GREAT when the temperature is miserably cold. Nobody wants to get on the bike when the high is sub-20. Activities (like hiking) off the bike throughout the winter help you avoid mental burnout too, keeping it fresh and new with different activities keep the mental energy high. I also love hiking because of it's low-intensity aerobic and weight bearing qualities; it's excellent for your joints and muscles.
- Strength Training and Group Fitness Classes- The winter months are the perfect time to hit the reset button and focus on areas of your body and fitness that may need some work. For example cyclists are notoriously bad for having low bone density; winter is the perfect time to hit the gym and do a little strength training to combat this. Gym work will increase your lean muscle mass and metabolic rate, help combat injury throughout the season (if done properly), increase your bone density and muscle integrity, and help establish a strong foundation to build your season upon. Strength training will also keep the overall training load high and add extra caloric expenditure when your time on the bike might be lower.
My biggest recommendation for the winter months is to mix it up. It's easy to burnout in the winter by staying strict and hyper-focusing on a training plan. Keep things relaxed and add some different type of aerobic activity, try hitting the gym or going on a hike!