Tips to Maintain Fitness in the Winter Months
With the onset of winter and the cold months, it is easy to leave the bike in the garage and decamp to the sofa. Although you will be warm, without regular exercise your fitness will suffer considerably. It is believed that three months after ceasing exercise is when your fitness levels really begin to drop. At this point your heart’s muscular walls have reduced by 25% in thickness.
As these walls comprise the pumping chambers your heart becomes less effective at pumping blood around your body.
As well as wall thickness reduction, your heart at this point is less effective at using oxygen to produce energy for your muscles. You are rapidly approaching baseline fitness and losing any progress you made. If your last ride is in September, by Christmas you are back to square one. In our blog, Discover Sean Kelly’s Essential Advice for Sportive Training, Sean advocates losing fitness in winter months as one of the worst things you can do.
So how can we prevent fitness decline in the winter? As cyclists we have a number of options.
Cultivate the Right Mindset
One aspect to maintaining fitness is to have the mindset to do so. With a good mindset riding a few miles to keep the blood pumping will not seem like such a struggle. Seeing a few hours riding as an opportunity rather than a chore will pay good long term dividends.
Consider joining a cycling club or finding a cycling buddy. Arranging a ride with a friend or cycling club on a Sunday morning involves making a commitment which is harder to break than deciding to ‘ride next week’ when riding solo. Once you’re out there riding you will be glad you did, and every ride in the cold weather is a positive step towards cultivating the right mindset.
Make a Training Plan
Making a training plan will give you a guide and help you pinpoint when you have good times to train. This will enable you to plan your rides around your other commitments. There are good online articles to help you put together a good cycling training plan, and providing you stick to your plan, you will maintain fitness. It is always interesting to chart progress and see how well your fitness is developing.
Diet is extremely important to fitness. If you find you’re unable to ride when planned you should try and cut down on food that will make you gain weight, and if possible reduce your portion sizes. For a brief guide to cycling nutrition read our cycling food blogs.
Consider Turbo Training
Investing in a turbo trainer will give you another option to maintain fitness. Here, you can maintain fitness while being inside and you can train at anytime of the day or night. Another option would be to join a turbo class if it is convenient to your schedule.
Turbo trainers come into their own when weather conditions are so bad it is highly unsafe to ride. Ice, snow, and severe winds are best avoided even if you have the right winter equipment fitted to your bike.
Ensure you invest in good winter cycling clothes. You want a cycling jacket that insulates and protects from the wind, and as we tend to feel the cold in our hands and feet the most, you want good gloves, socks, and overshoes to help keep warm as you ride.
The good thing about using layers to protect from the cold is that you can remove clothes on warmer days. On colder days, having the extra protection will mean you are avoiding chills which can hamper cycling considerably.
Take a Cycling Break
An excellent way to maintain fitness in the winter is to take a cycling break in a warmer climate. No need to worry about the weather as it will be warm. You will be with like minded people and cycling will be just as rewarding as it was cycling in July.
Our October Summer Cycling tour operates in October on the Mediterranean Island of Mallorca. Here, you can ride in 25°C with cycling legend Sean Kelly, and it is very unlikely you will feel a drop of rain. This will give you the perfect platform to maintain your fitness in the winter.
One of the best camps to ride is our Early Season Cycle Training Camp. Here, you will build your base mile and fitness, and perfect a cycling pro style. You will also be chasing Team Sky as they train on the island too.