There’s a saying, ‘Winter miles equal summer smiles,’ and whilst I wholeheartedly agree that one’s time is always best spent cycling, during the winter months it can be hard to fit in as much ride time as one requires to stay fit and sane.
One of the ways I get round the problem of terrifyingly icy roads is by hopping on my mountain bike (see my previous piece for why you should do the same) but I also like to swap some of my on-the-bike sessions for indoor training and workouts in the comfort of my own home.
Cross training is really good for all cyclists, whether you’re hoping to tackle your first race or sportive or simply looking to add another dimension to your training routine. I like to select from a few different indoor options so that I don’t get bored repeating the same old thing all the time, which has the added benefit of keeping things challenging as the body doesn’t adapt to a fixed routine.
Over the next few months, I’ll be looking at how to stay sharp by training indoors with some more in depth features on specific workouts, but for now, here are a few ideas to get you started on the your winter indoor training regime.
1. Turbo training
Ok, so swapping your usual views of the countryside/canal towpath/buzzing metropolis for the plain walls of your home whilst riding a bike that doesn’t go anywhere might not sound that appealing. But when it comes to maintaining or developing your fitness, a turbo trainer is your friend. This special machine converts your normal road bike into an indoor ‘spinning’ bike, so you can get some pedal time in whatever the weather.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call turbo training ‘fun,’ but it’s popular because, done the right way, it’s extremely effective. As there are no hills or traffic to contend with, you’re constantly pedaling with no coasting down hills and around corners.
You can crank up the intensity to levels that would make you fall off a regular bike and really get your head down and pedal till your thighs feel like popping - if that’s your kind of thing.
For a more detailed turbo training plan, read Juliet's sequel blog, Turbo Training Ideas.
2. Body weight circuit training
Weight-bearing exercises are especially useful for female riders as they promote bone density, something that cycling alone does not, and training using your own bodyweight means all you need is a clear space in your living room. Move swiftly through sets of press-ups, squats, lunges, planks and burpees for a workout that targets the entire body.
3. Foam rolling
Regular massages and thorough stretching help keep your muscles in tip-top condition, but us mere mortals don’t generally have the option of a post ride rub down from a professional.
Though not quite as enjoyable as a massage (though massages can themselves be pretty sore on tired muscles), using a foam roller is an effective way of keeping your myofascia, the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles, all flexible and soft. It’s great for stretching hard to reach muscles such as the iliotibial band, which can cause knee problems if overly tight.
Foam rollers come in different shapes, densities and sizes, though having tried several I’ve found one roughly 6 inches in diameter to be most effective. You may initially find foam rolling somewhat painful, but stick with it and it will become less so. The following video shows how I use a foam roller after exercise:
As I mentioned before, keeping your muscles supple is A Good Thing. I like to stretch as soon as I get back from a ride, but you if you don’t fancy that there are plenty of ‘yoga for cyclists’ videos on YouTube.
5. Core workout
A strong core is essential for cyclists, as you need to stabilise your body when pedaling so that you don’t wobble and bounce all over the place, which would be a rather inefficient way of using your energy. Core exercises can also keep your back strong, which is certainly no bad thing if you spend hours hunched forward over the bars.
I’ve mentioned planks before, and these are great. Add in some bridges, side planks, scissor kicks, supermans and double leg raises to really work your core. A Swiss Ball is a great piece of kit for working on your abs as well.
So there you have it, a few ideas for making the most of those down days when you can’t get out on the bike, because adding some variety to your cycling routine will pay dividends when you’re back on two wheels.
But don’t forget, if you’re training for a race or a sportive, it’s important to have at least one rest day per week as that’s when your muscles adapt to the training your doing. So the final tip I have is to run yourself a bubble bath, get cosy in your PJs and have a thoroughly relaxing and restful time.
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