Once again we are heading into a typical winter with reduced daylight hours and weather changes. Since most people work a typical 9-5 workday, it is difficult to get in the same amount of training in throughout the winter months. Since the amount of riding for some people is reduced, the possibility of putting on some unwanted pounds during this time increases. So, how are some ways we can maintain fitness and prevent typical winter weight gain throughout the off-season.
Taking some time completely off the bike or reducing your riding during the winter can actually be a good thing. It can be a time to work on overall fitness as opposed to specific cycling training. For overall physiological and psychological health this can be beneficial. However, it is important to find ways to maintain fitness so that weight gain over the winter is minimal and so that the process back to our desired cycling fitness is not so painful and prolonged.
The cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) has absolutely no idea what sort of exercise you are doing. So, whether it is running, cycling, swimming etc. when you exercise, your cardiovascular system responds to the demands of the activity. This means that cross training in the winter (i.e. doing some sort of aerobic activity) can give your cycling specific muscles a break, and your mind a break while still maintaining your cardiovascular fitness. It can also be beneficial since you can develop muscles which may have become weaker when riding. My personal cross training activity of choice is running, this may have something to do with the fact that I was a competitive runner for 20 years before becoming a cyclist. While I still ride during the off season, I spend significantly less time on the bike and more time running. It maintains my cardiovascular fitness while giving me the mental break I need from spending hours on the bike during the season.
Winter is also an excellent time to spend developing muscular strength and endurance. This can be accomplished a variety of ways, lifting weights in a gym or at home, or doing plyometrics (using your body weight and/or exercise ball) to develop muscular fitness. For example, doing push-ups, curl-ups, squats, squat jumps and heel raises are a few of the “at home” plyometric exercises that I incorporate into my off-season training. This helps develop muscular fitness which will be beneficial once I start more serious training and it will also help prevent injuries by strengthening core muscles and accessory muscles used in cycling.
Other off-season activities that can help reduce weight gain and maintain overall fitness are yoga and pilates. Both will allow you to work on flexibility and on muscle strength. If you do belong to a gym, spin classes can provide an alternative for getting time on the bike without riding in the dark or cold weather. Sometimes I will schedule two spin classes in a row to get a little more time on the bike when I just cannot face the fog or rain.
I personally believe that taking some time to regenerate the mind and the body is a good thing. The change in weather with shortened day-light hours can force this upon us. However, maintaining some sort of cardiovascular and muscular fitness is also important time. Hopefully I have provided some ideas to help make the off-season more enjoyable and yet will allow you to stay fit enough so when it is time to get back on the bike, it will not take long to get back to where you left off at the end of this season.
We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/mountainpedalscoaching80903 Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at http://www.voler.com. To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at Marilyn@MountainPedals.net, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.
Photo: bareknuckleyellow, "rollerraceSLR10" via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.