Jordan Fischer, “winter transportation” December 9, 2005 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.
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The following tip is a reprint of a December 2009 question submitted by Voler E-Mail List member Ric MacKenzie:
Winter Training: NE version
I am a recently retired 53-year-old male with 30+ yrs of riding and racing under the belt. Residing in the Albany area of NY (due to previous employment), I get out on the road in March to maybe late October (depending on weather). At the spring/summer peak I put somewhere between 150-250 weekly miles with workouts spreading the gambit, of LSD, steady state, LT threshold, power intervals and hill repeats.
Usually, my winter riding is done on an inside trainer because as I get older I can't tolerate the cold as well. Maybe, and I stress maybe, during the winter I might do an indoor interval session now and then. My weekly time on the trainer varies from 2-5 hrs. Historically, my winter weight routinely increases (Jan-Feb) and then decreases in the summer (around late June to early July) with the onset of increased riding. So my winter weight will be around 190 lbs. and lowest summer weight 175 lbs. During the winter I have a regular lifting (with free weights) and core routine and try not to venture outside for physical exercise except of course for shoveling----snow.
What can you do in the off-season in a winter training climate of the Northeast to significantly improve your power-to-weight ratio?
Looking forward to your insight and any suggestions you might have.
With 30+ years of riding and racing, the amount of "in season" weekly miles, and the structured workouts you include on the road, it goes without saying that you are a cyclist at heart. A rider who wants to keep fit during the winter months so he can enjoy what he loves best throughout the summer – riding his bike at a good intensity. So… given the facts, (winters in Albany, NY are long, cold and snowy, your physical output/caloric input balance changes, and outdoor activity for about four months is not an option), you ask, "what can be done to significantly improve your power-to- weight ratio?"
This is a loaded question and my mind goes in many directions. Let's deal with one aspect of the fitness situation.
Since you mentioned your weight, I'd like to show you a few scenarios of how your weight and level of fitness (power at lactate threshold) relate to each other. (Not knowing Ric's power threshold, 250w is a hypothetical figure.)
Example: 250w* power threshold at 175 lbs or 79.5 kg your power output is 3.14w/kg
Scenario #1: Keeping the same power 250w and increasing your weight to 195 lbs or 88.6 kg: your power output would be 2.82w/kg
Scenario #2: Increasing your weight to 195 lbs/88.6 kg and maintaining your "summer" power to weight ratio of 3.14w/kg, you would have to increase your power threshold to 278w
Unfortunately, it takes a whole lot less work to gain 15 lbs as it does to gain 28 watts of fitness. The question then becomes, can a rider significantly increase their power threshold over the winter months? From my experience, the answer is yes. I wrote an article in June '08 about an athlete of mine who had some ambitious time trialing goals at a National Championships. He, too, wanted to increase his power-to-weight ratio. Starting to work with him in January, an initial test revealed that his power threshold (PT) was 230w. By March, his PT reached 260w while his weight remained stable. Check out "Intervals…What's Your Training Prescription?" from April '08 (http://email.velowear.com/tips/080401.html) for further training details. I believe any rider can experience some kind of power increase with the inclusion of specific intervals to their training schedule.
You have some good things happening…you don't mind getting in the gym for your strength training during these winter months, you have a trainer that you are able to devote 2-5 hours a week to, and you have a fairly flexible schedule being retired at a young age. Without a doubt, you can experience some significant fitness gains with 6-8 hours per week. From what I can see, if you were to add some structure to your trainer time, similar to what you do on the road in a condensed version of about an hour, you will see some power gains without adding time.
It would seem that strength training and sitting on a stationary saddle, are your main stays of exercise and calorie-burning activity. Having lived in Canada during my National Team years, there were many hours spent training indoors while roads were ankle-deep in slush. Creativity seemed to be the key in keeping motivated during this confinement to the gym and as a result, I added Circuit training to my strength routine. By adding 30" of an aerobic activity between sets at a quick pace, step-ups/burpees/jump rope/running on the spot…, I found that it was a good and simple way to increase the muscular endurance aspect of my training. Circuit training is tough work. It's not a bad thing to start out conservatively.
To recap my suggestions:
Add some specific intervals to your trainer time to increase your lactate/power threshold
Consider adding some circuit training to your strength training for augment muscular endurance/calorie burning activity
Go easy on the holiday goodies, it never tastes as good as fitness feels. : )
All the best,