Pass the koeksisters – am getting skinny lately. All this training since Xmas and am 15lbs lighter (mostly thanks to the river of sweat at Martin Swiss training). Even if I can’t be as accomplished in March as Tiesj Benoot, I can at least put all my effort into being the best damn recreational racer that I can possibly be. But I’ll be honest, it’s really hard this time of year.
March is a tale of twins; both equally important and equally relevant to winter survival. It’s the lion and the lamb; it’s the end of winter, but not quite the end of the cold and the gray days. Both of these twins are obnoxious, aggravating and tend to push you to breaking point.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the Winklevoss Twins, but much like the esteemed duo, Wintervals and Winter Wandering are both essential “w” words at this time of year. Whining, whingeing and wiping out are just not in our repertoire friends.
Although we may not be “Testosterone Titans”, we do give it our very best, both indoors, and on those few less unforgiving days outside.
I’ve been called crazy for both training indoors and riding outdoors in winter, but I know from experience that both are important.
Let’s examine the evidence as presented to us, the winter warrior; dreaming equally of spring podiums and summer bike-packing adventures.
Indoor Wintervals – there’s not much more dreaded workout in the cycling world than intervals. The only way to make it work, is to do with friends.
It’s not fun to be indoors for months on end. But if you have a great setup then it’s not so bad. We use computrainers, data geek-outs, Wednesday beer and pizza reward sessions and flat out racing on the weekends. It all adds up to a volume of focused training that rivals a decent camp in Arizona or Majorca. Less exploring for sure, but maybe more discovery of where your limits can be pushed.
And when you do hit the road, you’ll be amazed by how your body responds. Because all your gains have been indoors, you’ll appreciate the bump you get the first time back on the road.
What we do weekly is like riding from Montreal to Quebec City with at least half that time being hard intervals. Even on a strong ride this would be virtually (no pun intended) impossible in the real world. It’s more like an intense race effort every single week since Christmas.
The only problem is that indoor riding doesn’t help cabin fever.
Winter Wandering – Riding on the roads is all fine and dandy, but it is safe? Will I catch a cold? Will I get hit? With winter tires I hurt myself pretty good last year. This year, on my Cannondale CAADX it’s been easy riding with 37 mm tires.
I don’t like to train on the road in winter – how can you? You get hot and sweaty, then five minutes later you are freezing from the evaporating effect.
But you can’t get fit from cycling your bike at a moderate tempo. Well, maybe not even in the tempo zone.
I get out with my laptop in my backpack and go as far as I can before getting too wet. Then find a cyber café, do some work, then head home. A change of jersey or shirt is essential – getting wet equals getting cold equals a miserable ride at best and being sick at worst.
So in summary, planning and flexibility are the keys to knowing which activity to do when. It’s important to put in the training time and effort, but it’s not worth it to the point of dogma. Sometimes being inflexible will lead to over-training, big-time irritability and worst of all sickness. Nobody wants to fry out and be on the bench for a week.
If you’re feeling cooked, take a couple days off and get outside if it’s ok. I like to café ride – going a half hour at super easy tempo. I like to take my laptop along, do some work, clean up my loose ends, whatever. It keeps me in gear and those easy miles really help clear the legs.
It’s also a fun month to research more bike trips – looking hard at my growing pile of pennies for my bike budget. Should be enough for a plane ticket soon!
And no more “Winter is Coming” jokes.
OK maybe just one.
Winter riding is fun, honest 🙂