How to stay motivated in Winter

Firstly, apologies that it’s been so long since the last post. Sadly I’ve had a great deal of work to do towards the latter end of the Semester and the blog has had to take a back seat. Fear not, normal service will soon be resumed.

I’ve been looking to write a post on this for a while – I decided to wait until it really felt like Winter (i.e. sub zero temperatures, darkness and massive amounts of mud), so as to remind myself what riding at this time of the year felt like. Yesterday I completed a training session I’d been dreading all week – a 5 hour endurance ride, with some 20% gradients thrown in to keep it ‘interesting’. Truth be told I felt crap the whole way round – as is the norm the day before the start of a rest week. It has served a useful purpose, in order to avoid turning round I had to use just about every trick I have learned over the years just to keep going. Here are my top tips.

  1. Enter an event and train for it.

Picture this; Sunday morning, freezing outside, legs a bit tired and the prospect of a day off sounds very appealing. It is very hard to get out the door unless you have something to push you. Enter a challenging event taking place in early spring, think about how it will feel to do well where others will fail (i.e. those who stay at home when the going gets tough). It is much easier to stay motivated to train if you have something to target. Obvious as this sounds it is a mistake I’ve made in the past – riding aimlessly is all well and good in the summer but for most of us will not lead to good things during the colder months.

2. Set intermediate goals – measure your progress.

This one does tie in with the last point, but is useful nonetheless. Say your event is in February, in November this can still seem like a very long way away. Winter riding can be monotonous, often feeling like you are making little or no progress. Seeing some improvement can provide a large mental boost, much easier to keep going if you know your training is having the desired affect. Knowing that your regime isn’t working is of course also useful – you can change to one that does rather than wasting your time. For more on this click here and Here.

3. Take the Summer bike from time to time.

It won’t hurt to go for the odd blast, on one of those rare sunny days. Riding my race bike makes for a very nice change from my heavier and less well fitting winter machine. It reminds me of what it is like to ride in summer and that training won’t always be such a long, cold grind. Yes, your pride and joy might get a bit muddy but it will help you to blow the cobwebs away.

4. Include some variety in your training.

There is almost nothing more dull than doing the same thing over and over again. If nothing else, it’s not good training and can lead to staleness, more on this here. If you tend to do long steady rides mix in some shorter, sharper sessions and vice versa. This can also take the form of simply trying some new routes, rather than that same old mid-week loop over and over again. I often treat winter endurance rides as an exploration – seeing new sites takes my mind off the riding and time tends to pass much more quickly.

5. Try other sports.

This can be a very useful tool for maintaining some level of fitness whilst keeping your mind fresh, especially during the early part of the Winter (i.e. during or just after the end of season break). I’ll admit to enjoying going for the odd run – it provides a good cardiovascular workout in a short space of time, burning more calories per mile than cycling. From a health point of view this helps to maintain bone mineral density by virtue of being weight bearing exercise. It should however be noted that as the Cycling season approaches it is better to spend your time on the bike.

6. Join a club.

I’m unusual in that I prefer to ride on my own most of the time, nonetheless being part of a club is useful. Making plans to ride with others is a surefire way to minimise the chance of backing out at the last minute. Riding with others can make those long rides pass by far more quickly and can be a good way of getting in some intensity so as not to completely lose your edge during the winter. If feeling lazy – one trick I regularly use is that of simply looking at my Strava feed and seeing what other people have done, motivating me to get out and train in order to be-able to keep up with them come the summer.

7. Indulge yourself.

It is ok to put on some weight in Winter, within reason. Like many Cyclists I first got into the sport primarily in order to lose weight – I still maintain a love of food. Sometimes the thought of allowing myself an extra mince pie or similar as a reward will spur me on to ride that bit further or faster. Sustaining race weight (i.e. a very low body fat percentage) all year round is very difficult. Just be sure not to overdo it and it will be relatively easy to lose those extra pounds during the Spring.

8. Be sensible.

Sometimes it just isn’t a good idea to ride. It it is icy, snowing or blowing a gale then staying at home is the best option. No training session is worth risking life and limb for, better to miss one ride than end up getting injured or worse. Plan ahead, look at the forecast for the week and schedule rides for the best looking days if you can. If you can’t do a long ride just swap in a shorter indoor session.

For today – that is all. Having just submitted my last assignment, it’s time to catch up on the last three months of TV. Hope you enjoyed this post – feel free to comment if there is anything you feel ought to be added. As ever, stay tuned.

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