Winter Running, Cycling, and Walking
25 Ways to Winterize Your Workout
“Indoor cycling during the winter months can either be a fantastic tool for training, or a complete nightmare,” says Shauna Staveley, a strength and conditioning specialist at TotalCyclist in Charlotte, NC. “The easiest way to turn winter indoor cycling into the latter is to do it all the time, and do nothing else.” The bottom line: For better results on the road come spring, break away from your bike—just a little bit—during winter months. Use these tips to help structure your training sessions.
Don’t go spin crazy. Although Spin classes are a great way to maintain overall fitness during winter months, cyclists should be cautious with training frequency, warns Staveley. “Spin classes are often too strenuous, and too much intensity during the winter months will not allow a cyclist to recover from the previous cycling season,” she says. “Remember: recovery is where gains are made.” If Spin classes are your only way to squeeze in interval training, limit yourself to one class per week and maintain a cadence of around 90 to 95 rpm (revolutions per minute), suggests Staveley. “This means there’s no need to set the spin resistance so low that you are bouncing out of you seat, or a resistance so high the cadence is reduced to stomping on the pedals.”
Don’t overdo it. “Cyclists should have 1 day of intervals a week; that’s it!” says Staveley. “Properly executed indoor cycling can give a cyclist just the amount of interval work needed to get faster and stay fit.”
Choose your cadence wisely. “Too high a cadence will cause the heart rate to skyrocket without the legs really doing much, and too low a cadence will utilize leg strength, but will tire the legs out due to an inefficient pedal stroke,” explains Staveley. “The greater reliance on leg strength, the more fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited to apply force, and those can only be used for short periods of time before fatigue sets in.”
Try a high-tech training facility. A computrainer class—a training session in which a cyclist’s own bicycle is placed on a trainer with resistance individually adjusted according to specific power data via computer software—is a more realistic option for indoor cycling training than a Spin class, says Staveley, who coaches computrainer courses throughout the year.
Cross-train to battle winter blahs. To combat boredom and seasonal weight gain, Staveley suggests cyclists use cold and snowy months to focus on other forms of weight-bearing exercise, like walking, yoga, and resistance training. “Cycling is primarily an aerobic sport, relying on slow twitch muscle fibers,” she says, noting that training fast twitch muscle fibers and increasing leg strength and power are also important, as fast twitch fibers come into play during hill repeats, sprints, attacks, and tough mountain climbs. Resistance training can improve force application, rate of force development, and effort at a given workload, says Staveley.
Slide out of the saddle. “A cyclist should remember that sitting in the same position for hours at a time can lead to overuse injuries and other pain if imbalances and weaknesses are not corrected,” says Staveley. “It’s like sitting at the office all day, only with far worse posture.” Weak or inactive glutes, tight or weak hamstrings, and shortened muscles that result from constantly leaning forward on the bike are common causes of lower back pain for cyclists, she says.
Focus on flexibility. A few times a week, spend time loosening up your cycling muscles. “Tightness can be a problem not only for getting into an aerodynamic position, but also performance itself,” says Staveley, who suggests a yoga class or an at-home stretching routine that hits hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, chest, and shoulders. “Flexibility only improves when the effort is consistent,” she says.