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Cyclingnews' Winter Training Series: Part 2

Maintaining fitness, increasing strength and relieving boredom over the winter.

Come wintertime, for the average working-class hero - a.ka. the weekend warrior - motivation is often the biggest hurdle to maintaining one's fitness on the bike. In Part 2 of Cyclingnews' Winter Training Series, Robert Kühnen and Beppo Hilfiker from 2PEAK lend some of their tips on how to get you through the chilly season.

Winter Training Part 1 by René Wenzel, Bike Racing 101
Winter Training Part 3 by Eddie Monnier, Ultrafit & Associates
Winter Training Part 4 by Ric Stern,

Where there's a will, there's a way!
Photo: © Steve Verdell
Click for larger image

In most countries situated in the northern hemisphere, the winter days are short of daylight and often wet and cold. It is unlikely that you spend lots of time on the road during the week - like us, most of you have a full-time job.

Riding is usually concentrated on the weekends and depending on the weather, it's sometimes impossible to ride on the road even then because it's simply too cold or too snowy. On the other hand, it's possible to ride the mountain bike through the forests (less speed, much warmer!) - or, if you live in elevated places, to do cross-country skiing. Track racing isn't very common in most countries; there are simply not enough tracks with a roof to serve the needs of tens of thousands of athletes.

The goal of winter training is to maintain and improve base endurance and to develop non-specific strength (core strength), on and the bike. But while you prepare, you also need to reset and re-configure you internal systems (especially motivation) in order to start fresh into the new season and be the aggressive and hot contender that hides in the comfort zone WITHIN you!

This art is to blend bike-specific workouts with all sorts of other sports. Also, as the bad weather period can extend until the end of March, expert athletes often plan training camps in milder climates in the February/March timeframe to get the mileage when the transition phase is over but winter weather is still a limitation.

We strongly recommend to periodize: riding the bike all year round the same way is not only boring, it's also useless to achieve your peaks. Don't worry if you don't reach your peak performance in January if your main race is in July. Stay cool and have fun. Enjoying your sport is important to get focussed again later on.

Rollers/Indoor trainer

The different technical approaches can be divided into two groups based on the type of indoor trainer you have or will buy:

1. Trainers with realistic inertia mass (tend to be heavily built) are massive contraptions like the Schwinn Spinning bike, Cardgirus, Cyclus 2, Daum, Lode, Schoberer & Co;

2. Trainers with low inertia mass (light constructions) are all the ones with smaller masses that are driven through the rear wheel like Elite, Minoura, Tacx, Cyclops, etc.

If you intend to work indoors often, we would advise you to use one of the heavier constructions; we believe only the heavy duty trainers allow for realistic pedaling feedback and allow for force/strength training and exercises like one leg drills.

"Animations" and virtual training/racing are fine to distract you from the more mundane types of indoor training, but it's not really necessary. However, power readings are very helpful to initiate yourself, understand and better relate to power-based training.

We recommend a blended training approach based on individual choice from the following menu:

  • General athletics: swimming, soccer, basketball, whatever you like
    • Benefit: socializing, coordination, more fun then running alone - Frequency: once a week
  • Running
    • Benefit: good way to establish/maintain base endurance, less time consuming than cycling, weather independent
    • Suggestion: If you don't run frequently throughout the year, start slowly and train rather short and often to get used to the mechanical stress. Running needs more time for regeneration than cycling! Don't overdo.
    • Frequency: 2-4 times/week
  • Weight lifting
    • Benefit: increase strength - including all the weak-spots of the typical cyclist - abdominal and back muscles
    • Suggestion: Start with easy weights; 20 repetitions should be possible, don't overdo!
    • Frequency: 1-3 times/week
  • Mountain biking
    • Benefit: improve technical skills and maintain bike-specific power
    • Suggestion: substitute road riding when it's wet and cold. Short intervals (2-5 minutes) in the aerobic power zone
    • Frequency: 1-2 times/week
  • Cyclo-cross
    • Benefit: improve technical skills and maintain bike-specific power
    • Suggestion: Don't take competitions too seriously if you are going to peak for July. Cross-specific loads (i.e. in competition) are very high 1-2 minute peaks. Keep the number of intense workouts limited.
    • Frequency: 1-2 times/week
  • Rollers/Indoor trainer
    • Benefit: bike specific training, good to improve technical skills - speed drills. Some trainers come with power-readings so that you can train with power.
    • Suggestion: Train in a cold place and install a fan; overheating is a real threat; usually sessions are shorter than one hour; focus on pedaling technique (speed pyramids) or aerobic power intervals (1-5 minutes)
    • Frequency: 1-3 times/week
  • Cross-country skiing
    • Benefit: improve base endurance, long workouts are possible, fun
    • Suggestion: If you have enough snow at your front door: go for it
    • Frequency: 2-4 times/week

A typical week of winter training consists of several rather short exercises which sum up to 5-10 hours of training a week for the majority of us who plan 300-500 hours of cycling a year.

At least two sessions a week should be bike specific: indoor roller training or, if possible, riding outside. The shorter the bike sessions, the more intense they can be; cyclo-cross is a good example - fast and short. BUT: If your main season is summer you shouldn't do too much of such specific training. If you race, make sure to have fun. Strength training (weight and free exercises such as with the swiss ball to develop core strength) is a must. The blending of the other elements is up to your personal choice, preferences and lifestyle circumstances.

Dynamic Training

The challenge for the athlete or his coach is to determine how much recovery is necessary for the very varying workouts and how to time intensity and volume. The aim is to avoid fatigue accumulation (that leads to overtraining). Our approach is to take volume and intensity of every single workout - whatever type and duration it might be - into account and to plan for adequate recovery time.

This can be done, because of the unique numerical approach 2PEAK uses: each type of workout is tied to a recovery function, so that it can calculate the effects of a running session on the cycling activity planned for the next day. The volume/intensity/recovery relation isn't fixed but responds dynamically to the athlete (in the event the athlete had to change, cancel or extend his/her workout, for example) using a user-friendly feedback loop. This allows for the training plan to constantly adjust and adapt to the specific necessities of each athletes individually. We call it "Dynamic Training".

For more information on 2Peak or to speak to one of their team, click here.

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