Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Well, Punxsutawney Phil arose this morning, did not see his shadow and proclaimed that we will have an early spring. To which, those of us in the Mid-Atlantic, after experiencing a second winter in a row of record-breaking snowfall, reply: "I'll believe it when I see it!"

If you are like me, in winter you have two voices in your head, constantly arguing with each other.
One voice says, "Be smart, don't go outside!"
to which the other replies, "But this is when champions are made!"
"OK, so why don't you just ride the indoor trainer?"
"Because I am supposed to do a 3 hour endurance ride today and I would rather freeze to death than ride 3 hours indoors"

We are all competitive people and even if we have the will to complete our training in any conditions sometimes that simply isn't possible. If there is ice and snow on the roads, riding the road bike may not be safe. Riding indoors is great for intervals and highly structured workouts, but sitting on a trainer for a 3 hour endurance ride will drive most athletes to insanity.

All we can do is try to focus on the things we can control and weather is not one of those things. The number one key to surviving winter is flexibility. You shouldn't view your training plan as rigid orders that should be followed at all costs. Things happen: weather, injury, sickness, work, commitments with friends and family. If you try to squeeze in your training at all costs you usually end up neglecting your recovery (which is when you actually get stronger). Not to mention your job, friends and family. Though we all have periods of imbalance, imbalance is not sustainable in the long term.

Many of us have been frustrated with how difficult it's been lately (mostly because of weather) to stay on track, so here are some simple tips that may help:

1. Look at the weather forecast and plan ahead. If it looks like it's going to snow on Tuesday, riding outside on the road bike on Wednesday is most likely out of the question. So if you are scheduled for a 2 hour endurance ride Wednesday, maybe you could move it to Tuesday and ride indoors on Wednesday. Since most aren't racing this time of year it is OK to switch things around however you need to.

2. Invest in some good winter gear. With the right gear, most people can be comfortable down to about 20 degrees (Fahrenheit). We all know that having good winter clothing is an investment, but as with many things, you get what you pay for. Velonews and Bicycling magazine both have excellent "what to wear" tools on their websites at and, respectively. By the way, I always say that my Assos winter tights are one of the best investments I ever made. I have had them for almost 10 years now and my legs have never been cold wearing them, even when I regularly rode in 0 degree weather in Northeast Ohio. Of course, ice is ice and if it's below freezing chances are that there will be some black ice on the roads, so be smart about when and where you decide to ride outside.

3. Ride a mountain bike or the cyclocross bike. In addition to the extra tread of the tires making it possible to ride on snow covered roads you will also go slower, which means you won't be as affected by the bitterly cold wind. If you ride in the woods, you will have the added protection of the trees against the bitter cold winds.

4. Come into Cadence. During weekends the trainers will be open for use (reserving a spot is strongly recommended). We have a 2 hour "simulated group ride" live at 9 AM, noon and available on Cadence TV any time. Misery loves company as they say, so if you are stuck indoors you might as well be stuck indoors with a group of other motivated athletes.

5. Reduce the volume. The rule of thumb is that you can reduce your volume buy 1/3 when riding indoors to account for the lack of "down-time" (stops, coasting, soft-pedaling). Of course, if you can do the full volume that is preferable but don't drive yourself crazy. The difference between winning and 2nd place in your next race probably won't be determined by who did an extra 30 minutes of endurance on the trainer in January.

6. Take advantage of the nice weather when it comes. It seems like we always get a few freak 60 degree days in the winter. Make sure you enjoy them. This is all part of being flexible. It's OK to do a little extra volume if you can on a nice day, especially when you know that the nice weather probably won't last.

7. Add some variation and structure to your indoor workouts. To make sure that indoor endurance ride doesn't get too boring, vary your cadence every 5 minutes (e.g. 90-95, 100-105, 80-85, 95-100, 85-90, 105-110). Add some one legged drills, fast cadence, out of the saddle time or put a block under your front wheel. Watch TV and do OLDs during the commercial breaks, or watch Star Wars and do a sprint every time someone says "I have a bad feeling about this". If you have access to a computrainer, hook yourself up to a spin scan and try to keep your power 50/50 and your efficiency over 70% on the two legs. If you have access to rollers, split your time between rollers and the indoor trainer. If you have Cadence TV, we have a number of indoor endurance rides available that can give you a little bit of structure while still keeping the overall intensity moderate.

8. Incorporate cross training. Cross country skiing, snow shoeing and trail running are excellent cross training options and will help work some muscles you don't normally use in addition to helping build endurance and adding variation. Just be careful not to do too much too soon. Injuries can happen, but don't take unnecessary risks, especially if it's something you are only doing for cross training.

9. Don't try to make up for lost time. Workouts will be missed. It happens. Live with it. Look forward and try to plan for how to do this week's workouts instead of trying to make up for last week's shortcomings. If you feel like you have missed a large block of training, we can always make adjustments.

10. Contact your coach. That's what we're here for. If you don't know how you are going to do the training, we can help you figure it out. And if not, let's make a plan that you can do and set you up for success rather than failure.

Happy winter!


1 comment:

  1. # 9 is particularly good advice. Earlier this winter I was getting bent out of shape when I ever I missed a workout and would try and do extra the next day, or squeeze the training into time I did not really have. This just increased my stress level and made my training less effective (also my hurriedness or lack of preparation and focus made the chance of injury greater as well). As you said workouts will be missed...move on. Maybe substitute some body weight training that you can do almost anywhere when you have a few minutes on days that you miss.