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Training During the Winter Away from The Bike

Training During the Winter Away from The Bike

Why is the winter a good time to do it?

For a start, a warm and dry gym can be quite appealing during the winter! However, unless you are a cyclo-cross or track rider who is racing during the winter, the main reason is that the commonly experienced short-term drop in cycling performance that the novel and additional load of strength work can cause will have little impact during the winter when peak performance is not really an issue.


Why should I do off the bike training?

Off the bike conditioning work has been shown to make you faster on the bike but it will also deliver a host of other benefits. It will slow and even reverse the loss of muscle mass associated with ageing, improving strength, health and facilitating weight control. It will improve bone health, specifically bone density, which is an issue even for Grand Tour riders. Finally, by being more robust and resilient, you will be less likely to injure yourself lifting the kids out of the car, carrying shopping, or working in the garden. Less time laid up with an injury means more time out on your bike.


What should I do?

Every rider is an individual, with their own specific strengths and limitations, so you should be wary of generic strength routines. Many cyclists, despite having strong legs, are relatively weak in the trunk and have poor flexibility. This means that an exercise such as a barbell back squat, which is often thought of as being a good movement for a cyclist, might not be suitable. Unless you already have strength training experience, it would be a good idea to consult with a fitness professional for advice on a routine specific to your needs and some technique instruction. Off the bike training does not have to mean lifting weights in the gym though. Yoga, Pilates or at home mobility work can all be beneficial for cyclists too.


How often should I train off of the bike?

For strength training through the winter the ideal would be to do 2-3 sessions a week with 48 hours of recovery in between workouts. As you move into the season, you can drop this down to two sessions or even just one for maintenance. For more restorative off the bike training, such as Yoga, Pilates or mobility work, there is no reason why you cannot do a little every day.


Will there be any negative effects on my cycling?

As previously mentioned, strength work can leave your legs feeling a bit heavy, sore and can have a small short-term detrimental effect on your cycling performance. However, this is far outweighed by the long-term gains you will have from a solid winter strength block. Your cycling can also have a limiting impact on the strength gains from gym work but there are some steps you can take to minimise the interference that the two types of training have on each other.

Try to allow at least eight hours between strength and cycling workouts. If doing a split day, doing both in one day, this should still be possible without too early a start or late a finish. On split days, try to do your strength work in the morning and cycling in the evening. Prioritise protein after your strength session consuming 20-40g as quickly as possible.

Some cyclists worry about gaining unnecessary bulk through gym work but, especially if you are continuing to ride, any weight gains will be very small.

Finally, do not make the mistake of lifting low weights for high reps to mimic the endurance requirements of cycling. This is a complete fallacy as, even if you perform three sets of 50 reps, this is still nowhere near the thousands of pedal strokes you will make during a typical ride. To build strength you need to keep the weights fairly heavy and the reps relatively low. Take the advice of a fitness professional but you should be aiming for sets of 6-12 reps.


Always remember…

Do not worry about muscle soreness, especially after your first few visits to the gym. It is perfectly normal and will ease as your muscles get conditioned to lifting.


Extract taken from the British Cycling Winter Training Guide, click here to join British Cycling and for further information on training plans and a whole host of other information!