Winter cycling is a test of a cyclist’s resilience, endurance, determination, and ruggedness. Unless you’re a professional or competitive cyclist, you may find cycling in winter rather challenging. However, if you want to join other cyclists in braving the cold and cycle your way around during winter, you must first maintain good cycling fitness.
Here are steps to maintain cycling fitness during winter:
- Create a training plan and stick to it.
- Commit to a strict healthy diet.
- Get a stationary bike and cycle indoors.
- Go hiking.
- Take a good rest.
Winter shouldn’t keep you from doing what you enjoy. In this article, I’ll discuss how you can continue to cycle effectively during the winter by maintaining the right fitness strategies.
1. Create a Training Plan and Stick to It
It is impossible to achieve anything without proper planning. Draw out a plan that will enable you to go on rides around your other commitments.
Research has shown that goals written in black and white are twice more likely to be achieved than goals not put into writing. Aimless cycling or attempting to cycle without a proper plan is training without direction. You would just be stressing yourself for no reason, which will leave you burned out.
Create a plan that highlights your goals and what you aim to achieve by the time winter is over.
Set Realistic Goals With a Timeline
Your plan can be written on paper and pasted where you can see it every day. Not much of a pencil and paper person? There are tons of apps for almost everything. These apps can help you plan and monitor your daily progress. You can create a routine and set reminders along with short-term and long-term plans.
A Training Plan helps you to have a focus and work in the direction of that focus. Don’t forget to set a timeline for your goals — a goal without a timeline is just a plan.
Create a Routine
Create a routine that fits into your daily routine and responsibilities. Have a fixed time and duration every day to practice and stick to it — this will help you be consistent.
It is essential to ensure that the routine is flexible if other commitments might contend with your training. Life would get in the way of your responsibility sometimes; one should not be too rigid. A routine will help.
Get a Coach or an Accountability Partner
Motivation is required to keep up with cycling during winter. And even if you do have the physical strength and resolve to cycle during the water, you need the mental support from a coach or an accountability partner that will ensure you stick to your plans and stay true to your goal.
If you cannot employ the services of a professional coach or trainer, your spouse, sibling, or anyone else can serve as your accountability partner. It’s their job to see that you do not miss your riding sessions; you eat right and get adequate rest.
Overall, they are responsible for helping you keep it together, rekindling your passion, supporting you, and cheering. Research has shown that moral support can boost an athlete’s performance considerably.
To ensure that your training is valid and achieving what you set out to accomplish, you should create challenges and conduct tests to measure your progress. The test could be a test of speed, intensity, or endurance. Results should be recorded and used to track and compare progress.
You can design a custom test to assess what you want or modify an already existing test to suit your purpose.
2. Commit to a Strict Healthy Diet
The height of self-deception is attempting to keep fit while not relinquishing the “unhealthy foods” your trainer or fitness coach has asked that you quit. Physical fitness is not just exercise or working your body but a combination of exercise, the proper diet, and the right mindset. If one is missing, your fitness equation is no longer balanced.
Your body is a machine that you need to fuel. You, therefore, need a healthy diet to provide you with the adequate energy to keep you fit. No one is asking you to quit the chips or soda you love, but while it’s ok to indulge, your primary meals should contain a balance of all the adequate nutrients and calories your body needs.
Your meals should be a balanced mix of protein, carbs, fiber, a considerable amount of fats, and water. Protein is needed to build muscle, and carbohydrates are burned up to provide energy. Healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) help with vitamin absorption and provide insulation. The goal is not just to eat but to eat right.
You can employ the services of a nutritionist to create a healthy meal plan for you.
Portion control is also important. As your body struggles to warm itself, it will use up more calories. You should calculate how many calories your body requires daily and incorporate this into portioning your food.
3. Get a Stationary Bike and Cycle Indoors
Depending on where you live, outdoor cycling may be completely out of the question. Not everyone will attempt cycling outdoors in such weather. If you fall into this category, you can still maintain cycling fitness indoors by switching to machines like cycling trainers or stationary bikes. A turbo trainer is one of such machines that would make you break a sweat probably faster than when you are cycling outdoors.
Riding indoors really works for a HIIT workout. This way, you achieve your training goals in less time. Investing in these machines enables you to train whenever you want — and within the comfort of your home. You can ride miles on a spot while the snow falls outside. Riding indoors is also safer than riding in a cold, icy, and windy environment.
For the best results, along with indoor riding machines, a heart rate monitor is necessary for measuring your heart rate.
Don’t Abandon the Bike Completely
You might have machines and bikes that you use for constant training indoors during winter; depending on where you live, you can still have some action on an actual bike once in a while.
You can cycle to run errands within a short distance. Such chores could be to the grocery store, church, neighborly visits, etc.
Behind this is that you can get behind the wheels sometimes to put all the lessons from the stationary bike to action on a moving bike.
4. Go Hiking
The weather might not be favorable to go cycling, but hiking is a change from the regular and another way to maintain fitness during winter. Hiking is pretty easy as all required are hiking shoes, warm clothes, gloves, socks, and knowledge of the path. Hiking, just like cycling, is a form of endurance exercise.
Before you do:
- Ensure you get enough information about the weather report.
- Have your compass or map by your side.
- Dress appropriately for the outside.
When going hiking, dressing appropriately will help keep you from catching a cold or, worse, frostbite. If you are hitting the trails, you need to dress the part — this means appropriately covering up parts of your body that need to stay warm, like your hands, feet, torso, and head. You should be dressed in proper winter clothes, socks, gloves, shoes, and head warmers.
Proper winter clothes should not just be thick; they should be insulated to provide warmth. A balaclava will help keep you warm as most body heat escapes through the head. Investing in quality winter apparel is necessary, and layered clothing is your best bet; as you get generating heat, you can remove them. Layered dressing helps to maintain a comfortable temperature as you can remove and add as the temperature changes.
Air-activated heat packs keep the insides of your shoes and gloves warm, and some can last up to ten hours.
Map Out Your Route
Have a planned route before you leave your home. You don’t want to get lost in the windy snow. Carry along a phone that’s fully charged in case you need a map to find your way.
When going hiking during winter, make sure to take necessities including clothing like extra gloves, socks, skull caps, a torchlight, or a headlamp. A double-insulated flask would also make a difference on your hike to carry hot drinks like coffee or cider.
5. Take a Good Rest
For every riding session, you are required to rest appropriately. You cannot keep on burning and using up your muscles without giving them proper time to recover, most significantly after really intensive routines.
If your body cannot keep up or push on at any point in time, it’s advisable to take a break and let your body reset back to its default mode. I wrote an article on how much rest you need between cycling workouts you may be interested in reading – How Many Rest Days Should a Cyclist Take.
Exercises To Do During Winter
Staying fit requires building your overall muscular strength — this is achievable by engaging in other physical exercises in a gym.
In addition to cycling, you can add a gym workout to your training; about two or three times a week. Engage in exercises to develop your core and build resilience for training.
Jumping rope is one exercise that helps to keep fit. Jumping rope makes your heart beat faster, pumps more blood, and makes you sweat. Weightlifting is another way to keep your muscles engaged and an attempt to stay fit indoors during winter.
Why Must I Maintain Cycling Fitness During Winter?
You must maintain cycling fitness in winter because if you don’t, your performance levels will drop significantly — these reductions include a decrease in the heart’s pump rate, reduced blood volume, and diminished mitochondria.
Basically, all the hard work you’ve put into cycling before winter may go to waste. However, you should know that it’s common to feel lazy about cycling in winter.
Why You Don’t Feel like Cycling in the Wintertime
Humans undergo a hibernation period, but unlike animals, we do not shut off; we confine ourselves to one space and try to conserve warmth. We also look for additional sources of heat like fire and hot meals.
Winter is like a hibernation period for us, which is why it’s not surprising that you don’t feel like cycling in winter. We tend to be less involved in physical engagement during winter and stay indoors to limit ourselves from being exposed to extreme weather conditions.
With the onset of winter comes cold, rain, frost, wind and other “unfavorable” conditions to deter you from cycling. Who would not want just to lie down all day, wrap themselves up in a blanket, snuggle cozily by the fireplace, eat chips and cheerios, and binge on their favorite TV series?
While all that is fun and could be a good feeling, you can’t just hop on the bike when winter is over. You can’t expect to perform if you’ve not been having some practice and keeping fit during the winter.
The Risks of Cycling in Winter Weather
Because of the low temperatures experienced during winter, there are certain health risks to watch for — however, the tips provided earlier will help you avert these risks.
Some of the potential risks associated with cycling in winter include:
- Dangerously wet and slippery cycling tracks
- Bodily exposure to very cold weather
- Reduced visibility — darkened environment
Regardless of the possible dangers of cycling in winter, you can still cycle indoors. If you don’t have any provision for indoor cycling, you should visit your nearest bike store to purchase some quality indoor cycling equipment.
How To Ride a Bike in the Snow
- Make changes to the pressure of your tires. The idea here is to lower the pressure in each bicycle tire — doing so will increase traction on the road as you ride in the snow. I wrote an article on how to determine the correct tire pressure for winter cycling you may be interested in reading.
- Expect potential sliding, and look forward when riding. Snow creates a different riding condition — such that your bicycle may slide along the road sometimes. This is normal, and you should keep your eyes forward so as to maintain balance.
- Distribute your weight correctly. You have to sit on your bike in a way that your weight is correctly distributed. Good balance and traction are kept if you sit with your weight towards the bike’s rear end.
The tips listed on maintaining fitness in winter are not rigid; this means you still have to customize a plan that personally works for you.
Thanks to the internet, there’s information about everything that you can use to create a working plan for yourself. The responsibility of designing a project can also be delegated to your trainer or fitness coach if you have one.
The goal is to maintain fitness; it’s advisable to work towards this wisely so that you can enjoy cycling again without any issues when winter is over.