There are probably a million articles on winter training. All of them talk about base miles, core strength, losing weight, etc. While it is true that the “off-season” is often the make or break time of the year, it is often what we are not doing as well as what we are doing that sets us up for success. Like most things in life, its all about balance.
There is so much potential at this time of the year yet many of us use this time to work on 12ounce curls, and training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (not that there is anything wrong with that). It is important to let go and not be as strict with out training and diet, but we need to make sure that we aren’t putting ourselves in a hole that takes till spring to dig out from. After all, you want to be faster than last year right? Here are some tips on how to be successful this winter to be better next year:
- Paying too close attention to diet. Not what you were expecting? Yep, it is possible to be too strict on your diet. Recovery is the first priority over the winter and if you continue to be strict on your diet your not allowing yourself to relax, and your body to rejuvenate and heal both mentally and physically. If you want a beer, have a beer (for God’s sake drink good beer though!). Without that healing it will be hard to be strict with your diet when you need to be. Let go a little now and so you will have the focus later to be strict.
- Not paying enough attentions to diet. Didn’t I just say…OK, it is possible to let go too much. We are looking for a balance here and if you gain ten pounds of deep fried twinkies, dirty mexican food, and oh so sweet malty beverages you will have that much more work to do when before the spring. This is a good time of the year to pay attention to reasons you are eating. Are you eating because it is a habit to have that bowl of popcorn while watching American Idol every week (you know who you are…) or are you eating because you really are hungry? Identifying habit versus boredom versus physical need is a skill we all can benefit from through out the year. Note that I didn’t say you couldn’t have that popcorn, just make a mental note of why you were eating it and work on not eating as much and eliminating a lot of the habitual eating.
- Going too hard, too early. Really, what is the point of hammering every endurance ride in October and November? We all know those guys that are flying in January and no where to be seen in May. Don’t be that guy. There are a lot of benefits to keeping your endurance rides, endurance paced. It allows your body to get better at using fat as a fuel source, it provides good general aerobic training without excessive fatigue, and it won’t leave you burned out when it is time to go hard on those really fun threshold intervals. Just like the concept of “matches” in a race, we only have so many “matches” in a season. Using those up in October through December will leave you hating life the rest of the season when you need to be putting in those structured hard efforts.
- Not working on mobility, stability, and strength. If you are cyclist you probably spend a lot of time bent over the bars, flexed at your upper back. You also spend some hours on the computer every day and driving? That is even more time with your thoracic back flexed forward. Over time that leaves us with a hunched back, rounded forward shoulders, and tight pecs. Combine that with the tight hip flexors that result from miles of trying to drive your knees up in a seated position plus sitting at a computer or in your car through out the day and you will end up with a very pissed off lower back. What I am talking about is a combination of upper and lower cross syndrome. Fix your posture, learn to utilize your posterior muscles, and get more power and comfort through out the season. If your a tri-athlete this is even more important! Not sure where to get started? See below.
- Hire a coach. Begin blatant self promotion. Dollar for dollar, hiring a coach is the best way to improve performance. A coach can provide an objective review of your training, your strengths and weaknesses, and provide a well designed training plan to help you meet your goals. A coach can also provide accountability. Didn’t ride today because you were having a pity party over those 10 pounds you gained eating deep fried twinkies? A coach will call you out on it and over time will give you better adherence to your training plan which in turn will help you suffer less and your competitors suffer more. Win win…
Got other tips for the winter, let me hear em’!