It’s officially the chilly season, even if it’s not quite winter yet. The mornings are getting darker and darker at 5AM and the chill is starting to creep in through the walls, which means those early morning rides are getting a little harder. Here are three winter training mistakes you need to avoid if you want to make the most of your time on the bike:
NOT ALLOWING YOURSELF TIME TO WARM UP PROPERLY
When it’s cold outside it takes a bit longer for the muscles to warm up properly. Not giving yourself enough time to do this could seriously hamper your performance.
Priming your body for the upcoming physical exertion has a number of benefits, including improved coordination, more power and efficiency, and a reduced risk of injury.
“The coordination required by the brain to contract and relax different muscles and muscle groups is incredibly complex,” says Dr. Jonathan Dugas, an exercise physiologist at The Vitality Institute. “Neuromuscular and aerobic warm-ups help the brain prepare for those movements, which likely leads to a more successful execution of those things.”
Warming up also sets in motion a number of physiological responses essential to optimal performance. Kick-starting your aerobic energy system means you’ll use energy more efficiently and are less likely to feel fatigued prematurely. Your heart rate should be increased gradually to transport oxygen to the muscles efficiently, and as your temperature increases, the range of motion around your joints will improve – reducing the risk of injury and allowing you to function optimally within a shorter period of time.
UNDERESTIMATING THE COLD
Winter training here in sunny South Africa is a bit easier than in Europe, where temperatures can drop to below zero. But it’s still important to dress warm enough and make provision for changes in the weather. What starts out as a mild day could quickly turn into unbearable cold if you’re caught in a drizzle, and having to complete your ride with frozen fingers because you forgot your gloves is miserable.
Starting with a base layer and then adding thin layers is the best strategy; this way you can add or remove as you need or as temperatures change. A good waterproof and windproof jacket is a must – getting soaked through in winter is no one’s idea of fun. Another great piece of kit is a waterproof gilet because it’s more convenient than a standard vest or top; there’s no need to stop, you can simply zip it open if you get too hot, or zip it up for those bracing cold descents. Lined gloves, socks and toe covers are also good investments, since they’ll do a great deal to prevent your extremities from going numb.
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NOT HAVING A PLAN
Team Sky’s performance manager, Rod Ellingworth, recommends riding as much as possible, but he also recommends easing yourself into the season with realistic goals – so try not to overdo it.
“Aim to do two to three hour rides on the weekend and top up during the week,” he says. “It’s much better to do regular rides but always think you can do more. You are a battery and this time of year you are trying to recharge.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a session-by-session plan, just a broad overview of the goals you want to achieve, the weaknesses you want to work on and the type of training you want to accomplish this with.
Chris Froome’s typical routine involves training on the bike and in the gym five times a week to work on core stability and leg and back strength. He also does squats and lunges, focusing on building strength rather than muscles, so no heavy weights. Yoga postures form part of his stretching routine.
What do you struggle with most when it comes to winter training? Drop us a mail or comment on our post.