Seven common winter training mistakes to avoid

Winter training is important, but it can easily be derailed if you make these errors

Clock21:30, Wednesday 22nd November 2023

Winter is arguably the most important part of the year for training. Sure, you probably won’t have any major goals throughout these months, but it provides an opportunity to set the fitness foundations for the year ahead. Use winter effectively and you’ll be on the path to cycling success.

To help you make the most of winter training, we’ve pulled together a list of common mistakes riders make throughout the colder months. From overtraining to chasing stats, here are seven things you should avoid.

Read more: Indoor cycling vs night riding: Which is better for winter training?

Ignoring off-season

Cyclists often aren’t very good at taking breaks from riding. Give it a few days and they’ll be itching to jump back in the saddle. While that motivation to ride is a good thing, it’s important to reel this instinct in so that you can have a proper off-season at the end of each year, before jumping into your winter training.

An off-season period is a time to relax and enjoy some time away from the bike. It’s vital for physical recovery, but can also provide a mental refresh, boosting motivation. A few days off the bike won’t achieve this which is why your off-season should be at least two weeks.

It may not feel constructive, being away from your bike for that long, but the time can be used productively to reflect back on the last year and implement any changes for the year ahead. It’s the time to start thinking about goals for the next season too.

Overtraining

Fresh after their off-season and brimming with motivation, many cyclists turn the dial from zero to 100, immediately flying out of the blocks with all-out training.

Unless you have early goals in the new year, you don’t need to be smashing out the miles. Winter is about enjoying riding your bike and building the fitness foundations; you don’t need to be at peak fitness from the moment spring kicks in. If you are, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out physically really quickly and even mentally, leading to a dip in motivation.

Relax, take your time and simply enjoy the miles.

Wearing incorrect clothing

If you’re one of those hardy cyclists who shuns turbo trainers for outdoor riding, make sure that you’re prepared for the conditions.

While it may be chillier, riding outdoors can still be lots of fun during winter, unless you’re unprepared, at which point the cold takes over. That makes riding uncomfortable and outright miserable, and it can even be dangerous if numb hands make it hard to operate the brake levers.

In the northern hemisphere it’s almost guaranteed to be cold, so plenty of layers are a minimum requirement. Rain can often spring up out of nowhere too, so plan for every eventuality by carrying spare waterproof clothing.

If the weather’s particularly bad, it may be best to hop on the turbo trainer or skip the ride for that day. Persisting through inclement weather can be dangerous and make you ill, which is always a frustrating setback.

Read more: How to get started with indoor cycling training

Taking relaxation too far

Okay, we’ve already championed a relaxed approach to winter training but there are limitations to this. Having a relaxed approach can prevent motivation burnout, but it can also have a detrimental effect if you’re not making improvements.

That’s why your training needs to become more focussed as winter goes on. This means slowly transitioning from easy riders to more dedicated training sessions, like intervals. The volume of these sessions should increase as winter draws to a close, as it will help to hone your fitness ahead of spring and summer.

Only chasing stats

Even when you’re starting to increase the intensity of training, try to avoid chasing FTP numbers too much, at least until the new year.

As soon as you become fixated on this number, it can be all-consuming and take away the enjoyment of riding. Become too focused on FTP and you can once again burn out before the spring and summer have even arrived.

Remember, you don’t need to be at peak fitness during winter. This is a time to slowly build the fitness foundations so you can reach your peak in summer.

Avoiding gym workouts

The word ‘gym’ is enough to make most cyclists shudder. Let’s be honest, cyclists’ weedy arms and legs aren’t exactly built for strength training, but you shouldn’t avoid it as strength training has lots of benefits.

It can correct muscle imbalances, build a stronger core and prevent injuries. And there’s no better time to work strength training into your schedule than winter, fresh from your off-season. That way you can reap all of the benefits during the year ahead.

It doesn’t need to be more than one or two short sessions a week. Keep things simple and not too intense as your muscles and body will need time to adapt to these alien and, let’s be honest for us cyclists, unpleasant exercises. If you’re enjoying it, you can always build more sessions as your body adapts.

Read more: How to incorporate strength training into an indoor cycling plan

Ignoring social rides

For many riders, social rides stop when the summer months disappear into the rearview mirror, but why?

Riding with friends is a great way to stay motivated throughout winter. It’s much easier to back out of a ride when you’re cosy in bed if you had only planned a solo ride, but much harder if your friend is waiting outside.

These social rides don’t need to be as long as they were in the summer. Even if it’s only an hour or two, you can still squeeze plenty of valuable riding in.

Do you have any training tips for winter? Let us know in the comments.

Planning to spend your turbo training? Check out GCN’s ultimate guide to indoor cycling for guides and inspiration, linked here.

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