DECEMBER TRAINING HINTS

 

Global warming seems to have set in – at least in my part of the world. Even the birds seem to think its spring – the weather has been great for getting out on the bike!

 

To Train or not to Train… !

There are at least two schools of thought on winter training – those who think it is worth while and those who don’t!

 There is probably little point in reaching your peak fitness at Christmas time at the expense of enjoying the festivities with the family, but at the same time it is probably worth building up a good basic level of fitness.

 Traditionally, long “slow” rides have been recommended for the winter months, but of course they take time – which tends to become scarce at this time of year!

I have had a bit of a rest from cycling in recent months, apart from a rainy holiday in Ireland, so it was a bit of a shock when I got on my bike again recently and found how unfit I was. The first 20 mile ride was heavy going. By the third ride though, I had started chasing other cyclist and racing up hills, and began to feel the old surges of power return.

Others have done better. Numerous cyclists are out enjoying themselves in the winter sunlight. One Etapper does a 70 mile ride each weekend, and another has been doing 100 mile rides in the Peak district! Others are training in the safety of their garden sheds on their turbo trainers, despite the lack of interesting scenery!

I was particularly inspired by reading in Cycling Plus that Carole Gandy has won the womens BBAR and achieved the best average speed for 25, 50 and 100 mile time trials in Britain this year – at the age of 60! She only started cycling at the age when most professionals retire – at 36! One of her training secrets was to put in more base miles from December onwards.

If you have the time available and want to start serious training, a good plan is to combine a weekend ride with mid-week indoor training such as spinning, circuit training or a work out on an exercise bike or turbo trainer.

But how do you fit in even a modest amount of training into a busy life? For some, a lunch time ride is a possibility, and others will be able to get out on weekend rides. Even those with a busy family life might be able to escape on their bikes for an hour or so. For others – next year will be early enough! If you start in January, there are more than 6 months ahead of you to get fit before the Etape!

 

Weather

Winter weather is tricky at times. Ice is a real hazard to cyclists. I have already heard this year of one story (from the USA) of someone who suffered hairline fractures in his pelvis after falling off on ice. He will be off his bike for three months. Avoiding ice is therefore not a bad idea! Depending on conditions ice may tend to clear later in the day, but there are sometimes icy patches lurking in shady spots waiting for the incautious!

 Another lesser known winter danger is the dazzling effect of low sunlight on drivers. I don’t have the statistics, but it may well be a greater danger than night riding (with decent lights.) A carefully chosen route may help in this respect so as to avoid riding towards the sun when it is near the horizon, dazzling motorists who are approaching from behind.

I have seen cyclist in shorts this winter, but it is probably better to be too hot than too cold at this time of year, even at the expense of looking a little less like a racing cyclist. Several of layers of clothing are an advantage, as it is then possible to shed layers if you overheat (assuming you have somewhere to carry the surplus clothing!) A windproof and waterproof top layer is the most essential of all.

A good pair of overshoes will prevent your feet from turning to blocks of ice on winter rides. Not only are cold feet unpleasant, but there may be a danger of frost damage on a long ride without adequate insulation. My latest neoprene overshoes are particularly cosy, though I have not yet tried them in wet weather. Warm gloves are also obviously important.

 

There should be a good year’s cycling ahead of us next year .Whether you are busy clocking up hundreds of miles already, or are too busy celebrating to go near your bike for a while –

 

Have a good Christmas!