As I write this column it’s -1F. I live in the Rocky Mountains in Tabernash, CO. I wait for it to get above 10F and then I cross-country ski. I skied all seven days last week. I mixed up the days: a couple of long skis, a couple of days working on technique, one fast day and a couple of recovery days when I stopped frequently to take pictures of the mountains. I’m coaching clients where winter is also real: Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wyoming. Here’s how I work with them:
1. Set Goals
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Yogi Berra. We often set goals for the year ahead at New Year’s. However, only about 10% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them!
Goals don’t have to be epic or even big. The simpler the goal the more likely you’ll follow through. My goals are simple:
- Improve my skiing by working on technique, increase the duration of my long skis and increase my speed.
- Exercise at least 10 hours a week: any aerobic activity, general strength and core strength, tai chi, stretching, and chores such as shoveling snow and chopping wood. I track hours because I can combine all my activities into one data point.
I wrote these columns:
- 7 Keys to Effective Goal SettingA detailed column on how to set priorities among your goals and, if appropriate, how to quantify your goals.
- Setting Goals as You Grow Older Your appropriate goals depend on your Athletic Maturity, a way of gauging how well you measure up to the health maintenance objectives of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) According to the ACSM, the benefits of regular exercise include “improved cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, flexibility and balance. These are important factors in functional ability.” The more mature you are in a type of exercise the higher the goal you could set. But the less mature you are in a given area the higher priority that should be.
- 7500 miles for 75th Birthday My good friend Elizabeth Wicks turns 78 next week. Her goal is 7,800 miles! Last year she rode 7,005 miles and 7,800 miles is a quite reasonable 11% increase this year. You can read my interview with her about how she stayed motivated and overcame a setback to ride 7,500 miles in 2019
2. Train for Endurance
Even if you aren’t an endurance rider, the ACSM recommends exercising to improve both cardiovascular and muscular endurance. An aerobic endurance base is also the foundation for more challenging types of training, e.g., to improve your riding in hilly terrain or your cruising speed. I wrote the columns:
- Is it Necessary to Build an Aerobic Base? Yes. This column explains the different muscle fiber types and energy systems and why aerobic exercise is essential.
- 8 Tips for Endurance Training this Winter Endurance training doesn’t have to be hours on your bike in the cold. This column explains how to build your endurance base without suffering.
- As the Coach: Questions on Winter Training for Endurance Readers asked about appropriate pacing, stopping for a meal, running as an alternative and what an elevated heart rate might mean.
3. Add Appropriate Intensity
Endurance training is the main course and appropriate intensity makes it more fun.
- Should You Do Intensity Training this Winter, pt. 1 Peter Sagan won the world championship three times and he does intervals in the winter, but not the kind you’d expect.
- Should You Do Intensity Training this Winter, pt. 2 It depends on how much riding you did over the fall and what your objectives are. If you’ve ridden consistently over the fall then you’ve maintained your aerobic base and could add some intensity workouts if they will help you reach your goals.
4. Train in the Sweet Spot
Training in the sweet spot is the optimal form of winter intensity. The basic training principle is overload + recovery = improvement. The harder you ride, e.g., High Intensity Intervals (HIT) workouts, the more overload on your body so that should make you fitter faster. However, the harder you ride, fewer intervals you can do and the more recovery you need between hard days. The sweet spot is the intensity at which the combination of intensity and recovery produces the maximum total overload. The sweet spot isn’t very hard — just above a conversational pace.
- Sweet Spot Training, pt. 1 This column explains in detail what the sweet spot is and the benefits of training in the sweet spot.
- Sweet Spot Training, pt. 2 Here’s how to training in the sweet spot by rate of perceived exertion, heart rate and power. I provide both structure intervals and unstructured random training as examples.
5. Clothing for Exercising in the Cold
It’s warmed up to 8F now – still not quite warm enough to ski. I’ll put another log on the fire.
I explained above that building your endurance base doesn’t necessarily mean hours in the cold. If you chose to exercise outdoors then the right clothing helps. For some riders there’s no such thing as bad conditions, just bad clothing.
12 Tips on Dressing for the Cold from a Colorado Cyclist In this column I explain how to gauge how much clothing you’ll need, the importance of different kinds of layers and specifically what to wear on your torso, legs, head, hands and feet.
Choosing the Correct Cycling Clothing is Key to Enjoyable Cold, Winter Riding Enjoying cold riding sounds like an oxymoron! But it doesn’t have to be. Elizabeth Wicks lives in Massachusetts and rides year-round. She shares her advice in this column.
6. Eating and Drinking in the Cold
When it’s cold you need more calorie while exercising. These columnss explains how to make a rough estimate of your caloric need, what to eat and drink and how to carry food and liquids.
- Winter Riding Presents Different Nutritional Requirements
- 9 Tips for Eating and Drinking during Winter Rides
7. Ride the Trainer Effectively
You don’t have to watch sports or old movies to get through hours on the trainer. Just grinding out the hours might even be counter-productive! These columns are about how to spend less time on the trainer while getting more out of the time:
- Cycling Training Zones for RPE, HR and Power May Differ on the Trainer
- Maximizing the Value of Your Trainer Time this Winter
- 11 Trainer Workouts for Endurance
- 13 Trainer Workouts with Maximum Value
Cross-training has myriad benefits: building endurance, increasing leg strength, maintaining strong bones, developing good balance and rejuvenating you mentally.
- Cross-Train for Fun and Fitness This column gives you 12 different types of cross-training and explains how different ones provide different benefits.
My eBook Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 explains the importance of year-round exercise as we age. It’s divided into three parts:
- Review of the physiological effects of aging.
- Training modalities to combat these.
- A 12-week off-season training program with a range of options.
The 26-page Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 is $4.99.
My 4-article bundle: Cycling Past 50 includes:
- Off-Season Conditioning Past 50 – how to best work on your off-season conditioning given the physiological changes of aging.
- Healthy Cycling Past 50 – what happens as we age and how to incorporate cycling and other exercise activities into our daily lives to stay healthy and active for many years.
- Healthy Nutrition Past 50 – what to eat and drink to support both a healthy lifestyle and continuing performance.
- Performance Cycling Past 50 – how to train to achieve more specific cycling goals given the physiological changes of aging.
The 91-page Cycling Past 50 is $15.96, a savings of $4.00 off the full price.
My eBook Productive Off-season Training gives you two 12-week programs:
- A 12-week off-season exercise program to keep you healthy during the winter months.
• A 12-week, more intensive off-season program for recreational riders to build your endurance, power and speed, preparing for base training.
The 27-page Productive Off-season Training is just $4.99.
The three-article Off-Season Bundle: Productive Off-Season Traing, Year-Round Cycling, Gaining a Mental Edge includes 12-week plans based on riders’ goals, how to extend your riding season outdoors by learning how to properly dress, eat, ride safely and stay motivated throughout the off-season; and how to use sports psychology to improve your cycling (even long after you’ve plateaued physically) by focusing on the often-overlooked mental side of the sport. The 60-page Off-Season Bundle: Productive Off-Season, Year-Round Cycling, Gaining a Mental Edge is just $13.50, a 10% savings off the full price.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.