How to regain cycling form after winter

Winter 2015/16 was very wet and windy, at least down here in Cornwall. It was far from ideal cycling weather with only maybe a dozen good days in the whole three months. So unless you own a smart turbo that can work you hard and simulate hills, you’re going to be at last a little out of condition.

Have you been out on your bike yet? How much did it hurt? If it was anything like my first ride, I felt every mince pie, beer and every single piece of chocolate I ate over Christmas. Even though I have a couple of hundred turbo miles under my winter training belt, I have still lost more form than I would like.

The good news is that you’re not alone and that if you have been fit once, you will quickly be fit again. Cycling is a pastime that leaves its mark. Not only in the mental and physical scars you collect along the way, but also in the muscle memory it leaves behind. As long as you don’t leave it too long, you will find it refreshingly simple to regain your cycling form. I know muscle memory isn’t the correct term for it, but I couldn’t think of anything else!

So how do you regain your cycling form after winter?

Gradual build up

Unless you hit the turbo hard during winter you will have lost a modicum of fitness. That makes it important to build up gradually and not hit your training too hard too soon. Turbo trainers are good but they don’t come close to replicating hills, headwinds and all those out of saddle efforts that combine to help keep us in good condition

Variety is the spice of life

Varying your efforts is also important when trying to regain form. Combine long, easy rides with intervals, hill repeats, sprints and faster cadence runs to flesh out your fitness and to build yourself up in every way possible.

Add some bodyweight training to the mix

If you read my post a little while ago ‘The ten minute bodyweight training routine for cyclists’, you will already appreciate how strength exercises can seriously help on the bike. Integrate them into your routine wherever you can and you will thank me when summer arrives…

Don’t forget the turbo

Yes I know you’re probably sick to death of staring at the wall by now but the turbo still has an important part to play. Where I live in Cornwall, there is nowhere safe to do intervals or TT-style training as the roads are too rough and too hilly. Therefore, one or two sessions a week of HIIT will pay for themselves quickly.

Don’t forget to rest

The importance of rest in any physical training cannot be overstated. If you’re punishing your muscles, you need to give them time to refuel and repair. Otherwise you simply won’t make gains.

Try before you buy

If you see some new products you want to try, now would be a good time. New gels, energy drinks, protein bars, a new saddle or whatever will need testing before you commit. Doing it in the off season allows you to experiment a bit without wasting the good weather on a fettling ride or fighting indigestion because your gut doesn’t like the new gel very much.

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