Winter Training Advice You Can't Do Without

Dec 17, 2014

We all enjoyed a prolonged summer but now the winter weather is really starting to kick in and there is no better time to revisit what you need to remember from clothing, preparing nutrition to making the most of your rides in the saddle.  Stephen Gallagher, Ex Pro Cyclist and Co-Owner of Dig Deep Coaching provides tried and tested information removing all the guesswork for you and hopefully adding to a great period of training during these months.

So How Do You Make Your Training Safe, Productive And Worthy Of The Effort?

If you only have 2 days a week out on the road (normally a weekend for most) to have an extended training session then use these limited hours wisely.  It is easy to sip your coffee looking out the window at the cold and icy conditions, thinking up all the excuses not to train but these are the days when your desire to improve and progress towards what you have visualised and committed to for the coming months are tested.


Defined it is turning a single training session into two separate sessions.  For example train on the turbo/rollers for both sessions or an outside road ride mixed with a turbo/rollers later in the day.  A perfect way to maintain training stimulus when weather conditions are too dangerous to go out.

How to make the most of it?

A shorter road ride in the morning keeping to main roads to avoid ice for perhaps 1-2hrs instead of the planned 4hr ride would be perfect.  Keeping this at a solid ‘tempo’ (tempo is a higher work rate than regular endurance effort, deeper breathing and higher calorie burning) training level will help with training adaptions and increase training stimulus over this shorter period.

A short indoor session in the afternoon/evening for 45min-1¼hr mixing some sub-threshold work or cadence drills* will again increase a good training stimulus for the day while reducing your exposure to the elements.  Completed in ‘sweetspot or sub threshold’ (higher than tempo and talking should be minimal to near impossible, just slightly below a time trial effort) would be excellent training stimulus.

*Example cadence drills would be:

1 min 65rpm/75rpm – 1 min 100/110rpm for 10minx2/3 efforts

5-10min leg speed sessions at 100rpm x 3/4 efforts

30sec single leg (left) then 1 min both legs, 30sec single leg right, repeat for 15min x 2/3 efforts


  • More quality than perhaps initially intended for that day, maximising each pedal stroke to get benefit from your free day to train.
  • Reducing time in adverse weather conditions, limiting your chances of illness/injury/accident.
  • Split training days help increase body's metabolism along with two qualitative sessions to keep intensity maintained throughout both training rides.


  • Necessity to split your day up, disturbance of other aspects of your day outside of training.
  • Training indoors can not always be enjoyable to some people.
  • Reduced total volume of training hours. 

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Bad weather and especially ice can lead us 'off road' to get training stimulus for the day.

How to make the most of it?

Depending on your terrain and surface of trails you can sometimes continue a large volume of hours by riding trails for up to 3 hrs, it is a great workout on on a MTB for a longer endurance session.

If on a shorter trail with limited time the shorter single tracks can help you increase intensity and produce a better skill session. Hit the short climbs hard and intensive while maintaining a good aerobic workout by getting 1½ – 2hrs in total riding time in with some explosive efforts on MTB/Cyclocross bike.

Keep to forest tracks that are not affected by large amounts of mud and dirt which will enable you to get a consistent ride in without stop starting to clear brakes/gears etc.

Use the off road day to help increase bike skills and confidence.


  • You can continue to keep a good volume of training hours.
  • Helps maintain bike skills otherwise not developed on the road.
  • Short sharp hills/turns can help maintain or increase your 'explosive' power.
  • Normally warmer conditions within forestry area, easier on aerobic ability along with less potential to hit ice.


  • Time spent to travel to forest park/available trails. Depending on your location this can entail a car journey.
  • Necessity to borrow a bike if you have not purchased one.
  • Moving from one style of bike to another, e.g road to MTB can lead to niggles, injury, uncomfortable cycling.

Cross Training

This may consist of gym work or pilates/core class, some people may also swim, run or cross country ski if you have that luxury to be able to do so.

How to make the most of it?

Ensure all your movements are specific and safe to avoid injury.  If in a gym try and extend your warm up and/or cool down on aerobic machines (row/bike/ski machines) to help increase your time building aerobic endurance and ability.

Do not over do any weights or lifts that are outside of your usual target weight so to avoid excess muscle soreness in the days following session.

Maintain a healthy aerobic workout by running, skiing or swimming. Generally a higher requirement of oxygen consumption is needed in these sports which can cross over to cycling benefits well if done within your limits. These sessions need only be 45min-1¼hr to make this a productive day.


  • Gym work can help isolate certain muscle groups and develop specific areas that would not be developed by doing a bike ride.
  • Help improve core/strength that would otherwise not of been worked on if on the road.
  • Increase in V02 efforts due to a higher oxygen consumption doing an intensive run/ski/swim session.


  • Time needed to travel to facility to perform the above sessions.
  • Risk of injury by doing cross training can be high in not used to such exercises or over ambitious lifts in gym with wrong posture.
  • Reduced total hours training, can result in a lowered development of overall 'endurance/base' fitness if this was what you wanted to achieve on this particular day.

The above is just a guide line you can use to decide when deciding on how to make the most out of your training day when mother nature has been mean to us.

Some last tips!

  • Training in smaller groups or solo with icy road conditions can make it a safer ride for you and the traffic that share our roads.
  • A reduced group size can help increase your training stimulus over a shorter period of time.
  • Use layers as your clothing choice for the day,  this enables you to adapt to conditions as they change through the day and is more breathable.
  • Re-think your normal coffee stop, going from cold conditions to a warm shop and then back into a cold environment can be too many extremes for your body to handle and lower immune function.
  • Always carry substitution fluid on cold days, your body still sweats and heats up regardless of temperature as your body burns calories to keep warm and perform exercise. Reduced consumption of fluids can dehydrate the body and lead to a substandard training session along with a lowering of immune function
  • Invest in adequate clothing that will help you deal with the elements, purchase of quality kit will save your winter training days. Will bring more benefit than a new set of 'BLING' wheels

Category: Advice News

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