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If you want to race or ride strong in tours, winter training is NOT optional. Winter training can be like watching paint dry and for the most part will never offer the enjoyment of spring, fall and summer training. The following are some tips to make winter training more enjoyable, keep yourself focused, and improve next year's performances.

Start with a set of goals. You should have your training program/plan and your goals written down. Set both long term and short range goals. Keep a log book to track your training progress. Many books have training guidelines such as those by Eddie B., Burke, Van der Plas, and many of the great cyclists (Lemond, Henault, Phinney, etc.) provide interesting reading along with their training methods.

No one training method/system is for everyone. If you can't stand a training system, you won't consistently train. Keep a open mind, and try new training methods until you find the one that fits you. Many of the club members have successful training systems and are open to discussing them.

Winter riding is a lot more fun if you have a partner. Getting dressed for cold weather is a pain but with the right clothes and friends I can really enjoy it. Riding on snow is a real thrill. The snow keeps the speed down, and gives a great workout. Combined with beautiful snow-covered landscape, snow-riding can be hard to beat. Some caution needs to be used when it gets below 15 degrees. I generally don't ride outside when it gets that cold, since I can't be sure I won't get cold hands or feet.

Cross training, such as x-country skiing, can keep your overall fitness up and is much more interesting than riding any trainer. The club had runs a great x-country ski program that will help keep your winter training interesting. Keep in mind that in order to improve your cycling you will have to ride some during the cross-training season. The minimum that I ride during the cross training season is three times a week for 1 hour. This keeps your spin fresh and works the cycling-specific muscles.

Trainer Tricks: When riding the trainer I have come up with a number of tricks I play on my mind to convince myself this isn't the most boring thing I've done. You need written training goals even for the easy trainer riding days. These might be to work on increasing your cadence with low effort, smoothing the pedal stroke, or do some one legged spinning to get a better feel for using all 360 degrees of the pedal stroke. With a heart rate monitor you can monitor increased efficiency using various low and high cadences at the same resistance and odometer speed. If your trainer reads watts you can compare the various cadences vs watts vs heart rate. Do you ride better on certain foods or fluid replacement drinks? Is the saddle and handlebar position optimum.

Winter trainer riding is a much better time to experiment with them then during racing season as the conditions are fixed on the trainer. Another trick is to watch TV. Yes, I sometimes watch TV when I ride the trainer. A lot of the race videos show many tactics that can be used in our races. Sometimes I sprint when they sprint (and I generally win!) Watch how the riding positions vary greatly from rider to rider as no one position seems to be ideal for everyone. Pay particular attention to the sprinters and the tactics they use. How do the same people get in the best sprint position time after time? The best climbers look super relaxed, smooth and wasting no energy going up the steepest climbs. In the early spring I do intervals during most of the TV commercials, (it gives me another reason to hate long commercials.) Since commercials come often and for unknown lengths they can simulate a hard race with many attacks.

Off-season weight training is one part of the exercise program that I really don't like. But to be competitive it's an essential part of your overall plan. The years that I have stuck to my weight training goals definitely gave me an edge in sprints and jumps and proved well worth the effort. Like other training, I have come to believe that no single weight training system is good for all. The system needs to be tailored to your goals, strength and style of riding.

For most of us the key to a successful racing/touring season is in keeping fit and trim during the off season. The keys to keeping fit and trim in the off season are written goals and a training plan/log that you can stick to. As many of you know I was one of the coaches for the summer cycling classes this summer, and we had a great group of students! I was impressed with the progress made and I expect to see more great racing next year. Hope to see all of you this winter riding and skiing.

By Ted Free, tfree@spacestar.com.
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