‘Cross Training’, there, I said it! Now I vow to drop the cliché and substitute in some wholesome ‘exercise’ to make you fit, get strong and use your body. Hey, the surgeon general recommends it; so let’s get to it! Its time to take advantage of this unique time of the year where you can stop worrying about your watt per kg and instead, use your amazing surroundings to tax your body in new, invigorating, challenging and highly effective ways!
If you have snow, hike in it. Get out there in your Sorel boots and spend an hour hiking up a mountain, through a forest or along the river. You can turn snow hiking up a notch with snow shoes. Snow shoes allow you to trudge through deep and light snow with more confidence in your foot plant; plus you can run and sometimes even float down hills with amazing speed. Look for a local snowshoe race. Some friends and I discovered a 20 mile snowshoe event a few weeks ago. It took me 4hrs and 45 minutes to run and trek through 20 miles of deep fluffy snow on mountain terrain. It was an unbelievable event and has elevated my winter fitness to amazing levels.
Cross Country Skiing is another great option in the snow. When we get dumped on, I just put on my old 1991 Classic Nordic skis and glide around the park or open space near my home. No snow, no problem. Get out there on the trails and power hike up a Mountain. Last weekend before the snow hit, a couple of us climbed up a peak in Boulder. It took us about 20 minutes to get up and then after coming back down, we climbed right back up again in 18 minutes.
Of course, there is running: arguably the best form of exercise, due to its simplicity and capacity to give our body a great fitness stress in a short amount of time. If you haven’t run much lately, start light with only a couple minutes running followed by a minute of walking. After a couple of weeks of build-up, you will be comfortably running twenty minutes and beyond.
Some other great cardiovascular enhancing exercise includes swimming, rowing, stair climbing, ice skating or team sports like basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee and hockey.We most certainly can’t leave out strength training. Recently, researchers found that cyclists and runners increased time to failure by 36% and 12% respectively when asked to ride or run at 80% of Maximum Aerobic Power (VO2max). 80% of VO2max might equal Lactate Threshold for many of us, and I know I certainly don’t want to miss out on holding my LT for an extra 15-20 minutes! I suggest that we implement a couple different styles of strength training into your winter season: one session could be a higher repetition, faster pace circuit style routine, challenging your muscular endurance as well as your lactate threshold and another session can be geared towards improving your 8-10 rep maximum strength.Before I wrap this up, let’s explore how a winter fitness week might look. During the week, aim for a couple focused days with intensity like strong hill climbing while running, skiing, hiking, snow shoeing or stair climbing. You can do repeats, climb a mountain, find a hilly trail or simply go faster on flat terrain. Next, work in some strength workouts. The remaining days during the week will be 30-60 minutes of an aerobic exercise that inspires you and gets you out enjoying the environment. Now for the weekends, go long on one day and play the next. Get out there for two to five hours or more of something that really gets you out there. On your play day, hop in a pick-up game, go skating or downhill skiing with the kids etc…As you can see there is nothing inactive about not riding your bike for hours in the off season. Take on these fitness opportunities with the same vigor and intent that you would use on your bike. I am not saying to avoid the bike at all cost. If hopping on your rollers or the indoor trainer while zoning out to a movie, reading a book, playing a video game or starring at a wall is what you’re craving, by all means mix it in to your diversified winter exercising.
When you combine strength training with these other forms of great aerobic exercise, you will create the perfect platform from which to launch a stellar cycling season. I am confident that once you start logging serious chamois time, you will be three to four weeks from being at the same level you would be if you rode the trainer seven days a week all winter. All of this diverse exercise will strengthen your core and supporting musculature. More importantly; the diversification will leave you with a fresh perspective and strong mind more eager than ever to pedal stronger, faster and longer than your neighbors in the peloton! …and your season is just beginning!
– Jared Berg