When you live along the 43rd parallel, and January has an average of nine hours of daylight, you’ve got to find some strategies for making it to the Spring Solstice (Wednesday, March 20, with a day length of 12 hours, 6 minutes, if you’re wondering) without completely losing your shit.
To get some ideas to share with you, I sat down with my friend, cycling maestro and bike shop owner, Dick Drummond of Drummond Custom Cycles. He came up with these:
Four Ways to Make it To Spring
Mix it up. Cycle less, do other stuff more. “Every coach will talk about not cycling as much. Fill your week with varied activities,” says Dick. “Work on your weaknesses, whether that’s smoothing out your pedal stroke with one-legged drills or improving your core strength and hip mobility.” Off-season is the perfect opportunity to spend time on technique. Rest. Recovering from injury and overtraining is another thing the off-season is good for. “It’s the time of year to address injuries and get thoroughly recovered,” so you can start fresh in the season. Pay attention to anything that’s wonky from a hard season of riding. Take time with your mobility, your foam rolling. Yoga, pilates and other disciplines that combine total body strengthening with mobility are great off-season activities. Strength training in the off-season is crucial to build durability that will last you through the riding season.
Get outside Cold weather, what is it good for? Like a lot of people, I sometimes struggle to find motivation to get out and exercise when the temperatures plummet. But inevitably, once I get over the hump of inertia and find myself out in the snow, I’m invigorated and never regret it. Easy does it. Winter is the time to put down those base miles — the low-to-moderate effort, long duration rides that develop your aerobic system. Slower speeds means less wind chill. Plus, “people need to understand if you’re too cold, you’re not going to get the benefit because your body is going to start storing stuff you don’t want it to,” which is compounded because “you aren’t drinking water, which is typical when it’s cold out. But you need to drink water in order to burn fat cells.” With so many outdoor activities to choose from, why limit yourself? Use the off-season to do other stuff outside. Cross-country skiing and skate skiing are ideal for cyclists because they “use complementary muscles but not exactly the same. So you can stay fit and build core strength without overworking your cycling muscles.” Snowshoeing using poles is a great way to get an upper body workout. And easy fat bike or gravel rides in a group get you outside, away from it all, to enjoy the scenery and the company of good friends.
- Train right. Build those base miles now. You can do that with long, easy rides on a fat bike, gravel bike, or mountain bike. All those other cardio activities you enjoy, like cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, running, skating, snowshoeing, whatever, also help build your cardio fitness. Just remember the 80/20 rule. “You want 80% in endurance, with a little bit of intensity.” Next month work on neuromuscular strength training. This is best done on a trainer, at a low cadence and a high gear, to build power. Exploit the strengths of the indoor trainer. There’s been a revolution in the indoor training industry, with many great products like smart trainers, plus interactive multiplayer online training apps like Zwift, Sufferfest, and Trainer Road that have taken some of the drudgery out of basement training. “The trainer is super effective to work on specific things like one-legged drills, neuromuscular strength training, and high-intensity intervals that you can’t do easily outside and certainly not with a group,” points out Dick.
- Get the Hell out of Dodge The nuclear option, as I like to call it. This one isn’t going to work for everyone, because of its cost in money and vacation time. But Dick likes to point out that it doesn’t have to be expensive. “You can get airfare to someplace warm for, like, two hundred bucks.” And I have to admit, he’s got a point. The SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) struggle is real. This type of depression is common in people who live far north of the equator, and can seriously sap a person’s will. Finding the motivation to get out and ride, can be really tough. So getting away somewhere with longer days and more civilized temps can be rejuvenating.