spin_bikeskiby Coach David Ertl

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Iowa winter rages on without much of a break. With the announcement of the RAGBRAI route, a lot of folks are thinking about getting back on their bikes.  But what should you do if mother nature doesn’t cooperate?  This blog provides some suggestions to consider while waiting for the snow to melt and temperatures to rise above freezing.

Indoor cycling:  The reason most of us enjoy riding our bikes is because we like to be outside, breathe fresh air, feel the wind in our face and travel through the countryside.  None of this occurs when riding inside.  But indoors trainers do have a place.  It is a way to pedal away when you can’t get outside.  The newer indoor trainers provide all the resistance you need or want so your legs and heart can get a good workout.  You can practice your balance and learn to ride rollers.  Or you can participate in spin classes where a class instructor will push you through a ‘ride’.  If you are going to ride indoors, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t really focus on long rides or building endurance inside.  It’s simply too boring.  So instead, limit yourself to an hour max and really work hard to get the benefit from shorter but intense rides that get your heart rate up and give your legs a workout.

Other aerobic activity:  Because cycling is an aerobic form of exercise, any other exercise that can get your heart rate up for sustained periods of time can be beneficial.  Examples include walking, hiking, running and swimming.  Of course, if winter weather is keeping you off your bike, this is a great excuse to get on your snow shoes or cross country skis. These activities can really rev up your heart and muscles and let you get outside for periods of time longer than you could ride outside or inside.

Ride outside anyway: Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t ride. The cold weather clothes have greatly improved and it is possible to ride for an hour or more outside when the thermometer dips down to or even below the freezing point.  Properly dressed you will be amazed at how you can ride comfortably when it is cold out.  It helps to ride where you are protected from the wind, such as in wooded areas, as wind chill can make really cold temperatures dangerous.  One option is to ride a mountain bike or fatbike as the slower speed will reduce the self-induced wind chill.  Riding on dirt or gravel roads will give your legs a workout while riding at slower speeds.  Or, better yet, hit some single track in the woods.  The trees will protect you from the wind and you will work up a sweat even below the freezing mark.  It is possible to ride even with a couple of inches of snow.  However, unless you have studded tires, there isn’t much you can do in icy conditions except get out your ice skates, which is another good form of exercise.

Cross training:  The winter is also a good time to try other activities.  When you take part in an activity other than cycling, it is called cross training. You are working other muscle groups and helping to build a more balanced body.  For example, doing some strength training and taking aerobics or boot camp classes will work other parts of your body.   Of course, skiing, snow shoeing, skating, running and swimming are also forms of cross training.  But consider other activities as well such as yoga and pilates. You might even want to do some other forms of competitive activity such as basketball or racquetball.  Use the time off the bike to experiment with other forms of exercise.  This will help make you a more well-rounded person in terms of strength and fitness and also mentally.  The main thing is to keep your body moving, in new and different ways.

You have all summer to ride, so use this opportunity in the winter to try something new and different.  Before you know it spring will be here and you can get back out and ride to your heart’s (and legs) content. 

 Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://ift.tt/KCPCu1 . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com.  Follow him @Cyclecoach on Twitter and on Facebook at http://ift.tt/1dBevyp.

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