Winter training. Do you love it or loathe it?
If I’m honest, I’m torn. To begin with, there are the shorter days, the biting winds, the rain, the ice and even snow. I’m not going lie to you, training in winter can be a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding. It just requires a bit of planning (see my previous blog on being prepared!)
Firstly, I am not a qualified Personal Trainer, but I have completed Ironman UK, a number of ultra-marathons and other endurance events. I’m also 14 stone and love take-aways and alcohol. So, listing my accolades is not intended as a brag, more as motivation. If I can do these things, you can too. Training during the winter/autumn months was crucial for my successes and it is does involve a little sacrifice.
Now, as we are all aware, we are in the middle of international pandemic. I live in Wales and we've just come out of lockdown, but I know that many of you are living under different rules, including England that has a national lockdown for a month.
The effect of the first lockdown on me was significant. My mental health suffered, and I have felt lower than I have before. Two things kept me positive (ok maybe three things, but I am not going to talk about alcohol again on this blog). Those two things were (and still are) 1) planning future adventures (micro, mini, small, medium and large) and 2) exercise. Luckily for me, they both link together pretty well.
My favourite planning is long term planning. I love to think about a big challenge for next year, something that is going to give me focus and drive and essentially something to train for. Of course, this year is slightly different. The ability to plan for an overseas trip is a little difficult. Not impossible, just more challenging. For this reason, I have decided that next year’s adventure is going to be UK based.
I am a keen cyclist, a cycle mechanic and mountain bike leader. I absolutely love road cycling and have worked on countless cycle trips on the continent including France, Belgium and the Netherlands. So next year I would love to ride Land’s End to John o Groats (LEJOG). One of my closest friends completed it in 2018 and talked about what a challenge it was but mostly about how it was one of the happiest times of her life. Her blog is available here if you want to read about her experience.
If cycling isn’t your bag, what about heading to the hills? I mean the fantastic peaks that the UK has to offer. Discover Adventure can take you to some wonderful locations across the UK including Ben Nevis, The Yorkshire Dales and Snowdonia. However, if you are going to take one (or more) of these on, you are going to need to get training now, you haven’t got time to wait for spring.
So let’s talk winter training.
Here are my top tips.
Be realistic – when you are planning your training event bear in mind that the days are often much shorter (meaning less light) and there is a chance you maybe cold and wet.
To combat this, plan a day roughly half of your normal distance when you are starting out. This will allow you to acclimatise yourself to the different training conditions. Plan escape routes and make sure that you can cut it short if the training becomes miserable.
Keep it fun - The key to all training is to ensure that training is enjoyable. You shouldn’t be dreading training because of the season, so keep it short(ish) to start and build up the distance. It may be a good idea to keep the workouts short but to make them a little more intense. So if this is a cycle, put in a few hills. If it’s a mountain event, add a few steep climbs to make the lungs feel it.
Involve others - I ride with a few friends at 6am once a week on a Local Mountain Bike Trail. This involves a 4:45 alarm call. Now I’m an early bird, but what do you think the chances are of snoozing that alarm indefinitely if I didn’t have others waiting for me? When you’re part of a team, you’re committed to others. Training together can be incredible motivating.
Reward yourself – This is really important for mental wellbeing. If you are on a long trek, pack a nice lunch, a hot drink and plan a treat meal for the evening. If it’s a road cycle, fit in a nice coffee (and cake) stop half way through and pack some nice treats like chocolate or jellies.
Making training fit – We are all busy people and don’t all have the luxury of lots of free time. This is where we must make training fit in with all the other things we have to do. When it comes to cycling, I cycle to work two or three time a week, it’s a 38-mile round trip, but only takes a little longer than the car and as soon as I’m home, that’s work and exercise done for the day.
Be creative - Can you walk to work in your full trekking kit? Cycle everywhere? Get a turbo trainer so you can do long rides indoors? Take a spin class? Hit the treadmill in the gym or worse, the stair master?
Get the right kit – I have talked about this in my previous blog, so I won’t repeat myself, but having good and appropriate kit is important to keeping warm and happy. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad kit!”.
Track your progress – if you are going to get stronger, you are going to need to record your progress. I use Garmin Connect and Strava, this allows me to track my progress by checking my speed, monitoring my heart rate and general performance. Now, be warned, these are a little addictive but are a great way to see how your winter training is progressing.
Safety – Now it would be remiss of me not to mention that you are going to need to plan very carefully for long winter ride and especially winter trips to the mountains. So, do your research and don’t go beyond your ability. Oh, and if you’re cycling in autumn and winter, invest in some good quality lights.
I can’t stress how much having a goal has helped me this year. The goal combined with a flexible training regime has made this year manageable. Get something in mind, get something in the diary and start making plans, whether it’s a ‘Couch to 5k’, a Snowdon at Night trek or the legendary Lands’ End to John-o-Groats Cycle.
I promise you won’t regret it. Well, when you’re at the finish line at least!