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Off The Bike

12) Time out:

Taking some time off the bike can be an ideal way to recharge your batteries and rekindle your love for cycling, although as fitness can start to drop after just two weeks of inactivity – and will take nearly three times as long to recondition – complete rest from exercise isn't a good idea.

Cycling coach Dave Lloyd has never taken time off riding, but he does give his athletes the option – though he always insists on some alternative training. "It's really a time to have some fun while still keeping in some sort of shape for the winter ahead," he says.

13) Eat well:

Eating well through winter plays a major role in maintaining health and fighting off colds and flu. Many riders worry about weight gain during winter, but being too lean can be counterproductive, and slightly more body fat will make you less prone to the cold.

Immune boosting: “To help the immune system boost its prevention power during the winter months, we need a wide variety of fruits and vegetables – at least six servings per day to provide the essential bioflavonoids and antioxidants,” says nutritional therapist Amelia Freer. “Foods such as berries, oranges, tenderstem, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, watercress, alfalfa sprouts, brown rice and a variety of nuts and seeds, particularly sunflower seeds and brazil nuts, can supply the synergistic range of nutrients needed. A cup or two of fresh ginger or green tea a day can also keep colds and flus at bay.”

Post-ride recovery: After a long ride, a balanced blend of carbohydrates and protein taken within 15 minutes of completing your ride kickstarts recovery. The carbs help replenish muscle energy, and proteins are used for muscle repair and growth. There are many recovery products on the market, but a simple milk and banana smoothie will do the job – just have it made up ready to drink.

14) Hit the gym:

In the winter, hitting a warm, dry gym can be an appealing alternative to muddy rides, and gym workouts are among the most productive off-the-bike activities. Some focused strength work will certainly improve your cycling performance.

“When you’re riding a bike,” says ex-pro and coach Dave Lloyd, “you need a strong upper body, whether it’s for climbing, sprinting, holding those tri bars to keep the bike going in a straight line, or staying on the datum line on the track in a pursuit.”

Pumping iron will also make you more robust and less prone to injury. Cycling makes you strong in a very fixed position, through limited ranges of movement, but if it’s all you do then lifting a box or a child, a spontaneous kickabout or a heavy bout of gardening can all be potential minefields. Weight training will protect you from injury and strain.

From the age of 30, unless stimulated, we all begin to lose muscle mass – a condition known as sarcopenia. As well as diminishing levels of strength, with less calorie-burning muscle, controlling fat gain gets harder. The good news is that its effects can not only be halted but also reversed by weight training.

Cycling will provide your legs with a degree of beneficial work but not the most effective high load stimulation of weight training movements such as squats and deadlifts. And cycling will barely touch your upper body.

Two or three sessions a week during the winter will build an excellent strength base that can then be maintained with just one weekly session. Use fairly heavy weights in sets of 6-10 reps, and include these exercises:

Lunges: As a single-legged movement, the crossover to cycling is obvious. To increase the load, work with a barbell across your shoulders or hold dumbbells.
Single arm rows: When climbing out of the saddle, one arm pushes and one arm pulls with every pedal stroke. This exercise works those pulling muscles.
Dumbbell chest press: Works the pushing muscles of your upper body. Because of the range of movement and control needed, it’s more effective than barbells.
Deadlift: This strengthens and increases flexibility of the lower back and the hamstrings, both of which are typically weak and tight in cyclists.
Plank: This exercise works the deep stabiliser muscles of your trunk and is far more beneficial and relevant than sit-ups or crunches. Hold the position for 30-60 seconds.

15) Go for a run:

Often thought of as a dirty word among cyclists, running is an ideal option for a quick training hit during the winter. You’re probably not going to bother kitting up and getting your bike out for a 30-minute ride, but you can achieve an awful lot in a half-hour run.

Many cyclists go out for a run, plod grimly round the streets for a bit, and then conclude that running isn't for them, but it’s no coincidence that top cyclists Nick Craig and Rob Jebb are also excellent fell runners. Running steep off-road climbs uses similar muscle groups to cycling and targets top-end strength and cardiovascular fitness.

It’s also friendlier to joints than road running, gets you away from cars and is fun. You’ll need to invest in a pair of fell or trail shoes to give you enough grip, and the low slung foot position ensures stability and protects against turned ankles.

Steep hill reps:

10 minutes easy jogging warm-up.
10 x 30 seconds up as steep a hill as possible at 100 per cent effort with a jog-down recovery between uphill sprints.
10 minutes easy jogging cool-down.

Cruise intervals:

10 minutes easy jogging warm-up.
4-6 x 5 minutes up a moderate to steep hill at a pace best described as ‘sustainable discomfort’. This will translate as 85-95% of max heart rate, or only being able to speak in short, clipped sentences or single word replies, with a jog-down recovery after each.
10 minutes easy jogging cool-down.

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