It’s now February and New Years Eve seems like a distant memory. But, looking at the calendar every day of the month can be the start to the new year. The last few days in Colorado we had some rough weather. Actually, I believe it’s the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced. While it’s close to impossible to train outdoors during this brief time period, it does not mean training should totally expire. Maija has been going to her team’s trainer sessions on Tuesday and Thursday nights. This means she has to bring a bike, bike trainer, fan, and front-wheel block. Ah, what we will do to get a good workout in. I haven’t needed to use the trainer in almost a month. Everyday (up until the last week) has been in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Amazing! New York / New Jersey weather during the winter is more consistent with temperatures usually never above 40 until March. Still, I’d much rather have weather inconsistencies here in Colorado than wake up to bleak cloudy days back east. Still, with a week of bad weather, I set up the trainer in the cold basement and watched old Tour De France DVD’s. I have found watching TV is more of a distraction than watching movies, or just strapping my I-Pod on. It’s good for your mind to be as stable as each pedal revolution. I strongly believe indoor training is a good time to work on the mental side of your game. You can truly look at yourself from an internal perspective and almost completely zone out from the rest of the world. Try picking a place in the house where you will not be distracted by family, friends, or even pets. My dogs seem to like the indoor trainer, especially Cooper and Mickey. They will come lay in the basement and get as close to the trainer as possible. The pups are at easy with the overlapping sound the bicycle trainer makes. The more consistent my pedaling is, the better they sleep. So, you can even play a game with yourself and see how long you can keep up the trainer so they do not awake. I know my pups will awaken as soon as I change gears, or free-spin. It’s as if they were in some trance, and the only thing that will snap them back to reality is the cadence change of the trainer. Very cool!

Sometimes we need not brave the outdoors and submit to the trainer.

Find out what works for you as an athlete. If you are not able to train outdoors because of inclement weather, there are various possible alternatives to break a sweat, or continue down the path of your training regimen.

If you are a cyclist, ask yourself what workouts you prefer on the trainer or rollers.  Personally I like short -fast intervals on the trainer with little rest. This keeps me motivated on power-output and less worried about my time expenditure.

One specific trainer workout I love is as follows:

10-15 minute warm up – Spin nice an easy – Heart rate 100-130 BPM – Power 135-150

10 x 2 minute intervals with 1 minute rest  – 15% Above 1 Hour Threshold Power or HR

10 x 1 minute intervals with 1 minute rest – 25% Above 1 Hour Threshold Power or HR

5-10 minute cool down – Power 150<

I like this workout because it teaches us to understand high power / heart rate output for short periods of time. Many times doing fast hard intervals outdoors leaves us with a confusing understanding of perceived effort because of wind direction, temperature, or road terrain. It also forces us to concentrate for short period of times, have a short rest, and then hit the gas pedal again. A bicycle race or group ride is anything but consistent unless you are in a break away / pace-line. Even then, you are still working hard at different points based on other riders and road gradient. During this workout I will also focus on my position on the bike. I will ask myself questions such as; Where do I like to sit during a short hard push? How is my pedal stroke? Do I feel efficient? Listen to your bicycle trainer. Does it have a smooth uniform sound? Or does the sound change after each pedal revolution?

Other trips for this year’s winter / spring riding.

1. Get a bicycle fit. If you have a few extra dollars saved up, find a fitter who has Spin Scan Cycle technology. This will help figure out how efficient your pedal stroke is comparatively to the left and right leg. My best score is 75-78 for 5 minute intervals, see if you can beat it!

2. Check over your riding apparel. Are there holes, rips, tears, and other problems with your riding clothing? Many shops are now having winter clothing sales.

3. Hydrate! Check your urine. Yuck! Yes gross but make sure it’s as clear as possible. Yellow? Drink more water.

4. Figure out a schedule and start looking at posted races for the upcoming month. Many races will close out fast so it’s important to sign up in advance if this race is important to you. Many times I will not register for races until a few days before. Usually it’s because I know those races do not commonly close out for my race category.

5. Cross Train – Take time out of your training schedule to have a rest or cross training day. This is quite important for the body and the mind. Take your dog on a hike, swim, cyclocross, mountain bike, ski, rollerblade, ETC. There are so many great ways to cross train and during the winter it’s important to switch things up. The main reason I like to cross train in the winter is because I do not like to cross train off the bike during the spring / summer. During the racing months I am very focused on training, resting, and racing. So, during the winter I try and take advantage of all those other fun activities.

If you a runner, and it’s impossible to get outside then this treadmill workout might be fun for you. Remember you can run in a lot colder weather than you can ride a bicycle, just remember to dress correctly. I believe running in the cold is a lot easier to dress for than in the heat. We have many different layers to choose from, and if picked correctly you can remain comfortable during your training session. Sometimes we are faced with 0-20 degree days where you can experience chest discomfort. This is not always a negative sign. This sensation of breathing in and out cold air is a slight irritation of the lining in the throat and lungs and is never a serious long-term issue. If you are ever trying to decide whether to run on the treadmill than outside, consider cross-country ski racing and how hard those athletes breathe during competition. Infrequently do they have issues with cold air breathing and for the most part, are breathing harder than you and I during cold weather training days. It’s more important to make sure zero to five percent of your skin is exposed to the cold air. Also, remember to warm up correctly and tack on a few extra minutes if doing a hard cold outdoor workout. Your car thanks you for warming it up every morning in the winter, do the same for your body.

“The human body has an excellent internal air heating system, which rapidly heats inhaled air to prevent freezing of lung tissue.” ~ Jack Daniel’s

If because the wind chill brings temperatures into dangerous negative numbers, then yes the treadmill is the best option. One workout I like to do on the treadmill is as follows:

2 mile warm up.

30 – 45 minute tempo run and increasing my pace 10% each five minutes.

1 mile at 5k race pace.

Cool down 10+ minutes

If running at a gym or fitness center, try not to worry about other running around you. Sometimes we want to size ourselves up to other runners but it’s important to stick to your own pace and goals. Also, remember to put your incline at 0.5 or 1.0. Running on a treadmill at 0.0 will actually have a descending effect. If you want to simulate running outdoors with a wind try those inclines and do your normal running routine. It is also good to use an slight incline to have a less landing shock to your legs. Don’t cheat yourself! I also recommend treadmills over small indoor tracks with tight turns. If you know a local indoor 200 meter running track then great, but be weary of those running tracks at fitness and recreation centers. They are usually only 150 meters in length with tight turns and long straightaways. Those turns can have an adverse effect on your running form and can lead to small nagging injuries which could have been avoided.

Winter training, whether on a bicycle or running can be fun and enjoyable if done correctly and with a specific purpose to keep you motivated when the temperature starts dropping.