Dig Deep Coaching Winter Training Checklist - PART 1

Oct 17, 2016

With the road racing season now well and truly over and many riders taking their well-earned end of season rest, thoughts turn to the winter months and subsequent training routines to be tackled. Often at this time of year we find cyclists focus on the individual sessions which they wish to complete or the specific training rides that they wish to perform at weekends and ignore the other fundamentals which play a critical role in their development and progression in the winter months. We look at the wider issues of winter training other than just the cycling so you can see how they can affect your body and potential improvements.
This is the first of our 3-part checklist on what you need to be thinking about when refocussing your attention during the winter months. You want the training to count, don’t you?  Well we are going to give you that all important advice gathered from tried and tested training methods to allow you to do just that.

Are you ready to start?

Before you start your transition into winter training, which will see an increase in frequency of training days, you need to make sure your body is ready to handle the extra training stress. Time and time again we see people begin their pre-season training with a number of injuries and ailments which will have a detrimental effect to their progress further down the training block. These areas need attention before you begin the initial steps.  Adding extra physical stress to your body which is already in a fatigued state because it is fighting an illness or injury is not going to be a good idea. We believe prevention is better than cure and a few days spent with a doctor/physio/dentist/chiropractor will reap rewards later in the year.  Here are a few things to consider before you kick things off:

Immune System

Your immune system is key to your body being able to handle and adapt from training loads.  Maintaining a strong immune system will require care and attention during the winter months.  A big mistake is to commence structured training with a lingering cold or URTI (upper respiratory tract infection) or any other illness that your body is fighting. Going from a period of lower training frequency (as you do in the transition phase from the end of season to pre-season training) and then starting into a new routine of regular training, can be a shock to the body whilst your body readjusts to a routine again.  If you add an illness into this mix your body will fight back with not a great outcome and potentially delay you getting back into training.  Make sure you have a full bill of health before you start.


This is a similar scenario to the immune system.  Adding an increased physical load onto an injury will just prolong the recovery time and you will have this injury hampering your ability to maximise each session in the future. Take this time to ensure full recovery and avoid a vicious cycle of a winter spent training for short periods to then pick up another niggling or reoccurring injury, to then start all over again. This can turn into a vicious cycle of short training blocks, recovery from injuries, short training blocks, recovery…and this continues for many weeks and months during the winter. Make sure you have all cleared up before you start structured training, even if that means delaying your pre-season training by a number of weeks.

Dental Care

Problems with teeth have derailed many a cyclist’s winter preparation, sometimes this is one area that can be ignored. The digestive process begins in your mouth and the demands of training, as well as the substances you put in your mouth, impact the healthy function of both your teeth and your entire body. As you might expect, endurance athletes are susceptible to dental erosion with the amount of sugary gels/drinks consumed in the year, this has far-reaching effects on our bodies. There is a lot of science and research explains how our dental health has a massive impact on our overall health.  Make sure you are up to date with your checks!


Like many areas of sport and life, the tools to help you get there are essential, cycling is no different.  Arming yourself with the training tools and equipment to see you through the winter months will be critical to the overall success of your training during this time.  Your bike will become much more effective along with turbo trainers, heart rate monitors and powermeters.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

Changing Bikes

With the winter weather and the effects this has on our equipment, many people look to having a winter bike as a replacement to the good ‘race bike’ which is used in the spring and summer. It is crucial that this winter bike is of a similar set up to the summer bike, if this is not the case it may lead to injuries and inability to feel comfortable on the bike. It will also lead to problems when you come into the road race season further down the line. Here are a few basics to look at:
  • Overall set up - Your saddle height, reach to handle bars, height of handle bars, size of bike frame should all be the same or at least very close to that of your summer bike. Your two bikes should not feel ‘alien’ to each other.
  • Saddle - Ride the same saddle on both bikes for comfort and body geometry.
  • Handlebar width - Check you have the same width of bars, this can be a cause of shoulder and neck pain further down the line.
  • Crank length- Do you know your crank length on your summer bike? Look and see if there is a difference between them. Ideally you will ride the same cranks year round so to avoid any injuries or discomfort.
Riding your TT bike if you are a time trial focused rider is crucial. Many people fail to maintain their ability to ride in an aerodynamic position during the off season and then start from scratch come spring time having to adapt to that unnatural and aerodynamic position. Look at maintaining at least 1 or 2 short rides (preferably indoors) every 2 or 3 weeks in the initial part of the off season. As you get closer to the season and after the new year this can be increased but don’t let this completely slip to the wayside pre-Christmas.

Training Aids

We don’t need to write about the benefits of using heart rate monitor’s or powermeters as this has been completed many times just remember having a way to monitor and evaluate the stress you are putting your body under is the only way to really be certain you are hitting training targets. Being able to be specific in training is crucial to maximising your limited time to train.  Our recommendation is that everyone has at least a heart rate monitor and a cadence sensor. In an ideal world a powermeter is the perfect training tool, but for many people the expense of such equipment can sometimes be impractical. Make sure you have something to monitor and evaluate your effort and track progress, this will help with every level of cyclist no matter what your aims will be in the coming season.

Turbo Trainers/Rollers

Again, training tools most will have and can often be a lifeline for those who are unable to ride their commutes into or home from work due to the dark or perhaps the weather is not so kind and poses difficulty to go out and ride when the weekend comes around.  We see, on average, people using indoor training tools at least 2-3 times a week and this can really benefit those on limited time to train.  This is to maintain fitness and avoid missing training sessions due to rain and poor weather or to improve in areas of performance when it is easier to concentrate on specific zones or techniques as you take out all the external environmental factors which you have out on the road. Looking at the quality of training which you can get indoors is something everyone needs to be aware of, there is no freewheeling indoors, no stopping for traffic lights or coasting in a group. The quality of 60-80min sessions can be comparative to 2hrs on the road if completed correctly.  A hidden source of effective training during winter.
Now the bike and body are ready let’s look at training phases and how to maximise those indoor workouts.    Coming soon!




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