High Intensive Training During Winter: Our Thoughts

Dec 09, 2015

Over the years there has been many debates regarding the most effective use of the winter months to prepare for the coming year.  With the advance of science and measuring tools to analyse training this debate has been more prominent than ever. Our expert coaches at Dig Deep Coaching have helped guide cyclists and triathletes to success using various training models proving there is no one solution that suits everyone.  You just need to decipher what is best for you.  

The traditional winter ‘base’ training is defined as large amounts of volume at a low to moderate intensity which places enough stress on the body to allow adaptions to take place. The main focus for many athletes using this traditional training routine is to develop a solid aerobic and endurance foundation whereby higher intensive training will be built on as the main objectives in the spring/summer approach. The problem most people have with this training model revolves around having the time to ride the bike the amount of miles and hours in the saddle essential to bring about the training stress and resulting adaptions in your body.  For those people who have families, work commitments and generally other priorities in life other than riding a bike will find it difficult to complete 15 hrs a week in which to commit to this sort of training model.

So for those people who can’t commit to the traditional training base model does that mean they can never expect to see developments in their aerobic ability and endurance?

The majority of people can still develop and improve by using a different take on training prioritisation by incorporating high intensity training throughout the winter in a controlled and specific way which in turn see benefits and improved performances in training and racing in 2016.

The aims of both the traditional high volume/low intensity training model and higher intensive training method is to boost mitochondrial density, when explained, it is the power engines of the body’s aerobic ability allowing riders to train or compete faster and longer.  Increasing the size and density of the mitochondria is the goal.  It enables riders to convert nutrients in fat and carbohydrate into usable energy which ultimately provides more energy to the working muscles. If successful in boosting mitochondrial density and size improvements will be visible at all levels of performance and not just at an aerobic or endurance level. Completing high intensive training during the winter months can also give the same if you have less than 8hrs to commit to training a week you can still hope for bigger things in 2016!

With the worry of training ‘too much’ or being ‘burnt out’ via high intensive riding during the winter months many people feel the high intensive model is not the way forward.  What we would say to those with this mind-set, the training stress of riding 4hrs in cold/damp conditions at a moderate intensity will put a much bigger stress on both your skeletal and immune system than 1hr 30min of controlled intervals. Be critical of the time you have available to train, it is super important to make best use of this time. If you only have 7-8hrs available a week to train and choose to complete most of this in low to moderate intensity then you may find progression will be hindered because of the lack of training stress. The other flip side to this is if you have the ability to do large volume of training, i.e. during a week away in the sun on a warm weather training camp, then using a high intensive training model will not be the best option. This is why making the choice of training model to suit your availability and current level of fitness is very important.


Key to all of the above and for both training models is that it is controlled and completed with forward planning. For those who wish to use a high intensive training model we would recommend the following guidelines

  • Aim to complete 3 high intensive efforts per week, ideally you would have a rest day between each high intensity training session.

  • High intensive training sessions are defined as efforts at or above threshold intensity.

  • Each session should last between 45min to 1hr 30min.

  • The high intensive phase should be rotated in blocks of training, begin with 2 weeks of high intensive training to 1 week of low/moderate intensity. This can be progressed to 3 weeks of high intensity with 1-2 weeks of low to moderate intensity.

  • The aim of the intensive efforts during the winter ‘build’ phase should not be to hit peak powers but to bring around adaptions to allow further development in the spring.

  • We would still recommend at least 1 aerobic low/moderate intensity ride during higher intensive weeks.

Don’t let your fellow winter warriors get the better of you just because you don’t have hours and hours to spend on a bike.  Be specific and targeted in what you do and this will keep you on an even footing with those large mile crunchers. If you wish to take out any guess work drop us a message at Dig Deep Coaching and we would be delighted to help with your 2016 aims.


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Category: Advice News

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