Knowledge Level: Intermediate
Weeks of riding in the cold, wet and dark can be a challenge even for the keenest cyclist so, how do you keep riding consistently through the winter? Follow our top 10 tips for maintaining your motivation this winter.
Following a structured training plan is one of the most effective ways to maintain motivation. You’ll be able to see how your training will progress through the winter, tick off sessions as you go and, most importantly, have essential recovery days and weeks scheduled in.
British Cycling Training Plans
Boost your mood
It is estimated that 21% of the UK population suffer a noticeable drop in motivation and mood during the winter months, this is known as Sub-syndromal SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or Winter Blues. As many as 8% of the population have full SAD, which is a much more serious illness that can prevent normal function without treatment. The primary cause of SAD is a lack of daylight. For many people the reality of winter is that they travel to and from work in the dark and only see any daylight at the weekend. Even if you can get out, winter light just isn’t intense enough. If you do tend to suffer from a winter low, investing in a light-box could be the solution. Just spending 30-60 minutes each day in front of one will boost your mood and motivation.
Also, if you struggle getting going in the morning in the dark, you can get alarm clocks that wake you with a simulated sun-rise.
Consider a Vitamin D supplement. This will help to raise your immunity and some studies have also shown a link with improved mood during the winter. NHS advice is to take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (μg) of D3 during the winter months.
If low mood during the winter is having a negative impact above and beyond your cycling, consider going to see your GP.
Your training plans and goals should inspire and challenge you but they also have to be achievable. Be realistic about your starting fitness level and how much time and energy you’ll be able to commit to training. If you set the bar too high and start missing sessions, it’s easy to become demotivated and end up doing nothing.
If your main goals are spring/summer sportives, you don't need to be putting in massive mileage through the worst of the winter. A plan which maintains fitness, puts the emphasis on health and cross training or is more indoor focussed might be more appropriate.
The British Cycling 12-week "Real Life” Winter Training Plan
It’s far better to consistently manage three sessions each week than to one week do five or six sessions but the next week one or none. Again a realistic and structured approach to planning your training can help to avoid “binge training” habits developing.
Give yourself options
It can be good to have a few training options so that you can make a choice based on weather, mood and your motivation level. The key is that something is always better than nothing. Can’t face heading out into the cold and rain? How about an indoor trainer session or a spin class? Really don’t fancy the bike? What about some strength work in the gym? Feeling really tired? Why not try some Pilates, yoga or mobility work?
Whether it’s going out for a ride or doing an indoor trainer session, having your bike, clothing, kit, bottles and food all ready to go makes a big difference. Whether it’s having to fix a puncture, charge your GPS or set-up your turbo; every obstacle to getting going makes it more likely that you’ll abandon the session and choose the sofa.
Free Ultimate Guide to Indoor Training eBook
Knowing that you’ve arranged to meet a mate, a group or a club ride, can give you a real motivational boost and get you out. Don’t limit it to outdoor rides; find a gym buddy or get a group together for some indoor trainer sessions.
Book some sun
Booking some warm weather riding will not only give you a real physical and mental boost but will also give you something to work towards. Try to schedule in a recovery week before you go away, don’t ramp up your volume too dramatically and allow some recovery when you get back.
Top Tips for Riding and Racing Abroad
Top Tips for Flying with your Bike
For some riders, months of winter stretching out before them without an event can be really demotivating. Both cyclo-cross and the track offer competitive outlets through the winter months and guarantee at least one quality session each week.
A Day in the Life of a Cyclo-Cross Rider (video)
Time for the Track
Taking Track Cycling Further
Just ten minutes
Finally, in most cases, the biggest motivational hurdle to overcome is “Bed to shed” or “Snore to door” . If you’re really struggling to face the ride you’ve got planned, make this deal with yourself: “I have to go out but, if after 10 minutes, I still don’t feel like doing it, I can go home guilt free.” Nine times out of ten, once you’re out, you’ll feel okay and complete the session.