Functional Fitness

They say races are won in the winter…

There’s a loose saying amongst cycle racers that their (summer) races are won in the winter… and what they mean is that, rather than putting their feet up in front of a warm fire, they put in the hard yards, early starts and long hours over the winter months to make sure that they’re in a really good place for when the race season starts the next year. It means that they’re not having to shed too much unnecessary weight or play catch-up on a stack of lost fitness. There’s a separate debate to have about overtraining, but the principles of using the winter months to build your fitness shouldn’t be overlooked.

Professional fitness is one thing, but how do you translate that to a more general fitness programme. The best way is to tackle it from two angles to ensure that you don’t go to seed over the winter and leave struggling to get back on track come the spring. So you need to focus on yourself (or improving) your weight and fitness.

Cyclocross muddy crash

Weight is the hardest part of the equation during the winter. Not only do we tend to become more sedentary as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, so you’re burning less calories, but the English diet invariably shifts to ‘comfort’ foods and cosy nights in the pub. It’s a real challenge making sure that you enjoy the changes in the seasonal diet, who doesn’t like a pie, a crumble or a tartiflette, so you need to be aware of portion sizes and the other foods you’re eating during the day. If you’re looking forward to a ‘warming’ lunch, I’d be looking at what you’re having for breakfast and for supper with a view to saving some calories there.

The best way of dealing with fitness is to get yourself into a routine that you enjoy. The sessions I always try to are my 07.00 spin sessions on a Tuesday and Friday, and over the years I’ve got used to setting the alarm for a tad after 6.00 to give myself time for a cuppa, to walk to the gym and get myself set-up. Even in the depths of winter, it’s no great hardship, just some extra for the walk to and from the gym.

I’m also a sucker for being outside in the extremes of our weather. A grey day in the UK that can’t decide whether it’s warm or cool does little for me, but throw in some torrential rain & lots of mud, and I’m reaching for my ‘cross bike or trail shoes. Exercising when the weather is at its foulest gives me a huge buzz… maybe that’s just me.

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