The days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and with the race season still far away for most, this is one of the hardest times to stay motivated to train. Luckily I have come up with some effective strategies over the years growing up in the Great White North that help me stay motivated during the colder months of the year!
Here are some of my top tips for those stuck living and training in cold places:
Find a friend - It is amazing how some company can turn a ride that would otherwise be a lonely sufferfest into an adventure! I guess you are less likely to question your own sanity if there is someone out there willing to endure the same conditions. It is easier to laugh about falling in the snow, or the fact that you cannot feel your extremities when there is someone there beside you. Making a plan to meet also keeps you both accountable and less likely to back out on training plans after looking out the window. I am fortunate to have found a few friends as crazy as me to train with during these chilly months. Sometimes the tales of survival of epic conditions lead to the best stories, and friendships.
Clothing is everything, layer up! - There is a common saying among the Canadian endurance population that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. Years growing up as a nordic skier in one of Canada's coldest cities (Winterpeg) have convinced me this is true. I'm fortunate to have some high quality winter ride clothing from Etxeondo, their thermal tights and jacket have kept me warm on many cold rides. A good quality long sleeve base layer is a must to keep your core warm, and dressing in layers on top of this allows you to easily dress up or down during a ride. I suffer from cold hands and feet so will also usually layer up several pairs of booties and gloves to stay warm. Shakeable hand warmers can also be a lifesaver if you struggle with the same issues.
Try something new - Adding in some cross-training is a great way to stay motivated by adding something new and exciting to your routine. I like to spend time on my mountain bike and 'cross bike when it starts getting cold. It is a great option for working on technical bike handling skills that transfer over to the road, and the trails are often much warmer and protected from the wind when compared to the road. Fat biking is also a great option for those buried in snow, with tons of group rides and race series starting up all over the place. I also like to switch things up from riding, and will attend yoga classes, add in strength training, and get out cross-country skiing to build fitness during the winter months. See if there are any group fitness classes nearby that interest you!
Eat a cookie! - It is still just as important to fuel your training during this time of the season, but the weather can make it challenging at times. Dexterity just isn't quite the same while wearing several pairs of gloves, which makes reaching into a pocket and eating a challenge. I like to bake treats to throw in my pockets so that I remember to eat, and also have something to look forward to during the ride. If you are not a baker, then choose a great looking cafe that is far away from your house to ride to for a treat. It is motivating to have a destination and someplace to warm up, and a hit of caffeine and sugar will ensure you make it home.
Efficient indoor training – Riding the trainer is not my favourite thing, but sometimes it is a really good option to get in some specific training when conditions are not conducive to riding outside. I know a few riders who can do four-hour endurance rides on the trainer while watching movies, and while I find this thoroughly impressive, I think these individuals are a minority. My advice is to make time spent on the trainer or rollers as efficient and effective as possible. I like to keep rides short and specific, with drills and intervals to focus on and a clear goal in mind for the training session. I always have an energizing playlist ready to go, and sometimes watch race videos to stay motivated. With Zwift now an option as well, you can get that group-ride motivation inside.
I hope these tips are helpful for maintaining motivation and keeping up your training throughout the cold winter months. I will admit that I'm taking the easy way out and escaping soon for some California sunshine, but just know that I have banked up my share of cold miles this month and in my lifetime to truly appreciate the heat. If your lifestyle does allow it and you have some vacation time, then a warm-weather getaway is of course a great option for breaking up those cold winter months.
What are your tips for staying motivated throughout the winter? Happy training everyone!