Looking at the training plan and seeing the words ?Gym session ? optional? made my day. The weather was atrocious and for the first time I had zero motivation for going out in it.

I wasn?t particularly up for the gym either but I forced myself to go in the late afternoon having toyed with the possibility of going for a 20-minute run in the park for a while.

A few weeks ago in Cycling Weekly we ran a feature on the merits of using a gym (or gym equipment) during the winter when the weather is too unpleasant to go out in. Ironically, that issue hit the news agents on the day much of Britain was hit by snow.

Having joined a gym last year in a bid to improve as a runner (I did my first 5k last October) I kept up regular visits, two or three times a week, throughout the winter. Twice a week is the absolute bare minimum to see any benefit worthy of the extraordinary monthly fee. Three times a week and it feels like part of a regular routine but still there are days when it?s very difficult to go.

Gyms are not the most natural places to exercise. Like hamsters on bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, no one?s actually going anywhere and it can feel like you?re not achieving anything. Often the speed or heart-rate equipment is not calibrated correctly ? meaning I had the shock of my life when I rode 16km in 18 minutes last year ? that?s the equivalent of giving Bradley Wiggins a run for his money in the legendarily fast Levens 10-mile time trial.

Anyway, this session felt like a bonus so I switched my brain off and referred to the note I had written on a piece of paper for reference. I stretched then warmed up properly then did some weights ? the one where you sit down, hook your feet under the bar and lift. For good measure I also used the machine where you sit down and press the weight away from you with your feet ? a bit like rowing but without using the arms.

I did a few squats and stretches and then made a total fool of myself with the core stability ball. I?ve never managed to master this, probably because I have a very unstable core. It?s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. You need to have the strength and sense of balance in order to do the exercises but you can?t improve at the exercises unless you have the strength and sense of balance.

After 10 minutes referring to the diagrams on the wall, but still managing only to flop about like a fish trying to walk a tightrope, I spotted one of the gym instructors heading towards me. To offer some kind of smug advice, I though. I was right.

?Do you need any help there??

I got up quickly, rolled the ball towards the rack and said: ?No thanks, nope, all done here thank-you.?


10 minutes easy warm up (on the exercise bike)

Heavy weights 3 x 8 repetitions

Squats, leg press, seated row

Core stability exercises

10 minutes warm down (on the exercise bike)

Total time: 50 minutes

No, of times I lost balance on the core stability ball: lost count

TOMORROW: A one-hour ride at ‘tempo’.

What’s your first objective of the year? Whether you just want to improve on last season, or you’re starting racing for the first time or have just entered a sportive in Europe, let us know at www.cyclingweekly.com/forums