How to do 'winter' like a cyclist: a step-by-step guide

The season of weight training and nutritional debauchery is here

(Image credit: chris catchpole)

The summer months are a distant memory - and with them the sundowner crit races, mid-week time trials and heat-drenched weekends. However, whilst the pros have begun feverishly training on the slops of Denia and Mallorca, the average amateur has a while before it's time to hit the panic button and develop 'spring knee' in a hurry.

Here's a step-by-step guide to getting the winter off-season 'right', by all amateur cyclists ever.

Cut back on training (make sure to tell everyone)

Start by binging on the recovery which you've failed to give your body all season. Except those hours hunched over your desk at work - which don't count.

Use the hours you would spend riding your bike to slope around the house, dragging your legs and mumbling some sort of justification for living in compression pants despite not actually exercising. If questioned about the extreme cut in hours on the bike, be sure to extol the benefits of your new training approach: convenient reverse periodisation. 

Engage in culinary debauchery

(Image credit: Nigel Wynn)

Power to weight is irrelevant between now and... ohh... March, maybe. And the pre-season weight loss drive wouldn't be nearly so fun if you didn't gain enough weight to actually reach crisis point - so best start now. Pint of Guinness with a side of cake, please!

See all neglected friends and family members

Those who don't cycle with you are starting to forget what you look like when not dressed in lycra and disappearing out the door at earliest opportunity.

Spend a few weekends catching up. This may include picking up a few DIY jobs and household chores you've managed to avoid by travelling to events far, far away. Just make sure you punctuate conversations by informing everyone that this is an annual treat.

Find ways to destroy body in minimal time, without the bike

With all that reverse periodisation in the bank, your muscles are starting to return to a state where a small child could prod your quads without resulting in squeals and just-about-stifled tears. So obviously it's time to screw it all right up. Really make your hard working physio/osteo/sports masseuse wince.

Suggested exercises include time in the gym (because a core strength programme is important) and running (because bone density). Pilates and yoga are your other options. Anything that limits your ability to walk the following day.

Try cyclocross

Buy a new cyclocross bike, love it for a month, then break a mech hanger and spend the remainder of the 'cross season trying to buy the correct replacement.

Write a training plan

Once you've allowed a respectable amount of time to pass since your last big ride, you might want to start thinking about how you're going to organise your winter for best results next year.

Settle down with a coffee (flatwhitemachiatospresso) and a slab of cake (the dietary debauchery can continue until January), an Excel spreadsheet or a notebook with lots of coloured pens and create your own training plan.

Skim the opening chapter and headings of a few books until you feel like you're pretty much in a position to take over coaching of the GB Olympic squad and away you go.

Subscribe to Zwift

Training and competing with other people, but in the comfort of your own home, all via an online platform? Aces! Until you discover it's quite hard and abandon.

Hire a coach

Follow your own plan for a few months, to varying degrees of dedication. Note that self-coaching isn't proving entirely successful, and hunt out that mate of the guy in your cycling club who sometimes writes plans for people.

Give the coach about a month to prove themselves. Question everything they ask you to do. Discuss the plan with your cycling mates and determine you all know better. Decide to save yourself the cash and spend it on a new bike - which will make you much faster.

Buy a new bike

Or wheels, or power meter. Be sure to spend all available hours researching the purpose - especially if this provides excuses to avoid actual bike riding.

Do it all exactly like last year

Because, last year wasn't so bad - and if you hold the same form, maybe you can win the club handicap cup again. It's simple: just ride the first 10-mile TT of the season on that cyclocross bike you didn't ride all year.

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.


When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.


Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6. 


Height: 166cm

Weight: 56kg