Autumn cycling training: eight things to do now for a successful 2019
Thoughts starting to turn to next year? Stop dreaming and start doing - here are practical tips to get you to summer success
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The majority of road cyclists would consider the summer months their key period on the bike, whilst autumn and winter is usually the ‘off season’ – unless you’re into cyclocross or track.
It’s very easy fall back on your normal routine once the days begin to get shorter: you might put your feet up, bury yourself in winter base miles or take up turbo-trainer enabled hibernation with Zwift for company.
However, taking a little time to take stock of the previous season, and to plan for the months ahead is a really good idea. And the autumn/winter cross over period is a great time to do just that.
Here are a few jobs worth ticking off now, for the best chance of summer success come 2019…
Identify weaknesses and niggles
Visiting a physio, osteopath or massage therapist over the summer months usually becomes a game of ‘can you fix me up in time for [insert name of event that seems like the most important thing in the world right now]?’
>>> Strength training for cyclists: is it worth it?
Now the events are fewer and far between, it’s a good idea to look at any issues you’ve had over the summer and find their actual causes. Visit a strength and conditioning coach, ideally one with a background in cycling, or self identify your weaknesses. Once you know where you’re lacking strength or flexibility, make a plan to address it.
Get a bike fit
Bike fitters see high numbers of clients flocking through their doors in the spring – often with assorted knee, lower back and wrist pains caused by ramping up the miles in response to sunny weather.
It’s a better idea to get a bike fit around now – that way you’ll have loads of time in the saddle to adjust to any changes.
>>> How to set your saddle height
Aside from helping you to avoid injury, a good bike fit can increase your power output by encouraging you to use the right muscles – giving yourself all winter to train them up will provide the best results.
Pick goals and plan training
Sure, the last season has only just passed – but your experiences will no doubt have inspired new desires. Pick some goals now – either specific events, distance or performance goals – that way you can plot them onto a timeline now and give yourself a much greater chance of achieving them.
Armed with your goals, work out a training plan to get you there. A typical approach would be to split the year into four equal sized chunks. In the first, work on strength and addressing weaknesses, in the second build the miles, the third is about adding in speed if it’s required and the fourth is all about maintaining fitness through your events.
If you want to get a coach – do it now whilst there will be more than enough time to adjust and get into a rhythm – not in six months time when you’re finding you’re not quite where you want to be.
Set, or re-set, training zones
It's pretty hard to follow a quality training plan without using training zones - which determine what intensity you should be riding at during sessions.
As your fitness evolves, your training zones will change - so re-test yourself now so you can track improvement over the year.
If you're thinking about investing in a training tool like a power meter, now is also the time as you've got months ahead to learn how to train and ride with it.
Winter brings with it some challenges. Before they arrive, prepare by fitting mudguards and winter tyres, before kitting out your winter wardrobe with a quality winter kit. Get into the routine of charging your lights so you're never left watching the light fade as you plug them in.
Join a cycling club
If you’re not already a member of a cycling club then look for one now. Especially if you only got into riding this year. The coming winter is likely to bring the odd grim day on the bike, and these will be so much more enjoyable with some pals.
Strip and clean your bike
If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated winter bike, that you’ll be swapping over to, then don’t neglect to strip down and clean your summer bike now. Otherwise you’ll get it put the garage/shed/off the hook next year and be disgusted at yourself. If you’re riding the same bike all year, strip it down and prepare it for the winter months before the weather really turns.
Mix it up with spin or cross
It's easy to feel a bit demotivated at this time of year - dark and gloomy weather can run away with your desire to get on the bike.
>>> Spin classes: everything you need to know
Keep motivation high - that might mean mixing it up with a club turbo session or spin session (there are loads run by cyclists that won't require jazz hands or dumbbells), or it might mean getting into cyclocross or giving the track a go.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
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.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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