Whilst it can be awfully tempting to disappear into hibernation over winter, if you’re looking to be competitive come the summer months then it’s really the best time to up your training load and find new ways to challenge your body.

Regardless if your goals are completing your first every century ride, winning the town sign sprint on the club run, or acing a road race, putting in some efforts now whilst there are fewer events to get in the way is a good idea.

>>> How to winterise your bike

We caught up with coach Ian Watson (coachwattodotcom) to get expert sessions which will help you to gain speed, strength, or just lose a little weight over the coming months.

The sessions are designed for time strapped riders, so can be completed within an hour – though if you’ve got longer, you can embed them into longer rides too.

Stay strong: high gear, low cadence intervals

These intervals are designed to build leg strength, and are sometimes called ‘standing starts’.

>>> How to be a sprinter 

Warm up with an easy spin to get your legs ready for the coming onslaught. Then select a big gear – the big ring at the front and at least half way down the cassette at the rear. Slow down to a walking pace, then sprint for 30 seconds. Recover for three minutes, and repeat eight times before cooling down.

  • Warm up: 15 minutes
  • 8x (30s high gear sprint, 3 minutes easy)
  • Cool down: 10-15 minutes

The efforts are unlikely to feel “lung busting”, but will create muscle fatigue in the quads and glutes.

Aim to keep good form – bracing your core and letting your legs do the work. You may find that weaknesses in your core are highlighted – but maintaining a tight mid section will help to build strength here (as well as off the bike strength work).

Stay fast: decreasing sprint intervals

This session has been designed to help you to keep your leg speed as we dip into the off-season, and it’s a good opportunity to focus on your form and technique over a number of terrains.

The ‘sprint blocks’ can be included into a one hour ride, or you could use them to spruce up a longer outing.

Start off with 15-20 minutes spinning in an easy gear. When you’re ready, smash out a 10 second sprint – giving it everything you’ve got. Recover for two minutes, then repeat – before working through the block, reducing the recovery by 30 seconds each time.

  • Warm up: 15-20 minutes
  • 10 second sprint, 2 minute recovery
  • 10 second sprint, 90 second recovery
  • 10 second sprint, 60 second recovery
  • 10 second sprint, 30 second recovery
  • 10 second sprint
  • 15-20 minutes easy
  • Repeat the block
  • Cool down

Make sure you choose a quiet road for the efforts, and don’t sprint on the bends or at junctions – taking special care if the roads are wet or slippery.

You’ll do the sprints in a fairly big gear, so that they feel hard at first until you get over the gear. Concentrate on keeping good form – riding in the drops with tension through your core.

Since race finishes vary in terrain and elevation, practice on uphills and on flat roads.

Lose weight: 30/30 intervals

Base miles are good in the winter – but you need to shake it up a bit from time to time to keep your body challenged. This final session will suit a rider looking to spike their metabolism and promote a fat burning effect throughout the day.

>>> How to lose weight cycling

These 30/30 intervals will be completed in blocks of 10, where 30 seconds is ridden as hard as possible for the duration, followed by 30 seconds recovery. Again, these can be used as the key element of a one hour ride, or you can slot them into longer days in the saddle to add a bit of intensity.

  • Warm up: 10-15 minutes
  • 10 x 30s at 9/10 RPE, or as hard as you can for the duration, recover for 30s
  • Spin gently for 10-15 minutes
  • Repeat the block of 10
  • Cool down

This session will increase your heart rate and challenge your anaerobic system, promoting a high calorie burn for the time devoted.

Make sure you don’t come to a total standstill over the 30 second recoveries, keep pedalling gently, maintaining an easy speed to keep blood pumping through your legs.