Winter cycling can be a great way to stay in shape for the colder months

The thing I am going to miss most about summer (ok, maybe among other things as well) is the fact that the warmer weather often serves as an encouragement for the Heroic Health team to hop on our bikes and get in some exercise after dinner. But sometimes, the thing about working out outdoors is that Mother Nature likes to get in the way. For example, Heroic Health & Well-Being is based out of southern Ontario in Canada, so you can imagine how cold, snowy and just generally terrible the winter (and often fall and even spring) months can get. Roads become icy, the cold air oppresses your lungs and makes breathing effectively very difficult, and it is things such as these that all too often drive even the most diehard fitness buffs to run back inside, trading the cold outdoor reality for the warmth and comfort offered by a snuggly blanket and mug of hot cocoa. But winter is no excuse to lose your edge or your strength before spring returns in a few months!! As tempting as hibernation may seem now, you will regret it in the long run if you turn off your drive for the winter and let the pounds pile back on and your muscles waste away.

I mean, come on… is that what you really want? You’ve worked so hard all year to get to where you are, fitness- and health-wise! This year, you might as well “ride out” in front of the pack and work on staying fit all winter long. The fact that it’s yucky outside doesn’t need to stop your biking efforts! Follow these tips and engage in one of the best ways to stay fit all winter long:

If you aren’t quite brave enough to face the cold…

Sometimes, it’s just TOO cold. That’s when your stationary bike can be your best friend. Using that, you can cross train with a mix of strength training and indoor cycling. A good routine in both departments will keep you strong and powerful throughout the winter.

  • The routine: you can increase your speed and power even in the off-season with this intense 30-minute interval session three times a week:
    • Warm up for 10 minutes, pedaling at a moderate pace
    • Pedal for 10 seconds at high intensity, as close to your max as possible
    • Rest for one minute
    • Pedal for 20 seconds at medium intensity, about 60 percent of your max
    • Rest one minute
    • Pedal for 30 seconds at low intensity, about 30 percent of your max
    • Rest for one minute
    • Repeat five times
  • Follow your indoor trainer rides with a 10-minute yoga session that focuses on stretching the hamstrings, quads, and calves for best results

Weight training

If you aren’t careful, all of this sitting around indoors all winter long can contribute to you losing muscle mass. However, you can retain your strength in the gym by using a weight lifting routine that focuses on aerobic strength rather than on building bulky muscles. How do you do that? Single. More reps, lower weight. Don’t try to show off and lift the most weight out of everyone in the gym. Doing more reps with a lower weight will help you reach your goals.

Try this basic routine for starters (tweak as necessary to meet your personal needs):

  • Warm-up: walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike for 10 minutes
  • Leg Press: do 4 sets in a pyramid routine, starting with high weight and low reps. Adjust the weight so you can do no more than 7 to 8 reps on the first set. Rest 45 seconds between sets
    –Decrease weight so you can do no more than 10 to 12 reps. Rest
    –Repeat for last two sets, decreasing weight and increasing reps to 15, then 20
  • Squats: grab an Olympic barbell and a couple of plates. Your goal is a total of 70 to 100 reps, in several sets, squatting no more than 135 pounds (one 45-pound plate on either side of the barbell) on any given set. It’s ok to start with lower weights if you want to get a feel for it, you can always add as you go.
    Most importantly: when it comes to lifting weights… don’t try and show off. Do what your body can handle, no more
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift: use the same Olympic barbell with low weight, around 95 pounds (25-pound plate on either side). Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and bend from the waist to grab the barbell palm down, lifting to a standing position. Your legs should be relatively straight throughout the exercise, with only a slight bend in the knee. Do four sets of 10 reps
  • Regular Deadlift: increase weight from the stiff-legged deadlift to 135 pounds. Stand shoulder-width apart and grip the bar as before. At the bottom of the lift, your back should be parallel to the ground and knees bent. Lift with your legs as you straighten the back and legs into a standing position. Do four sets of 10 reps
  • Cool down: walk on the treadmill or pedal an exercise bike for 10 minutes, then stretch for five minutes. If you can, follow that up with a 15 minute sit in the sauna, drinking plenty of water while you sweat

Cross training:

Everyone needs to have variety in their lives, including in their workouts, if they want to successfully stick to their goals. Get your winter fitness training in using any means necessary. Rather than be rigid with your indoor trainer or weight routine, find ways to keep it fresh and give your body a full workout with other activities. Toss in an hour jog one day, swim 20 laps another, or head outside for a day of downhill or cross-country skiing.

The benefits of cycling

Winter, winter, go away…

Canadian winters can be among the most brutal across the globe… but like I said, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get a good solid workout in! Use these indoor training techniques and maximize your successes this season.





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