No one likes to ride in the rain in the off-season and unless you have a really early season goal, such as killing it in the Spring Series, you don’t need to be out there suffering... at least not until February.
So what can you do now to get stronger and faster for next year?
The answer depends on the number of years you’ve been riding and how much time you have to train.
New cyclists with less than one year experience riding — or those who have dedicated very little time to training — can use indoor riding to perfect pedaling technique and increase their comfort of maintaining a cadence closer to the ideal range of 90-95 RPM.
New cyclists with two or more years’ experience who already ride comfortably at 90-95 RPM should still be working on technique. This is something every rider should spend time perfecting. But more experienced riders can also use the winter months to work on strength, power and anaerobic capacity.
In the spring, when working to build a riding base, most recreational riders don’t have enough training hours to work on both power and strength. By separating them, you can use short rides in the winter to improve your Vo2 max threshold and your threshold power. This is done with short intervals and long rests, eventually moving into longer a time frame of three to 20 minutes at the highest heart rate and power output you can hold for the specific time.
Experienced and inexperienced riders can benefit from improving muscular strength by training with weights. Riding alone does make you more efficient, but it won’t make your legs stronger. Building muscle in the gym will translate to more power on the road. If you only have time for a few exercises, here are my top five.
1. Squats or supine leg press
The execution of a squat requires you to use every muscle in your legs throughout the entire exercise. The focus is on the glutes, your bum, quadriceps and your thighs. Your core stabilizes your upper body and the weight on your shoulders. If you don’t have weights, if you are unfamiliar with the exercise or if you have a weak back or core, a supine leg press is a good alternative exercise and will prevent you from getting injured.
2. Single leg hamstring curls
Most people have much weaker hamstrings compared to their quads, but a pedal stroke is round (unless you have a Rotor crank) with equal time spent in both the push and pull positions. Stronger hamstrings will help give you a more efficient pedal stroke and give you more power and strength on hill climbs. By working the legs individually, you are less likely to allow the stronger leg to take over.
3. Low plank
Having a strong core that can stabilize your upper body on the bike for long periods of time is essential.
4. Standing row
Spending many hours in the saddle not only requires a strong core but also a strong back to support your upper body, especially when pushing hard on a sprint or long, steep climb. A strong back will also counteract many hours of having your shoulders rounded over the bike, the computer and everything else we do in life.
5. Single leg step-ups on to a bench
A single leg step-up with weights will improve your strength and stability. Exercises using your body weight are the most true to real life. Even though you are rolling on two wheels, you can’t hide your own body weight on the bike.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to email@example.com.