Kit and equipment, nutrition, Training Plans, Viewpoint

Training in the Cold

Today’s session set by Coach Andy (myself!)  was 3 x 20min Sweet spot climb efforts. After the last 2 days on Zwift I knew I had to get out and do some training in the cold.  Rewind two weeks and I was riding in shirt sleeves in temperatures of 20-25 degrees Celsius (about 70 Fahrenheit).  Today’s ride averaged, yes averaged -2 degrees or 30 Fahrenheit!  I was out in the ‘warmest part’ of the day too!  God I love Yorkshire!

Anyway, this, along with a number of comments from athletes in training files recently got me thinking about writing about the differences training in the cold.

The body has a much tougher job, as not only has it to deal with the requests you are making to put power through the pedals , it has to deal with temperature maintenance which can swing from major cooling (when working hard on long, steep or slow climbs) , to staying warm on fast descents or exposed sections.

I am going to focus on 3 parts:

  1. Route choice, Time of day and staying safe!
  2. Kit to wear
  3. Nutrition and Hydration

A lot of this may well be ‘teaching Granny to suck eggs’, and if so I apologise, but its always worth ensuring we cover everything!

TP session COLD

The above shows some of the challenges of a hard winter session:

  1. Average Temperature of -2 degrees Celsius, or 30 Fahrenheit, with a  minimum of 23, add to this wind chill on long descents and it can easily be 10 degrees cooler
  2. Long climbs and long descents, highlighted in the graph
  3. Route choice – relatively major roads I knew had good traffic flow on and would have been gritted
  4. Time of Day – I had the luxury of doing this session as the hottest (yes really!) part of the day around noon

So lets delve into some detail:

  1.  Time of Day, Route Choice and Staying Safe:  This of course is critical to your future (full stop!) and your continued training and you need to make sensible calls.
    1. TIME OF DAY
      1. For most of us fitting training round work is the challenge, invariably this means early morning or late night sessions in the week.  If this is the case, think very carefully, these are the times when the (dreaded) turbo can be your friend.
        1. Early Morning – watch for ice on untreated roads, even on treated ones early doors as it can often refreeze if not much traffic about.
        2. Evening – Ice is less of a concern as (generally) the roads will have been well used through the day, but watch the back roads (at any time)
        3. Sunset & Sunrise – this time of year the sun is very low and can easily blind you, and other drivers – That was Prince Philip’s excuse for the crash last week – so bear this in mind!
        4. Lights – Think Christmas tree!  you cannot over do lights, remember they are (more so) for you to be seen than for you to see by – so light up well
        5. Think flouro or bright clothing too – there are so many choices now with excellent reflective properties that there is no excuse here
      1. Think carefully about this, If commuting, its likely you are limited but bear in mind
        1. How well lit are the roads?
        2. How well used – this is a good and a bad thing, Good in that it means if its very cold and icey they will very likely be gritted, and a constant traffic flow will stop re-freezing.  Bad in that they are busy – more risk of some driver not paying attention and there being an incident.
        3. How good is the road lighting?
        4. How bad is the surface – if its a notoriously pot hole filled road, probably best to avoid it in the dark!
    3. Staying Safe:
      1. The above are critical to this, lights, A safe (as you can) route, reflective clothing and a healthy degree of caution to ALL situations – don’t be going for STRAVA downhill segments!
  2. What to wear?
    1. This is not as easy as it first seems.   You need to (obviously) be warm enough , but also ensure you don’t overheat, and have flexibility if temperatures change on the ride.
      20190123_135553I laid out all my kit form today’s (very cold) ride as in the pic above, As you can see its a momentous task just getting dressed to get out on days like this!so what have we got?

      BIKE & KIT

      1. Winter bike (OK no mudguards!  But they don’t fit on this bike, and i do very little group riding)
      2. Winter tyres where grip is paramount
      3. Light climbing alloy rims (for the terrain & they respond better to big potholes)
      4. Full spares kit in the saddle bag
      5. 2 x 500ml drinks (which I drank) and 4 gels (I had 3) in the 2 hr session
      6. Helmet
      7. Glasses – It was very bright today
      8. Skull cap
      9. ear warmer (layered)
      10. Bike shoes
      11. 2 pairs of overshoes
      12. Defeet wooly socks
      13. 3/4 bibs and full length roubaix fleece bibs
      14. base layer (nike running top)
      15. 2 x Castelli gabba
      16. Gilet
      17. HR chest strap
      18. pair inner running gloves
      19. pair of ski gloves

Now some may think this is a lot – it may well be, as I say in the intro video I saw 2 guys in shorts today!  But for me it works.

Key things here are

  1. Layering, this is about trapping heat between layers to keep you warm, and also having flexibility to add and take layers off if the temperature dictates
  2. Technical wear, clothing designed to wick sweat and allow it to escape , as today’s session was very taxing on the system working at 90-95% of FTP & then descending at over 40mph in the cold wind.
  3. Comfort, this is obviously down to preference, but it works for me

Nutrition & Hydration:
I think this is most easily over looked, the two biggest mistakes made in the cold are, not eating and not drinking enough. Let’s quickly look at both:

  1. Fuelling – Clearly , as in any session your body needs the calories to perform the exercise,  But what most people neglect is that the body is actually working much harder than riding in say 20 degrees.  It is having to work to keep you warm at certain times, focus on heat dissipation at others as well as fuel your muscles.  You may well find, as I do , that I generally need to fuel better and more for such cold sessions.
  2. Hydration – Summer days when the heat parches your throat and you can see the sweat glistening its easy to remember to drink!  Days like these its much less so,  yet the session demands on the body mean you will sweat a huge amount and need to replace this,  Really focus on ensuring that your hydartion startegy remains the same, whatever time of year
  3. Post ride – You will (probably) be cold and tired (I can sometimes not take my shoes off my fingers are so cold!  But remember the key post exercise requirements,  Fluid and protein and don’t neglect them.

Plenty to think about, stay safe and enjoy it, days like this can be great fun!





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