Winter is here, there's no denying it. We had our first big snowfall in Chamonix on Saturday night and the difference to our playground was quite breathtaking. The snow is beautiful but it means I have to adapt my training plans to keep up with the changing environment.
I don't know about you but with the colder temperatures and the shorter days, my motivation to go out and train can take a hit. However, I've no doubt that we all have exciting, adventurous plans for 2015, so it's vital that we stay fit, healthy and motivated throughout the winter.
Here are my top 5 winter training tips:
1. Join a club
If you're not already a member of a club for your favourite sport, join one. If cycling is your thing, joining a local cycling club will pay dividends througout the winter. Having a club ride that you've committed to be on will provide you with the incentive to get out and cycle when you don't have the motivation to go on your own. It's a great way to meet local cyclists and before you know it you'll be planning awesome adventures together for the summer. It's also a brilliant way to get to know routes where you live and to learn or develop your skills with cycling in a group.
Keep going when the going gets tough
I often hear people talk of attending their first club meet and being put off by the technical talk or speed of the group. Although I know it can be daunting, it makes me sad to hear and I would encourage anyone who has experienced this to give it another go and remember that everyone started at the back. I've spent many of my cycling days at the back of the group, holding on by the skin of my teeth and wanting to burst into tears as I struggle up the hills. If this sounds at all familiar, you are not alone. It's these rides that build me as a cyclist and give me the determination to keep going and improve.
2. Supplement your diet
With so many cold and flu viruses flying around in the winter it's vital that we boost our immune systems with vitamins and minerals. Exercising puts additional strain on us throughout the year, but is especially noticeable in the winter months coupled with the harsh cold and wet conditions we expose ourselves to. I start every day with Higher Nature Vitamin C, a mug of Twinings Green Tea to boost my anti-oxidants and a capsule of Nordic Oil to give me those all important Omega-3 oils. I'm pretty open to most things in life but unfortunately one thing I've never really got on too well with is fish. I know it's a bit ridiculous and I am trying to change, but in the meantime Nordic Oil is helping to boost my Omega-3 and keep me healthy.
3. Mix it up
You've been training hard all year. ALL YEAR. You can't underestimate the toll that has on your body and mind. You've got big goals for 2015, but without taking a break from the pressure to train and stick to your schedule, you may find it difficult to stay motivated. If you know the walls of your local swimming pool inside out, or have cycled round Richmond Park more times than you can remember, mix it up with throwing some variety and spice into your training schedule this winter. Remember, it's supposed to be fun! You could try trail running, strength training, join a local exercise class, try yoga, enter obstacle races or mud runs. Cyclo-cross is awesome this time of year too. If you don't mind getting wet and muddy, the world is your oyster!
4. If it ain't raining, it ain't training
Does that moment when you peer outside the window and think "it's raining, maybe I won't go", sound familiar? Great, now we know you're human! I've done it many a time, the temptation to stay dry inside or wriggle deeper under the covers and forget you're supposed to be doing something. Yes, I know it well. My lasting memory of these days is how groggy I feel for the rest of the day. I don't spend the rest of the say thinking "oh, I'm so glad I spent that extra half hour in bed", quite the opposite. I wrestle all day with the fact that I missed my training session and debate as to how I'm going to fit it in later on.
On the other hand, when I ignore the rain and my desire to skip training, and go out to run, cycle, swim or dance in inclement weather conditions, I feel amazing. Being out there and battling through the elements builds character, strength of mind and makes you fight even harder for the results you want when it comes to your races and challenges in the summer. Go get wet, you won't regret it!
5. Get kitted out
I'm sure you don't need much convincing to buy yourself some new kit, but here it is. I've written before about my Top 10 Items of Sports Kit, but the items that I feel make the biggest difference are the accessories. As a cyclist in winter, I will not leave my house without my arm warmers, a good pair of gloves, neck buff, thick socks, over shoes and a head band or beanie. These items are my lifesavers.
I always keep space in my jersey pocket so I can remove at least one of these items if I get too hot, or keep it in there until I need it. If you make any stops along the route for mechanicals or cafes, ride out somewhere and get the train back, or you like to indulge in a cheeky afternoon pint at your local pub before heading home, you'll need to layer up and stay warm.
Check out Eureka Cycle Sports for their range of bikes and cycling accessories, you might find the perfect Christmas present there. If you are based in Chester and cycle or run around the hills and roads in that area, be sure to pop into their infamous cafe and say Hi.
Do share your favourite winter training tips with me in the comments below and any questions you have, happy to help. Have an awesome winter folks! Train hard and have fun.