Is your body “bike ready”? A few tips to survive winter
Winter is coming.
As the years pass it is becoming increasingly clear that my spirit animal is something like a squirrel or a badger. As the temperatures drop outside I begin to scurry from the fridge to the cupboard consuming as much food as i can fit in my cheeks. It’s not that you shouldn’t ride in those cold winter months but I think we would be kidding ourselves if thought we were just as keen to ride when it is zero degrees outside and sleeting.
I thought that it might be a good idea to share my tips for keeping the fitness (you may have) gained over the summer and keep the turkey podge off over Christmas without having to set foot out in the cold and wet winter weather.
Keep your fitness dialled with a spin class
Classes can be intimidating and scary, especially when there is a shouty young gym instructor yelling at you to go faster when all you can think about is how much you want to eat chocolate instead (I really cannot express strongly enough how often I think about eating, i’m doing it right now!). That said spin classes should aren’t really that bad once you give them a go. Firstly, if you rode your bike regularly during the summer you should be more than ready to take a 30 minute spin on a bike in the gym. Secondly, you can always set up your machine for a lower fitness level to make it a bit easier the first few times, so there is no need to push yourself too hard. The amazing thing about the classes is that you tend to push yourself harder anyway than just exercising solo on a stationary bike, it is probably all of the aforementioned shouting. These classes will get you prepared for riding once the (figurative) snow melts outside.
Get your core strength back
Mountain biking is a sport that that uses most of your muscles, including your core. If the lack of riding and the abundance of mince pies and seasonal stews has left you feeling weak in your core then there are ways to remedy it. Pilates or yoga are really obvious examples of how to develop your various muscle groups. If you fancy some bike specific inspiration then check out “Yoga with Abi”’s videos here . If yoga isn’t your thing perhaps bouldering or climbing will allow you to strengthen your core, unless you’re scared of heights or enjoy feeling sensation through your hands. Bouldering centres are opening up regularly across the UK, check out your nearest centres. If they are anything like the centres I climb at in West Yorkshire they will be keen to help you get set up and guide you through the basics.
I made it through without making any “six pack of rolls” jokes. Almost.
Work on your skills in an indoor skatepark
I’ve always wanted to experience dropping into a bowl (that wasn’t full of crisps and dip!). Bad weather is a great excuse to improve your biking skills by visiting your local indoor skatepark. Most of the big cities have at least one and the entry fee, if there is one, is usually fairly good value for money. Many of the more professional setups will be able to rent you a bike or maybe have a look on ebay for a second hand bmx or jump bike to get you going. The great thing about indoor skateparks is that you will be pushed to session bits over and over, in comparison to a long trail ride where you just want to make it back before the cafe closes. A skatepark session will help with your understanding of bike handling and might help you develop the wings to help you take off out on the trails in the “real world”.
Remember to still go on a ride
Ok, so I lied about not going out in the cold and wet. No matter whether it is cold or raining, still go on a ride from time to time. Winter is the best (and perhaps only) time to get some practice in the mud and wet. Remember to dress appropriately and take the frequently changing weather into account. One of my first proper rides was in the middle of winter in North Wales. I can tell you that the rocks on the descents are lethal at -1 when partially covered with ice and snow. Going for a ride in a winter will help you keep your fitness and skill levels up for those enduro events and summer bike holidays that seem a distant memory from under the duvet.
Pick up a winter sport
Find something else that floats your boat. Despite how it feels at times biking is not the only sport in the world and it might be worth adding another quiver to your bow (though I’m not sure it should be archery in the depths of winter!). Try skiing, snowboarding or perhaps curling, though I’m not sure what the health and fitness benefits are with the last one, I think it’s just ice bowls right? Why not throw caution to the wind, embrace the hibernation and pick up knitting, painting or jewellery making? What’s the best way to reuse punctured tubes and old bike parts if not as art and things you can wear? (I’ve got Mr Betty stripping down his bike so we can ‘upcycle’ it into a kitsch clothes dryer / conversation piece)
Seek out some winter sun
If all that is not enough to keep you busy, or if none of the above appeal to you, and you can’t stop daydreaming of the summer sun then why not go on a winter holiday? Southern Spain offers warmth, great bike time and delicious paella. You can ride in the morning and go skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the afternoon. Some of the options out there include Roost MTB, Basque MTB, though there are others out there. You could always book the trip yourself and find your own way up and down the mountains?
I will let you know how I get on with the suggestions. Is there anything I missed? What kind of winter hibernation do you have planned? If you are going on holiday, I will remind you that I fold up very small and fit perfectly in a bike bag. I am reliably informed that I can be a great source of entertainment.
Enjoy the winter and I will see those of you who survive on the other side.
November 23, 2017