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  • Writer's pictureJohn Stirzaker

Getting Wintered Part 2

Updated: Oct 16, 2023


When we think about “getting fit” and “training” we instantly think about the ways that we can get fit by doing an activity, but sometimes we need to consider how ready we are as human beings to start training in the first place. We need to consider how much water we drink, how much sleep we get and what kind of diet we follow.

When we look at how levels of dehydration can affect performance and how even in Winter, we lose a lot of water from breathing during exercise, making sure we have those hydration habits will help improve our overall performance. By ensuring we have the correct amount of water in our bodies, we are optimising a range of processes, including lactate accumulation rates and cardio-vascular functioning.

Getting the right amount of sleep is probably the single biggest factor to aid recovery from any training, and a far greater benefit than the latest massage gun or socks. Sadly, levels of poor sleep are on the increase and as we age it becomes harder to get that quality sleep. Practising regular sleep times, reducing screen time and giving thought to reducing alcohol consumption, will all help improve our sleep and therefore long-term health.

Winter is a great time to practice our food preparation as it’s a time for soups and stews, so we load up on lots of vegetables that will help with our immune system and replace micronutrients lost during exercise. In the UK our consumption of processed foods is a real worry and should not be relied upon for true “nutrition”. These months are where we can formulate good habits and use the time wisely by paying attention to our body composition as our training focus and loads change. The focus and planning we put in place at this time will determine how successful we are in the Spring and Summer.

With the arrival of winter germs and infections we need to start looking at our immune system, how we avoid picking up germs and whether we are fit enough to start training in earnest. This can be helped of course with good nutrition but also hygiene around bottles, kit and how we avoid germs in public places.

A bottle of handwash gel is always useful!

22 Hours a Day

Marc Bubbs in his book Peak, refers to the “other” 22 hours. We might train for 2 hours a day spread over different days in different amounts, but what do we do for the other 22 hours of the day?

We cannot look at this time in isolation and need to think like an athlete to be an athlete. Areas to consider here are the all-important work/life balance, making sure that we have time for family and friends. We know from experience and discussions with other athletes that the time we spend training for events can have a huge impact on our relationships with loved ones. As we reduce our training in the winter months, we can spend more time with family and friends. There is also the opportunity for participating in activities like Walking, Running or just working out together in the gym.

We also need to consider how we cope with stress during the day and the impact that stress has on inflammation, gut health and our general health. When we look at Training Stress it’s not always easy taking into consideration life’s stresses. At the end of the day, when we feel stressed or distracted, we then put more stress onto our systems, making us feel worse.

A sedentary 22 hours, followed by a one-to-two-hour training session, doesn’t balance out our systems. It’s important we keep moving and aiming for 7-10,000 steps, spread out over the day. By balancing out our training sessions we can ensure that we have the energy and motivation to keep moving throughout the day, continue to burn the right fuel source, and avoid seizing up.

Finally, this is the perfect time to look at our overall planning and goal setting. We decide what the objective is and how we aim to get there. As coaches we can help athletes with this, making sure that the training plan is achievable and suitable for the athletes’ goal. We aim to save our athletes time and energy. We do the technical thinking and planning e.g. what session to do on what day, whether to fuel it, food prep and recipes, techniques on relaxation, better sleep, getting a good work-life balance etc.

Maintaining that focus always helps the athlete perform the more “mundane” training sessions like Rest Days, Core Training and Zone 1 rides with more purpose. Having a plan improves motivation and adherence which is crucial during these critical months.

At the end of this “wintering” process athletes will have embedded all these marginal gains so they are ready to do the hard things over the Spring and Summer.

Enjoy the ride wherever it takes you!

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