This article originally appeared in the Winter 1999/2000 issue of Quick Release published by Cycling BC.
Here's my advice for winter training for randonneurs, ultra marathon and racing cyclists: forget it.
OK, I know what you're thinking. I know what you've been told over the years. Winter training is the foundation of spring conditioning. It's 'money in the bank', and the payoff will be in those early events next season. Like many things though, there's more than one way to look this.
"fallow /fálo/ 1. n. & a. Ground, ploughed and harrowed but left uncropped for a year; uncultivated land." (from OED 1997) Your performance as an athlete depends not only on how well you train, but on how well you rest. If you've had a big summer of riding your body could use a period of fallow to regenerate. And it's not just your body. Psychologically an extended break will clear your mind - it will feel great and make you eager to dive into the new season as it approaches.
Does this mean you should remain idle? Absolutely not! If you want to remain active, that's great. But November, December, January and even February are good months to do other things. Why not stress other (non-cycling) muscle groups? - go jogging, go skiing/boarding, go for walks in the rain, dabble in yoga. Have fun, be happy, and allow yourself to put on a little weight.
Should you stay off your bike completely? Absolutely not! And here's my central point. Go for a ride in the rain (or in the wind, or the cold...or the snow) because you love it, or you can't help yourself, and not because you're thinking about next season - ride for fun, not profit. If you were in great shape last summer your conditioning will snap back, especially if you're commuting by bike. March is get serious month.
So here I sit inside watching my kids roast marshmallows, and I'm looking at the rain outside and thinking, "you know maybe a little ride in the rain might be kinda fun. Then again... maybe I'll microwave a couple of burritos and have a nap." Hibernation is not a dirty word, you know.
© Eric Fergusson - January, 1999