Come January most of us are ready to move, and with the right plan, the winter months can be the most productive training months of the year.
Spend time with your nemesis, right away.
This one is as much about training your mind as it is about training your body. If it’s climbing you’re afraid of, the last thing you want to do is postpone rides with elevation until it builds up into more of a thing than it really is. Incorporate small amounts of climbing into your training routine in the first week, then gradually build on that through the winter and spring. By starting early in the season, you allow yourself time to build skill and confidence over time. Don’t go overboard though—trashing your body by doing too much, too soon, is a good way to increase anxiety around your nemesis. Train smart, and allow your body to adapt over time.
Use the clock.
Races and key events are often set by distance rather than time. While it’s important to prepare for specific distance goals, kicking your season off by setting weekly training time goals can help to gain traction in the early season. Start with a weekly goal that’s realistic, especially if you’ve taken a lot of time off over the holiday, then add time gradually through the weeks.
Be cautious when comparing your training paces from spring and summer—wet, windy winter conditions often result in slower training paces relative to spring and summer. Don’t let that get in your head. Instead, enjoy watching your speed increase as conditions and fitness improves through the season.
Look ahead, but take it one day at a time.
The endurance athlete’s drive can be their best friend and at times their worst enemy. The athletes I see achieve the most success are those who consistently nourish a long-term vision, but who simultaneously have the ability to narrow their focus and take it one day, one workout, and one skills focus at a time. By narrowing our focus, we not only get more out of each individual workout, we experience fewer setbacks and more significant gains over time. I use the word “nourish” because long-term success requires constant awareness and care for your body—the quality of your sleep, the contents of your diet, and the overall level of stress in your life will impact your performance as much as your training does.
Start early, train smart, and nourish your long-term goal through the winter. Speed and fitness will be earned over time, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the process, one day at a time.