Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Winter Training – The Climb by Garmin

Forwarded to me by Christian, here’s the first LFNP post of 2011.

It’s a beautifully-shot film, and it reminded me of a few things:

  • riding up cols in Europe
  • Rapha’s short season of exquisite movies about riding
  • how I don’t have a Garmin Edge 800
  • how I don’t have a heart-rate monitor at all, ever since my Garmin Forerunner 50 gave up the ghost


The natural plan

Millsy descending the bank to Brasted, 15/1/11

Millsy descending the bank to Brasted, 15/1/11

It is one of cycling’s enduring mysteries that feeling good on the bike can occur apparently at random. Last week, I had a series of nights with poor sleep. At work, I was the walking dead; on the cycle commute, I was flying like the demonically possessed. This week, by comparison, I’ve had great sleep and good food, but have felt much less strong in the saddle.

‘Strong’ here is relative. I have no great expectations of my form at this stage of the year. However, on the weekend I did 2 road rides:

  1. Friday – 2hrs 45 – easy
  2. Saturday – 4hrs – easy but with harder hills

Saturday’s ride out was with turbo-addict Simmo, who was climbing like I’ve never seen him climb before, on any ride we’ve done together since we were 16. Look out Millsy for Ironman Lanzarote!

I feel fine about not having ridden much over the winter. Not for me the Rapha Festive 500 (“Riding hard at Christmas is not a paradox” – no, it’s lunacy). It’s been cold, and icy, and snowy – and I’ve been mostly inside.

The idea of seasonal fitness rhythms – peak in summer, rest in winter – seems right to me, particularly in the UK climate. If I lived in Tenerife, maybe I’d have evolved differently, but over here it makes more sense to do a season that starts in mid-February and winds up in early September, than to start stressing at Christmas time and burn out by July.

In any case, I’ve come to realise (over the last 3 years of serious training) that cycling should never seem like a chore; if you don’t feel like cycling, don’t. You will.

Following this kind of ‘natural’ plan allows your mind and body to experience the exhilarating wake-up call of Spring. It was riding home one evening last week, climbing the long drag from Streatham Hill station, that I felt the first deep flicker, the firing of dormant energies coming back to life after the sedentary chill of winter.

I really think my 2011 ‘season’ may have started.

Winter diet

Wheat biscuit breakfast

At 26 January my weight is already down below 11st / 70kg. I’ve lost the Christmas flab simply by not over-eating at every meal. However, at this stage I’m not convinced it’s wise to lose much more weight. It will be easy to shave off 5-6 pounds between now and 4 July – no need to get hysterical.

With this in mind, here is a rough outline of my daily diet. This is accurate for days when I commute into work (40 mins), do 10 hours at my desk, then commute back.


  • 2 Weetabix with grapenuts / porridge
  • 1 fruit (banana or apple)
  • 2 toast with jam
  • tea
  • orange juice


  • coffee
  • optional nuts / dried fruit
  • very occasionally, a banana – mostly I can keep going til 1pm


  • ideally, a plate of warm food e.g. pasta, rice
  • or – Pret a Manger / Eat / Sainsbury’s sandwiches, in that order of preference
  • possible cup-a-soup, samosa, crisps (basically, this is my point, it’s January)


  • tea
  • 3 Weetabix, fruit (crucial to avoid the bonk on the way home)
  • possible biscuits / office munchies


  • all I can eat, plus seconds, of whatever it is – my girlfriend makes phenomenal curries and stews with chorizo, chicken etc.
  • beer
  • tequila shot
  • butter and soft cheese still allowed in moderation
  • yoghurt
  • chocolate if we’ve got it in
  • honey, ginger and lemon hot drink

I wanted to record this realistic picture of a hungry cyclist’s food intake when it’s cold outside and he’s already a bit skinny. There’s plenty of room for trimming out the munchies and the fatty / sugary stuff in due course.

February: shocking start, improving steadily

Last week was a bad one. The harsh weather was dragging on, the fall on the ice near Buckland was painful, and I was prevented from even a cautious commute by further sleet and cold winds.

But then, the weather started looking up. I put in 2 hours on Saturday – some brisk intervals around Regent’s Park – followed by a 6-hour epic on the Sunday, starting in Brixton and heading out to Cobham and the North Downs via Richmond Park, then returning all the way up to Archway. I followed this with 2 days of commuting, and another good session this morning – of which more later.

The sight of this weather forecast was truly a morale boost:


Totally done with winter

I fell off my bike today, twice. I was attempting another run at the Gerrard’s Cross loop (without the extension):

View Larger Map

This is a nice route which I did a fortnight ago. It was cold then, and it was cold today – but today, after the snow and then the heavy rain over the weekend, the quieter roads were slick with ice. I saw one major vehicle stack-up, and another smashed car abandoned in a ditch.

I powered through the slush for about 2 hours before coming off on the 13% gradient down from St Leonards. I trudged through snow until the slope flattened out, then remounted. Then fell off again. Following this I decided to cut the ride short and headed back through Wendover to Princes Risborough.

It must be spring soon.

Taking time out sucks

Some thoughts on taking time off the bike, as much to record my own condition as anything else.

Prior to my trip to Japan, i.e. around 25th October, I was on pretty good form. Not summer sportive level, but feeling strong and easily able to ride 4-5 hours with some brisk climbs thrown in. My first ride for 3 weeks was yesterday’s commute. I got a cold in Japan which has left me with a kind of post-viral malaise that I’m still shaking off.

Here’s my condition at 18th November:

  • Legs: weak, no zing.
  • Lungs: tired, weak, fragile.
  • Flexibility and general physical strength: poor.
The only consolation is that I’m still light from all that sushi. The lessons learned are:
  • Don’t let anybody tell you that 3-4 weeks out of the saddle won’t hurt your fitness. 
  • A cold, even a minor one that you don’t take time off for, really hurts your fitness for at least 2 weeks. Don’t expect much (and don’t push it) before a fortnight is up.