The winter months are not ideal for maintaining a high level of fitness and staying in shape. Many of us hop back on our bikes in the spring, feeling depressed and bloated about the midsection. This year will be different! For once, let’s get off to a good start - and start the season right.
Spring has arrived, and with the first signs of warmth in the air, it’s time to get ready to go. Soon, we’ll be kicking the turbo to the back of the shed, ripping off our leg warmers to show pallid, pale skin, and heading out the door for the first long ride of the year that doesn’t start or end in the dark.
After a winter of semi-hibernation, stodgy comfort food, and sporadic riding, cyclists emerge blinking into the sunlight in less-than-perfect conditions. As a result, we’ve started considering pre-spring preparations. When that first lovely morning of warm weather arrives, we’ll be ready!
MAINTAINING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Regrettably, the end of winter frequently sees many individuals succumb to coughs and colds - just when you want to get outside again. Protecting oneself from sickness is frequently as simple as practicing good hygiene, the most important of which is frequent hand-washing – which is essential all year.
Boost your immune system by getting adequate sleep and eating a diverse diet rich in immunity-boosting foods. Fruit and vegetables should be included in every meal and snack to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake.
Adding berries to your breakfast cereal can give you a boost in the morning; one cup of strawberries contains more than 100mg of vitamin C, as well as calcium, magnesium, and folate. The darker the fruit, the higher the phytochemical nutrient content (in general). Choose a salad for lunch, or at the very least incorporate salad items such as lycopene-rich tomatoes or iron-rich spinach in your sandwich.
Go for it with the vegetables at supper, including two to three types, ideally of varied colors, to supply a variety of vitamins and minerals. Choose a slice of fruit as a snack.
By drip-feeding nutrients to your body, you will not only benefit from a higher vitamin and mineral status, but the fiber component of these meals will also promote intestinal health and fill you up on fewer calories.
GET YOUR DIET IN ORDER
We typically gravitate to sweet and carbohydrate-dense foods to help us feel better during the winter months, but now is an excellent time to start avoiding processed and sugary foods. Cutting your processed food intake by half will boost both your health and your waistline.
Choosing whole-grain cereals or oatmeal over sugary types can help you start your day off right, and simple substitutions like canned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup will help you lower your sugar intake. Choosing whole fruit and drinking it with water instead of fruit juice or sugary drinks can accomplish the same thing while also filling you up, making it less likely that you’ll overeat or snack excessively.
Read labels to be sure you’re not consuming a lot of hidden sugars. Although it is evident that a doughnut or a cake has a lot of sugar, many savory dishes also contain sugar. Look for glucose, dextrose, invert syrup, corn syrup, brown or Demerara sugar, glucose syrup, lactose, maltose, hydrolyzed starch, or treacle on labels.
The amount of sugar in pre-packaged goods will astonish you. Cooking from scratch and appreciating the fresh products that are now in season is the simplest way to avoid hidden sugars.
Protect YOUR KNEES
‘Spring knee’ is a term used by old-school bikers and some physiotherapists to describe a problem. This persistent frontal knee soreness frequently arises at the start of the season when cyclists have rapidly increased their riding volume or intensity. This is a soft tissue injury caused by a variety of factors, including muscular weakness or imbalance, poor technique or biomechanics, and an increase in stress on muscles that have not yet been conditioned to exercise.
The additional kilometers or tougher efforts may worsen a previously latent underlying problem. By gradually increasing, you may avoid this effect. After a winter of inactivity, you’d expect to ache and be in agony if you went for a 100-mile bike. A steady increase in length is definitely better for your body. If you do acquire pains, get them checked out as soon as possible and reduce your riding until the cause is determined.
Also, and this cannot be overstated, keep your knees warm! That means wearing tights, three-quarters, or knee-warmers until the temperature drops into the teens. Because there is very little tissue surrounding your knees to protect them from cold weather, a drop in temperature can irritate tight muscles and exaggerate any knee discomfort.
GET YOUR BIKE READY
Not only does your body need to get ready for spring. Your bike does as well. Winter riding is tough on your motorcycle; road grit, salt, debris, and inclement weather cause far more wear and tear than in the summer.
When the weather is bad, the prospect of washing your bike in the cold or hanging out in the shed mending things is less appealing therefore maintenance is often neglected. It’s okay to admit it: who wants to be outdoors cleaning their bike after a rainy ride when they might be relaxing in a hot bath sipping tea?
Perform a full service on your electric bike, inspecting the tires, drivetrain, and cables for wear and tear. It’s time to repair that rusted chain and oil that cassette. Taking off mudguards and light brackets, replacing your tires, and even updating your bar tape may make your bike seem brand new when you head out for your first spring ride.
EAT YOUR SPRING GREEN VEGETABLES
Spring brings a bounty of new vegetables. The first to appear are the greens: cabbages, beans, peas, and the brief asparagus season. Spring green cabbage, which is fragrant and nutty, may be eaten raw in juices or salads or steamed or stir-fried to preserve the most nutrients.
Cabbage supplies a lot of antioxidants to help your body comply with the demands of training and stay healthy, with an average amount containing more than the daily recommended nutritional intake (RNI) for vitamin C, as well as vitamins A and E.
Asparagus is high in vitamins C and E, as well as the antioxidant glutathione. It’s ideal for endurance cyclists since it helps to lower the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections. Asparagus is heart-healthy because it contains vitamin K, which stimulates blood clotting.
Broad beans are high in iron and protein. They’re high in fiber, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy, and they’re high in potassium, which helps to maintain good blood pressure. You may be more eager to go on the ebike if it contains L-dopa, a substance the body utilizes to make dopamine, an essential neurotransmitter involved in mood management and motivation.
INCLUDE A TEMPO SESSION
It’s natural to feel sluggish and slow when you first start on the bike (unless, of course, you spent a devoted winter on the turbo). Last summer’s speed and agility will seem like a distant memory, and you’ll worry whether you’ll ever regain that fitness. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there — and shape can be regained.
The first step is to incorporate some pace or sweet spot riding. These efforts should last no more than five to twenty minutes, but they will require you to focus on sustaining an effort that, while difficult, is tolerable. You won’t feel quick at first, but these workouts will become the foundation of your fitness over time. They will slowly move your lactate threshold higher from below.
You might also take the other approach and make some incredibly hard but brief attempts to assist bring your threshold up from above. These sessions, now widely known as HIIT (high intensity, intermittent training), are short yet intense and hence unsuitable for everyone. When your eyes are out on stalks, it’s difficult to view the surroundings, but HIIT works.
This winter has seen significant growth in the popularity of indoor training; hours spent on Zwift have increased, and the newly formed term ‘trainertainment’ highlights the rising levels of interest in virtually-enhanced turbo activity.
The difficulty is that, while utilizing all of these gear to exercise indoors may help us maintain or even improve our fitness, it doesn’t do anything for our commuter bike handling abilities.
After a season of keeping your bike firmly planted, your first effort at cornering may come as a surprise. Although skills return rather soon, you may be startled at how stiff and wooden you feel on your first ride of the spring.
Don’t go flat-out just because your legs are powerful and fast from the turbo, since your engine’s capabilities may surpass your handling. Begin with a few steady rides and deliberately focus on abilities like turning, descending, and track-standing to ensure your balance and technique are on point. When you combine these abilities with your enhanced athleticism, you’ll be ready to fly.
GO FOR AN EVENING RIDE
One of the earliest signs of spring is leaving the office in the daylight after the clocks have sprung forward. It doesn’t take long - and once it does, you’ll feel as if you’ve been granted an additional day to play with, even if you don’t have any more hours to spend. Take advantage of the opportunity and schedule an evening ride.
Even though the air is still cold and the weather is uncertain, ride until night and enjoy the sunset and landscape rather than commuting home with only a little patch of light from your handlebars as a company.
The winter months often come with a decrease in physical activity; hopefully, this guide helps you get back on the bike in time for the inevitability of spring’s arrival.