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Sir Chris Hoy's best winter training tips

Sam Challis
6 Nov 2017

Winter doesn’t have to mean a dip in form, says Olympic track legend Sir Chris Hoy

The nation has finally been gripped in winter’s icy grasp and before you know it we'll be approaching the shortest day. Nice conditions in which to ride might soon be hard to come by, despite the sunny spell of late.

For some this provides the perfect excuse in which to hang up the wheels and tuck into comfort food (it’s good to have an off-season, right? It’s pro...), while for others it signals the start of winter ‘base miles’, where boredom can take hold and fitness might stagnate.

Whichever way you look at it, things don’t look good for your form but according to Sir Chris Hoy, it doesn’t have to be this way.

‘Winter can be a great time to develop your top-end speed and power,’ he says.

‘Sprint interval training is the best way to do this and really suits wintery conditions - you don’t have to spend hours on the bike, it stokes up your metabolism so you burn off more calories and it is high-intensity so you stay warm.’

Sprint intervals involve short, intense bursts of activity interspersed with periods of recovery and can be completed on the road or the turbo.

Dr Rob Child, chief scientific officer at scienceinsport.com, outlines a basic strategy for the road. ‘Starting almost from a standstill and accelerating up to a full sprint is a great way to condition your muscles initially,’ he says.

‘Then to back that up working on some mid-range acceleration is useful, for example riding at 30kmh and pushing up to 50kmh.’ 

Power meters

For those more data-driven, power meters can be used to great effect when creating interval sessions.

Provided you know your FTP (the maximum power you can sustain for an hour), you can work at alternating powers above and below your FTP, which will allow measurable progression over time. 

‘Long and low’ training rides help condition your cardiovascular system, whereas sprint intervals stress your neuromuscular system and help you to deal with metabolic acidosis - the build-up of lactic acid, which is obviously a great advantage for any rider planning to do more than just ride socially. 

Specificity is key with speed and power work so training on the road, where you will be using the fruits of your labour, is a wise move, although turbo training does have its place.

‘In terms of practical training, turbos are great to nail a specific workout structure,’ says Hoy.

‘They have the resistance for you to generate that force element - you need to have force as well as speed to really develop power.

'Plus you don’t have to worry about the weather or falling off your bike due to fatigue, which you’ll be in danger of if you do intervals properly.’ 

Going well above your maximum sustainable limit for a short time takes its toll on your body so Hoy stresses caution with regards to training volume and the timing of these sessions.

Quality not quantity

‘I’ve always found that quality far outweighs quantity when it comes to sprint and speed work. Don’t go out and try to do 10-12 sprints, do 4-5 but absolutely nail them.

‘Likewise do them at the start of a training block, they are neurologically demanding so you won’t be able to do them properly if you are fatigued, whereas you could still complete a four-hour road ride if you were tired.’ 

It is also important not to overlook your diet. As you will be putting a lot of stress on your body, nutritional support is key.

‘It is essential to start the recovery process as soon as possible after a session,’ says Child.

Although the science surrounding the area is not concrete, it is commonly believed that up to 30 minutes post exercise is a nutritional ‘window’ where your body really efficiently absorbs any nutrients you provide it with. 

‘Things like our Rego supplements are great, it gives you a mix of carbohydrate and protein straight away, but I would also follow this up with a balanced meal - plenty of meat, vegetables and starchy carbohydrate,’ he says.

Carbohydrates restock the muscle glycogen you will have used working at a high-intensity while protein helps support the adaptation stimulated by the exercise, whether it be neuromuscular or physical.

The saying may be: ‘a change is as good as a break’, but by working on speed and power over a winter you will make sure that a change is far, far better.

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