Winter Workout Tips

Cycling is all about efficiency and winter riding can be a great time to focus on improving your pedaling mechanics and breathing action.  We only deal with about ½ horsepower so everything we do as riders has to be analyzed and refined. Winter is a great time to work on fine-tuning your cycling habits, especially when you are riding indoors. Practice these skills at least once a week while riding your bike on the indoor trainer this winter.

Pedaling motion should include a flexible ankle. Much like a walking motion, your heel should lead the downward motion—this allows for power to be applied as high as possible to the pedal stroke. At the bottom of the stroke, use a scraping motion, as if you’re cleaning off the cleat. To start the upstroke, pull up on the heel first so that the heel leads. Try working with one foot first by unclipping the other foot and resting it on the trainer. Focus on the downstroke, then the upstroke, then combining the two. Start with slower 50 RPM range, focusing on technique. Progress to the other foot, then combine both feet. The key is  to start with 5 minutes per foot then increase to longer  periods until you are “ankling” for the whole workout. Once you feel comfortable,  keep the cadence at a minimum of 90 rpm.

Breathing properly takes practice and concentration. Most people try to breathe deeper by expanding their chest—the intercostal muscles between the ribs don’t move much so there is not a maximum expansion taking place. The best way to pull air into the lungs is with your diaphragm. By expanding the stomach outward, you pull down your diaphragm, opening the thoracic cavity and allowing the lungs to expand to maximum capacity. Conversely, when you contract your stomach muscles, the diaphragm pushes upward, forcing the maximum amount of air out. Just like the pedaling skills, try the breathing technique for 5 minutes at a time and gradually increase the time that you breathe properly.

As these pedaling and breathing techniques become second nature to you, you’ll become more efficient at using the horsepower that you have. As you become fatigued, you will then have these techniques to focus on to help you through those ‘rough patches.’ Repeated practice will reinforce the skills—be diligent and you’ll be ready by Spring!

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About alexstieda

Cycling fanatic, Olympian and IT geek. Claim to fame: 1st North American to wear yellow jersey in the Tour de France.
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