Alright, let’s face it; for the next few months, the weather in about three-quarters of the U.S. just isn’t going to be that great. For those who are fortunate enough to live in warm temps in January, please continue with your winter running and riding (or take a trip down to Tucson for the annual Hammer Camps!) or whatever it is you get to do in short sleeves. But for everyone else longing for warmer weather, there certainly is still hope!
I’ll be the first to admit that for my first few winters in Montana, I wasn’t particularly excited to be here. Most of my cycling friends would do as the birds and fly down to Tucson to spend the winter spinning their legs and catching rays. I would stick around Missoula, bored and partially bitter, hoping the sun (and my friends) would return once again. They would arrive, bronzed and fit, around mid-April as the first hints of green popped through the unspectacular late winter landscape of dirty snow, sand, and dead grass. Of course, at precisely the same time I would emerge from a winter slumber and dust off the bike for an awkward and painful first ride.
I knew there were plenty of good activities for winter cross-training, but for a variety of reasons during my college years I didn’t partake in them to the fullest. So I would spend each spring fighting for survival in collegiate road races, not really finding my fitness until well into June, after the season had ended. I don’t have any regrets about my winters of inactivity because during the extra time I had, I learned a valuable lesson. I compared my friends that went south for winter to my friends that hung out in Montana and skied hard; there was maybe a week or two separating them in April. I then compared this to my two-month deficit to either group and realized something needed to change.
To this day, I still haven’t gotten my life in order by December to simply “take off” until April. I doubt if I’ll ever be able to responsibly do this, and I bet this is the case for many of you. So I made the commitment to myself to find something, anything to do outside all winter long. Reluctantly at first, I got back into skiing quite a bit and have since been able to jump right back into the group in the early season road races.
The beauty of skiing and other winter sports as cross-training is that they actually are a great replacement for some of the early season base miles. Even lift access downhill, for example, covers my three main goals in the early season:
- Long Days
- Core Strength
- Light to Moderate Cardiovascular Activity
I’m sure this comes as no surprise to many readers out there, but I know there must be a few people sitting around waiting for a straight across activity besides the indoor trainer. I’ve been taking a sleeve of Perpetuem Solids with me for skiing all day here on Big Mountain, and trust me, my legs can feel it afterwards! As January leans towards February, I’ll phase in more uphill travel and start working more on my heart and lungs. If all goes like last year, a couple weeks of riding in late March and I’m good to go for cycling season.
So whatever it is that you might enjoy doing this winter, it doesn’t really matter. Just grab a Hammer Bar, Solids, or maybe some Gel, get out and go do it! Your body will thank you when the snowbirds come back to play.