One of the toughest challenges any cyclist can face is that of staying in shape during the off season. It’s easy to stay in shape in the summer when you’re riding your bike every day, when being active outside is far more appealing than being lazy inside. But what about when you’re in the depths of a bitter cold (often icy) Philadelphia winter? Some riders swear by resistance trainers in the basement, others by spin classes at the gym, and there are even those that see the winter as an opportunity to focus on parts of their body that cycling typically neglects (yes, you should call a vet). All of those are great ideas, but there’s another option I’d like to explore.
My off season recommendation to you is this: do nothing. Yup, just take it easy. Have a seat, get comfortable. Hot chocolate? Extra whipped cream, please. A second slice of pie? I’ve been wearing sweat pants every day since the first frost, so I don’t see why not. How about another nap? Well … it is 2pm … That’s right, embrace the off season for what it is: the time to be a lazy waste of life.
I see that incredulous eyebrow floating upwards, but hear out my recommendation …
Weight & Endurance Training
Do a pushup. Now do a pushup with a 30lb weight on your back. A little tougher, wasn’t it? Ok, get up and run a mile while carrying that 30lb weight. Look at yourself. You’re huffing and puffing like an obese chain smoker after a flight of stairs.
When you start riding again, those extra pounds equal free weight training. Every hill you climb will be that much tougher, making your body work that much harder, and ultimately building that much more muscle. By mid summer, you’ll be laughing as you blow past all the suckers that kept their weight down all winter.
It’s easier to stay motivated when you see physical results. If you hit the road 30 lbs. heavier in the spring, you’re going to be just awful. You’ll be slower than ever and feel absolutely miserable at the end of your first ride. On top of that, as you towel off after a much needed shower, you’ll see your naked body in the mirror and sink even lower. At this point, take a photo of yourself and tape it to your mirror.
You have nowhere to go but up. And as highlighted above, that extra weight will have you working harder than ever, and you’ll start to see results almost immediately. Within a week, you’ll bump up your ride pace by a few miles per hour. Within a month, you’ll start checking yourself out in the mirror and saying, “I’d hit that.” And these immediate results will start a positive feedback loop that will make you work even harder all summer long. If you started out in shape, you’d have no place to go but down, and that’s more depressing than that photo you taped to your mirror.
Everyone Loves an Underdog
When someone blows by you on the trail in a size-too-small bib, are you impressed by their speed and physique, or do you secretly hope they taco their front wheel and land in poison ivy? The second one, right? Now what about when you ride past someone struggling up a hill? Do you give them words of encouragement? Do you empathize with their struggle? Do you already like them more because at some level you feel superior? Since you answered “poison ivy” to the last question, I already know your answer. You’re terrible.
Just because I think you’re terrible doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to. Be the underdog! Be the one struggling up the hill while onlookers root them on! Trick the world into being on your side! Cash in on the love by being lazy all winter!
What do you think? Are you sold? Has that eyebrow descended to its normal alignment? I’m sure it has. Don’t fight it. Have that extra slice of pie and embrace the laziness brought on by freezing days and early evenings. You’ll be a better cyclist for it.