In the Southern Hemisphere especially here, down south in New Zealand . Winter has us firm in its grips. Hopefully you have dragged yourself out of the autumn rut and your training is progressing well.
More likely than not in my experience with athletes at this time of the year, it isn't going the way that you want and you are battling and the cold dark training sessions are starting to test your motivation. At this time of the year the winter grind really sets in and everything feels a lot like hard work and the warmth of the summer sun seems such a long way away.
How can you make it easier for yourself to deal with the winter grind. Here are 5 strategies that I find work really well at this time of the year.
1) Don't go at it alone: Whats that old saying? "A problem shared is a problem halved" or in the case of the winter grind at least it is not just you who is out there freezing your arse off. Having some good training partners is worth their weight in goal. Check out this article about how to choose the right training partner.
This really helped me earlier this year. To celebrate the shortest day and the longest night I teamed up with some local EPC athletes and did a 115km night gravel grinder ride. With some great conversation and some others to share the journey with the dark, cold and tiredness was easily managed. If I was just on my own there is a good chance that I would have 1) cut the ride short or 2) not had the motivational energy to get out the door and actually start, after what was a tiring day. When you share the winter grind, the winter grind is halved.
2) Take it indoors: Let's face it, no matter how hard you are sometimes the black ice, dodging cars in the dark, blizzards, frozen toes and fingers mean that it is often safer, easier and definitely warmer. Having a bike set up on the wind trainer to save time, sweating it out on the treadmill at the gym or opting for an indoor circuit rather than paddling through another session of freezing horizontal rain will allow you to clock up training time. While at the same time save some of your all important limited mental energy that pushing through the tough winter conditions can really start to drain. So choose your battles wisely and if needed retreat in doors, keep warm and sweat it out.
3) Blow out the cobwebs: Having some short regular winter racing can be great to bump up the intensity, blow out the cobwebs and keep the competitive juices flowing. The local winter cyclocross, kayak and cross country series are great ways to keep the motivational fires burning through the coldest of nuclear winters.
4) Keep your eye on the prize: Humans are very visual animals, so make sure you have your goals written down in a place you can see them or better still build yourself a vision board. A picture is worth a thousand words. So surround yourself with photos or yourself in past events, your idols or other inspiring images so that you are continually reminded of why you are training in the cold, digging deep and putting yourself through the winter grind. Keep your eye on the prize and keep pushing.
5) Harden the F**k up: At the end of the day everyone can do with hardening the f**k up a bit and get s**t done. There is nothing like a good old mother nature training session to harden you up.
When most people look out the window and it is raining and blowing a gale the last thing they want to do is go out the door and go training. Mother nature is a tough old bitch who will harden you up really quickly. Rather than looking out the window and thinking how cold, wet and windy it is, think of it as an opportunity to really test your skills, endurance and strength both 'physically and mentally'. It's usually best to forget about the planned session for the day (i.e. if you have structured intervals they are going to be less than optimal when you are trying to stay in your boat as white caps break over the deck, or you are down to a crawl as you battle your way into the head wind) instead just focus on surviving whatever mother nature throws at you.
'Get comfortable being uncomfortable'
If you are not prepared and do not respect mother nature she will punish you and things can get dangerous. So always ask yourself the 'What if' question. What if I fell out of my boat, would I get blown out into the lake or towards the shore? What if I get a puncture or mechanical and have to stand around for ages fixing it, do I have enough kit to stay warm? Always be prepared and have a plan.
'There is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices'
Get out there and use this winter to set the foundation for the upcoming season.
Champions do the work when it is wet, dark, cold and no one is watching.
Train hard, but most importantly train smart.