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Winter Will Make Your Next Season -
Winter Power Training

By Hunter Allen, PCG Founder/CEO and Master Coach

Peaks Coaching Group

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Originally published in Cycling Weekly

We say it all the time and it’s still true.  What you do this winter can really make or break your season in the coming year. There are a couple of vital components to creating a good solid winter training program, and of course using a power meter is a big part of that. Once you are rested, recharged, and ready to go from your season, your winter should contain at least two important components:

Higher-cadence workouts help ensure that you maintain your ability to quickly contract and relax your muscles over the winter. By training your neuromuscular power, you can help keep that critical ability to quickly change your cadence throughout the winter and even enhance it. You don’t want to go too hard on these, so limit your effort to less than 110% of your functional threshold power (FTP). One of my favorite workouts is simple one-minute fast pedaling intervals, pedaling over 110rpm for one minute and then pedaling at your self-selected (normal) cadence for one minute and repeat.

On the other side of the coin, lower-cadence workouts are also great to do in the winter because they can enhance your muscular strength, which can help you to sprint with more peak wattage and also help you push a bigger gear into the wind, in a time trial, or up a steep climb. Muscular strength workouts are based around hard but short intervals done in the biggest gear you can manage at low rpm. Many people believe that riding for hours in a big gear at low rpm will increase their muscular strength and consequently make them more powerful. However, this is a myth; based on the data from power files.  I have found that riding at 50rpm for hours on end is just not creating enough muscular stress in order to strengthen the muscles. In order to increase your muscular strength on the bike, you need to do hard, short bursts of effort in a big gear from a slow speed.  Once you reach 80 rpm, your effort is over.

Roger de Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx

Roger de Vlaeminck's and Eddy Merckx's stunning form in early March (shown here in the March 3, 1973 Het Volk) was no accident. Winter prep is the key.

The second type of training that I prescribe to my athletes in the winter is called sweet spot training (SST). When you ride just below your functional threshold power (approximately 88-93% of your FTP), you are said to be riding in your sweet spot. Why is it called the sweet spot? It’s an area of intensity, the level of physiological strain (read: pain) is relatively low, and the maximum duration (read: time) you can stay in this area is quite high. Your increase in FTP is greatest in this area, as well, so training in your sweet spot really gives you a tremendous bang for your buck without causing you to peak in January.

Make it a great winter and a great start to the next season!

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