Tackling high intensity interval sessions during the winter is a controversial subject that divides opinion among cycling coaches.
My philosophy is simple: I am a strong believer in Time Effective Cycling Training and implementing high aerobic activities throughout the season. And I am convinced interval training can be used effectively during the winter. But how?
One argument against winter interval training is the risk of peaking too early. I don’t follow this because if you are not competing at a professional level your risk of peaking too early is very low. Bear in mind that your current fitness leaves room for improvement so it makes sense to train longer, faster and more frequently.
The real case is that you won’t peak during the winter season. You might have a short period of overshooting ‒ and that’s it. Overshooting has nothing to do with peaking, which is a completely different story.
How can one peak without being even close to one’s own physiological potential?
And, even more importantly, how should one be able to really peak without even tapering? And doing so while increasing your overall training amount?
If you decide to include interval training, you would be able to perform aerobic intervals 2-3 times per week now and that would, in the long run, make you significantly stronger than the pure endurance training you used to compare yourself with.
It’s important to notice that high intensity intervals are not just high intensity intervals. Since road cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, it is also clear that most of your training should target the aerobic engine.
It takes more time to build a solid aerobic engine but once it is built it will remain at a reasonable level with the minimum of training. But if you want to reach your full aerobic potential, you will have to train for several years.
If you train strictly for anaerobic power, you will improve this skill really quickly, but it will not make you a successful road cyclist in the long run (unless you train for special events like 1K on the track or BMX etc).
In winter you tend to train less. You may also lack a little motivation, so with these things in mind it makes perfect sense to include interval training as part of your winter training. This means you will get better results in less time.
And interval training is actually easier to do indoors. You don’t have to battle with the traffic, pedestrians and traffic lights and you can focus 100% on maintaining the correct power output, cadence or heart rate during the sessions. That can be a lot more difficult to achieve outdoors.
You can also decide to take part in two or three spinning classes a week and use them as your high intensity sessions. The remainder of your training time, which is mainly endurance, can then simply add to your training volume.
When I draw up a training program for a rider I usually make intervals and high intensity training a focal point of the plan. With regards the winter months, I always plan indoor intervals to be performed on the ergometer bike or home trainer.
This approach allows me to tackle exactly how I would like the intervals to be. It also leads to the desired physiological improvements in my cyclists: for example, improved VO2 max.
My latest e-book 12-Week Winter Training Program contains many more useful tips and advice on how to tackle interval training during the winter months. If you want to reach your full potential as a cyclist and prepare properly for next season then the e-book, priced at $37, will give you the perfect boost. Get prepared for 2012: Read more here.