Friday, 19 November 2010

In Defense Of Winter

My work mate, riding buddy and head of FKK Racing has recently posted about winter training. I'm assuming here that you'll disappear off to read his thoughts on the subject so I'll pause a moment to await your return..

Hello again.. this just be my take on it but he doesn't paint a very positive view of the season that Britain seems to spend 9 months of the year entering, suffering or emerging from does he?

I've got a different view on the subject. I have to admit, I didn't used to have, but my change of heart has been born out of numerous dealings with wet weather that saturates to the bone, cold that chills to the core regardless kit used and darkness that stubbornly resists giving way to daylight.

I've come to realise that riding in the winter is, to all intents and purposes the yang to summer ridings ying. It's nature's payback for providing us with dry trails, sunlight dappled forests and balmy evenings when rides can finish late with only shorts and t-shirts being required. People often moan at the start of summer that they aren't fit, the fact they spend the winter months slumped on the sofa watching Top Gear repeats on Dave seems to be lost on them. In the same way as I believe the best descents are hard earned by grafting an ascent, those summer trails are all the sweeter for seeing them at their worst

I have a friend in the army, he often says that if you can train in the harshest conditions, anything else will be easy. To back this up, my best year of competition followed a difficult winter of training in preparation for an early year half marathon. Slogging through the cold, the rain and, more often than not, the thick mud that covered my favourite trails saw me hitting the frictionless summer singletrack full of new found strength. I admit, Ad does have a point, pulling on running or biking kit when, just the other side of the door the visible countryside is being battered by wind, rain snow or sleet is tough. When you're there though, so what? once you're wet you're wet, if you're cold you can warm up either through effort or reaching home and the comfort of a warm shower. Mud washes off, skin is waterproof and, to the best of my knowledge, the fondest memories are forged when the going is toughest.

Getting out there in the dark months separates us from them.. whilst we pound pavements or nail singletrack, the fairweather athletes and, even worse, the non-athletes sit, stagnating, hollow-eyed and oblivious to the world outside their windows.

I'm even backed up by scientific evidence (I'll note now this will be a rare occurrence on this blog so don't expect it too often) Research done by the University of Northern Arizone has found that training in cold air teaches your body to be more effective in it's use of oxygen, further more, Peter Clough at the University of Hull here in the UK found exposure to cold helps alleviate stress.

A double whammy it seems, ignoring the elements will not only give you a well deserved mental edge over your summer riding mates who hang up their kit at the end of September till the following year in favour of an increased waist line, it will also, seemingly will give you a physiological one too.

Winter Training? I'd love to