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Ask PPCC: Effective Interventions For Training During Winter

Science-backed strategies that will also keep you motivated when it's too wet and cold outside to feel the good vibes....

We've all had a case of the winter blues before; when the summer racing has come to an end, the bunch rides are scarce, and its too wet and cold to really want to head out for that 4 hour endurance ride. But when the mercury drops and the roads get wet, there are plenty of evidence-based interventions you can call upon to keep the fitness up, along with the motivation.

Here are some effective tips and training interventions you can use to spice up your training program this winter -

Tip #1 - Indoor Training (and heat stimulus)

Indoor training is an obvious one, its not exactly ground-breaking to jump on the Wahoo Kickr through winter to keep the training quality high... but what you may not consider when you're tackling your VO2 Max intervals in the garage, is the benefits of the heat stimulus that the indoor session may be providing you with.

Simply riding indoors without the cooling airflow experienced outside increases the body's skin and core temperature to higher levels compared to outdoor riding (1). It can be difficult to match your indoor power with what you can achieve outdoors - even the pro's are known to struggle with this (2). However, the more difficult sessions and lower power numbers could come with the benefits that result from the heat stimulus.

Training in the heat, whether it be through riding the trainer without a fan, or actively increasing the temperature of the training environment, has been shown to increase performance even in normal temperatures. These performance increases are largely due to increased stroke volume and cardiac output (3) as a result of physiological changes in the blood, such as increased haemoglobin mass (4), and blood plasma (5). (More on this in a future article....)

Tip #2 - Strength Training

Generally speaking, winter can be a good time to incorporate strength training into a cyclist's season (although we often advocate for some level of strength training year-round.) This is because there is often less racing on, meaning you can afford to have the 'heavy legs' feeling associated with DOMS without worrying about acute limited performance. Winter can also be a key time to introduce gym work because the athlete may not be in a strict build phase at this time. This means they can better adapt to the stimulus of the strength training due to a lack of higher intensity sessions on the bike.

Strength training for cyclists has been very well documented in the literature, with studies finding benefits you may expect, such as an increased 30sec sprint power, but also increases in the ability to improve power at lactate threshold (6). Furthermore, studies have found strength training helps to increase cycling efficiency and time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power (7). In a study of 19 female cyclists, it was also found that strength training increased fractional utilisation and cycling economy (8) - essentially the percentage of their VO2 Max that they could sustain for a long time. Even if you can't regularly get sessions in for a traditional gym block, research has shown that intra-season strength maintenance sessions can also increase cycling performance (9).

With all of these benefits, strength training could be the change to your regular program that provides motivation and performance gains this winter.

Do you incorporate strength training into your cycling?

  • Yes

  • No

Tip #3 - Gravel/Off Road

Gravel has taken off globally in the past few years, with many people swapping out the Conti GP5000's for something a lot wider and grippier. Couple this with the fact that winter can often be the perfect time to take out the gravel bike due to weather conditions, and its no doubt that it can be a fun change-up to the regular road cyclist's/triathlete's winter.

How can gravel mentally help your training this winter?

A very recent study in December 2023 undertook a reflexive thematic analysis finding that gravel cycling can positively influence the mentality of an athlete (10). The study reported gravel cycling increases an athlete's sense of freedom, and as a result increases their physical, mental, and emotional development, as well as their sense of connection with their community and nature.

These benefits, and the fact that gravel riding/racing can provide some seriously tough workouts and physiological demands, could be all the reason to head off-road to spice up the winter training ahead of your next goals.

Tip #4 - Goal Setting and Periodisation With A Coach

Whatever interventions you incorporate into your training this winter, nothing will beat training smart and periodising your training correctly with a coach. Looking over your season with someone who can effectively manage your training load to allow you to peak at the right time can be the key to achieving your goals. How this affects your winter training could be completely different based on your training history, physiology, upcoming goals, and how and when you need to perform.

A survey with 594 amateur cyclists of all levels and nationalities found that 96% of cyclists found their motivation to train fluctuating at some point throughout the year, with many of these athletes reporting that having a goal to train for was crucial in maintaining motivation and longevity in the sport (11). A good coach will be able to help you not only to reach your goals, but to do so around a full year/season in a way that periodises your priorities.

Having a coach to help you achieve your goals throughout the season will drastically impact what your winter training should look like, and increase your motivation in line with these goals through the winter.

Summing It Up

Whatever training tips and interventions you partake in through winter, nothing beats having a coach oversee your activities and lifestyle to ensure you are getting the most out of yourself when it matters. The important thing is to remember that motivation can come and go, and different strategies can be adopted in line with this - however, knowing what and when to adopt these strategies depends on the periodisation of your season and your training goals. Ultimately, enjoyment needs to come first, and perhaps some of these tips can increase your training satisfaction through the colder months this season...

The tips in this article don't even begin to dive into all the extensive science surrounding these training interventions, and if you would like to learn more we encourage you to get in touch!

If you would like to request a topic for the "Ask Pinnacle Performance" articles, you can do so via the website, or our Instagram - we would love to hear from you!


  1. Mieras ME, Heesch MWS, Slivka DR. Physiological and Psychological Responses to Outdoor vs. Laboratory Cycling. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014 Aug;28(8):2324–9.

  2. Lipski ES, Spindler DJ, Hesselink C, Myers T, Sanders D. Differences in Performance Assessments Conducted Indoors and Outdoors in Professional Cyclists. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 2022 Jan 1;17(7):1054–60.

  3. Périard JD, Racinais S, Sawka MN. Adaptations and mechanisms of human heat acclimation: Applications for competitive athletes and sports. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2015 May 6;25(1):20–38.

  4. Rønnestad BR, Hamarsland H, Hansen J, Holen E, Montero D, Whist JE, et al. Five weeks of heat training increases haemoglobin mass in elite cyclists. Experimental Physiology. 2020 Jul 4;

  5. Lorenzo S, Halliwill JR, Sawka MN, Minson CT. Heat acclimation improves exercise performance. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 Oct;109(4):1140–7.

  6. Rønnestad BR, Hansen J, Nygaard H. 10 weeks of heavy strength training improves performance-related measurements in elite cyclists. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2016 Aug 2;35(14):1435–41.

  7. Sunde A, Støren Ø, Bjerkaas M, Larsen MH, Hoff J, Helgerud J. Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [Internet]. 2010 Aug;24(8):2157–65. Available from:

  8. Vikmoen O, Ellefsen S, Trøen Ø, Hollan I, Hanestadhaugen M, Raastad T, et al. Strength training improves cycling performance, fractional utilization of VO2maxand cycling economy in female cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 2015 Apr 18;26(4):384–96.

  9. Rønnestad BR, Hansen EA, Raastad T. In-season strength maintenance training increases well-trained cyclists’ performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 Aug 27;110(6):1269–82.

  10. Haley Hunter Smith, Smith T, Côté J. The successes and spirit of gravel cycling: providing freedom, challenge, and connection. Sport in society. 2024 Apr 8;1–19.

  11. Faure M. Motivation -Mobilisation -Leadership The Motivations of Amateur Cyclists Motivation -Mobilisation -Leadership [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2024 Jun 21].


Pinnacle Performance Cycling Coaching

Jack Marshall


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