Off season: On message

Don't go into cycling hibernation this autumn!

As summer finally drifts away and the number of layers you wear increases in direct proportion to the decrease in temperature, it can be tempting to go into cycling hibernation. Autumn's here, which often means your bike is confined to the shed. Joe Beer reveals how to keep up...

But however big the allure of hanging up your wheels, try to stick with it. Stop or dramatically reduce your riding during the colder months and you'll soon succumb to the old adage: if you don't use it you'll lose it.

Estimates vary as to how much you lose and how fast you lose it when you back off, but data I've collected from the athletes I coach reveals that even a month of doing hardly any training regresses an extremely fit person back to fitness levels more usually found in coach potatoes. Drop your miles by too much for too long and when you decide to seriously hit the road again, you'll quickly be reminded of what it was like to be an absolute beginner.

Seeing as you've put in so much work to achieve a decent level of fitness, resolve to keep yourself close to it this autumn and winter and come the spring you'll feel better than ever.

Sure, it might not be sunny and the nights will draw in, but there's plenty that you can do on two wheels to stay in shape. And when the bike really is out of the question, try some other training methods to maintain your fitness.

Cycling

Make the most of those rare sunny autumn days and get out and ride. Forsake the road and hit the trails - when the weather's wet, mountain biking or using a cross bike is even more fun! With more gear, more wind and a heavier bike, don't expect winter riding to be fast. If you do foresee missing lots of weekday ride time because of work and daylight issues, invest in an indoor cycle trainer.

Smart tip Watch a winter sport while you're using the turbo trainer for short and intense indoor workouts.

Running

This is easy to do, only requires a pair of good running shoes and, as long as you progress in small increments on soft grass, mud or sand, you'll steer clear of injury and receive a hugely efficient and beneficial aerobic workout.

Smart tip Start at ten minutes easy and add five minutes every second or third run.

Circuit training

The classic gym-based group session is immensely popular and will provide you with a better whole body workout than simply hitting the weights on your own. One session of this intensive training a week will have you discovering muscles that cycling merely tickles.

Smart tip Focus on good technique and beating your previous week's bests.

Swimming

It's low impact, warm and, if you don't hang on the poolside for too long, it can be a good cardio calorie burner.

Smart tip Invest in good goggles and some technique input from a swim coach or competent swimming friend.

As with hard training in the spring and summer, the key to successful autumn/winter workouts is planning. Pencil in the times that you're going to exercise and don't find excuses to miss those sessions. What you do over the next four months need not be heroic, but you do need to be consistent. You won't regret it come the spring!

Simple ways to beat the rot

1. Make a plan of the number of days you'll aim to exercise per week. Be realistic and advise those around you what you intend to be doing so you don't miss a session.

2. Look back at past, bad winters. Can you identify what caused you to crack and give up the ghost? Be strong, overcome the usual pitfalls and know you can be fitter this winter.

3. Join a club or get some mates on board to get out with you when the weather's poor. You need company to beat bad days, provide motivation and have fun along the way.

4. Have spare kit and wheels at the ready. You don't need excuses to fall back on or a lost weekend morning, so be prepared.

5. Keep a track of your riding frequency, ride time and weight. Take swift action the moment these start to go off plan.

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