10 tips to stay motivated through winter

How to drag yourself out of bed and keep riding through winter

Cyclists meeting before a winter training ride

Riding your bike in the winter months is hard. It can be cold, wet, windy – often all three at once – and that’s before you factor in occasionally cycling in the dark. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

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Training throughout the winter is a great way to keep your base fitness ticking over, while also preparing you for next spring and summer and any exciting goals you’re looking to achieve on two wheels. What’s more, getting outdoors and staying active through winter is good for the soul.

Here are 10 ways to stay motivated through the winter, to help you through those moments when it can seem easier to stay in bed…

1. Have a goal

Winter training can be tough, but a sensible and realistic plan will help you get the most out of the cold, dark months.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media

“The main thing for anyone is having a goal,” explains Matt Bottrill of Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching. “You’ve got to have a motivation. It could be something that’s happened to your family, your health, lose weight. Whatever that is, you need that goal. 

“If you’ve got that in place, every time you do a training session you’ve got a reason for doing it – you’re not just going through the motions. You then feel good about it because that stepping stone is working towards your big goal.”

A great way of determining goals is to create a training plan. Just make sure you don’t make any winter training mistakes.

2. Have the right kit

The right gear can remove the sting from cold days.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Heading out into the cold is made a lot easier if you’ve got the right winter gear in your wardrobe, especially if you’re riding in the rain.

It can be hard to get motivated if you’re imagining the next few hours to be as cold as sitting in a fridge, and staying in bed is going to be a lot more attractive.

Investing in foul-weather kit, whether that’s a good waterproof jacket or a pair of overshoes, will turn a training ride from unbearable into enjoyable, and will have you jumping out of bed and onto your bike.

Check out our guide to the best winter cycling clothing for an in-depth look at what to wear when it’s less than appealing outside.

3. Buddy up

Riding with a buddy can make winter riding much easier.
Colnago

Struggling to get motivated to head out on your own? Find another rider who is keen to get some winter training in and buddy up, instead of trying to tackle the elements solo.

Not only will it make the miles whizz by as you chat away between stops, but it’s a lot harder to bail when you’ve got someone stood on your doorstep all kitted up and ready to go.

4. Join a club run

Club rides can be a great way to meet local riders in your area.
Matt Grayson / Immediate Media

If your cycling buddies are now in hibernation until the spring, then it might be an idea to join a club run.

Many cycling clubs run a range of rides at the weekend that vary in pace, while some offer early-morning, pre-work sessions in the week for the extra keen.

If you’re new to club runs, check out our guide on how to ride in a group, which talks you through how to ride safely and efficiently.

5. Try something new

Gravel brings a different riding experience for both road cyclists and mountain bikers.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Even if you consider yourself a road cyclist, that doesn’t mean you have to live and die by the sword of tarmac. Winter is a great time to try off-road pursuits that will not only help with your training but could also be beneficial to your overall riding technique, too.

Equally, if you’re a mountain biker looking to improve your endurance, could you be tempted out onto the road this winter?

For both roadies and mountain bikers, gravel riding offers a happy medium. Gravel bikes combine speed on the road with the ability to venture off the beaten track – ideal for steady winter miles.

Another great thing to try out is cross-training, which will inject a dose of variety and fun, as well as making you a stronger cyclist without a pedal stroke.

6. Join the Rapha Festive 500

Strava challenges are a good way to get you out of the door.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media

Is your winter training just not, well, challenging enough? Try your hand at the Rapha Festive 500

The Strava challenge has become a legendary way for riders to up the endurance (and test the patience of family members) over the festive period, with participants set the task of riding 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

It’s not 500km or nothing, however. Strava has a number of December challenges, such as a 400km distance challenge and a 7,500m climbing challenge.

7. Train inside

A smart trainer enlivens indoor endurance rides and intervals alike.
Zwift

Whisper it, but it is possible to train over the winter period without subjecting yourself to the harsh conditions that come with it. Invest in one of the best smart trainers and swapping one outdoor ride per week for an indoor workout can revitalise your training and help keep you motivated.

Plus, interval training and sweetspot training are actually more time-efficient when done indoors – ideal if you’re juggling riding with family, work and social commitments.

Still not convinced? We’ve put together a list of indoor cycling benefits.

8. Listen to music

Listening to music can keep you focused during indoor training.
Our Media

If you do opt to train inside this winter, there are things that can soon start to irritate you during a session – most notably the lack of visual stimulation that you get when out on the road. But there are ways of overcoming this.

“I always listen to music,” says Bottrill. “I listen to dance music and I love the rhythm of it. I match my pedal stroke to the beat of the music. You can break it down to phases, so ‘this song is four minutes, I’ll listen to two songs and then I’ll look at the time’. It’s a great way of zoning out.”

When training indoors, consider setting up your own pain cave.

9. Try a training app

Zwift enables you to ride virtually with your friends.
Zwift

Another way of livening up your workout is to use a training app. We’ve got a round-up of the best indoor cycling apps.

The interactive worlds of Zwift, Rouvy and RGT Cycling can turn your indoor ride into the closest thing to heading out on the road, without leaving the house.

You’ll have the virtual world to keep you occupied, while it’s also possible to join a group ride, complete structured workouts or embark on a fully fledged training plan.

10. Remember to reward yourself

Your body burns more calories when it’s cold.
Immediate Media

It’s all very well having goals and motivating yourself to train throughout the winter months, but you need to enjoy the rewards, too.

“You need to reward yourself,” Bottrill says. “It will make you want to achieve it more.”

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So whether that’s an extra slice of cake at the cafe stop, or a new bit of kit in the new year, don’t forget to treat yourself along the way.