Training: Be a winter warrior, part 6 – Fine tuning

Fine tune your potential over winter

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at the physical work and the mental toughness of winter training. In this final part of our guide to making yourself a better rider, we look at the subtle extras you should be tweaking over the winter.


We’ve taken away pretty much every excuse you used to have NOT to ride during winter: the cold, the wind, the rain and the mud are all your new training chums now. Even your commute to work has been incorporated into your winter warrior training.  While regular riding is enough to keep you fit and strong, if you really want to make a difference to your performance, use whatever  spare time to top yourself up.

Exercises to extend yourself that little bit further

All these exercises can be done at home so make yourself an exercise plan and get cracking.

Hand strengthening

Hand strengthening: hand strengthening
Russell Burton

The most effective ways to strengthen your hands are old fashioned hand grips and newer Powerball gyroscopes. The gyroscope strengthens your fingers, thumb, grip, wrist and forearm, and builds powerful endurance.

  • Simply place the Gyroscope in your palm and grip it with your fingers
  • Start it spinning by rotating your wrist, and it generates a force that helps train your fingers, hand, wrist and arms
  • Grips are a cheaper and more basic way of achieving a similar result

Jumping on the spot

Jumping on the spot: jumping on the spot
Russell Burton

Developing your ‘pop’ is key for jumping a bike well, and this exercise will help you understand the principles you need, and to build on the muscle groups jumping uses.

  • Squat down to the ground
  • Using your quads, calves and feet, push up and jump in to the air as high as you can
  • Land as softly as you can and repeat

Circuit training

Circuit training: circuit training
Russell Burton

You don’t have to go to a gym to do circuit training – you can get similar effects by setting up your own exercise routine.

  • Place a couple of bricks on the floor, approximately 40ft apart and sprint from one brick to another
  • When you get to the second brick, slow down as quickly as possible, bend down and touch it, before changing direction and sprinting back off the way you came
  • Slow down and touch the other brick, and sprint towards the other brick again
  • Repeat until you’re totally exhausted

Balance boards

Balance boards: balance boards
Russell Burton

Balance boards help you develop balance, coordination and leg strength, and are great for working your core muscles.

Standing on the surface of the board, the idea is to try and keep as still and as balanced as possible – it’s harder than you think! You can also use them for upper body and core strength when doing press-ups. There are various types of balance boards available – have a look at

Gym ball push-ups

Gym ball push-ups: gym ball push-ups
Russell Burton

Stability is the key here to doing gym ball push-ups effectively.

  • Place your hands on the ball, roughly shoulder width apart
  • Lower yourself, keeping the movement controlled, and return

While the force taken on by your arms is actually less than during a normal push-up, the fact that you’ll have to stabilise yourself on the gym ball makes them work a lot harder. This works your shoulders, triceps, biceps and your core muscles, and it’s very good for developing the strength you need in order to move the bike around.

Stretching exercises

Combine these stretches with the ones demonstrated in previous winter warrior instalments, and you’re well on your way to a good set of stretches for upper and lower body, as well as your legs.

Touch your toes

Touch your toes: touch your toes
Russell Burton
  • With your feet about hip width, and knees slightly bent, bend at your hips
  • Reach your arms down to your toes, and let the full weight of your head help slowly stretch you
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and feel the stretch in your muscles

If you can’t reach, don’t bounce. You’ll get more flexible each time you do this stretch.

Sitting leg-over stretch

Sitting leg-over stretch: sitting leg-over stretch
Russell Burton
  • Sit on the floor, and cross one leg over the other with that knee raised
  • Press your opposite elbow on the inside of that knee and use it to lever your body round
  • Hold the stretch until you feel it in your lower back, glutes and thigh

Neck stretch

Neck stretch: neck stretch
Russell Burton
  • Lie on the floor and place your hands at rear of your neck
  • Slowly raise your head until your neck meets your chest
  • Hold the stretch and feel it on the back of your neck
  • Slowly release, and repeat 10-12 times

Fuel your machine

Fuelling your body is essential for the muscles to grow and stay strong. A balanced diet is essential, the key elements of which are carbohydrates, proteins and fatty acids (Omega 3, found in fish). Great foods to replenish stripped carbs and proteins include lean red meat, chicken, eggs, potatoes, fish, pasta and rice.

Spaghetti bolognese: spaghetti bolognese
Russell Burton

Spaghetti Bolognese provides a great carb and protein hit and the added chillies help ward off illness too.

Preparation time 5-10 mins, Cooking time 25 mins

  • 500g lean mince
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 fresh red chillies
  • One large onion
  • Chilli powder
  • Tomato puree
  • Two tins choppedtomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Whole wheat spaghetti
  1. Generously cover the mince in Worcestershire sauce and leave to one side, then slice the onion and finely chop the chillies and garlic.
  2. Fry the onion on a low heat until soft, then add the garlic and chilli.
  3. Whack the heat up and lob in the mince, complete with any juice. Brown off and drain any excess liquid – the fatty stuff.
  4. Add the tomatoes, half a tube of tomato puree and a quarter of a tin of water. Add salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste. Bring to the boil, then simmer and reduce (about 15 minutes) .
  5. Meanwhile, fill a saucepan with water, bring it to the boil, and throw in enough spaghetti for three people (you won’t get through all the bolognese by yourself. Add a drizzle of olive oil to stop it sticking, and boil for about 11 minutes, or until al dente.
  6. Get your washing up done while the spaghetti is cooking. Then drain the spaghetti, serve up an overly generous portion and chuck plenty of bolognese on top.

Don’t just think it, drink it

It’s important to rehydrate properly after exercise. Mix up these ingredients for a great rehydration drink.

  • 50g of glucose powder (such as High Five, Maxim or Isostar)
  • 1 litre water
  • Juice to dilute
  • Large pinch of salt