Training in the “Off-Season:” Get Out the Door!

By Mindy McCutcheon with Mark Deterline – Growing up in Northern Michigan, I was no stranger to the outdoors – or crappy weather. Despite the oft freezing temperatures and bone-chilling wind off the Great Lakes, I remained active year-round. Of course, it wasn’t always easy dragging myself out of bed for a 6am run or shoving my feet into ski boots for ski practice, knowing my feet would be frozen within minutes. However, one thing always remained true: When they say “getting out the door is the hardest part,” they are totally right.

Ski touring is a great way to stay in shape during the winter so that when the bike season starts up, one will be ready to ride. Make sure to take an avalanche safety class and go with a partner. Photo by Mindy McCutcheon

I’ve spent thousands of hours outside in the rain/cold/wind/whatever, and can’t think of a single workout I regret. So, the most important thing, no matter what you plan on doing, is to get out the door!

For starters, I don’t really consider the “off-season” off. More appropriately, it’s an opportunity to do all the other activities I love, but can’t focus on during the cycling season. As much as I love being on the bike, there are many other activities that keep me moving once the seasons shift.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we Utahns live in a pretty cool state that offers many diverse activities, and many of our Western neighbors likewise enjoy an abundance of outdoor and indoor sports opportunities, so why limit ourselves to just one? With this, I offer you my three basic rules for training in the off-season.

Rule #1- Own Lots of Clothing

Dressing for success not only applies to the workplace, folks. Layering and wearing proper clothing for your outdoor adventures is key to success, in any weather condition. I own approximately ten pairs of cycling gloves, all meant for slightly different conditions. Although that seems excessive, you will often discover you’re in need of the one pair you didn’t think you’d need that day. So, when heading out for said adventures, I highly recommend packing several clothing options, whether you think you’ll need it or not. Why? Because weather predictors suck and you can never be certain.

Fingers aside, you have the rest of your body to worry about. I recommend a healthy collection of buffs, socks, base layers, jacket liners, shells, booties, and boots. Most importantly, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you own too many jackets; they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

Rule #2- Own a Lot of Gear

In Utah, we have a plethora of outdoor adventure options. No matter where you live in any of our state’s valleys, you can be alpine or Nordic skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing or running in under 45 minutes. In virtually all of our Intermountain and Western States, there are great fitness opportunities awaiting athletes willing to stray from habit.

Winter is a great opportunity to mix up your typical routine and work other muscles. I promise you, no matter how strong your cycling legs, they will still burn while doing Tram laps at Snowbird. Seriously, I can’t seem to get past that. And if you live in Utah and you haven’t skied, shame on you! If you don’t own gear, don’t stress; you can rent nearly anything you need from places like the University of Utah outdoor rec center or REI at reasonable prices. Or if you’re looking to buy used gear, check out GearRush.com.

If all else fails, there’s always the gym or the dreaded trainer. Riding indoors on a trainer is perhaps the least expensive, albeit, most boring way to keep up with your cycling fitness during inclement weather, but it includes a bonus: you get to catch up on all your favorite shows you haven’t watched for the past eight months, while you’ve been too busy training and/or racing to turn on your TV… Or, maybe that’s just me.

Another affordable (and fun!) option for your winter training in the Salt Lake area are winter cycling programs like Plan 7’s “House of Watt’s”, Jeff Louder’s “Ride Louder,” or the Sports Mall’s Power Cycling Camp. These programs offer personalized and consistent training from November through March. Even better, you’re with a group of people, so it’s not quite as torturous as riding your trainer alone at home. These are an awesome solution for keeping up your cycling fitness so you can hit the road hard come Spring.

Rule #3- Don’t Be a Wimp

Seriously. You’re a big kid. In Utah, we live in, or are surrounded by, beautiful mountains. Unless we’re suffering through a bout of inversion, you have no excuse to not be outside and moving your body, or at least hitting the gym. Do I love riding my trainer when the daylight disappears? Hell no, it’s miserable and I hate it just as much as you do. While I suffer through trainer sessions on weekdays, you can find me venturing through the Wasatch Mountains every weekend.

Bottom line: Make your fitness a priority during the winter months, just like you do during the sunny months. If you do, there’s no need to “get back into shape” come spring, because you won’t be starting completely over. Aim for a variety of activities five days per week. There are options for everyone. You don’t have to be outside if you can’t manage the cold, but you do have to commit yourself to something that will keep you moving.

As a bike racer, Mindy has been a Western States golden girl for multiple seasons, graduating to the pro ranks in 2016 as part of Utah-based pro women’s team Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling. She had cut her teeth as a dedicated bike racer through her association with Canyon Bicycles Cycling Team, moving up the category ranks to become one of Utah’s best elite female racers as part of Canyon’s racing program. The neopro had only begun showcasing her new team’s colors when she took the win at Crusher in the Tushar, followed by impressive placings in national level pro races. She is known as an extremely likeable and approachable athlete, as well as a feared competitor. She credits cross-training as a key to her success in cycling.

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