Fall is here! For some, fall is synonymous with cyclocross. Have you heard of cyclocross?
It takes place in September and early October and is an entertaining form of bike racing quickly gaining popularity.
Cyclocross consists of many laps on a short course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills, and obstacles. When a rider encounters an obstacle, they must quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount to continue the race.
Cyclocross bikes are mostly road bikes but with a slightly meatier tire tread. Because of the all-terrain nature of the ride, participants usually end up dirty and grinning like crazy because they’ve had so much fun. Check out the Anchorage-area cyclocross page for details about clinics and the ride schedule. http://www.arcticcross.org/
If cyclocross isn’t your thing, then you might be facing the impending snowfall trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your winter. We’ll discuss a few options for how to pass your winter, indoors and out, to avoid losing your current fitness level.
You can almost always run.
Running in the cold isn’t as daunting as some think. You need more layers, and you might have to slow down to allow for safer footing on the winter ground. A few key wardrobe pieces can help a lot. Light gloves that won’t have your hands overheating are a must. A balaclava (hat w/ neck and face covering) can help keep your chin and neck and ears warm as the temperature cools. My general rule of thumb is to dress for five to ten degrees warmer than it is; the run starts cold, but as the body warms up, you’ll be wearing the right amount of clothing. Consider wearing pieces made with wool or polypro-like fabrics that will wick sweat away. And, if the snow has fallen or its icy, nothing beats studded running shoes. You can buy them, or you can have them studded at outdoors stores, or you can buy the right screws and watch a video online on how to do it yourself. Finally, don’t forget to get lit! For those dark hours of the winter, make sure that other traffic can see you -use bike lights and headlamps, blinking is great, and make sure the cars see you.
Maybe this is your year to take up skiing.
Classic cross-country skiing is always a favorite and great for keeping your cardio and muscular fitness up to snuff – it especially works some of the hip and glute muscles that are so integral to road cycling in the summer. If you want to take up cross-country or skate skiing, there are classes available through our local outdoors stores and schools. You can also rent skis from many of the same stores that sell them, and they’ll help you get the size and style right whatever your plans may be.
Maybe you can’t face the cold yet.
Maybe you cannot bring yourself to venture out into the dark. Maybe your joints don’t like running anymore. Sometimes it’s a great day to stay inside, but you aren’t ready to give up the ghost on your fitness goals. Consider an indoor bike trainer! (I am a cycling writer, after all.) Most indoor bike trainers are designed to cradle the rear axle of your bike with a small flywheel resting against your rear wheel. You get on your bike as though you were going for a ride outside, and go! Types and levels of resistance against the rear wheel vary, but many indoor trainers can provide an impressive workout.
Smart trainers incorporated into some indoor trainers are designed to adjust the resistance level so that your workout varies according to a designated plan.
Even more high-tech, some smart trainers will communicate with online programs, like Zwift, which will keep you coming back for more rides than you’d ever anticipate. To ride in Zwift, you create an account and Zwift makes a SimCity-esque avatar for you. As you ride your bike, your Zwift person rides their bike. If your Zwift person comes to a hill, your resistance goes up, and your workout gets harder, just as though you were riding that hill. The best part of Zwift might be that as “digital you” rides various neat courses in Zwift, there are other riders from all over the world who are also real people, cycling with/against you in the digital world. If you decide to up your speed and pass the woman ahead of you, she might also put the pressure on from her smart trainer and hold you off. If you ride often enough, and at consistent days and times you’ll also start to befriend the other riders that you see regularly and kind of get to know them. Most riders are represented by their country’s flag, and in any given ride you’ll pass or be passed by folks from at least a dozen countries.
Other online programs to help keep you motivated include SufferFest and PainCave, but they don’t offer the social community of Zwift. Peloton, which requires buying the stationary bike, provides the benefits of personalized coaching, but at a higher price tag and you don’t use your road bike, which turns some off. If you don’t want to spring for an online training program, you can always just stream Game of Thrones all winter; you’ll be in fabulous shape before the red wedding comes around if you only watch the show when you’re riding.
It’d be a job poorly done if we didn’t wrap up with a reminder about the importance of warming up, cooling down, and balancing your hard work with stretching (go review our June article on cycling and yoga). You can get stronger and stronger, but if you’re not providing balance and lengthening those same muscles that you’re working, you’ll probably feel it for the worse in the long run.
Enjoy your winter, take care of yourself, and see you out there when the roads clear!
Emma Haddix is an attorney who was born and raised in Anchorage. When she’s not chasing her toddler she is working, trying to fit workouts in, and hunting for the best gluten free cupcake. To reach Emma, email: firstname.lastname@example.org