For just about every state in the country (sorry Arizona), daylight savings just went into effect last weekend. It’s officially that time of year where the days are quite short, the weather is brisk, on the decline and just about everyone is feeling a time crunch with the holidays fast approaching. What should training look like this time of year and does anyone even have time for training?? With some schedule adjustments and a few minor biohacks, you can adapt to the rhythm of fall and winter to get the most out of your training schedule.
Something to think about during the fall and winter months is the fact that the days are quite short. In most of the country, it is dark by 4:30pm and daylight rapidly becomes a scarce commodity. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is very real and without some preventative care, it can be a real threat to following a training plan. SAD affects 10 to 20% of the population each year, it can cause seasonal depression and fatigue, as well as elevated melatonin levels. If getting enough daylight during the winter months is a challenge for you, consider practicing light therapy. Light therapy is a technique where you simply exposure yourself to artificial light that mimics the sun. One study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that after one month of light therapy, symptoms of SAD decreased by 84%. Consider taking a vitamin D supplement as well if your sun exposure in the winter months is quite low. With these two tips you can preserve your circadian rhythm, keep mood elevated and be able to consistently tackle your training.
Another obstacle in the fall and winter months can be the falling temperature and lack of time to train in the light. This can be excellent opportunity to dial in an indoor training setup. Having access to an indoor trainer can be a very useful tool in your tool box. It allows you to be very efficient with your time and if availability for training is quite a bit lower this time of year, consider building in structured training mid-week on the trainer and taking advantage of more free time on the weekends to focus on less structured volume. Taking advantage of an indoor trainer allows you to turn a longer outdoor ride with more stopping and starting into a quick, efficient warmup, work set and cooldown. If consistency with training has been hard to achieve lately, setup an indoor system that allows for no excuses on the time crunched days.
With not much available sunlight to train in, this time of year can be an excellent time to get into the gym to build full body strength coming into the new year. Training in the gym can be achieved without daylight and it’s never below freezing. Supplementing limited time to ride with indoor gym training can be a great opportunity to build strength on the bike, improve bone density and keep the body limber and mobile to allow you to be more comfortable on the bike. As you transition from one training season to another, prioritize gym work at this time of year can be a great preventative measure for staying injury free throughout a tough season of racing and training ahead.
Don’t look at winter training as a downer, if you adjust and adapt to the seasons, you can still make the most of your available training time. Think about staying healthy, and this includes getting adequate sunlight. Sunlight helps keep circadian rhythm in check, as well as certain hormone regulation and also vitamin D production. Vitamin D production is very important to testosterone levels, so get plenty of sunlight if you are looking to build muscle mass through gym work. Take advantage of all the great indoor training technology there is these days, so you’ll have no excuses on the sub-freezing days or when the sunsets at 4pm. Also, if training motivation is waning, this is a great time to switch it up and incorporate gym conditioning, your body will thank you later. Master the seasons to set yourself up for the best year yet.
About the Author: Taylor Warren has raced at the elite level since 2014 and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Sports Medicine from Colorado State University in 2015. Taylor combines his vast knowledge and experience of the sport with his schooling to deliver the best possible coaching. Keeping up to date on the latest research, Taylor strives to continue his education and treat each athlete as a unique individual. Learn more about Taylor and Source Endurance here. Learn more about Taylor Warren.