It might not be easy, but there are many benefits of pedalling through winter. – By Selene Yeager
You Get Stronger
Winter is classic base-training time. Riding long, steady sessions in at around 70-percent of your max heart rate (Zone 2) for several weeks over the winter increases the size and number of your energy-producing mitochondria, helping you ride longer and eventually faster in your aerobic range before hitting threshold. A surprise bonus: Because you’re wearing heavier clothes, carrying more gear, and often using a heavier bike (like a cyclocross bike, mountain bike, or fat bike), you’re also getting stronger and building muscular endurance in the process.
You Get Tougher
You’ll find yourself humble bragging all over the place about how you’re braving the elements while others forsake their winter fitness. Don’t feel bad: All those cold outside rides will also make you legitimately tougher in the face of bad weather. When it’s a little chilly and rainy come spring, you’ll be totally comfortable while your still-hibernating buddies shiver in their gaiters.
You Will Get Sick Less
Research shows that regular exercisers are about half as likely to get sick as their couch-loving peers. You also earn bonus health points for being out on your bike and away from indoor environments that get so germ-infested during winter.
You Look at Cycling in a New Light
Cold weather can keep you off your usual wide-open road routes, and that’s okay. You’ve spent plenty of time on them and will again. The beauty of winter riding is it forces a bit of creativity. You may find yourself riding circuits through an industrial park, clover leafing around the outskirts of your neighbourhood, or riding trails that are too busy to enjoy during the warmer peak season.
You Find Peace and Solitude
That part we just mentioned about the trails? There’s a special beauty in not having to worry about a ton of traffic. You’ll find that you have a front row seat to Mother Nature’s most beautiful displays trees and muddy trail. Maybe not surprisingly, research shows you’re also less likely to succumb to the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when you regularly exercise outdoors.
You Incinerate Calories
When the temperatures fall, your metabolism rises to keep you warm and you burn more calories. However, studies suggest that the cold-induced calorie-burn boost washes out after you warm up and start exercising. That’s likely true when you’re running or doing full-body workouts, but that winter warm up effect is less pronounced out on the open road where your upper body is exposed and relatively quiet. So you’re always going to be a little chillier, which brings us to another bonus: nonshivering thermogenesis (NST).
While being cold enough to shiver raises your metabolism fivefold, shivering is terrible, and nobody wants to do it while they ride. But being just mildly chilly triggers NST, which not only bumps up your calorie burn on the bike, but also makes your fat more metabolically active even when you’re not riding, so you may burn more calories at rest, too.
You’ll Be So Ready for Spring
When you ride all winter long, you are bananas for the spring. Once you shed your underlayer, base layer, jacket, and winter gloves you will be so ready to rage!