There is nothing quite like focus to take you to the next level, no matter what sport or fitness endeavours you are embarking on. This is the singular reason I love going on training camps, although there are a few other highly valid reasons for this, especially during northern hemisphere winters!
After the so-called ‘off-season’ – usually characterised by a little too much Christmas indulgence – there’s no better feeling than to kick start your training and turn your back on inclement weather by heading to sunnier climes for some big mileage. Usually in February, I head off to Lanzarote for a training camp – the consistent warm temperatures, quiet roads, and wealth of sports accommodation provides the perfect training environment for some head-down hard work, without the distraction of daily life.
The removal of not only work commitments, but even what I call ‘life admin’ like running errands, maintaining a house (or family for some!), and catching up on social occasions, leaves a lot of space for training. And probably more importantly, recovering in-between training.
This is super important for so many reasons, but primarily because training camps tend to act as an injection of big volume training. We use the opportunity of warm weather and more time to lay the foundations of aerobic fitness in preparation for the race season to come. Getting this all-important base conditioning in is a great way to boost fitness early on in the season, upon which you can then layer higher quality work when time is more limited and life commitments are more demanding.
Time can also be saved by reducing the friction of the ‘commute’ to the swimming pool, especially if you are at a training base where there is a pool and/or gym on-site. You can get more bike miles in without worrying about compromising health by spending prolonged periods of time outside in cold, wet weather, and you can use the downtime in-between sessions to optimise your recovery without having to rush around feeling like you’re squeezing everything in within an inch of its life.
Mentally, being able to focus completely on your training without other stuff taking up your mental energy, also helps to facilitate quality training time. Your energy is concentrated into your training to the extent that all you need to think about is your next training session and what you’re going to eat. It literally is an 'eat, sleep, train, repeat' cycle – and it feels amazing.
What you gain from a training camp in terms of physical adaptation and a confidence boost in terms of your fitness will really set you up for the upcoming season. Although the training volume isn’t usually realistic to maintain once you get back to ‘normal life’, as long as you can keep your training consistent post-camp, you will carry through those gains into race season. If only camp life was forever!
About the author: Amy Kilpin is an elite competitive triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
We spoke with prolific cyclist and fitness blogger Lisa Thake about how to make winter cycling more comfortable, enjoyable and safe so that you don't have to take all of your rides indoors and can still enjoy cycling in the beautiful outdoors, whatever the weather.
It looks as though the colder weather is here for another couple of months, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop cycling outside. They say, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing choices" and this is very true, along with some other changes you can make. Here are my top 5 winter cycling tips.
Dress In Layers
Depending on temperature and personal preference, you can start with items that can be added and removed very easily such as arm warmers, leg warmers and a cycling gilet. Even some waterproof jackets can be stored away small enough to tuck into a jersey pocket if necessary. I personally opt to change from bib shorts to bib tights in winter so I do not need leg warmers.
You'll also want a good thermal cycling jacket that is breathable and temperature regulating so that you can stay warm without overheating. Base layers are all too often overlooked and with good wicking material, even if damp from sweat or rain, will retain the properties that keep you warm.
I opt for clothing that is also water-resistant to ensure I stay warm but that if I am also caught out in bad weather, the rain will simply run off. Swapping to full finger winter gloves to ensure your hands stay warm is essential and I also opt for glove liners with mine as some winter gloves can get sweaty inside.
Toe covers or cycling overshoes, again those where water beads off, will help maintain your cycling shoes and ensure your feet stay warm. Very often, if your feet are cold, the rest of you can feel cold too. I always cover my ears as they are often the first place where I really feel the cold – you can use a wide headband for this or a thermal under-helmet skull hat, both of which do the job well. Lastly, the humble buff – such a versatile item that can be used in multiple ways. I mostly use mine as a neck warmer but during events I have done through the night where the temperature drops, I have pulled it up over my head and neck for more coverage. Whilst not technically kit, I also swap my glasses and on some you may be able to change lenses too – a yellow lens is great for low light or overcast conditions and clear are perfect for night riding.
Invest In Bicycle Lights
It's surprising how dark it is early in the morning and how quickly it gets dark in the evening, so good bicycle lights are key. There are many lights on the market to choose from; I recently got a light from Bontrager and although the price tag is quite high, it is really bright and the battery is long-lasting. As I commute and take part in events that go through the night, good front and rear lights are a wise investment. When commuting, I add extra lights for added visibility. I know many people who also recommend lights from CatEye and Lezyne.
Go High Vis
Following on from lights, being safe and seen is very important and reflective fabrics or accents to clothing and bags are great as an extra safety measure to ensure visibility on the road and cycle paths.
Choose The Right Bike Tyres
There are a lot of different opinions on this, but it stands to reason to choose tyres appropriate for the weather. The fact is that the wet washes more flint, stones and everything else on the road and this causes punctures. I usually ride Continental 4 Seasons all year round and find them great. My new bike came with S-Works tyres and whilst I have put in some decent mileage, they recently needed replacing and, on recommendation, I have swapped to Continental 5000, which also had a very positive review on Cycling Weekly.
If you are fortunate enough to have different summer and winter bikes, you will find this time of year is when you check the forecast and make a judgement as to which bike you want to be using and over the coming months it is more than likely the summer bike will be hung up for a while. You may also opt to ride with an additional spare tube and gas canister as there is unfortunately an increase in punctures during winter months.
Happy winter cycling!
It's important to warm up at the best of times, but particularly in winter we need to get our cold muscles ready to work so that we don't get injured. Triathlete and Sundried ambassador Simon Turner shares his tips for warming up thoroughly as well as some warm up exercises you can add into your outdoor training routine.
Winter Outdoor Training Warm Up
During the winter, especially on cold mornings, extra attention is required towards the muscle groups you will be working throughout your session. It can feel like extra effort to do an extended warm up, but discipline is required to prevent injury. A few extra minutes warming up could potentially save you weeks out with a pulled muscle or worse.
Firstly, I check mobility of all limbs and joints by doing a quick rotation forward and backwards. This is to ensure I don’t have any minor niggles prior to training.
A slow progressive warm up follows which can include running on the spot as well as dynamic exercises in which you go further into the exercise, for example squatting to half depth, then three quarters depth, then full depth. This is all designed to fire up the muscles and raise your heart rate ready to train or run.
Once that’s done, I go into a steady jog; nothing fast as this is to continue to raise my heart rate and to control my breathing. I continue this for 5-7 minutes and then I do 5 sets of striders (running strides). These are short sprints done before a workout or run to wake up the body and get it ready for the intensity of the session to come.
All in all, this warm up takes around 20 minutes and by the end I feel pumped and ready to begin my session, whether that's strength, running, or cycling.
There is lots of bad advice out there on how to squat (or how not to squat!) We look at 4 of the biggest squat myths to ignore and why.
1. Your knees can never go over your toes when you squat
The theory that knees should never go over toes was found in a study that found maintaining a vertical lower leg as much as possible reduced strain on the knee during a squat. However, the study only looked at two dimensional models of the knee joint, so it lacked consideration of forces working from above, at the hip, below, and at the ankle, which all receive considerable force in this position
Further research by Smith and Fry in 2003 compared unrestricted squats, where the knee could travel freely over the toe, to squats where a vertical board was placed over the lifters shins and physically prevented the knee moving over the toe. Whilst forces on the knee were reduced by 22% due to the restricted range of movement, forces were increased by 1000% on the knee joint.
The reason we are told to ensure our knees don't go over our toes is actually less about our toes and more about our centre of gravity and muscle recruitment. With the weight shifted back, we get more muscle activation from the glutes and hamstrings, whereas when our weight is shifted forward the focus is more on the quads and anterior chain. So… knees over toes is a myth as the toes simply serve as an arbitrary point and the guideline should really be more to do with how to balance load, but the knees over toes works as a simplified guideline.
2. Deep squats are bad for your knees
Look at how a child squats, in fact most children will spend the majority of their time in what looks like a deep squat. That’s a big hint that it’s not bad for you, as a child will not put themselves in a position that causes them pain, they move in our natural movement patterns until they are taught otherwise.
What then happens is our kids grow up and we start introducing the pattern of sitting behind a desk all day. That’s 7-8 hours of sitting and what that does to our flexibility is where the issues arise.
Contrary to popular belief, squatting deep is not bad for the knees - studies have found there is no difference between partial, parallel and deep squats impact on the knee. In the study by Clinical Biomechanics, five female athletes were studied throughout squats with varying degrees of flexion at the knee and concluded that squatting from 70 degrees to 110 degrees of knee flexion had little effect on patellofemoral joint kinetics.
Another study by The Journal of Biomechanics found that the deeper the squat, the less pressure is created inside the knee. The journal of strength and conditioning research also completed a study which concluded that parallel squats with heavy weights are less effective at increasing strength than deep squats with a lighter weight.
Obviously, there is not a one-size-fits-all perfect squat, but in most cases, gradual progressive training to the full range of motion of a deep squat will be effective.
3. If it doesn’t break parallel it doesn’t count
Myth. Despite the research supporting squat depth as seen above, failing to squat deep doesn’t mean that the squats don’t count. In fact squatting to parallel is probably the most widely used squat because it is arguably the safest form of squatting and the easiest to perform.
For some people, though it has greater muscle activation, squatting below parallel just isn’t possible, be it due to lack of flexibility, lack of strength or lower back issues.
If the lower back rounds when the athlete performing a full squat breaks parallel, it's time to stop. Rounding of the back during this phase of the squat places intense pressure on the lower vertebrae of the back. Research has shown that during the deepest phase of the squat, this compression is six times greater than at the top of a squat.
As your spine flattens out with a heavy barbell across your shoulders, a large amount of pressure is imposed on the discs in your spine. Eventually, if your form isn’t spot on this can lead to tissue damage and back pain. Repeatedly sliding out of a neutral spine position increases your risk of serious injury and a hunched back. All of which can be avoided by squatting to parallel, or even breaking parallel but rising before your bum tucks.
Work on flexibility by performing bodyweight squats and gradually sinking lower until you can break parallel and enter the full squat without compromising your spine. Dynamic warm ups and flexibility work will help to increase your range of motion.
4. Look up as you squat
As much as you may enjoy staring at your squirming face as you squat, “head up” is one of the worst commands you can give to a client. The logic behind it was/is that the body goes where the head leads and therefore if you look up, you will be less likely to fail your squat. However, with a heavy load across your shoulders looking up increases the amount of pressure on your neck and could potentially lead to slipping the discs in your neck. Ideally, the aim should be to keep your spine in neutral alignment. For most people you need to keep your eyes forward and tuck the chin slightly.
Now you’ve sorted fact from fiction, why not check out our page on Squats.
When you're stuck inside, it can feel frustrating not being able to work out. Try this super effective home workout that requires no equipment and will be sure to get your heart rate up and get your engines burning!
Full Body Tabata Home Workout
This workout follows the Tabata style of interval training, whereby you complete 8 exercises with 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This means you will complete the workout in just 4 minutes, so depending on how much time you have, you can complete as many rounds as you like.
This workout is full body meaning you will target every muscle group and enjoy a great burn. You will certainly work up a sweat and burn lots of fat! Make sure you are comfortable in well-fitting fitness clothing and that you stay hydrated by having a water bottle handy.
Get fit at home
Complete each of the following exercises for 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest in between. Click or tap the name of the exercise to find out more about it and how to do it properly. See how many rounds you can do!
4. Press Ups
Try our 10 Minute Tabata Workout which incorporates skipping and boxing.
Read more about the benefits of Tabata training here.
Read more about how to get fit at home here.