Veteran pro cyclist Ted King didn't always have the luxury of chasing warm weather. While King has spent his latest off-season training in California, Arizona, and the British Virgin Islands, he started in northern New England where winter training took him through blizzards and regular bouts of frozen digits.
"Once my toes got so cold, I thought I was going to lose them to frostbite," says King, who is now part of the Cannondale-Garmin squad. "I had to pull over, sit in a snow bank, and breathe on my feet to warm them up."
We spoke with King to get his advice on how amateur cyclists can survive the winter with their fitness, and toes, intact.
"My fingers and toes get absolutely freezing," says King. So he packs chemical hand warmers. Wearing mittens, he slips warmers behind his fingers. Then he layers another set of warmers between the top of his shoe (over the toes) and a neoprene shoe cover.
Take Intervals Indoors
If you choose to ride indoors, King warns against the monotony of popping in a movie and chugging away for a couple hours. Instead, he says, get a better workout in a shorter amount of time by varying your efforts. Two easy workouts he recommends: First, alternate one minute hard with a minute of recovery. Repeat that combination ten times over. His second pick: Push a hard gear slowly for three minutes with two minutes to recover, then spin at as high a cadence as possible for one minute and rest again for two minutes. Repeat five times.
Keep Your Water Flowing
Toes aren't the only necessity in danger of freezing, you also need to keep your water bottle from icing up. King says to carry a bottle in a back jersey pocket, under your jacket. "You can also add booze to your bottle to slow the freezing," he says. "I'd take the Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon drink mix with a splash of bourbon."
Riding roads in the winter is more dangerous, says King. "You're less dexterous and cars don’t expect to see you on the road." He suggests riding with a blinking taillight to increase visibility. And, he adds, "don't be an idiot. Ride only in your comfort zone"
Don't Make it a Burden
Though King trains hard to be in race shape by mid-January, he doesn't recommend similar dedication for anyone that doesn't earn their living in the saddle. "If it's freezing and you don’t want to ride your bike for a month, don’t ride your bike for a month," he says. Instead, head indoors, take a break, or try a more weather-appropriate activity like cross-country skiing.