The Winter Build - Mint Cycling

We've teamed up with Tom Murray once again to get the best tips from a professional coach, in order to help you get the most from your winter training.

All eyes on the winter build 

The leaves have dropped, the temperature is down, and the commute is all of a sudden a whole lot darker. The signs that it’s time to start the winter build are all around us, not least in the fact it takes you twice as long to find your kit as you add the layers, all while struggling to keep tabs on the whereabouts of your overshoes. 

So, as we all look to blow the dust off the winter bike, pack a raincoat more often and remember to recharge the lights, is it time to rethink the winter training approach? Is every winter the same and what should we be doing not to challenge the body to be better in 2021?

As a cycling coach, this time of year brings an opportunity for reflection, it’s important to analyse the season just gone, be honest with this reflection and set about plotting a course to be better still in the season to come. Undoubtedly this winter training phase is key to the success of the following year. Get it right and working together with good forward planning, you can manage a good level of form throughout, making sure key events are marked well in advance will allow you to peak with this form where required.

It’s important also to identify moments of downtime in the season, which will allow for a slight drop in form and for you to take on recovery. As a rule, from November to March for most cyclists defines how successful the following year will likely be, so ensuring that you are in good shape to head off in the right direction is critical.

Here are my four key areas to work on before you set off into a more successful winter build ensuring 2021 can be, your year to kick on and perform well.

Set Clear Goals

You were expecting this right, every one from your career advisor back in the day onwards talks to you about goal setting in life! But, as much as it pains us all to admit it, you need goals and in cycling as in any sport it’s important to make sure that the training you do to increase your performance is not just focused on overall fitness but in developing you into the rider you need to be. 

What events will you ride? what are the demands of those events? what is your current capability to deal with those demands? Once you have established that, look at your training and allow the direction to be defined by the need to get better at specific areas, not just hope that the kitchen sink approach will work out for you.

Create Adaption by Challenging the Body

When I work with a new client at Mint Cycling, this is a key area for me. It takes some time, but it is more than worth it. It is important as a cyclist to remember that ultimately what we’re looking to do is challenge the body enough that it overloads the muscles and as such, with the correct amount of recovery, grows stronger to deal with this. It is also important to remember that this rate of improvement can slow as the athlete’s body adapts to deal with these new demands. 

Look at what your last two to three winters have been like, what did you do? was there a similar pattern? and how much did you change to challenge the body sufficiently and thus create a good level of adaption? Be honest with yourself if the last two to three winters have been similar in approach, however successful you might have been. Has it allowed the rate of improvement to remain the same? I am always looking for new ways to challenge my clients and their bodies to hold the rate of improvement, even a successful athlete needs to be pushed and challenged in new ways. Could it be time to refresh things within your own plans this coming winter?

Develop a Nutrition Strategy 

You may have been cycling to a good level for a number of years or you might be fresh, eager and keen to learn, but either way, if there is one area I wish I had paid more attention to as a pro cyclist, it is the world of nutrition. I have since developed my understanding of nutrition in order to make sure my clients don’t fall foul of a similar problem.

You’re heading into the winter, the hours are going to ramp up, the intensity will build, and the weather will add another layer on top of these demands. A positive nutrition strategy will not just reflect in how well each ride on the road goes, but in the rate of recovery from session to session and on your overall health giving you the ability to build across a number of weeks whilst remaining healthy.

Ready Your Kit

The obvious one – does the bike work? is your clothing going to stand up to the demands? Also the less obvious, have you got the correct tools? chamois cream, moisturiser and recovery powder in stock ready for the hard miles to commence? 

As we said, this key period of training will ultimately define how successful your 2021 campaign will be and so it is vital you set off with all bases covered so you can be confident and consistent as your take on the elements.


Tom Murray is a successful cycling coach helping riders from beginner to world level achieve the best from themselves. Highly experienced and holding a range of qualifications in both sporting nutrition and cycle coaching he is also a former British Domestic Pro Rider and Yorkshire Road Race Champion. For more information and to book a free coaching consultation head to or search #MintCycleCoach