Winter Training: Why Should I?

January 19, 2021

Summer and fall are well in the rear-view mirror, and we’re smack dab in the depths of winter. Daylight is in short supply, so why not just hang up the wheels, get a few cold brews, a bag of Lays and settle into some good old hibernation time?

I start this off a little tongue–in–cheek to make a point. We tend to be very seasonal and less holistic in our approach to mountain bike riding. We all need a break, no doubt about it. But, after a healthy dose of rest and relaxing it’s not all bad to consider some training to lay the groundwork for your next year of riding.


First off, make a list of what you did well or not, where you rode last year, and where you aspire to ride next year. Be excited about what you have accomplished and get excited about what you plan to do! Assess strengths and weaknesses. Look at skills, endurance, strength, balance. All of it! Now is the perfect time to review those things and make a plan for the new year.

When I review these items with riders the list is often longer than they anticipate. Both the good and the bad. So, let’s break this down to help guide your thought process:

  • Skills and Balance

How did you do here? Did you clear some tech sections better than ever this year? Or not so much? How is your balance and kinesthetic awareness on the bike? Do you know where you and your bike are relative to each other and the trail? How was your use of brakes? Did you drag them all the time or learn to set good braking markers and use them only when needed? Balance goes hand in hand with skills, but it’s worth breaking out on its own. Can you feel a front tire start to push in a turn, AND correct it smoothly? Or do you fly off trail or just stay low side in the turn? How are your wheelies and front/rear wheel lifts? You don’t need to set a wheelie world record, but can you find the right balance?

  • Cardio/Endurance

Why do I need that? There’s a chair lift, right? Well, yes there are shuttles some places, BUT I will always argue that the fitter you are the better life is. Whether you pedal to the top or take a lift; the deeper your endurance is, the more runs you can do, the more miles you can roll on amazing backcountry single track, and on and on! Even with pure downhill and enduro riders/racers, I stress a well-developed cardiovascular system.

  • Strength Training

This is ON and OFF the bike. The off the bike strength work or lack thereof can really affect your on-bike strength, speed, and ultimately fun! Look at your core and pelvic girdle stability? How is it? Is there an imbalance or not? Often, we have a preferred foot/leg that leads. That’s normal and natural, but it can lead to muscle imbalances from essentially riding somewhat twisted. Consider some “pre-hab” and work on that. How about shoulder strength and mobility? Are you getting tired in your upper body on the trail? On the bike, how is your strength when you need to give a big burst with low cadence and high torque over an obstacle or up a steep and technical section of trail?

  • Delve Deeper

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be delving deeper into each of the above bullet points in different articles. I’ll cover each from a moderately high level but with enough information to help you on your winter planning. I also encourage you to look at a tracking and analysis program. I use Training Peaks for cardio/riding and Train Heroic for strength training with my athletes. Both offer great analytics that help us measure and prescribe training in a scientific manner.

Additionally, feel free to reach out and contact me directly. My email is

About the Author:

Colin Izzard is a full-time strength and conditioning coach with CTS. He works with all levels of athletes that seek improvement and are willing to put in the work. Learn more here.

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