Winter is here. It’s time to take a page from World Champ Peter Sagan’s winter workout, which couldn’t be further removed from a sticky gym. Clad in a Cossack hat and a worn leather jacket, the Slovakian riding monster lugs logs uphill, scrambles up scree slopes and drags old men with a rope and sledge. Sounds like madness? Just check it out.
If you want to gain the sort of fitness to rival this shaggy haired World Champ, then your best bet is to start by hauling your lumberjack shirt out of the wardrobe and heading outside. We’ve roped in two athletes whose understanding of working out chimes a lot with Peter Sagan. They’re both mad about the outdoors, relish the burn of the cold air streaming into their lungs and can wax lyrical about the satisfaction of warming their extremities back up by the wood burner.
Predictably, their winter training is best described as ‘rustic’, and they’ve duly earned the names Sylvester Simai and Vinzenz Balboa. And if that sounds a lot like Rocky IV, then you’ll know that having the biggest and best equipped support team and most high-tech training analysis won’t help you in the peloton if you don’t have some good ol’ iron will.
They eschew the stuffy, sweat-infused air of gyms for knee-deep snow, foregoing cushioned trainers in favour of sturdy hiking boots, and sweat-wicking performance apparel is left on the shop shelves while they don a good, ol’ lumberjack shirt.
They offered us a taster of their winter workout, a cherry-picked selection of exercises designed to toughen up the limpest desk-bound body.
The inner tube warm-up routine
Face your partner in a slight squat, inner tube in hand, core and lower back activated. Working opposite each other in synch, move your arms forwards and backwards – there’ll be resistance as you move your arms forward and as you pull them back. Keep your arms outstretched to train your back and chest muscles. Go for 3 x 60 seconds, and you’ll warm up your upper body and get blood pumping to your lower limbs.
The wood chop
All you need is a pile of wood and an axe. This exercise will work both your muscles and your coordination. Hold the axe with two hands, raise over your head and split the wood with a proper swing. Make sure your hip flexors are fully stretched at the highest point. If you’re already wimping out after ten logs, there’s probably something amiss with your technique. After a winter of this you’ll be manualling like Sagan in no time thanks to stronger arms and balanced hips. Bonus side effect: pats on the back and/or admiration.
Squats with a log
A classic squat-meets-extra wooden weight. Usually your own body weight is sufficient here, but if it seems too easy, increase the load until you’re able to carry out about 20 to 30 reps. Stand with your legs at hips’ width apart, your toes pointing slightly outwards. Now push your butt backwards and your knees forward towards your toes. You want to get low enough until your quads are horizontal to the ground. After 3 x 30 reps, expect your quads to burn – but it’ll pay off for the climbs next season.
Important! Always keep your back straight. It helps to keep your gaze focused ahead or above you.
The negative-raised plank
A good old plank doesn’t just train your core and all those stabilising muscles around it, but also your glutes and hamstrings. However, a good result relies on you keeping your back completely straight. To do this, activate your glutes, quads, abs and lower back before you begin the exercise. If you notice that your body is starting to sag, reduce the number of reps. As you progress, you can add in more reps or extend the time in the pose – you’ll reap the benefits next season when you’ve got an unforgivingly bumpy, long gravel downhill. Plank for power!
This is a two-person workout, with efforts on the push stroke towards your partner and easing back on the pull stroke towards your own body. Make sure you’re working in synch with each other otherwise the saw is likely to end up around your ears. Be prepared for the constant toing-and-froing with exertion (fairly intense, short reps) which will work wonders for your coordination.
The coordination run
This exercise has the potential for the most amount of fun, as you’ve got free reign on the location: your coordinated running track can be anywhere – providing it requires agility and offers some hurdles. You could pick a stream, for example. The frontrunner choose the line and the follower has to follow accordingly, sticking resolutely to the heel of the front runner just like on a singletrack. Overtake at an opportune moment, and continue. With a certain skill level and coordination needed, it’ll work your proprioception, agility and endurance.
Important: Given the soft ground, solid footwear is crucial: sack off your running shoes and go for hiking boots instead.
The car push
Weak car batteries may be a staple of the season, but this exercise will rid your of the hindrance. Sit one of the pair behind the wheel, while the other rustic gym bunny pushes the car. We’d start with 3 x 40-60 seconds. As soon as the vehicle begins to roll, the car will have to be braked slightly to maintain a consistent intensity.
Important: choose your pushing points carefully on the care to avoid denting it under your force.
Tricep dips with natural structures
Dips are often performed between two chairs or railings and serve a good dose of pain to your triceps, shoulder and upper chest. Start with your arms straight and ‘dip’ down to a 90° bend, then raise yourself back up at an even pace. Aim for 3 x 20-30 reps. You can simplify the exercise by changing the position of your legs.. If this is too difficult for you, lower your knees or calves to the floor or just adjust their position until you find a pose that makes the exercise easier.
Uphill snow sprints
These sprints will improve your initial accelerations on the bike. Mark out a short 50 meter track and go full gas uphill in the snow. Rest at the top, take some deep breaths and repeat four times. To maximise the effort pump your arms hard, the straighter your arms the harder it becomes.
If you’re looking for a “more traditional” workout type, have a look at this article about training with the WAHOO KICKR SNAP in combination with the Zwift Software.
Words: Tibor Simai / Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer