December 12, 2017

Adapting to Winter Months in the High Alps

Changing your lifestyle to match the seasons is something that Scott Cornish relishes. Being creative with training in the winter just makes the mountains that much more glorious

My coach once told me that being adaptable to life’s demands and changes is an essential element to being a good athlete, whether it means adapting training to family time, fatigue, injury and/or illness, environment, weather or work. Sometimes we have to be creative with when and how we train to get the most out of the time available and a new life in the Alps has brought with it challenges and new adventures.

Gear and clothing choice is of course dictated by the weather and our riding environment. Coming from sea level, summer was always fairly straightforward clothing wise, but ever mindful of Rule #7 and winter has, usually, simply required layering up with thermal wear and /or windstopper and waterproof layers. Taking up residence 1000m up in the heart of the French Alpes in Chamonix has been idyllic in the warmth of the spring and summer months, but as the cold edge of winter has been encroaching, training has had to be adapted and plans made for getting out in the impending winter snow.

Taking some time away from structure

Late autumn is down time, off season, time to dispense with riding to numbers, to ride for the sheer pleasure of turning the pedals, riding trails old and discovering new ones. The late season’s enduring warmth and sunny skies entice high altitude rides over the now tourist devoid passes and cols, getting in the height gain whilst it is still possible before the snow arrives. Sharing rides with mates is the best, but sometimes there is nothing quite like some personal trail time, rolling down empty mountainside switchbacks. Clothing has to be versatile enough to deal with the sharp temperature differentials autumn riding brings. Pleasantly warm in the sun, but bitingly cold once the sun dips behind the surrounding peaks. The Alp-X Pro range is as versatile as it is functional, zip off arms for the climb, zip back on for the long descent.

The off season is where I’ll pick up trail running again, as some cross training, which I find to be a really positive stimulus for the body and mind after a full on bike season. For the body, as a high impact sport, (when progressed appropriately for your body’s ability to recover and adapt) it develops bone and soft tissue density, which is actually a good thing for any athlete. It also prepares the body for longer, mid-winter runs when I can’t get out on the bike for whatever reason.

What to do when the snow flies

The arrival of the snow doesn’t mean packing away the bike and succumbing to endless hours on the turbo trainer, it just means fat bike season! Being a physio and massage therapist also means that getting away in December and January to warmer climates for training isn’t an option as the busy winter work period begins. In the Alps, fat biking is no longer simply fun and novel, but a versatile way out here to get in the bike specific hours, as well as improving balance and bike control, as the snow will take out the front wheel of the unwary! It’s an absolute blast and a good workout, deeper snow is like dragging a tyre behind the bike!

The innovative winter Power Trail wear has also made a huge difference to adapting training to the snowy conditions. Primaloft filled and windstopper, it functions supremely well across a range of temperatures from well below zero to just above. It means being able to get out in colder conditions and for longer without succumbing to the effects of the cold, which can the limiting factor, especially for someone like myself who perspires heavily, so moisture transfer has to be efficient whilst the garments maintain my body heat. Wearing simply a SS base layer for now in this early winter period, but I am looking forward to being able to get a significant amount of riding over during the mid-winter and testing the limits of these garments.

Being versatile in your training is important

Gore’s move to amalgamating its branding to Gore wear is a highly appropriate one as there are numerous garments which adapt perfectly to biking and running (with exception of some bike wear due to the cycling specific cut) and as I have discovered, the Primaloft Power Trail garments also function perfectly for ski touring.

It may not be at all cycling specific, but ski touring is one of the sports to do here and is going to be the perfect way to get in some high altitude training. I am a complete ski touring novice though, but looking forward to this new venture. Between the fat biking, trail running and ski touring, it is going to be an adventurous winter and I’m glad that clothing wise Gore Wear has my back. I’ll be posting more images and training tips of my adventures over the winter.

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