Hayley Simmonds: How to find motivation in the winter months

Two-time British Champion and Commonwealth and European medallist Hayley Simmonds has had a busy year in 2022 – juggling road and e-racing and recovery from surgery.

Whatever the challenge, Hayley is always a committed and motivated rider – even during the winter months. We found out how she stays focused and how her InfoCrank power meter helps her achieve her goals.

Q. Off-season is about building a base for the next season ahead. What sessions can you expect to do during the ‘off-season’? 

A. It used to be the case that I did have a more traditional ‘off-season’ training structure, with longer base rides and some strength work but that has changed a little bit over the recent years. I still tend to get into the gym more during the winter months because I’m home pretty much all the time so it’s easier to get into a consistent routine with strength work.

However, throughout November, December and January I’ll regularly be doing Zwift Grand Prix races with Movistar and those races require top end fitness so those areas of my physiology will also be targeted with the training sessions I’m doing. Ultimately, I discuss my goals and suggested race calendar with my coach and then do what he tells me!

Q. It’s important to keep focus and prepare for races in a few months’ time but how do you stay motivated during the bad weather and darker nights?

A. I’m lucky that I’m a full-time cyclist so I have the flexibility to time my training for what looks to be the best part of the day in terms of weather. It’s been very wet and windy recently, so I’ve been on the turbo trainer a lot! I used to use the turbo all the time when I was studying for my PhD but then I fell out of love with it for a few years. My coach convinced me to start using Zwift in December 2020 and I’m now a huge convert – it makes indoor training time pass so much more quickly and the races can make good training sessions.

I’ve never been a fan of training outside when it’s dark so I would always choose to turbo instead. In terms of motivation, I don’t struggle that much because I know that if I don’t do the training that’s been set then I’ll only have myself to blame if I don’t achieve my goals the following season.

Q. Do you have items of kit or clothing that are an absolute necessity for training during the winter?

A. I have a Kalas winter jacket which has an internal gilet and hood which is my go-to item for when the temperature hits single digits! Good gloves and overshoes are also essentials for the winter because I find it hard to train properly if my hands and feet get too cold. I’ve always wanted a pair of Spatz overshoes as I’ve heard they are real game changers in the wet weather so that might be something I look at for this year.

Hayley Simmonds scaled Power Meter

Q. How do you use your InfoCrank to maintain and track your fitness whilst you’re not racing? Do you focus on heart rate?

A. All my training sessions are based on power, and I can’t really imagine training without my InfoCrank! Having so many years’ worth of training data makes it quite easy for me to compare fitness levels at different times of year. I really trust my coach and the sessions he’s setting because ultimately, he has the experience to get me in the best shape for the events that I want to target each year.

I used heart rate a lot earlier this year when I was getting back into training following surgery. Everything I did for around 8 weeks was heart rate capped and so that was the metric I focussed on. I also wear a Whoop and have done for about four years now and I look at my overnight resting heart rate, heart rate variability and respiratory rate each morning. This gives me a good handle on my overall cardiovascular ‘health’ and is a good indication of fitness, fatigue and potential illness.

Q. There’s lots of indoor training to be done when the weather is miserable outside.Is power measurement more important to indoor training and racing?

A. For me, power measurement is crucial both indoors and outdoors. I probably think it’s more important as a training metric and when I race it’s normally something I would look at afterwards (except in a time trial when I would pace based on target power).

I’m naturally very good at pacing and gauging my effort level so if I didn’t have power data for some reason then I might be able to cope, but I do think having the numbers enables more focussed training and the potential to lead to more improvements. It can be just as important for recovery sessions as interval sessions as sometimes it’s easy to go harder than you should be – especially on Zwift!

Q. Lots of cyclists tend to escape to warm weather training camps during the winter months. Do you have a favourite place for winter training?

A. Often I spend most of the winter based at home and only escape to warm weather camps for a few weeks. I’m quite lucky that Cambridgeshire is relatively dry and mild but being abroad would be preferable! I love training in Spain and that is almost always where I end up having training camps. I’ve previously spent time over the winter in Estepona and Calpe but this year I visited Girona for the first time and was a huge fan. In my opinion it’s great to find somewhere that has varied terrain and good roads as well as nice weather.

5f792e6a 89d6 4943 bcb8 e2269a95baf9 Power Meter

Q. Fuelling longer endurance rides during the winter is even more important. Do you use your power meter to track calorie expenditure, and do you have a favourite on bike go-to snack to refuel mid ride?

A. I have some efficiency data from power testing that I’ve done in the past and that means I can quite accurately calculate how many calories I’ve burned during a session from my average power. I do look at the estimated calorie expenditure but it’s not something I focus on that heavily. I have a sports nutritionist who has access to my training plan and sends me a full dietary plan for each week based on what training I’m doing.

This plan includes suggested on-the-bike fuelling (in terms of quantities of carbohydrates) as well as meals and snacks. In terms of my favourite on-bike snacks, I prefer to stick to ‘real food’ on training rides if I can and save things like gels for racing or specific interval sessions. Mini brioche rolls, stroopwaffles and homemade cake (banana bread or even fruit cake) are great options for ride food.

Q. How much of a difference does the InfoCrank power meter make to your training?

A. I have three InfoCrank power meters and the consistency between the units is incredible. This is so important to me for training because I know that I’m able to compare power data not only between different days, but also between different bikes.

Having reliable information is really key for me as all of my training is based on power and it means that keeping track of my progress, particularly over winter where there is a solid block of uninterrupted training, is much easier.

As my coach said to me (before I started using InfoCrank) “once you start doubting the numbers generated from your power meter you might as well throw it in the bin”. And that’s why I still have three InfoCranks today!

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