My Winter Fitness Plan

10.5.2009 | 12:02 am

IMG_0471.jpgI find myself at a strange nexus of circumstances, rendered all the more strange by the fact that I don’t know what “nexus” even means.

Consider, if you will, the following.

Item One: I am in remarkably good shape. I have thumped my chest and gone on and on about this recently, but the thing is: when you’re in really good shape as rarely as I am, it’s a conversational topic you find reason to bring up pretty darned frequently.

This isn’t just me feeling strong on the bike, either. In the past couple weeks, I’ve posted strong TT times on the Alpine Loop climb, Clark’s Trail in Corner Canyon (yeah, I’ve talked about both of those before), and — just a few days ago — on the North Suncrest road climb.

I’m at the point where I think it’s entirely possible that at the 24 Hours of Moab this weekend, I’ll be able to race without being a huge liability to my team.

That’s a new sensation, I’ll tell you.

Item Two: This has been a remarkable riding season. A really wet spring led to excellent trails and dense green foliage throughout the summer. And now we’re getting the big autumn payoff: all those leaves are turning colors now:



And when those leaves fall on tacky, packed forest singletrack — well — there’s nothing in mountain biking that is quite like it.


It’s like riding on a carpet. A red and yellow, short nap pile carpet.

Item three: It has begun to rain here. Often and a lot. It stands to reason that because items one and two have put me in excellent position to really enjoy being on my bike that…the weather has suddenly gone straight to hell.

Now, if I were Jill Homer, I’d be relieved. “Oh, good,” I would think to myself. “Finally, the good weather is behind me. Now I can start enjoying my bike again.”

But I’m not Jill Homer. In addition to other (more obvious) ways, I could tell this recently as I shot down the Alpine Loop on my road bike. The wind bit into me enough that I could feel my reaction time slowing. Rather than relish the refreshing feeling of hypothermia onset, as Jill would, I found a spot in the sun, stopped, and hugged myself — whimpering — until the shaking subsided and rational thought returned. During this time, I said to myself, repeatedly, “I will never ever ever ever do the Iditarod. Ever.”

I’ve lived in Finland. I’ve lived in Seattle. I know cold. I know rain. I don’t like to ride in either.

Which leads us — at long last — to today’s topic: What is my winter fitness plan?

My Winter Fitness Plan

My fitness plan for this winter is to gain as much weight as possible, in record time. I intend to do this using the following time-tested techniques:

1. Begin new exercise program. Or, as some less-enlightened people might say, “Begin exercising less.” I intend to do this through the medium of fooling myself. When it’s rainy (or windy, or snowy) in the morning, I will say to myself, “I’ll catch a ride later, when it clears up.” Then, if it doesn’t clear up, I have an ironclad excuse for not riding. If, on the other hand, it does clear up, it won’t matter anyway, because by the time the afternoon rolls around, my day is locked down.

It’s a brilliant strategy, and has worked for me hundreds of times. I have no reason to believe it will not work for me this year.

There will be times, however, when exercise is unavoidable. For these times, I will tell myself that:

  • Winter is the time for me to put in long, slow miles. Sadly, I don’t have time for the “long” part. But slow, yes. That I can do.
  • It’s been a while. I shouldn’t overdo it. I don’t want to strain something, after all. I should just kind of work back up to a good fitness level. Today will be the first step down that path. Just like the one time I exercised the previous week was.
  • There’s plenty of time. Once winter begins, spring seems like forever away. This is because spring actually is forever away. Until, suddenly, it isn’t. Weird how that happens.

2. Begin new diet. I prefer the term “new diet” to the lmore demeaning (and, fine, accurate) description known as “eating more food, eating worse food, and eating more often.”

What I have noticed over the course of many winters is that, once there are more dark hours than light hours in a day, my body knows that it’s time to hibernate. Where before all I wanted to eat are apples, carrots and egg whites, suddenly I find myself wanting to hijack a Frito-Lay truck.

Worse yet, I generally want to use the Hostess truck I’ve hijacked earlier in the day to execute that (second) hijacking.

3. Begin using the scale judiciously. As autumn progresses toward winter, I intend to use the scale less and less often. You see, the bathroom scale is a very close relative to the mechanism used to kill (or not) Schrödinger’s cat. To wit, until I actually step on the bathroom scale and measure myself, I have not technically gained any measurable weight.

Trouser tightness notwithstanding.

I have high confidence in this plan, and am happy to say that I am well on my way toward executing it. It has been three days since I’ve been on a bike, and I’m feeling soft and lazy, and am considering my second nap of the day doing a good job of tapering for my race this weekend.


  1. Comment by ChefJT | 10.5.2009 | 3:02 am

    Taper is good. My motto for winter training…Start slowly, then ease off!

    Good luck in Moab. Be nicer to the Singlefly than you were in Leadville.

  2. Comment by vito | 10.5.2009 | 3:38 am

    Best of luck at Moab and with your winter training program.

  3. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 10.5.2009 | 3:48 am

    I just popped over to Schrodinger’s place to feed the cat, damned if the stupid animal didn’t just crumble to dust right before my eyes.

  4. Comment by Jessica @ How Sweet It Is | 10.5.2009 | 4:58 am

    Sounds like a great plan!

  5. Comment by Jim | 10.5.2009 | 6:09 am

    Nexus is a brand of luxury car. It’s like a Cataract, only better made.

  6. Comment by David Richardson | 10.5.2009 | 6:28 am

    Sounds like you ride with the old men who get fat in winter team. I suggest you find a good spin class that is cycling focused, do that a couple of time a week and you’ll be amazed at how fast you bounce back at the end of the long cold winter.

  7. Comment by Carl | 10.5.2009 | 6:52 am

    What a hoot!!! Good luck this weekend.

  8. Comment by Lowrydr | 10.5.2009 | 6:58 am

    Isn’t “Nexus” some type of hair care product? Have fun at Moab.

  9. Comment by TimRides | 10.5.2009 | 7:30 am

    And yet, despite your training adjustments, you’ll still be finished with the LS Austin ride, have gone back to your room in the city, cleaned up, and come back to the finish before I get there. How can this be?

    Simple: you’ve found my special year-round training plan!


  10. Comment by Anssi | 10.5.2009 | 7:41 am


    I was happily surprised that you’ve lived in Finland! That’s cool man. I now can be proud of my country, hah. It’s like an imagined “Fatty was here” stamp. Although you probably just hated the cold here. Our cyclingseason is so short. At this time of the year we are still trying to ride good +-5 hour rides in 5 degrees celsius. It’s gettin cold.. but hey weather can’t be an obstacle. You just gotta bite your lip and ride through it. (That does not mean that I like the cold, it is awful.)

    And about your winterplan! I think you should do something different this year. Surprise everyone. Just pretend to do the “fatty’s three step program to well-being at winter” and just sweat sweat sweat all day long on trainer or/and gym. When the eagerly anticipated spring brings the first warm glimpses of sun you’ll be like an ancient spartan warrior with no body fat whatsoever. You enter the line of this spring classic of yours and bathe in glory. These envious eyes watching your behind (if you will) as you disappear into the horizon, leaving your competition gasping for air with legs full of lactate.

    Now that’s a plan.

    Lovin’ your blog btw. Keep writing.

    And greetings from Finland.

  11. Comment by bikecopVT | 10.5.2009 | 7:43 am

    Never underestimate the usefulness and power of the taper!

    Fight Like Susan!

  12. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 10.5.2009 | 7:59 am

    Tapering is a good plan. Don’t think of it as weight gain but rather strategic fuel reserves for next season.

  13. Comment by Rantwick | 10.5.2009 | 8:09 am

    You know how you’ve written about starting to “enjoy” the pain? That’s not what you wrote, but you know what I mean; you can apply that to the weather. Toughing it out in foul weather feels awesome, and riding in deep snow is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do.

    It’ll also open up all kinds of new opportunites to try out specialized winter gear, which of course, once you state your intention, the manufacturers will send you for free!

    Taper schmaper! Use your newfound fitness to tackle the elements next!

  14. Comment by Jenni Laurita | 10.5.2009 | 8:14 am

    Surlyrider and I are ending our raffles today at midnight- pink tires and some ultra cool gear. Click on my name to see the write up.

    Are you sporting a little scruff? Guess that would be good to counteract the manpris. Looks good on you. The scruff. Not so much with the manpris.

  15. Comment by drew | 10.5.2009 | 8:15 am

    “Today will be the first step down that path.”

    You mean there could be more than one step??

  16. Comment by justrun | 10.5.2009 | 8:17 am

    Yeah, try living in the same city as a Frito Lay [i]plant.[/i] Carrots and apples just don’t compare!

    But it has been a kick-ass trail season in the Rockies, hasn’t it? Good stuff.

  17. Comment by Road Divit | 10.5.2009 | 8:18 am

    There comes a time in every man’s life when we just have to say “what the hell!”. Hopefully it’s not when you are sitting around the house with your shirt off and that expression turns into a question.

  18. Comment by bikemike | 10.5.2009 | 8:25 am

    I like to reverse-engineer my training program. Figuring i’m already at my peak at the beginning of the season, i’ll start to back off early and build up to a whole lot of nothing by the middle of winter.

  19. Comment by MattC | 10.5.2009 | 8:26 am

    Fatty, I was kind of hoping you would go on a Super High Intensity Taper diet…(that would be the “S.H.I.# diet)…you need to do this BEFORE Austin and really focus on it, cuz I was kind of hoping to hold your wheel (for a little while anyway). You’re lookin’ lean and mean right now…I think you will be rockin’ your laps in 20HoM next weekend. So…do a quick taper after that..there’s still time if you do NOTHING but eat twinkies and chips…you know, the good calories. Consider it part of your 24Hom recovery.

  20. Comment by chtrich | 10.5.2009 | 8:39 am

    Finally you’re making some sense again. I was afraid this was going to turn into a professional cycling blog.

  21. Comment by Di | 10.5.2009 | 8:56 am

    I haven’t ridden much this summer for various reasons. I am finally riding a lot to prepare for a race in November. I started training a few days ago. ;-)

    Unfortunately, the cold and rain and abundant now that I have lots of time and desire to ride. Go figure.

  22. Comment by kiwi | 10.5.2009 | 8:57 am

    Hey Fatty,
    Its a good plan….Better than “go till you blow”
    photos are amazing!


  23. Comment by brokeMBA | 10.5.2009 | 9:03 am

    LOL! Don’t do it man! You have yourself in a markedly light and strong position for a “fat cyclist”. Start picking out your favorite indoor trainer DVDs and keep up the work! You don’t want to give up what you have worked so hard for…unless there are mashed potatoes involved…well…maybe just one more helping at dinner…just this once…


  24. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 10.5.2009 | 9:08 am

    I’ve been feeling the same way as you, Fatty. I’ve gotten into good shape this summer, and I like it. I want to keep it up over the next eon in which it will be cold and wet and the roads will be covered in various forms of slippery precipitation. But I loath running and biking in the gym. I’m actually contemplating trying swimming. But why would I want to stagger into the gym building from the snowy cold only to take a cold shower and jump into a cold pool? I know…I don’t sound very dedicated to the idea of staying in shape here, do I?

    Perhaps this winter will be like most other winters for me – a time to get squishy and soft again. Oh well. I will probably need the extra flabbity-ness to keep from freezing anyway.

  25. Comment by AngieG | 10.5.2009 | 9:09 am

    Fatty, I firmly believe the winter weight gain is actually a strategic mechanism for maintaining warmth during those cold, wet winter months. Kind of like built in leg and arm warmers.:-)

    You missed a great ride at the Levi Leipheimer King Ridge Granfondo!!! Holy Cow, it was a brutal route, but everyone I talked to had a great time. Maybe next year you and some of the core team can make it.

    Have a great time this weekend. Can you helmet cam a few laps?


  26. Comment by El Animal | 10.5.2009 | 9:15 am

    Unrelated note;

    Team Fat Cyclist is not winning in Austin, let’s pick up the fight.


  27. Comment by Heather | 10.5.2009 | 9:17 am

    Good luck at Moab this weekend!! And thanks for brightening this dreary, rainy Monday in SC with your blog (as always). And let me know how hijacking that Hostess truck works out. I may want to try that on the Krispy Kreme doughnut truck later this week… :) Have a GREAT week of tapering!!

  28. Comment by Jennie | 10.5.2009 | 9:48 am

    My winter training regimin sounds much like yours except I add in excuses not to use the rollers that include my bike & tire tread generally don’t appreciate my use of rollers… and if I use them I can’t push too hard because when I do I get sloppy and that’s even harder on the bike… and the walls (since I have a tendency to ride off the rollers and crash the one into the other when I get tired).

  29. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 10.5.2009 | 9:56 am

    Overtaper – thats the ticket. Or – you could go all Cyclo-Core and re-enter your pain cave as often as you like within the comfort of your own home.

  30. Comment by jenjen | 10.5.2009 | 10:00 am

    Hope you had a good weekend. Good fitness plan. I hope you are doing well. Have been thinking about you and the kids.


  31. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 10.5.2009 | 10:02 am

    Fatty, don’t do it.

    In 2005, at the peak of his fitness, Lance Armstrong announced his retirement from professional cycling. I’m sure that all he has done since then is eat bad food and sit around and do nothing.

    I haven’t heard from him since.

  32. Comment by Kathy McElhaney | 10.5.2009 | 10:21 am

    We may not have the beautiful foliage in So Cal, but running and cycling season just gets better! Finally out of triple digits – it was a perfect 50 degrees Saturday and won’t get much colder all winter.

  33. Comment by Zed | 10.5.2009 | 10:24 am

    Wow, I gave up on that cat article after about 30 seconds. I think it was the use of the word “quantum” that scared me off.

  34. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 10.5.2009 | 10:28 am

    Finally! An exercise and diet plan I can stick to.

  35. Comment by Marla Gnarla | 10.5.2009 | 10:28 am

    I am a firm believer in the not getting on the scale therefore I haven’t gained any weight theory!

  36. Comment by Charisa | 10.5.2009 | 10:44 am

    Tapering is tricky. And throw the scale away!! :)

  37. Comment by Bicycle Bill | 10.5.2009 | 10:49 am

    Just one thing to remember. Autumn leaves on the ground + cold, rainy weather = wet, slippery singletrack.

    Let’s be careful out there.


  38. Comment by Chris B | 10.5.2009 | 10:51 am

    “What I have noticed over the course of many winters is that, once there are more dark hours than light hours in a day, my body knows that it’s time to hibernate.”

    This is the one that gets me every year and I have no idea how to combat it. No matter how good my intentions, once I get home from work in the dark and cold it’s all over.

  39. Comment by MVSC | 10.5.2009 | 11:21 am

    Nice to see a couple FC jerseys at LevisGranFondo this past Saturday. Fatty, put this ride on your calendar for next year.
    and painful.

  40. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.5.2009 | 11:33 am

    Sheesh! I cannot believe all the spoil-sports trying to council you out of your obviously excellent plan.

    But, Fatty, egg whites? Really?

  41. Comment by axel in texas | 10.5.2009 | 12:26 pm

    there is an odd religious sect out there that does CYCLOCROSS over the wintermonths.
    You could talk a bike company out of a ‘cross bike and carry over your excellent fitness. And we would get all those postings about mud, mud, mud…

  42. Comment by Sasha | 10.5.2009 | 12:39 pm


    You are SUCH a hoot! :) I feel the exact same way. You have accurately summed up what I do in the winter and my feelings, except for me, it’s not Frito Lay, it is hijacking a “insert any high-quality European chocolate name here” truck. I live in Alaska so our days are even shorter which I find oh-so-depressing after our long, long, long summer days. Fortunately, fall has been very kind up here and it’s been a long, gradual one instead of, day 1: Leaves on trees turning Day 3: Leaves are gone Day 5: Who turned off the heat outside? It’s COLD Day 7: It’s snowing? WTF?! I am also a fair weather rider. I hate wind, rain, cold, and snow. So I haven’t ridden my road bike since the MS150 in Sept. I’ve been hiking and using my mtb to stay in shape w/ occasional weights thrown in. Needless to say, I’m joining the gym with my bro-in-law who is a former pro athlete – free trainer! Whee! I hope to avoid the winter “diet.” I’m also going to throw in some nordic skiing as well. I’m stuck here, so I might as well try to take advantage of some of the winter sports. Oh and snowshoeing too. :)

    Just wanted to clarify that it doesn’t rain during the Iditarod. It snows. :) Although some years, it hasn’t snowed much, but it usually almost always seems to be quite cold. I think you should do the Iditabike as a challenge someday. A guy at work did it last year. :) Just a thought. It’s especially made for 29ers.

    I really enjoyed this column. :) I love reading them. They are one of the highlights of my day!

  43. Comment by Jill | 10.5.2009 | 12:55 pm

    Ha ha, Elden, that is exactly what I’ve been thinking … snow bike season is almost here! Yeah!

    My humble opinion, after four autumns of trying, is that it is impossible to combat cold rain in a way that’s actually comfortable. My current strategy for temps in the 30s and 40s and heavy rain (here, also usually accompanied by hurricane-force winds) is to layer up with synthetics (polar fleece, ah), wrap myself in an outer layer of PVC jacket and rain pants (nonbreathable plastic, ah), and pedal around in my own biosphere of clammy humidity. Wet and warm. That’s the only solution I’ve found. The only solution, that is, beyond just relaxing and accepting the onset of hypothermia, which can be, actually, quite refreshing.

    Anyway, if you really want to enjoy winter biking, you really should think about getting a Pugsley. You already have 47 bikes … what’s one more? Maybe you could even help Surly develop a special Fat Cyclist-edition Fat Bike. After seeing those trails in Corner and American Fork canyons, I can picture them turning into amazing pieces of winter singletrack packed by snowshoers and skiers. One of these days, I’m going to spend a winter in Utah just so I can shred some Big Cottonwood Powder and explore Draper on my Pugsley.

    With everything that has been going on with you, I’m not sure I ever had a chance to properly thank you for riding with me this summer and helping me train for the Tour Divide. It was a great summer. I will be back! Thank you.

  44. Comment by FNEditor | 10.5.2009 | 1:59 pm

    Does this mean we get more recipe posts? I miss those.

  45. Comment by Dobovedo | 10.5.2009 | 2:36 pm

    “Trouser tightness notwithstanding.”

    This issue can be resolved by switching to sweatpants.

  46. Comment by bike girl | 10.5.2009 | 2:46 pm

    Shamless plug for my friend’s book, on how to train in the off-sesason (defined as times that Jill Homer doesn’t ride): Base Building for Cyclists, by Thomas Chapple. He’s a big fan of low intensity in the off-season, and has shown how that will boost speed in the on-season. Knows his stuff.

  47. Comment by bike girl | 10.5.2009 | 2:53 pm

    correction: off-season is when Jill DOES ride. My bad. More coffee…..

  48. Comment by Triflefat | 10.5.2009 | 4:23 pm

    This weight business is just the Fat Oscillation Index (FOI) coming into play.

    As you read this Big Mike in Oz is transforming into Lean Mike in Oz. It might be all those trips to Schrodingers to feed that cat, but I reckon it’s the FOI.

    And Fatty, is that stubble an attempt to gain an walk up start for Movember?

  49. Comment by Mtbnomore | 10.5.2009 | 6:17 pm

    I recommend you start running. It’s a great excuse to buy more “essential gear”. It’s also a reminder of how much more fun riding a bike is.

  50. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 10.5.2009 | 6:54 pm

    This sounds eerily similar to the plan I’ve been following all summer.

  51. Comment by Marilyn | 10.5.2009 | 7:03 pm

    I am waiting to go out cycling and sporting my new Fatty apparell when it gets here in november so I am still going strong. I will be the only girl out there with the guys this winter and leading the way for the rides. I broke down and bought winter shoes last winter and they were worth every penny for riding here in PA. Let me know if any of you would like to join us FOOLS!!!

  52. Comment by Allison | 10.5.2009 | 10:16 pm

    Regarding your previous post, you know who you look like? Jason Stratham from the Transporter movies. He’s HOT, so by extension, so must you be. Way to go Fatty!

  53. Comment by Freedom | 10.6.2009 | 5:06 am

    Isn’t there supposed to be really good snow in UT? I thought if maybe you wanted to try strapping some boards on those feet of yours….sliding them back and forth, you know x-c skiing…’s even BETTER than cycling!

  54. Comment by MeganRN | 10.6.2009 | 7:14 am

    My 4 month-old son loves your pictures. I guess we’re going to have to get him a mountain bike. I just hope he doesn’t decide to move all the way to Utah.

  55. Comment by C-Fiddy | 10.7.2009 | 9:52 am

    I’m glad someone finally took the time to examine the science and logic behind my winter regimen. I always had a hunch I was on the right track. Thank you Fatty, for going the extra mile… and you can log that one in your training diary.

  56. Comment by Jeb | 10.7.2009 | 10:11 am

    O.nset of F.riendly Season, or the O.utpouring of F.atty F.ood Season. That about says it, I’d say. Food taunts in mosquito tones — comfort foods are less subtle. They just say: “How YOU doin’?” as you walk past them on dark corners of the grocery store.

  57. Comment by bubba seadog | 10.7.2009 | 7:23 pm

    thats a shampoo and you dont need nexxus but you might need rogaine the pics were awesome almost makes me wish i lived there. got a 150 bike ride around galveston bay this weekend benefitting people who lost a lot in ike wish us luck. fighting like susan


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