Background: For five months last winter, I could not cycle or lift weights due to a broken wrist. I have worked hard at the cycling for 10 months, and I've made great gains in endurance, aerobic capacity, and lower body strength. At the same time, I have lost almost 20 pounds since July. This winter, I will keep riding some (have to, want to) but not as much. I will also resume resistance training for the first time in more than a year.
My question: How much cycling should I do, and what intensity, just to maintain my gains in aerobic strength and stamina? I'm not looking for improvement, just maintenence. I have to bike about 6 hours a week, minimum, for commuting, shopping, etc. How much more should I do, if any? Fast or slow?
Cycling 6 hours a week minimum is good, and over the winter you don't necessarily need to do a lot of intense training ... you're after base mileage. However, you might devote one day per week to intervals, or something like that. And you might consider doing something a bit longer (like a 2-3 hour ride) on another day of the week.
I also like to cross-train during the winter. I have already started weightlifting and walking/running ... and when it snows, I'll add snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowbiking. I find that doing different activities works different muscles which helps prevent injury, and also it gives me a refreshed outlook on cycling. By the time the spring rolls around I'm anxious to get back on my bicycle again and do the long distances.
One of the best things to maintain a certain fitness level is to simply keep active ... cycling and cross-training are certainly ways to do that, but also consider how to keep active in day-to-day life. Park the car at the opposite end of the parking lot when you get groceries, take the stairs rather than the elevator, walk or cycle to appointments and events, weightlift, do yoga, or stretch while watching TV in the evening, and so on.
There is a study that says that fidgity people (people who tap their feet or fingers or who can't sit still) tend to lose weight more quickly than people who are predominantly stationary, and they tend to keep it off better than those who don't move much at all.
I love being outdoors all year too. I will definitely get in some hiking and snowshoing. If it's cold enough and the Grand River is frozen solid, I can walk on it for hours. That would be great cross training, I think. (of course I have to ride my bike 5 miles to get to the river!) One concern. Most of my winter cyclikng is dribs and drabs--10 minutes to one place, then 20 minutes someplace else--and not much steady riding. Is this OK? I guess it all adds up?