Five mistakes to avoid when turbo training

Winter is here so you will probably be reacquainted with your turbo trainer: here are the top five no-nos

Indoor training turbo
(Image credit: Future)

Turbo trainers: we love to hate them. But when the weather gets filthy then they're a necessary evil.

But seeing as you've forced yourself to get on the turbo, you may as well make the best of your time in the torture chamber, so just make sure you don't do any of these things.

1. Don’t be a random thrasher

If you use the turbo intelligently, it can be a seriously useful training tool. Rather than jumping on, giving it beans and hoping for the best, get a plan.

The secret of a plan is knowing where you are, where you’d like to be and how you’re going to get there. An FTP test is the best starting point. Do a test then set a target.

A 10-15 per cent improvement in FTP is achievable over winter. To do that, you need a plan. Either get a coach or sign up to one of the several online training programmes for turbo munchers.

cycling time trials

Use structure in your workouts
(Image credit: chris catchpole)

2. Don’t upset the neighbours

Turbos can be loud. And guess what? The people in the flat downstairs probably aren’t getting as much out of the session as you are.

Winding up the sound system to drown out the turbo whistle and roar isn’t going to help much. Trainer specific tyres, training mats and headphones, as well as not training after 8pm, could improve relationships with the neighbours, while there are a number of quiet smart turbos that can allow those nearby to remain undisturbed while you train your heart out.

Splashing out on the top-of-the-line smart trainer might not be a great move if you’re not sure you’ll like the online turbo world.

But our advice is don’t buy a trainer that hasn’t got smart in its name – it’s old tech. You can get a really decent smart turbo at affordable rates these days – and even if you hate new style turbo training, you’ll get a better resale value on a smart trainer than a dumb one.

3. Don’t dismiss turbo training as “boring”

It used to be. Now it really isn’t – or it doesn’t need to be. You can do things like transfer your club chain gang indoors. You can race online in genuinely exciting, seriously competitive events. You can find other people to ride with.

It all hugely increases both motivation and enjoyment. It involves some investment in the new tech toys for turbo training, but it’s rewarding.

Don’t forget: while you know fine well not to half wheel in real life, the same rules of the road, some of them unwritten, apply in the virtual world. Flying off the front in the neutralised section before the flag drops in an online race is not going to make you Mr Popular.

4. Don’t go eyeballs out all the time

(Photo: Andrew McCandlish)
(Image credit: Andrew McCandlish)

Turbo sessions, by their very nature, are short and sharp. The temptation is to make every single one an hour of pure pain by winding the effort up to max and holding it there.

A couple of high intensity sessions a week are beneficial, but rein it in now and again. If you’re doing four or five turbo sessions a week, make half of them Zone 2 efforts.

This should feel around 3-4 on a scale of 1-10 or about 65% of HR max.

5. Don’t get cooked

Probably the single biggest limitation to going hard on the turbo is over-heating. It’s nearly always the reason that FTP test results inside are lower than test results outside.

If you base your winter training on an indoor FTP test that’s too low, you’re going to under-achieve.

A big fan that shifts a massive volume of air is essential to effective training indoors. Don’t put the fan head-on – offset it a bit so air blows over the face and body.

See that pool of sweat that’s gathered just behind the front wheel and is even now slowly dripping off the top tube? That’s liquid lost from your body. Condensation on the windows? That’s liquid you’ve breathed out as you pant your way through that tough interval.

It’s massively important to drink on the turbo – a litre an hour is not a bad place to start.

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