Let’s face it with temperatures plummeting it’s easy to lose your motivation and huddle up indoors. With motivation low you’re thinking that missing a few days’ riding during the winter isn’t going to make too much difference come March, right? However, if, like many cyclists, you find yourself climbing the walls or getting grumpy without your daily dose of endorphin-raising exercise then there are options. So, if you are stuck indoors, turbo trainers and rollers come into their own… They may not have the ‘fun’ factor of outdoors riding but used properly they can really enhance your fitness and you may emerge from the winter fitter than before!
The first thing to remember when training indoors is that it needn’t be inferior to outdoor riding. If you’re riding in the depths of winter you’re going to be training little else than your bike-handling ability as you pick your way between patches of ice, but correct use of the turbo trainer or rollers indoors offers you the chance to work on all aspects of your training from efficiency through to high-end speed work. You’ve probably heard many riders dismiss the turbo trainer as ‘boring’ or something to be feared, but as long as you follow the simple rules of indoor training you’ll see that this is not the case.
The 3 Golden Rules of Indoor Turbo Training…
Keep them short
Don’t make the mistake of trying to replicate your usual training volume. Training indoors should be aimed at quality, not quantity, so shorter sessions done more often are key. Research shows that split-day training, where you do two sessions in a day with sufficient recovery time in between, is of enormous benefit so consider this as an option if you must have more riding time. Do 60-90 minutes per session max. Three hour sessions?? Forget it!
Keep them interesting
When you’re outdoors especially when riding with a group, there is plenty going on to keep you interested. But unless you have particularly fascinating furniture, training indoors doesn’t afford such distractions. So use a variety of intensities to keep the session fluid and quick-changing. Mix the session up by doing short, harder efforts with recovery periods. Don’t just throw these in at random – having a plan for the kind of durations and intensity that you do means you can progress the sessions and gain noticeable improvements. That five-minute interval at ‘hard’ intensity was a killer in week one but in week four it’s a breeze! And don’t use outside influences as a distraction. If you need the distraction of your favourite TV programme you’re doing it wrong. TV or music should be used as a motivator, to get you working harder, not a distraction. So watch a virtual ride DVD of one of Cav’s greatest sprints or one of the Tour’s greatest climbs to spur you on.
Keep them specific
Always have a target as to what your session intended to achieve. The reason that many riders don’t get on with turbo trainers is that they just sit there turing the pedals aimlessly. Work on your efficiency with high-cadence drills, your strength with hard big-gear efforts, your time trial performance with close-to-threshold efforts and even your sprint with short, maximal efforts.
Quick Top Tips
Have a bottle close to hand and a towel to mop sweat. Even in this cold weather turbo training is a sweaty business
Plan your session before you start and ideally write it down [download your free training template here]. This will help you stay on track.
Turbo sessions may be short but they are often tough and intense. Make sure you have a recovery drink or snack immediately afterwards
Use a virtual ride or turbo training DVD with music to keep motivation high
Remember that something is better than nothing, so even if all you do is 30 minutes it’s still keeping your legs turning and giving your heart and lungs a workout!