12 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid on the Turbo Trainer - Total Women's Cycling

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Training & Nutrition

12 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid on the Turbo Trainer

T'is the season to do turbo, fa la la la la, la la la la

Turbo trainers and cyclists have a very fiery love/hate relationship. Nothing can beat real cycling with the fresh air, the sound of tarmac and the sensory overload from the nature that’s around you. However, realistically it can be hard to find the time for one of those good rides, and when the winter weather sets in, it can be even harder.

How to choose the right turbo trainer

Turbo trainers are a means to an end, but with a little more oomph. While you can pedal from the safety and warmth of your own home, you can also really work up a sweat with some high-intensity routines that you can’t do as easily outside.

…or kiss you, depends where your love/hate balance lies

If you’re thinking of investing in turbo trainer and giving the whole indoor cycling malarkey a whirl, then great! But be aware of these rookie mistakes so that you don’t wobble-fall into a trap….

Bad set up

The most common error is having an incorrect set-up, and this can apply to the bike, the turbo and the area around you.

First off, find a suitable flat area in your home which allows enough space for you and your turbo equipment. If your area isn’t flat you’ll find you’re rocking about which isn’t great (if you really don’t have anywhere flat, a wodge of paper under the unsteady turbo leg will do).

At the end of the day, you’re riding your bike, so ensure it’s set up to your bike fit measurements. Even if you’re not going to be pedalling for as long as you would outside, it doesn’t mean you should sacrifice comfort.

Make sure you read the instructions carefully when assembling your turbo. The last thing you want is to cause damage to your bike because you didn’t secure the rear wheel properly.

Not having a riser block

Turbo trainers will come standalone, or in a bundle. There are various accessories and bits you can add onto your set-up and a riser block is one of them. If you don’t have one in your Turbo bundle, then you can purchase a riser block separately for a few pounds.

A riser block will usually have 3 grooves where your front wheel can sit. Each groove has a different slope to lift the front wheel off the ground, usually this will vary from 2″ to up 4″ in height. The purpose of a standard riser block is to level out the front of your bike so that it matches the rear, which is made higher by the structure of the turbo. You can go for a higher one which will stimulate climbing.

Not having a fan

When you’re working up  a sweat outside, you can unzip your jersey for some much needed cool air, but when you’re indoors, you need to create your own air-flow.

Even during a steady pace warm-up, it’s surprising just how quick you can really heat up on the turbo. Make sure you have a fan (or two) on you when you’re training, otherwise you can quickly over-heat and feel dizzy.

I have this massive fan at the base of my front wheel, angled up to blast me cool. Just tie your hair back, close your eyes, and pretend your cruising around the mountain sides somewhere far away.

Not drinking enough

You’re going to sweat, a lot. So it’s a good idea to keep a fresh towel and a bottle of water close by.

Dehydration can creep up on you, and by the time you realise it, it can be too late. Headaches, aching muscles and dizziness can come from no-where and attack you all at once. It’s best to sip regularly and often throughout your session to maintain those hydration levels.

Keeping items out of arms reach

Another rookie mistake is leaving your essentials too far from your bike. If you force yourself to lean too far, you can end up tipping your weight so far over that you cause a complete wipe-out, legs all akimbo (just ask our editor!).

If you don’t have a table nearby, set something up so that your towel, (cat) and water bottle are well within an easy and comfortable distance.

Not realising how noisy your turbo is

“I know, I’ll hop on the turbo and watch TV” – Lol. You won’t. Unless you turn the volume up quite high to overcome the noise of the resistance unit, rear wheel and fan – so be prepared to upset other members of the household (unless they’re turbo-ing with you).

Not making it interesting

Do not try to get on the turbo trainer and just pedal. You’ll get bored, lose intensity, and kind of waste your time. So plan a session and follow set intervals so you know what you’re doing, when, and why.

3 Great Turbo Sessions you can do in Under Thirty Minutes

6 Pro Worthy Turbo Sessions for Winter Fitness

Alternatively, training videos such as those from The Sufferfest can be downloaded so you can follow set intervals on screen.

Not making it social (if you want to)

It’s loud and while you can’t necessarily pedal, shout over the noise and maintain conversation, turbo training can feel lonely at times. It doesn’t have to be.

Virtual reality cycling has really taken off, especially with pro teams like CANYON//SRAM using platforms like Zwift to search out new talent. By syncing up your training with this visual and virtual system, you can race your friends, race yourself and keep a good focus while you ride.

Not monitoring sessions (or Strava-ing!)

Just because you’re not riding outside in the real world doesn’t mean you can’t log your training.

Along with your heart rate monitor (or power meter if you’re feeling mega swanky!), ensure you’re all set up and ready to go with your device recording your sessions. This is a great way to monitor time, heart rate, distance and even calories burned. After you’ve completed a few sessions, it’s always handy to look back and reflect on your progress.

Not having soft surroundings

After a tough training session on the turbo, you won’t realise that your powerful engine legs have deteriorated into nothing more than pillars of jelly.

Be careful when dismounting, and ensure you have something soft to fall into when you eventually peel yourself off the bars.

Worrying about what to wear

Good news, it doesn’t matter what you wear!

We know that coordinating kit, having your socks match your gloves and the helmet with the shoes is basically the most important thing about cycling. When doing a turbo session in your own home, behind closed doors and curtains, you can just wear whatever you want. Although we do still think chamois shorts are a must.

It doesn’t have to match, it just has to be comfortable – yay!

Worrying about how you look. No one is watching… except the cat!

You don’t need to dress up and impress the turbo, the turbo doesn’t care if you keep it together, so let it out.

Cry, scream, gurn and let your skin go lobster red and gleam with sweat – just let it all out. Vent out that rubbish day and all the negative thoughts, on your new emotional management pillow. You’ll feel so much better for it, guaranteed.

You’ll have a love/hate relationship with the turbo trainer, but you can’t deny it’s an awesome way to keep up with your training when you can’t make it out of the house.

You may also enjoy:

Indoor training for cyclists over winter

Turbo trainers vs. rollers

How to use hill reps to become a stronger cyclist

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