How to get started and stick with a turbo trainer routine | Total Women's Cycling

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Training & Nutrition

7 tips to stay on track with turbo trainers

A turbo trainer helps Cathy keep fit during her second pregnancy at home while looking after Cherry.

Cathy Bussey author of The Girl’s Guide to Life on Two Wheels offers some tips on how to get started with a turbo trainer – and more importantly, sticking with it.

Turbo training is very different to cycling in the great outdoors. The good news is you don’t have to worry about dressing for the elements, punctures, traffic, or getting caught in a downpour. The bad news is, without scenery, people-watching opportunities and a planned route making your ride interesting, enjoyable and structured, it can be tempting to hop off the turbo after five minutes of fairly unproductive pedalling on the spot.

We won’t lie to you, turbo training isn’t always the most fun you can have on two wheels. But there are ways to make it more enjoyable, and the benefits are numerous. A turbo can complement and enhance your cycling performance, and it can keep you pedalling if outdoor cycling is off-limits, for example if you have chosen to stop cycling whilst pregnant or are exceptionally short on free time.

The best way to make turbo training a pleasant and positive experience is to plan it out as much as possible. Treat a turbo session like a bike ride – schedule it into your day and don’t allow other things to take precedence. If you just hop on your turbo and cycle aimlessly you’ll be bored and begging for a distraction after five minutes. Plan it properly and you will reap the benefits almost immediately.

Turbo training doesn’t have to be a tedious affair, we promise.

1. Set aside the time

Know what will work for you. It could be setting aside half an hour in the morning to train uninterrupted, it could be coinciding your training with other things, like catching up on TV, or it could be planning three ten-minute sessions throughout the day. Make your plan realistic and you’re more likely to stick with it.

2. Build it up

If you’re relatively new to cycling or using turbo training as a way to improve your fitness, start slow and build up your workouts. You wouldn’t make your first bike ride a hilly 40-miler or your first run a half-marathon. Turbo training can also be more labour-intensive than outdoor cycling as you have no hills to freewheel down. Start with a short workout and gradually build up the time you spend in the saddle.

3. Check out bespoke turbo training plans

If you need inspiration the internet is full of great training plans, all of which are just a click away. Try these short and simple plans from Bike Radar or search more than 1,000 plans on this dedicated turbo training website.

4. Prepare

Hopping on and off the bike every three minutes to get a drink or change the TV channel won’t help you get the most out of your training. Have everything you need to hand before you start. As you’re training indoors (unless you’re in the garden) you won’t benefit from a cooling wind so expect to sweat more than usual. Have a drink of water and a towel in easy reach, along with your iPod, the TV remote, a top to put on if you get chilly cooling down, and anything else you can think of that will come in useful.

5. Try a training DVD

There’s a fairly impressive range of turbo training DVDs available, featuring programmes that will improve your overall cycling, individual elements such as sprinting or climbing, and 3LC.TV even let you ‘compete against’ cycling legends such as sprinter extraordinaire Mark Cavendish.

6. Vary your workouts

You wouldn’t ride the exact same route day in, day out so why do the same workout day in, day out? Mixing it up is better for your overall fitness, as it will keep your muscles challenged, and it’s a better way to stay motivated as it will help stave off boredom.

7. Train with a friend or in a group

Many of us love the sociable element of cycling in groups and that’s what we miss when we train alone. Get together with friends for turbo sessions and not only will you be more likely to stick with it, you’ll also challenge and push one another to go further and faster than you would on your own.

Headline image by Humbert15 via


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