A session on the turbo can also be seen as a last ditch resort when the weather is just too awful to ride outside. Turbo training often gets a bad reputation for being boring or uninspiring.
Stop! It doesn't have to be that way!
Many athletes use their turbo trainers all year round, to help them focus on specific areas for improvement, and to give them a chance to train out of their comfort zone in a safe environment away from traffic.
We talked to three inspirational professional female cyclists about their turbo training routines including:
- RTTC National Hill Climb Champion Maryka Sennema
- CTT National 10 mile, 25 mile, 50 mile and Circuit Time Trial Champion Julia Shaw
- UnitedHealthcare road and criterium racer Hannah Barnes about their turbo training routines.
Click through to read their top tips on staying motivated training on a turbo!
[part title="Turbo trainer set up"]
Have the turbo trainer ready
One key way to make sure you’re motivated is to ensure that your turbo trainer is set up and ready to go when you need it. If that’s not possible due to space restrictions, ensure that it is at least accessible.
Maryka said: "We are fortunate to have a spare room where it can be set up most of the time, except when we have visitors.
"I've got a small chest of drawers in there with a drawer full of my kit -- towels, headband, gloves, iPod, etc. We even keep a track pump up there too - so literally everything is at hand and ready to go.
"I find having it there, essentially ready to go within 5 minutes of my deciding I am ready to turbo, is really important when it comes to actually getting on the turbo."
[part title="Selecting your turbo trainer"]
Choose your turbo carefully
Julia isn't a big fan of the turbo trainer, but she's currently spending a lot of time training indoors following a shoulder operation. She said that choosing the right piece of machinery made a big difference.
"A decent turbo trainer definitely helps to make wanting to get on the turbo trainer easier.
"I've found the cheaper ones feel like riding uphill all the time! I would put smoothness and road-like feel high on the list of requirements."
Hannah also prefers to use rollers before races to warm up, saying:
"The turbo is very much about power, if I just want to loosen my legs up, I prefer to use rollers. I wouldn't do a turbo sessions the few days before a race."
If you'd like to try rollers - check out our guide here.
[part title="Regulating your temperature"]
One of the key reasons people struggle with turbo sessions is that they get incredibly hot.
Make sure you’re in a well ventilated room for a start and if possible with at least one heavy duty fan.
Maryka and Julia said for them a large fan was an essential item, while Hannah said:
"I live at home but need to keep it cool when I’m on the turbo, so I open the doors and windows – but my family are very understanding and supportive."
[part title="Monitor your effort"]
Keep tabs on how well you're doing
Having a gauge of how you’re doing on the turbo can help, too – and there are lots of ways of monitoring your effort.
Elite criterium racer Hannah needs to prepare herself for bursts of hard efforts during races and uses RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) to determine how hard and fast she pedals. She said: “I am starting to use a heart rate monitor now, but usually I just go as hard as I can.
The good thing about training indoors is that I know I’m at home, so I can go all out, completely blow up and know I don’t have to ride 10 miles to get home.
Maryka trains for time trials which involve long, sustained efforts. She prefers to monitor power produced in watts, saying:
“One of my essential turbo items is my powermeter, or a laptop and Ant+ stick, to display live stats and my Garmin to keep track of my real intervals."
Julia is coached by professionals at Drag2Zero and listed her power meter as an essential item to her turbo sessions, too.
A power meter is the most honest representation of how hard you’re working, and can be particularly helpful if you’re trying to train yourself to hold a steady effort for a set period of time. However, they're not cheap,
The cheapest way of monitoring effort is to go with RPE, simply rating your effort out of from 1/10 as “recovery" to 10/10 for sprints less than 20 seconds long.
For a more scientific approach that isn’t as expensive as a powermeter, monitoring your heart rate is a good alternative – once you’ve found your maximum heart rate you can set yourself training zones depending upon the length of the effort you’ll be putting in.
Whatever method you choose, knowing how hard you’re working, and how hard your body should be working, is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your session, and having a number to focus on will also help keep boredom at bay.
[part title="Motivate yourself with a goal"]
Train with an event in mind
As Julia explained: "The best thing is, to have a target, and plan to work towards it - from those two, motivation comes much more easily."
Maryka rides time trials, road races and takes part in end of season hill climbs, where she got her National Hill Climb Champion title.
She spends much of her turbo time on her Time Trial bike, and said this was because it's a safe way to adapt to changes in position when riding in an aggressive aero position, and because she often uses the turbo for sustained efforts which are hard to achieve on the road and harder to monitor.
For hill climbs, Maryka trains very specifically when preparing for an important event:
I study the climb for my upcoming race [and I would] then try to re-create that on the turbo if I had no way of re-creating it outside.
Hannah typically spends 40-45 minutes on the turbo and tends to use the turbo trainer for her longer 3-5 minute intervals as opposed to sprint efforts, saying: “It’s easier to get really short sprints done outdoors because if you’re going for an all out 20 second sprint you can usually find somewhere to do it.
Longer intervals are hard to do outside – there will always be a junction or a roundabout in the way so your effort isn't consistent.
She added: “I think as a road racer it’s important to do longer efforts on the turbo because if you have to bridge a gap [in the peloton], you need to be able to get away and then keep working hard. You find some people will go all out and then not be able to get to the bunch because they haven’t trained those longer efforts and they run out of steam."
[part title="Turbo training entertainment"]
When the going gets tough...
It’s cheesy, but when the going gets tough, the tough do get going. Turbo training can be hard but Hannah explains:
When I find it hard to keep going and complete a session I just have to remember that the people I’ll be racing soon won’t be stopping in the middle of an interval, so I can't either.
To prevent boredom, Hannah trains with music, sometimes watching the TV and added:
“Thankfully I don’t have to do long rides on the turbo very often, but I have team mates all over the world and some of them have been unable to ride outside for weeks because of snow. If they’re doing long rides on the turbo, a lot of them do read."
Maryka said her favourite distraction was music and shared: “My iPod nano is also a must have, with a specific playlist, which I sometimes create to work exactly with the intervals I'm planning."