Winter is coming so you will soon be reacquainted with your turbo trainer: here are the top ten no nos

Turbo trainers: we love to hate them. But when the weather is as filthy as it is at the moment, 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

Ten tips on what not to do when training indoors

1. Don’t go eyeballs out all the time

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.

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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.

2. Don’t be an “FTP Look-At-Me”

You care about your FTP (functional threshold power) and you should do – it’s the basis for your training plan. But nobody else does.

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Now that Zwift and other online training platforms for Smart Turbos are gaining in popularity, alongside vibrant social media groups, there’s a temptation to post up the results of your latest test and wait for the adulation on your massive numbers. Resist that temptation – the world’s not interested what your FTP is.

3. Don’t be a random thrasher

Give your sessions some structure

Give your sessions some structure

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.

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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% 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.


Buyer’s guide to turbo trainers


4. 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.

5. Don’t get your timings wrong

The indoor riding revolution ushered in by Smart Turbos makes access to the biggest TV screen in the house seriously desirable.

If you’ve dragged the turbo rig into the front room and hi-hacked the 42 inch screen to virtually ride up Mont Ventoux, do ensure you’re done, and tidied up, by the time the family want to watch that dancing programme. . . .

6. Don’t get fat

Leaning over bike

Resist the urge to eat more than you need just because you’ve done a turbo session

The short, hard nature of turbo riding tends to prioritise the use of carbs as an energy source. Once the endorphin rush has died down and you’re the other side of a shower you are going to be very, very hungry.

>>> The natural foods you need for top performance and recovery (video)

Basking in the glow of a hard session you’re going to want to eat, and eat, and eat. Take it easy or the fitness gains are going to be outweighed by the weight gain. You can minimise the Hungry Horace tendency by making turbo sessions lower intensity which prioritise fat burning.



7. 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.

8. 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.

>>> Eight ways to make your turbo sessions more enjoyable

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.


What to do – and not to do – after every ride, indoors or out


9. Don’t forget your bidon

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.

>>> Is milk a good rehydration option?

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

10. Don’t buy old tech

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 new online turbo world.

>>> Guide to turbo trainers

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 around the £200 mark – and even if you hate new style turbo training, you’ll get a better resale value on a smart trainer than a dumb one.

  • Tom Sykes

    Real men cycle in all weathers. Turbos are for emergencies when wind and ice make cycling too dangerous for several days in a row.

  • Stevo

    So what? Over 85% of all human beings don’t.

  • Brian Powell

    Ride your turbo nude! Just use a kitchen towel under the bum. Cooler and no washing apart from socks!

  • Tom Sykes

    They probably don’t have girl friends.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    I have met TT riders who never go out on the bike except for events all they do is turbo all day .

  • Mr Huie

    Good advice if you really can’t get out over the Winter. 11. Use the turbo all year as part of your regular training. 30mins a day does wonders. Thanks CW.