Turbo training: How to get the most out of every session
Endurance cyclist and 24hr time triallist Chris Hall shares his top five tips for getting the most out of your turbo training sessions, including what stats to measure, and the best kit to wear.
1. What are the key stats to measure when turbo training?
The key stats to measure for me are the three second average power (it's easier to read as it doesn't jump all over the place), cadence and heart rate. It's important to use both power and heart rate as they can tell you very different things about how you're feeling. A high heart rate, for example, can easily mean that you might not be feeling too well or are fatigued, which would mean you need some rest. I also work closely with my coach to access power zones and training plan to help me with long-distance races.
Having all the data available to you is fantastic when working with a coach, to be able to analyse where you're able to make performance improvements. Yet sometimes it's best to keep it simple.
2. How turbo training has helped me
Indoor training has not only helped me learn discipline on the bike, but also has allowed me to get stronger by being structured and focused on my training. I find it super useful for time-trial training; not just for getting quality time on the bike, but for refining and allowing my body to get used to riding in an aero position. Living in a city it's often tricky to get good quality time in the saddle due to stop-start traffic, so training indoors is a great way to get around this.
3. What should I wear turbo training?
I’m particularly fond of bib-shorts without seams to reduce any sweat-irritation, such as the Shimano Evolve shorts. I make sure they have a low cut and smooth straps as well and I also look for a lightweight cool-feeling jersey to avoid overheating. Gloves are also a must-have. During long sessions gloves prevent my hands and handlebars from getting too sweaty and, with a small bit of towelling on the thumb, there’s something extra to wipe my face with.
4. My favourite turbo training sessions
For me, the most effective workout for a quick blast is called ‘over and under’. This basically means working as hard as you can for about 3-5mins, then easing off for 5mins. If you include a warm-up and cool-down, repeating this three or four times means you have yourself a good 45min session.
If you prefer to just sit and spin, then riding in something called Zone 2 can also be really effective. Zone 2 mimics riding along in a bunch with friends, so in theory, you can have a conversation and you should find yourself just on the edge of working hard. This type of training helps my body in its use of fat as a fuel source, making the body less reliant on carbohydrates. The other major benefit is the increased development of “slow twitch” muscle fibres.
What's the difference between slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres?
5. How to make turbo training interesting and stay motivated
I use Zwift, a virtual cycling simulator to run my sessions, and help pass the time. There’s a huge community of other ‘Zwifters’ out there and even virtual races to compete against each other. If I don’t use Zwift, then I usually stick on a podcast or a playlist that mirrors my session. Top tip: a story-based podcast helps pass the time!
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