How to make the most out of your indoor cycling turbo trainer
I absolutely love my turbo trainer, and the invention of Zwift and smart trainers completely changed my cycling. I suddenly was able to train in winter without wearing all the cycling clothing I had layered on top of each other. I was on it for months, and when outdoor riding eventually came round, I was strong and tough, ready to smash some miles in.
The year after, I didn’t have the same approach, I used the turbo trainer, but I didn’t feel I was getting much out of it. When it comes to turbo training sessions, it’s pretty easy just to get a bit lost, and then you eventually find that you’re not actually getting much out of it. In this article, we’re going to tell you all about how to get the most out of your turbo trainer and the sessions.
1. Create a nice environment
Although it can be challenging if you lack space, it’s essential to have a pleasant environment to train in. Somewhere where you can focus and stay motivated and away from the world, I believe, is vital to getting a good training session in.
I will often put my phone into airplane mode and keep myself from any work calls to just focus on riding my bike. It’s also essential to have a clean area. It’s incredibly good for your head when everything is cleared away, and you’re proud of the room you’re in.
The next thing I think is vital is to have an indoor cycling fan close or to be near a window. This will help keep your body cool and create a fresh cooling airflow. This will make your body more efficient, and you will be a stronger cyclist because of this. Keeping your body temperature down it vital for good cycling turbo trainer sessions.
2. Establish Goals
Next, I think it’s a good idea to establish goals. I personally find myself doing an FTP (Functional threshold power) test and checking my weight each month to make sure that I’m improving. An FTP test is an easy way to measure how strong you are on the bike, it’s basically a 20 minute flat out cycling test, and the result is the average power you held minus 5%.
I will start my winter training season at 200 watts in the test. Then I will try to get it up to 240 watts by the end of the winter. I feel like it keeps me motivated and makes me feel like all the work I’m doing is worth it.
3. Get prepared for cycling
I feel preparing for turbo sessions is essential. Learn how to make your turbo trainer quiet. Have everything you need ready before you start, so there’s no reason to get off the bike at any time. It’s the most annoying thing and can ruin a turbo training session if you have to keep jumping off the turbo trainer.
When you eventually get on the bike, do a solid warm up and have a proper cool down. This is something so few cyclists do, and not warming up and going straight up to your maximum heart rate reading or going into an FTP test straight away is so bad for you and will also have a negative effect on your power output.
4. Structure your training sessions
Personally, as a trainer to many cyclists, I find having structure is the key to getting results. It’s easy to jump on the turbo and just do whatever, but the key to getting stronger comes in structure and giving your body the appropriate work for the outcome you want.
An example is I will give myself three endurance sessions a week of two hours and two intervals sessions of one hour. This will help build my endurance but also help my body to adapt to a higher power. Doing each will complement each other, and I will become a better cyclist. Having training plans, doing the full session, and getting a full recovery will improve any turbo training session, and having a structure creates this.
5. Try different styles of Turbo Training
Turbo trainer sessions don’t all have just to be base miles and flat riding. Make it fun and exciting by spicing up your sessions. You can do loads of different types of turbo session, full on sprint effort, high intensity interval training, power meter sessions, long recovery sessions, and many more.
It’s worth trying some of these to keep you entertained and challenge you. An excellent tool for indoor cycling sessions is ERG mode, and this is what a smart turbo can do. It will automatically change the bike’s resistance to make sure you’re training correctly to the session plan. It means you can switch off and just focus on keeping the pedals turning. Smart trainers for turbo sessions are such a great tool for training indoors to improve your power output.
6. Fuel Properly
The hardest thing to do sometimes is eating and drinking while you’re in an indoor training session. It can have so many adverse effects on your body if you don’t do it, and I wouldn’t recommend it. The effects it can cause are;
- Lack of power
- Cause the body to use its muscle as fuel
- Over time can have a negative impact on metabolism
- Lightheadedness from low blood sugar
- Put you in a foul mood
- Make no fitness gains
These are just a few issues you can get from not fuelling correctly and not giving your energy system enough. When it comes to fueling, it’s so important to get it right. Depending on the riding you’re doing, you should be seeing between 25-60 grams of carbohydrate each hour and drinking roughly 12-16 ounces of water per hour too. On top of this, many cyclists also use electrolyte tablets to replace lost salts and minerals.
7. Make it fun
Years ago, when I first started indoor training, I was in spin classes then later became an instructor. Having a good time training is essential, and also being entertained will go such a long way to getting those fitness goals.
If you can make it virtual and use indoor cycling applications such as Zwift, it will give you something to focus on and help you track your goals. You can meet friends there in the global community, and you can go into races, take on exciting courses, and even ride alongside professionals.
If you don’t want to do this, there are many other options. You could keep it super simple and, for example, do five minutes sitting, one minute standing and repeat it for a full hour.
8. Be Consistent
I have trained many people over my time as a Personal Trainer for cyclists and a Personal Trainer in general, and the most consistent people have always had the best results. You can be the most talented athlete ever, but you will struggle to make significant improvements if you are not consistently putting the hard work in.
I am a massive believer that if you can be consistent for a month, it will have become a habit. Then you will be in such a routine of doing it, it will just feel like second nature, and you won’t question it.
9. Combine it with something else
Combining your indoor training session is something I can highly recommend. Having Netflix on with your favorite series will benefit your training indoors. Since getting my bike, I have done many turbo training sessions, and sometimes the longest sessions have been the best. I personally once watched four films back to back and was on my trainer for a total of six hours. The power of distraction is a fantastic tool when it comes to turbo training sessions.
Which Turbo Trainer is Quieter | Guide
We have reviewed some of the best and quietest Turbo trainers on the market, but if these aren’t for you, how do you go about finding the right and quiet turbo trainer for your next indoor cycling workout? In this next section, we want to break down indoor bike turbo trainers, so you know what to look for when purchasing one.
The best way to do this is to break turbo trainers down and explain what to look for and what to avoid. With this information, you know what to expect depending on the type of turbo trainer you end up going for.
Wheel on Turbo Trainers (not quiet)
A wheel on turbo trainer is the most basic of trainers and will work entirely differently from a direct drive turbo trainer. The first thing to note is that your wheel will sit inside, which will be used instead of a flywheel.
This means you are adding wear to your tires and the bearings in your wheels. When using a wheel on turbo trainer, it is highly recommended to have a turbo trainer tire and to use an old wheel instead of a wheel that might hold a lot of value, like a carbon wheel.
The next thing you will need is to change the skewer, and you need to swap this for a turbo trainer skewer. What’s special about this turbo trainer skewer is it sticks out at the side of the axel, and this means that the turbo trainer can clamp it here, and it secures you in place.
Wheel on turbo trainers will also be very noisy compared to direct drive. There is so much more moving that you will find the vibration to be a lot more, and you might struggle to keep it quieter.
- Very easy to Switch bikes on and off
- Much cheaper than direct drive trainers
- Much louder to use
- Will wear through other parts of your bike
- If using a smart wheel on trainer, it won’t be as efficient
Direct Drive Turbo Trainers (more quiet)
Direct drive smart trainers are nothing like wheel on trainers in how they work. With a direct drive, you have to take the rear wheel off your bike and typically the cassette. You need to take out the cassette and put it onto the turbo trainer, and then you need to take the bike without the rear wheel and attach it to the trainer. A setup like this means that a lot less wear and tear is happening to your bike while it is in your turbo trainer.
The next thing to mention direct drive turbo trainers are excellent for being much quieter compared to a wheel on trainer. This makes not only a much more peaceful workout for yourself but also for everyone around you. Direct drive turbo trainers are much more efficient compared to wheel on trainers. They can take much more power and are much more accurate when it comes to data.
The direct drive turbo trainer is the choice of professionals as it is just so much better than a wheel on. A good bit of advice is to put an old bike on or buy a second cassette for the turbo trainer, and it will make your life a lot easier.
- Better ride quality
- More accurate data
- Less wear on your bike
- All a have connectivity feature
- Much more choice for smart turbos
- More money
- Harder to change a bike over
Riding your bike is tough when it comes to indoor turbo training, and having to stay engaged while sitting in the same place for lengthy amounts of time is very challenging. A Smart trainer can help us so much, but you have to make sure you’re getting what you want out of the training for it to work. Indoor cycling turbo trainers are an amazing tool if used correctly so make sure you have those legs spinning and your training ready for those summer group rides.