Sundried Article – How to make the most of your turbo sessions…

This was an article I wrote for Sundried, who I am ambassador for. It outlines some fo the key turbo sessions I use in my training and things to consider to make successful use of this vital piece of equipment.

The Turbo – love it or hate it, whatever our feelings are towards it, you can’t deny that it is a fundamental piece of training equipment that triathletes and cyclists need in order to execute key sessions. 

I think it’s fair to say that not many people like long turbo sessions, and I am one of those. I take my hat off to the few that can stay on longer than 90 mins. That is about my limit and the mind starts to wander and boredom sets in. For most, and including myself, an hour tops can reap good training benefits.  Think about it, the turbo also comes up trumps for when the weather is awful or you need to do specific intervals, which on the road is difficult, not to mention can also be dangerous.

So how do we learn to love it? (ok like it then J) Well there are a few things to consider before we get into what those key sessions are.

1. Set Up

Where you complete your turbo session is a real consideration to make. Set it up in a cold, dingy garage, and it will not help in motivating you to get on it. Not everyone can have a pain cave, but an area where you are comfortable and have enough space is important. Make sure you have a towel and access to water – you will need it! Oh and once last thing…a fan! By keeping cool you will control your heart rate a little more, and plus it’s a little more comfortable with one on.

2. Distraction

When on the turbo and following a particular session, I tend to have other distractions to help the time go that little bit quicker. My personal favourite is an IPad with Netflix and something to watch, or sometimes – just music. You will find that following a structured workout also helps, as you tend to concentrate on what you need to do. Getting on that turbo for some aimless spinning will lead to shear boredom!

3. Time

Ask yourself – When is the best time for me to complete my sessions? Are you an early morning person? Do you have other people to consider? Have you tried the turbo at different times? This is key, as it will open up flexibility to your training and time you have. Usually double day training for me means an early morning session, which I don’t mind at all. I certainly much prefer turbo-ing early morning than running!

4. Additional Equipment

Do you have a heart rate monitor or power meter? Are you using them to their full potential? Although I train by power on my trainer, for beginners a heart rate monitor is a great addition. If you can combine this with some simple testing to work out your zones, your training is likely to be a lot more scientific in it’s approach. Having a plan that matches your current fitness and goals will give you purpose to your training. But, to keep things easy you can also used perceived effort if just starting out.

So once we have worked out these things, we can start to consider what sessions to complete. There are lots of different workouts around that allow us to build strength, aerobic endurance, tempo or sweet spot work. For me, there are three key workouts along with the dreaded FTP test that triathletes need to consider. Let’s explore these:

Strength Building

This session is all about developing leg strength making you push harder on the pedals. It will encourage you leg muscles to become stronger – great for climbing!

Session Outline:

1. Warm up

Start with 15mins endurance pedalling with some high cadence spinning. We are talking perceived effort 3 or heart rate zone 2. Cadence should be comfortable, somewhere between 80-90rm or higher when you add in some high cadence spinning.

2. Interval Work

Here you will need to change up a few gears to add resistance to the pedals. You want to get into a gear where your cadence drops to around 50-60rpm and then push as hard as you can for 30sec-1min. Once complete, recover by shifting down again to easy spin for 3min. Repeat this for around 5 sets and you can increase the sets or the duration of interval as you become stronger and fitter. Be careful though, knees take a pounding so start easy and find out what you can sustain and build from there.

3. Cool Down

10-15mins easy spinning bringing your heart rate down.

Sweet Spot work

This workout will be taxing and make your legs, lungs and heart work hard. The idea is to ride just below our FTP/Threshold zone for short periods of time enabling us to train our body to cope for long sustained efforts. It’s a must do workout for long distance triathletes.

Session Outline:

1. 0-20mins Warm Up

 Complete a 20 minute warm up. 10 mins easy endurance pedalling followed by 7 mins of fast cadence efforts (aim for about 105-110rpm). Split this 7 minutes up into 1 minute fast cadence followed by 1 min easy. When you’ve complete 4 faster efforts, take the last 3 minutes easy.

2. Threshold Efforts

Complete 3 x 8 to 10 min intervals at around 85-90% of you threshold power or threshold heart rate. If it is too much or you can’t sustain it, shorten the duration of the interval. Separate each interval with 5 minutes of easy pedalling. As the season progresses, you can increase the length of the interval so you are spending longer in that zone.

3. Warm Down

Spend the last part of you session with 10-15mins in your endurance zone.

Boost your VO2 Max

This one is all about developing your lungs and body to use oxygen more efficiently. More oxygen means less lactic acid! It involves some high-end short efforts and requires you to have a bit of base of fitness beforehand. If you know your FTP number, then your VO2 will be typically 110 – 120% of that benchmark.

Session Outline:

1. Warm Up – 20mins

Ride at a steady pace for 10min and increase you effort for the final 10mins. This should only be slightly harder in which you can still hold a conversation!

2. Intervals – 5 x 3min

We are looking for 5 intervals lasting for around 3 mins with a 3 minute recovery sandwiched between the hard efforts. Remember each interval is 110-120% of FTP.

3. Cool Down – 15 mins

Complete a proper cool down and try not to do this workout back to back. You need proper recovery. To progress this workout, you can always extend the amount of intervals you do, or the length of them.

FTP Test – What is it? How is it completed?

This is a simple 20 min hard as you can go and SUSTAIN for the duration of the interval. Ideally used with a power meter but can also be tracked with heart rate. It starts after a warm up and also a cool down at the end. This is the key workout to give you your zones and check you current fitness level. There are a variety of ways of doing but the 20 min effort is the most popular. If you don’t possess a power meter, you can also track your heart rate in this test, although it isn’t as accurate. This is not your every day workout but one we use every 4-6 weeks to check on progress and adjust our training zones.

These workouts will not only give you a good bang for you buck, but will actually make the time go quicker on the turbo. Don’t forget to include that aerobic longer lower intensity ride, which ideally is completed outside. Spread the workouts carefully as some are pretty taxing on the system, so make sure you manage your recovery especially if you add in swim and run workouts also. Hopefully this blog has given you some things to think about or inspired you to get back training!