Lots of us have found ourselves confined to quarters and, unsurprisingly, the sale of turbo trainers (not sure about rollers) has gone through the roof, last I heard, up by 977%. If you’ve found yourself locked down, restricted or in need of digging out your turbo after recently confining it to the back of the garage, here’s some tips to help you through.
Decrease intensity: Unless you’re a double-hard masochist, most turbo work is high intensity short duration stuff. Now might not be the time for doing this exclusively. Plus, if you’ve been increasing the intensity of your training whilst reducing volume in anticipation of racing, an event or just the better weather, don’t just press on. There’s limit to the amount of time you can spend at Z5 before it becomes physiologically and psychologically unsustainable and possibly damaging. IF we get to race this season it’s going to be a few months away, I’d suggest you need to consider re-basing your training. This applies whether you can still get outside a bit or not.
Pace yourself: We might be doing this for quite a while so remember in Training Peaks terms, a single 100 TSS turbo session is the physiological equivalent of a 25 mile time trial. Under normal circumstances you wouldn’t want to be doing three of these a week so be careful about intensity and things like Zwift racing. Do it but be careful how often. Months of this is going to get unsustainable quickly and consistency of training is vital to maintaining your fitness for when the zombie apocalypse is over. When we can see light at the end of the tunnel, then you can turn it back up to 11.
Variety: Use rollers (see instructional videos here), change bikes (you can bend a bike using it on the turbo, especially if you do out of the saddle efforts), get the track bike on the rollers, change hand positions, wear your Fez collection, anything. Bear in mind you’ll bollox your rear tyre on the turbo so maybe put an old one on for the duration. There’s lots of ways of mixing it up so, if you get stuck, get in touch.
Use the time wisely: Practice riding in TT position, use leg speed sessions - great for rollers but no reason why you can’t do them on the turbo. Do some Independent Leg Training (ILT) for strength workouts – much underrated and great for pedalling efficiency as well as power and a decent substitute for squats if you’re missing the gym.
Stretch and core: Many cyclists could do with increasing flexibility, particularly hamstrings. Time is often used an excuse for not doing as much stretching as we could – that’s gone right out of the window. Get your core sessions sorted (see above for lack of excuses). There’s loads of stuff you can do without gym equipment to improve core strength.
Active recovery: The day after a hard session, 20 mins Z1 on the turbo, core, stretch, tea – the job’s a good ‘un. Many of us miss these vital sessions because getting some kit on for 20 mins seems like a waste of time. It isn’t, it really isn’t. And anyway, you've haven't got anything else to do innit.
Track and use your data: More than sharing data on social media or just recording it, use it to reflect on what you’ve done in the last week and what you plan to do next week. Make some notes about how a session felt, what you found super hard, what was easy, what was deathly boring. This way you can find what really works for you and adapt the sessions. FTP tests are like routine dental visits - unpleasant but essential, if you're not using power measurement there are other 'old skool' benchmark tests you can use. Track your fitness but, for once. don't fret if the figures don't look like a graph presented at a sales conference, a 'holding pattern' might be what you need for the duration.
Endurance rides: Don’t try to replace a 3 hour Sunday ride with 3 hours on the turbo, your soul will leave your body (probably via your arse), never to return. You can do the physiological equivalent of longer endurance rides by the judicious use of sweetspot training in about a third of the time, you just need to know how much, how often and how to make subtle changes to your power parameters to get the best out of them.
Frustrated at how unfair this all is? If you’re pissed off, frustrated or angry about the time you’ve put in to your training over winter and the inability to put it to good use now the racing season should be on us, first, remember time spent training is NEVER wasted. It's an investment in you and, if you have to spend some time off the bike, your fitness won't have disappeared, it'll just be hiding and you'll find it soon enough. Secondly, if you are going nuts, read this.
The great outdoors: If you can still get outside, ride alone, sort your pick up options if you have a complete mechanical fail, maybe ride multiple circuits closer to home rather than a super long ride. Keep your distance from others out there taking exercise and wash your kit (all of it, gloves, everything) with biological shizzle when you get home. Above all, follow NHS advice. The Chief Medical Officer knows more than some random melt on Twitter.
If you want any informal advice, a chat about your training or just to discuss some ideas about what to do, drop me a line here or give me a call. These are strange and challenging times and we need to look out for each other.
Rich Smith has a rocky relationship with his turbo but it trying to learn to love it once more. He has coached the GB Transplant Cycling team for 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach, a mature psychology student and has 30 years’ experience working in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...