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By Columnist Genevieve Whitson – Professional Cyclist 

Turbo riding

Photo Credit: New England Fitness District, 2009: Spin Bikes

The majority of athletes I know, ride and train with – HATE THY TURBO and will do almost anything they can to avoid it.

But let’s face it, come winter time, you are going to have to find a way to embrace turbo, or endure riding for hours on end in the cold, rain, snow and sleet. While this is tolerated for a few weeks, most of us won’t ride over the whole winter. That is unless you decide to take a holiday with your bike and head for somewhere tropical. We can dream, I know. So, for the rest of us without unlimited resources – you need to learn to LOVE THY TURBO.

Turbo is Beneficial

Riding on a turbo is just as valuable as riding outdoors. Of course, this is providing you do it properly.

Another benefit of turbo riding is the ride is better controlled, especially when training by power. It is not easy to stay within 10-15 watts on a bunch ride. The reason most people loathe turbo is because it’s believed to be boring. You aren’t going anywhere, and you can’t measure your progress if you don’t seem to be moving beyond the rug under the turbo.

The Biggest Turbo Mistake

One of the biggest mistakes people make using a turbo or rollers is pedalling away with no variation. So, while you tell yourself you are going to do 1 hour steady on the turbo – just riding away with a healthy heart rate, to compensate for not being on the road – then at the 20-minute mark, you’re already looking at aborting.

Turbo Tricks and Tips

The trick to using the turbo is to try and replicate what you would usually when riding outdoors. Therefore, set-up your environment to stimulate and motivate yourself.

Here are seven tips to get you started:

• Setting up your turbo in front of a blank wall – staring at a wall for 30 minutes to 1 hour is sure to make you crazy. I don’t know who suggested this – but it’s a terrible idea.

• If you are going to turbo in front of a TV, at least pick an uplifting DVD or TV program to watch

• Get your music dialled in before you start. Make a unique turbo compilation that will encourage you to pedal

• Do not set up the turbo in the living room unless you have complete space. Trying to turbo as your wife, husband or flatmates come home will most likely see the whole session derailed or you will be banned from ever bringing a bike in there again

• Turn off your phone, or have it on silent mode. It’s very tricky to speak on the phone or send a text while you’re sitting at maximum heart rate!

• Have something to measure time. I once lost my watch, had no mobile and was turbo-ing in a room with no clock. It was the most horrid hour ever. I had to wait for someone to tell me it was time to stop.

• Avoid doing sessions on your own. Get a friend over and turbo together – time passes a lot faster with someone else there.

 Turbo Sessions to Try

If you need to do a say 30-minute to 1-hour session or even worse, 2-hours on a turbo, or the dreaded, 4-hours. Then, I’d suggest the following exercises to make it worthwhile.

Simply riding at a leisurely pace on a turbo for any period of time, will not do much for you. Not unless you’re having a super easy recovery ride and simply want to get the legs moving and the blood flowing. So instead, try riding a little faster and doing the 30-minute session.

The Town Ride Session

• 30-minute session – Warm up for 5 minutes, to get your cadence up to at least 85 rpm, and then spend every 2-minutes at a slightly different pace. Let’s say the first 2-minutes in a higher gear – 2 speeds up. Then, over the next 2-minutes – 1 speed down. The next 2-minutes – 1 speed up. Next 2-minutes – 2 gears down. This will be similar to a town ride with constant changes in pace and speed. So, before you know it, 25-minutes would’ve passed, and it will be time for the cool down.

• 45-minute session – Get some leg speed going. Warm up for 10-minutes and then alternate your cadence. Speed for 3-minutes at 90 rpm. Follow this with 3-minutes at 95, and then 3-minutes at 100, 3-minutes at 105 and 3-minutes at 110. Then, roll backwards through the rpm speeds until your reach 90 rpm. Recover for 5-minutes and then do it again. But, make sure you up the cadence a little. This session is excellent for building leg speed and can also be done as a recovery session, provided you keep the power or heart rate low and just work on the rpm.

Step Ups and Downs Session

• 1-hour session – Warm up for 10-minutes. Then, every 5-minutes move up a gear. After 4 gear changes, reverse the order and move back down. Lastly, cool down for 10-minutess. That’s it, session done.

Time Trials and Hills Session

• 1.5 – 2hours – Warm up for 10-15 minutes then it’s time to hit some hills. If you have resistance on the turbo, put it up and get into some low cadence hill sessions, or put a few books under the front wheel of the bike. Then pedal for 5-minutes at 70 rpm, 5-minutes at 60rpm and then 3 -minutes at 50rpm. Follow this with an easy 5-minute spin. Then it’s time for some high cadence repeats – 5-minutes at 85rpm, 5-minutes at 95 rpm, and then 5-minutes at 105 rpm. Ride easy for a bit, then hit some time trial efforts – 5-minutes on and 5-minutes off – repeat three times. Lastly, cool down 10-15 minutes.

If you or your coach has set you a 3-4 hour road session, and you feel you must do this on the turbo, then break this into chunks and shortening it a little. Why? Well, it’s important to remember that 3-hours on a turbo are more like 3.5 on the road as you never get to stop pedalling. So, it’s important to break up the session – ride for 1.5 hours in the morning and then 1.5 in the evening.

There are literally a zillion sessions you can do on the indoor bike to mix-it-up. Be creative, think about riding outdoors and our constant changes in speed, then apply this to the turbo. Also, remember the value of being able to totally control the speed, cadence, heart rate and/or power. You never know, you might actually start to enjoy the turbo.

About Our Cycling News and Review Columnist

Jarlath-Cross-20131-960x576_GenevieveGenevieve Whitson is a NZ born, British/Scottish cyclist, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Gen has a raced at the highest level for Road, Cyclocross and Mountain biking, have competed in four World Championships, multiple World Cups as well as riding professionally on the road. Gen has raced all around the globe on the road bike and is currently riding for a Belgium team, Isorex competing in all the major spring classics.

Highlights of her career include gaining a top 30 finish at the World Cyclocross Championships, a stage win in a major USA road tour, and winning the 2015 Scottish National Hill Climb Champs. Gen also loves to ride a rickshaw in Edinburgh for strength training on the side and is heavily involved in supporting/mentoring up and coming female/male athletes to ride to their potential. Her mantra on the bike is: Eat the pain…

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.


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