5 turbo training mistakes this cycling coach sees among Irish riders

Posted on: December 23rd, 2018

This a big time of year for training indoors. But to get the most out of it, and not set yourself back, you need to be careful and train properly.


By Matteo Cigala



There are so many different turbo trainers available on the market, at varying prices, that choosing the right one is always difficult.

You can buy a cheap turbo for €100 or a smart power trainer for around €1,500. So which one is right for you?

The answer is that there’s no typical ‘right one’ for you. It all depends on your budget.

The more you spend, the more smart features, road feel, power reliability, noise reduction and other benefits you’ll get.

For those buying their first indoor trainer; listen to those around you and ask them plenty of questions.

It is best to speak to other cyclists you know and who use a selection of trainers between them and see what they advise.

Turbos are a great tool to train on over the winter; especially in Ireland or the UK where daylight is short and the weather is not the best.

Zwift, which most of us are familiar with by now, is making the indoor training experience more fun than ever.

But for turbo training to be effective, it’s very important not to make the common mistakes that can have a negative effect on your performance.


Forget one size fits all sessions

Do not follow sessions ‘off the shelf’; those that are already drawn up and that can be found online or are distributed to a wide group of cyclists.

These sessions can be good fun, but they don’t take into consideration any factors or variables that relate to you, your fitness and capabilities.

Pre-prepared sessions for all and any cyclists don’t take into account your goals and needs. Those who have drawn them up know nothing of the type of racing or sportives you’re aiming towards.

They also don’t know the time of the year it is, or the training block that you’re working on, when you pick up those off the shelf sessions and follow them.


Don’t turbo train without a coach

Make sure you stick with the long-term plan and the individual training sessions given to you by your coach.
Sessions drawn up for you by your coach to carry out on your turbo are tailored precisely to your individual needs.

They are effectively the opposite of the one size fits all approach adopted by those who draw up sessions for any rider to do at any time, often pretending its tailored to you, yet still call it “coaching”.

The turbo sessions devised for you by your coach factor in where you are with your training and where you want to go.

They are also specific to whatever point you are at in a training block, or indeed the nature and intensity of other training you’ll be doing in the days before or after each individual turbo session.

You need to find a good coach, learn to trust them and then go and follow the turbo sessions they set out for you.

The great thing about something like Zwift is that it allows me, as a coach, to devise a session for any one of my riders so they can follow it that day on Zwift.


Don’t train in the wrong place

Use your trainer in a shed or somewhere with windows that can be opened when you need.

Wherever you are training, it needs to be ventilated and you need to be able to make it cold for your sessions.

This will ensure you won’t overheat; which can be very uncomfortable and counterproductive and can sabotage your sessions.


Do not spend too long on the turbo

Turbo sessions are made to be short and sharp. One to 1½ hours is enough. Spending too long on the turbo is not as effective as you think.

You end up losing too many micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which are essential for your body function and tare difficult to restore.


Don’t get dehydrated

Make sure you keep yourself well hydrated with water or electrolytes to cope with the amount of liquids lost during the turbo sessions.

During training or racing, losing two per cent of body weight in water can result in a performance decrease of up to 10 per cent.

One piece of advice is to record your weight before and after training. That way you can assess fluid loss during a turbo session and then correct it when you’re finished.

For example, a 70kg athlete who loses 200 grams during a one hour training session whilst drinking a 500 ml drink will have a gross loss of 700grammes.

For this equation, 1 litre needs to be consumed after a turbo session to replace 1kg in fluid lost during that session.

If a person consumes 500ml of fluid they should be 500g heavier. So if a rider is 200g lighter after a session in which they’ve consumed 500ml/500g of water, their real weight loss is 700g.

And so they need to consume 700ml of fluid after the turbo session to replace the fluids they’ve lost.