Transition to Winter Training – the (dreaded?) turbo

I fully plan to write some ‘retrospective’ entries (races I’ve done this year, training effectively, etc., etc.) however right now, looking out the window at the not particularly inviting weather, my mind turns to – “how am I going to keep fit this winter without getting painfully cold hands / feet or soaking wet through?”…..

Well, believe it or not, my first thought is the turbo trainer – and not with an internal ‘oh no, here we go again with the garage based torture techniques’.  Living in a very ‘seasonal’ area means that during winter here you really do have no choice (it’s either bloody freezing or snowing!). I’ve found that this polarity really helped me to accept the fact that the turbo was going to have to feature heavily in my winter training and to get on with it.  Once you’ve accepted that’s just the way it is, you can begin to look for how to make the best you can of the situation, and perhaps even enjoy it – hey, some good life advice there kids! 🙂

Turbo set up
Turbo set up

First thing to do is to set up your ‘pain cave’ (making light of the fact that it will be unpleasant helps me!).  I’ve gone for multiple fans (keeping cool is very important, as you are less efficient if you overheat), a station for computers and laptops, and a handy row of  bikes on the wall to hang sweat towels.  If you are really fancy you might have a separate room with big screen TV, but I doubt the kids would be happy being kicked out of our home cinema room all winter, and I don’t have to bother to mop up the copious amounts of sweat if it’s on the garage floor.  There is even a space next to my bike to tempt Delphine to do a little training, although I find that generally the turbo is best as a solitary activity (excepting on-line applications, more of that later).

I have three ‘types’ of turbo training session – endurance, specific training, and Zwift.

For the endurance session, it’s really simple, I just get on the bike and pedal at a Z2 level power level (or heart rate between 65% – 75% of your maximum if you don’t have a power meter).  Starting with an hour or so, I work up to 3 hours over time.  Clearly this has the potential to be the most boring way in the world to get fit, so I’ll always either watch a film at the same time, or better still work my way through a box set of DVDs – make sure it’s something you’d normally like to watch as it’ll be your only motivation to ride like this.  My view is that if you are going to spend time watching TV you might as well be pedalling!  As an added dimension you can do this fasted – the reason for this is to get your body to burn more fat and less carbohydrates, which should be one of the key goals for any endurance athlete.  You’ll need to get up early (optional), have a coffee (also optional, but this also increases the body’s tendency to burn fat), but most importantly get on the turbo and ride, before you eat anything.  You have breakfast immediately after you finish, but watch out the first few times you do this as you can feel a little light headed towards the end of the session, so doing it indoors where you can cut your ride short and just step off the bike is ideal.  Also make sure it’s only for an endurance, Z2 type session (no hard intervals, just steady riding.  Threshold or higher with not much glycogen in your body does not feel good, and isn’t very productive!).

sufferfest-logoFor the specific training sessions I use Sufferfest videos – you can download them directly from their website and I find they do a really good job of producing a structured session, with a bit of humour and a fair amount of motivation! (riding with Philip Gilbert as he buries himself to stay away from the peloton while riding to a world championship title is one example that springs to mind for me).  You can pick your particular training session to suit your main season training goals, either time trialling, climbing, sprinting etc.  Be warned however, some of these videos are evil! (the title gives it away). However I have the view that if you are going to be on the turbo (and not watching a film), you might as well make it count and go hard.

Lastly, Zwift is an online application that talks to your power meter, heart rate monitor or even your turbo trainer through an ANT+ dongle to allow you to race (or just ride) online with other people.  Initially I thought it wouldn’t be that interesting or useful as a training tool, but knowing that there are real people behind the images of riders on screen makes all the difference to your motivation – from that point of view it’s just like real racing, and you can push yourself much harder as a result.  There are still a few minor issues (my opinion) with the in ride physics, but even given that I will definitely be spending some time this winter on their virtual courses (which in some cases mimic real life locations, like this years worlds course at Richmond, Virginia).  They are just in the process of moving over from beta testing, so if you want to try for free don’t hang about! (paid subscription from end of October).

I tend to mix these three different types of turbo session up fairly evenly, and along with Cross training, Gym work & Core training (I’ll save those for another post) winter training just flies by….. 🙂

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