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5 Top Tips to get the most from your turbo trainer

Whether you’re looking to simply keep your legs spinning during the winter months or build on your top-end fitness, a turbo trainer can provide a simple yet effective platform to keep you competitive or fit.

To get the most from your turbo training session there are a few simple things you can do to maximise your workout and enjoyment. Here are the 5 top tips to get the most from your turbo trainer.

1) Know your limit

To get the most out of your session it’s helpful to know your limit. How? Either identify your maximum heart rate or take an FTP test.

You can estimate your maximum heart rate using several methods, albeit they aren’t always correct. Using the formula 220 minus your age has long been one way of getting your max heart rate but you can calculate yours using a calculator like this from the Polar website.

For those of you who have no idea what an FTP test – functional threshold power – is, it is a simple way of determining your current cycling performance level. Essentially you just need a way of measuring power. A lot of smart trainers coupled with apps like TrainerRoad or Zwift will allow you to carry out an FTP test when you join which will measure your best average power output that you could sustain for one hour. You can continue to retest this value so you find improvement in your workout and your power output.

2) Structured workouts

There’s nothing worse than hitting the turbo trainer for 60 minutes and simply spinning your legs into boredom. Getting a structure in place will not only stop you from wrecking yourself but will also improve your cycling prowess.

Getting yourself a structured workout will that you can follow across a week, month, or year will help you to target specific areas of your cycling ability. Whether that is to keep your fitness up, help you climb better, or produce more sprinting power.

Zwift, for example, has a range of structured workouts to follow. You can also simply Google cycling workouts – you will find an abundance of workouts to suit your needs. Workouts like threshold efforts will let you see how far you can push yourself whilst a sprint session may involve you doing short yet high-powered efforts to get that max speed up.

3) Fuel

Just like heading out on a normal bike ride, while out on the turbo you must ensure you are fuelling yourself correctly too. Bringing out sugary snacks, energy bars, etc will help you keep the fuel gauge in the green allowing you to maximise your workout.

When you train indoors, you will sweat a lot even if you have a fan. It’s critical to replace these lost liquids, so have a bottle available and drink tiny amounts frequently. When working out in an indoor setting, it’s also a good idea to replenish your electrolytes before and after your workout. Electrolytes are lost when you sweat, but they are crucial to your workout – helping to control muscle contractions, which prevents cramping and keeps you hydrated.

4) Third party apps

A structured workout will greatly help your boredom and help build your strength and conditioning on the bike but using a third party app will give you a structured and fun workout.

Intending to eliminate boredom apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and Wahoo System all use virtual platforms that help you to immerse yourself into an online world. You’re essentially pedaling on a trainer that drives your avatar around a virtual course or some of the most famous roads in the world.

A brilliant aspect of apps like Zwift is you are not alone. You can ride with thousands of other keen riders, join group rides, race against others – in which you can even draft – or just ride with friends.

Apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad are very easy to set up and join all you simply need is a smart trainer – if you don’t have one of them then follow our guide to get you set up!

How to set up your ‘not so’ smart trainer on Zwift?

It may seem like another expense you can do without however Zwift doesn’t have to be. Making your old turbo trainer ‘smart’ is easy to do. Even the complete Luddite can get connected easily.

5) Bring accessories

If you were to head out on the bike you wouldn’t forget to bring a multitool and spare tubes, would you? So, when heading out on the turbo trainer you should bring the accessories with you! Focus on keeping cool and comfortable rather than mechanical issues. Use a fan to give you the realistic feeling of wind blowing against you but also to keep your body temperature down. Also having a small towel close to hand will allow you to wipe away the buckets of sweat you will inevitably produce.

One tip is to bring a speaker out with you and blast some of your favourite tunes. Just like doing a gym workout if you play music in the background, it can increase your concentration and allow you to focus on the workout more.

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