Turbotastic: There’s still time to get on the Watt Bike (or turbo)

It’s getting to the time of year that most of us are giving up on indoor training and getting the miles in. However, is this the right thing to be doing for your performance?

In this Blog I’ll focus on the benefits of turbo sessions. It’s been written specifically for members of my club, Manchester Triathlon and based on the sessions I be delivering to them. However, there’s plenty that others can take away from reading it too!

2015-05-08 Watt Bike

The Benefits of Indoor Training

It doesn’t have to be the middle of winter to get the most of doing some of you bike training indoors. In fact you may find that including at least one indoor session per week on the turbo with make your training more effective.

There’s many reasons for this being the case, including:

  • It’s easier to control intensity which will add specificity to training
  • There’s no periods of freewheeling so your training is more efficient (more work done in a shorter time)
  • You can do very high intensity efforts without having to worry about the risks of the road
  • Your benchmark tests produce better data (in terms of validity and reliability) allowing you to track changes in performance effectively
  • If like me you are surrounded by big hills, you can do steady state type efforts more easily
  • Long turbo sessions help develop mental resilience…..if you can do a 3 hour turbo session, then you can smash the bike leg in an Iron distance race
  • They’re great for doing TT position specific sessions.

Ok….there are downsides such as sweating buckets, feeling sick and getting bored but it’s quite simple to re-frame these downsides into positives!

You can't keep the power on the pedals when the road goes down steep!
You can’t keep the power on the pedals when the road goes down steep!

The Benefits of Attending a Kirkland Indoor Coached Session

One of the most important sides of being a member of a club is the social aspect….meeting friends, training together and motivating each other. Group training can be a challenge too, especially if the coach prescribes a session that doesn’t align with your goals.

However, I believe the most important role of a coach is to engage with as many athletes as possible within the group. That means taking the time to find out about the goals, aspirations and motivations of each and every athlete….. This can’t be done in just one week so a notepad is an important tool of the coach. Of course, it’s impossible to account for everyone’s needs but such information helps with the ‘art’ of coaching.

I am always asking questions…. what athletes learnt, how did they feel during an effort and will they be coming back next week. Coaches are given too easy a time by most athletes…… If a session is crap I expect athletes to say so. If athletes don’t understand what they should be doing and why, then they should ask and a coach should always be ready and willing to answer.

Plan and Deliver: Your Cervelo or Your Life!

Especially as I don’t coach as groups as much as I’d like to, planning is essential. I like to know what I want athletes to achieve in a session before I begin. Obviously, for indoor sessions the physiological element underpins everything else. In an hour’s session athletes will feel short-changed if everything is at 80% FTP (circa IM pace). Therefore, most sessions will be made up of high-intensity efforts and recoveries of various duration.

I will always use the same warm-up and cool-down protocols, shown below, which are the ones that I recommend athletes use before shorter time-trial races. I want to help athletes form habits in training so they become second nature in racing. I’m happy to chat you through the rationale of each if you drop me an email.

Warm-up Cool-down
·         5 minutes easy spinning (Freely chosen Cadence)

·         5 minutes build to FTP

·         1 minute easy


·         1 min @ FTP 30 sec easy x 4

·         Complete warm-up with 3 minutes easy

·         3 mins of easy spinning

·         5 mins at FTP -10%

·         2 mins easy

·         5 x 1 min at ‘moderate’ intensity in an easy gear as 54s easy and 6 sec max rev-out.

An Active Cool-Down can Aid Recovery
An active cool-down can aid recovery

Most sessions I design will have a psychological and learning element within them too. Triathletes tend to be physical Trojans but mentally weak! Getting faster is more about engaging the brain than ‘smashing it’. Switching off your brain when I’m coaching isn’t an option.

Often when I’m prescribing training, even low level ‘fat burning’ or technique sessions, I’ll end with a very hard effort. Whilst this may not be physiologically optimal, the final memory of the session will be the lasting one “that was bloody hard”. Such efforts satisfy alpha-males and they (the efforts, not the alpha-males) release feel-good hormones too!

The following things give me physical, technical and psychological information when I’m observing riders and they’re just as applicable to you if you would prefer to train alone in the basement (preferably with a mirror):

Posture Is the rider athletically relaxed? Holding tension in the body is inefficient especially when riding very hard. The shoulders hide no secrets….they should be steady and free from tension. I’m also looking for a ‘strong’ core and stable hips.
Where are the head and eyes looking? I don’t want to see a rider looking at their feet……looking ahead shows me that they are engaged with the task at hand.
Breathing Is it deep and controlled or fast and furious? I’ve performed hundreds of VO2max tests in a lab whilst recording all sorts of physiological measures. This means I can tell if someone is sticking to the prescribed intensity or not…… I know what 10% above FTP looks like in terms of breathing! The only time breathing should be shallow is at the point of exhaustion. Shallow breathing is lazy.
Cadence/pedalling Unless the session is focussing on strength development or high-cadence efforts, I don’t mind what cadence a rider pedals at. I once coached a guy who did a sub 19-min TT and his average cadence was 58rpm. There’s other people that can maintain a cadence above 100rpm. This tells me there’s no such thing as an optimal cadence so I’ll let people find their own mark! That said, I’m still looking for rhythm and will pounce on anyone showing signs of ‘soft-pedalling’.

A Few Links

When I’m doing my own sessions in the basement or coaching, I use a great little app called Seconds Pro which is available on IoS or Android to keep track of what I’m doing. It’s worth paying for the Pro version. What is awesome is that you can link it to music stored on your device. I typically use Resident Advisor or Electronic Groove podcasts to keep me motivated.

A screenshot of Seconds Pro

If you’re a member of Man Tri, please email me and I’m happy to send you the Seconds file so you can do the sessions in your own time. Click on the SESSION PLANS HERE if you wish to see what you’ve missed or may wish to come to in the next few weeks.



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