Turbo or road?

It is a question that I often get asked. Can I do my weekly workouts on the road rather than indoors on the turbo?

The quick answer is yes. We should all train in the way that best suits the time we have available, that keeps us motivated and delivers results. However, we believe that many of our structured workouts are best executed on a turbo trainer. Why?

The human body adapts to increased training load over time.
All of our training programmes are progressive, meaning that they are designed to improve your fitness week on week, month on month. We do this by making the workouts progressively harder, either by increasing intensity, increasing duration or reducing recovery times. Training the human body for increased performance is a very systematic process and the controlled environment of training indoors makes it easier to deliver the consistency needed for optimal training.

Let's take a typical early season training workout progression. Say in week 1 the aim is to do 2x10min tempo intervals with 4 min recoveries. In week 2 this increases to 2x12min with 3 min recovery. In week 3 it goes to 2x14 with 2 min recovery.

Week 1 = 20mins of tempo riding with total of 4 min recovery

Week 2 = 24mins of tempo riding with total of 3 min recovery

Week 3 = 28 mins of tempo riding with total of 2 min recovery

Unless you have a very long perfectly flat road it is going to be very hard to follow these routines accurately. Your power might fluctuate and it might be impossible to to nail down the changes in recovery periods. You will still get some benefit for sure but you wont maximise the training effect because you wont be increasing the training stress in a systematic way.

Given that we are all time poor, maximising the benefit from any training session has to be a priority.

One of the key elements in any training programme should be specificity. That is, the training should take on the characteristics of the target event. So if you are training for an alpine Gran Fondo and live in an area where there are only short sharp hills then it is impossible to be specific with your training.

Our training programmes would give you workouts with 40-60 minute efforts with higher than average torque which aim to simulate the demands of the event. Using a turbo trainer for these workouts is the next best thing if you don't have any 40-60 minute climbs around you, as you can put in a consistent, realistic effort.

In addition, training using a turbo trainer removes many of the external elements that can hinder the delivery of a consistent training effort; rain and wind are obvious climatic variables that can alter the way that we have to ride.

Using an indoor trainer means that you can hop on your bike and have exactly the same conditions to train in day after day.  An indoor trainer will allow you to train with more control, delivering more consistency to your efforts and be more specific in terms of training intensity.

The author following his own advice.
Importantly, it is also a much safer environment to train in, removing the need to be traffic aware, which allows you to focus on delivering the effort needed and wonder at the increasing power numbers that you are delivering on your cycle computer screen!

I know that some of you will hate the idea of training indoors but in terms of efficiency of time it is a highly effective way of training. The Propello Training Programmes all feature workouts that are very rarely over 60 minutes in duration. Get yourself set up nicely, use video or music and have a big fan to keep you cool. In a very short time the improvement in your cycling will convince you of the benefits of training in this way.

Rob Wakefield is a fully qualified Level 3 Cycling Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches and founder of Propello, a cycling focused health and fitness business delivering Performance Training Programmes and Bespoke Coaching to cyclists anywhere in the world.

All cyclists who are looking to improve their speed, endurance or strength will benefit from a structured training programme. Propello Training will improve how your muscles, lungs and heart work and will enable your body to transport and utilise fuel effectively - making you faster and stronger for longer.

Click here to learn more about Propello.