Coffee with the Coach: Keeping Fit on the Indoor Trainer

Coffee with the Coach: Keeping Fit on the Indoor Trainer

March 31, 2020

As we enter week 2 of lockdown, and the possibility of stricter measures coming into play at anytime, we spoke to resident coach Danny Roberts-Clarke to talk all things training in these difficult times and how to maximise your indoor turbo trainer sessions as we all adjust to the new normal... It's undoubtedly a massive challenge to keep fit for the upcoming summer in the hope that we return to some form of normality and start racing again, or tackling events that will be postponed to future dates. Here are some of Danny's top tips to ensure the time on the turbo is fun, engaging and productive - so you can maximise the benefits.

Jamie, one of our G!RO ride leaders and racers, sat down on a video chat with head mechanic and resident coach, Danny Roberts-Clarke, we brewed up a Workshop Coffee - Danny did the same at home - and we chatted all things riding during this difficult time. 

So Danny, this is a strange time for cyclists everywhere - obviously the government advice is to stay home unless absolutely necessary but we are lucky enough to be able to ride outside still, but strictly SOLO. How’s it affected your own riding? And what sort of training are you currently doing?

Yeah I think it’s definitely a time to be sensible, people in a few European countries aren’t allowed to get outside to ride so it’s important we don’t abuse this. My own riding has definitely taken a hit, and I’m riding less on the road and spending more time hacking around in the woods in the name of reducing the risk of a serious crash and taking up a hospital bed! 

What sessions are you setting for your coaching clients? I imagine you’ve had to change a lot, with goal races being cancelled and events postponed.

This varies a lot by client, but has been very much led by their goals. Some clients had specific race goals which obviously we’ve had to readjust. For those who’ve had a big (Aussie) summer of racing it’s a good time to step back a bit, but for those based over here who have been raring to go for a UK race season it’s been a bit more tricky. Setting specific power goals has been a good one to guide training, and focusing on general threshold power has been a big focus, as those gains often take longer than VO2 or sprint power. 

Presumably indoor sessions are now top of the list for these guys? What are the key benefits of indoor training for those of us new to these platforms like Zwift and Trainerroad..

Absolutely. Indoor has a few benefits that we can take advantage of, like better time efficiency of sessions. There’s no half hour slop commute in traffic to get to the start, no mid ride coffee stop… It’s all quality, with much less coasting/non pedaling time. You can also do longer intervals more easily, as it can be hard to do something like a 2x20 minute effort safely on the road. Some research suggests there’s some benefit to the extra heat adaptation from being indoors, and the mental strength needed to plug away without the added stimulation of dodging potholes etc helps too!

Do you have a preferred trainer and software setup to work with? And do you have an indoor setup yourself?

Direct drive smart trainers like the Tacx Neo, Wahoo Kickr etc are nicest for riding indoors as they’re much quieter, and you can use the ‘erg mode’ to hold the power required for intervals - all you have to do is pedal and some athletes find this helpful. There are loads of great software packages like Zwift, FulGaz, Rouvy etc. Personally, I use an old wheel-on fluid trainer, blast some music and stare at the wall. I’ll probably have to upgrade the setup if this lockdown goes on much longer though….

What’s your favourite indoor session? How does this compare to your favourite outdoor session?

This is hard to say… Again, it’ll depend on goals. However, I find sessions with variation much easier mentally indoors. For a threshold type session, over unders are great, where you spend say 30sec-1min just under threshold, then the same time just over. However, during race season it’s hard to do something like sprint training indoors, as sprinting full gas out of the saddle is a recipe for broken frames, and it just doesn’t replicate the real experience like sprinting your mates to town signs does. 

With the potential for a full lockdown, is it possible to maintain fitness using just the turbo? 

Very much so. The most cited example would be Matt Hayman winning Roubaix after 3 weeks exclusively on the turbo (but he had a slightly higher base than your average punter!). With the ease of quality training doable on the trainer, maintaining or gaining fitness indoors is a great strategy, and can be done with less total volume than outdoors (depending on your circumstances). 

What's your top 3 tips for getting through a Turbo session?

  1. Depends on the session. My biggest tip would be to get a fan. And then another fan. And maybe another. Cooling is really difficult when you're stationary, so a good fan is a must. 
  2.  Music really helps too. For me, something familiar and high energy that I can just lose myself to works well. 
  3. Having a specific goal for the session is great, especially if you don’t have access to something like zwift. This could be some intervals, working on riding in the aero position or even watching how your HR and power track across an endurance session. 

How much more important is listening to your body on the turbo? Presumably avoiding overheating, hydrration and nutrition are more important than normal in ticking off a session.

Still very important, but given the duration of sessions is likely to be less, hydration and nutrition are likely less important than if you’re going out on a 4 hour odyssey in the hills. Your normal diet is likely fine. Having fluids available if you feel thirsty and a good cooling system will be the main ones. 

Cheers Danny, when are you joining one of our Zwift meetups…

Thanks mate, reckon I might have to soon!

Link to join our Zwift Meetups HERE!

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