First turbo session of the year

So clean and tidy…

The reality…

Today I decided to get on the turbo trainer for the first time this year. Might not sound much of a decision, but for someone as averse to them as me it is a kind of Rubicon-crossing, a statement of intent that says, to me at least, that there is still something to train for, something in pursuit of which to suffer… although, as ever, I am not yet quite sure what.

Anyway, out it came from the depths of the garage along with the front wheel support thingy with three height options; thinking about this item and how its invention left the telephone directory with nowhere to go let me postpone the evil moment for another few minutes. After hunting around in a box I came up with a Continental turbo training tyre, a wheel I had no plans to ride on the road in the immediate future, a spare cassette and a skewer to fit the jaws of the turbo trainer. This is going to be a regular event.

With the Enigma securely seated in the trainer and a stopwatch on the ‘bars, I climbed aboard and began my warm-up. Now, I have an idea that pretty much every prescribed “session”, along with the kind of gadgetry that screens some legendary Alpine climb and varies the resistance of the roller according to gradient, is basically there to provide some distraction from the misery of the activity itself. Mine is, for sure.

Years ago it was simplicity itself: five-minute warm-up, 20 minutes at threshold, OBLA or whatever it is called, then five-minute warm down and stagger to the shower. Ridiculed in print by a well-known coach for getting the subject too fit, too fast, this session was both painful and drawn-out in the sense that it made 20 minutes feel like an hour.

Then I found a reference to the session I use now. I can’t remember to whom to credit it, but it came with the commendation that a woman had once won the world TT championship doing nothing else. Or something like that; it read well at the time.

That’s not actually the reason I have stuck with it. More importantly, it makes the time go by surprisingly quickly and, even more so, keeps the level of discomfort to reasonable levels. Furthermore, regardless of its effectiveness as a training tool, it does allow me to feel I am actually training on the turbo. It is starting to sound like the cyclist’s version of some wonder diet known only to a few “A” list celebrities…

So, what is does it involve? Easy: five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool down and, in between, 20 minutes spent… and here’s the good bit. You will need to have a rough idea of your threshold effort or heart rate at OBLA, which is more or less the maximum steady level you can sustain for one hour. In any case, the session involves intervals of around 30 seconds spent at a level of effort just (maybe 5%) above threshold interspersed with recovery periods, again of 30 seconds, spent at a level of effort low enough to get the heart rate back down to where it was at the start of the previous hard effort.

The beauty of this is that heart rate only climbs to an uncomfortable level a few seconds into the recovery period and quickly drops away so you don’t have to endure muscle pain and hard breathing with a high pulse at the same time. The 30-second on and off periods may not be optimal but they are easy to follow and keeping track of them requires just enough attention to stave off boredom and make those 20 minutes pass quickly.

The stagger to the shower hasn’t changed, though.

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.