Using a turbo trainer is one of the most time-efficient ways to train for cycling and has become more popular than ever in the last few years, mainly through the development of electronically-controlled trainers, apps and adoption of indoor riding by the pros.

Training indoors allows you to ride regardless of the weather, without the need to deal with traffic, and now through the advent of smart trainers, with groups of other cyclists all around the world. Far from being the motivation-sapping machines they once had a reputation for, turbo trainers are now making indoor cycling fun and engaging for all types of cyclist.

To ensure you can reap all the benefits that a turbo can offer, let’s go over some actionable tips you can use to get the most out of your indoor training on a year-round basis.

Get online

Turbo training used to involve writing your workout down on a scrap of paper and watching the clock tick down. Now, there are many apps, devices and software geared up to make your indoor training an engaging and even sociable experience.

Using apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad or those by turbo trainer manufacturers like Tacx and Bkool now makes training inside a more fun and motivating prospect, and these resources are highly recommended for those wanting to take their training more seriously.

You can use these apps to join groups for both training sessions as well as virtual races , track your fitness progression over time and to make sure your sessions are precisely structured to give you the desired adaptation.

Keep things varied

Whilst the resources mentioned above do a lot to make turbo training far more engaging, you’ll still want to do what you can to make the time pass that bit faster.

Keeping your indoor rides varied is perhaps the best way to do this and the idea of “variety” can be applied in all sorts of ways.

Firstly, within a single session, you can make each interval different from the next, be it different durations, different intensities or perhaps by standing on the pedals for some efforts and staying seated for others.

You can also alter your cadence (leg speed) throughout a ride and manipulate the recovery interval length to keep you on your toes.

Creating a library of different workouts that target particular areas of your fitness also helps when it comes to not getting burnt out with your turbo training. Make sure there’s a lot of variety between one session and the next and you’ll always look forward to jumping on the bike to see how your brand new workout goes!

Break things up

We tend to think of turbo trainers as being reserved for shorter, high intensity workouts, but it is possible to ride for longer periods of time indoors without going completely crazy. Taking a break part way through you workouts is a great way to pass the time quicker and allow yourself to complete higher volume workouts even when the weather is terrible outside.

You might decide to step off the turbo and do nothing for a few minutes, or you could use the time to do something different but no less purposeful than actually riding the bike. Beneficial activities might include stretching or doing some core strengthening exercises. Feel free to grab a drink, a snack or change into some fresher clothes during such a break too.

Whatever you choose to do with this time, it’s bound to help you to mentally cope better with longer amounts of time pedalling statically indoors.

Distract yourself

As well as watching your avatar cruise through a virtual world in Zwift, there are many other enjoyable ways to pass the time whilst putting in the miles indoors. Good means of distraction when riding your turbo trainer are scrolling through Instagram, watching a video on YouTube or reading an article or two on!

You might even decide to make your distractions somewhat productive too, and use your training time that isn’t as structured or demanding of your attention to get through some emails or listen to an educational podcast. Again, becoming absorbed in something other than the clock ticking down or the monotony of going nowhere will ultimately lead to more time spent on the turbo and thus help improve key aspects of your fitness like your endurance.

Include drills

Finally, a great way of getting some extra benefits from the time you spend training indoors is to add in some drills to your rides, whether in your warm up, part-way through a workout or at the end as a cool-down. With the bike in a secure position, you don’t have to worry about your balance or concentrating more on your pedalling at the expense of your safety.

So what are some drills we would recommend? A particularly good one to use is single-legged pedalling. This can help you even out the dead spots in your pedalling action and produce a more efficient pedal stroke that you can then transfer to the road. It might take some time to get used to if you’ve never done any single-leg pedalling before, but it’s an incredibly useful exercise to practice on a consistent basis and you’re sure to see some rapid improvements.

In addition, performing blocks of either high or low cadence can help you reap benefits like better fast-twitch muscle fibre recruitment and muscular force production respectively.

Particularly when it comes to low cadence work, modern turbo trainers with electronically-controlled resistance now make it very easy slow your pedalling down without the drop in power you might get on a flat road, so try to take full advantage of this perk!