Coaching editor Phil Mosley took to the garden shed over winter – and not because he’d found a new hobby…

Turbo trainer

After six months of pale furriness, it’s finally time to consider shaving my legs again. That must mean that the tri season is finally getting underway. Hurrah!

The prospect of racing seems particularly exciting this year, as I’ve spent most of the winter training in my garden shed. I’ve been conducting an experiment, inventively named: “Is cycling on a turbo trainer better than riding outside?”

Since shunning the great outdoors, my Functional Threshold Power (a measure of one-hour race power output) has improved by 28 watts. I can pedal 8% harder than I could at my peak last season. And all from doing three one-hour turbo sessions per week, compared to the 10 hours per week I spent freezing my nuts off outside last year.

On the downside I’ve missed stopping for mid-ride coffee and cake with my cycling-buddies. And the frozen shed was pretty grim in the depths of winter. But the thrill of improvement helped to offset some of the thermal discomfort and social isolation.

So what’s the secret of this cycling success story? There isn’t one really. Riding on an indoor trainer is more intense, and if there is a secret, it’s that improving your lactate threshold is the best thing you can do as a triathlon cyclist. The more you ride at or around your lactate threshold the more you’re likely to improve. It can be pretty exhausting though, which is why I recommend you ride more often at 90% of this intensity – so you can recover quicker and train more consistently at this level. Sessions lasting 40 to 60 minutes are appropriate for the same reason. You don’t want to burn yourself out.

If you’re interested in trying out this bike training experiment for yourself, there’s a six-week triathlon training plan that uses the same approach. It’s designed to help you ride a faster 10-mile or 15km cycle time trial, while still maintaining your swim and run fitness. Sadly it doesn’t involve scoffing cake or sipping cappuccinos with your Lycra-clad mates. “That sounds rubbish!” I hear you say. But it will make you a faster cyclist. And that’s what it’s all about right? Right?!

Phil Mosley

Phil Mosley, Coaching Editor

The brains behind Training Zone is Phil Mosley, an elite triathlete, former national duathlon champion and coach with a degree in sports science. He also trains individuals at myprocoach.net