Short & crisp: The best training units for indoor road cyclists


Riding endless hours at low intensity is not the order of the day for indoor training. If you want to improve your aerobic endurance on a turbo trainer, you need to complete smart and varied turbo sessions.

Every second counts! If you keep that in mind, you know why training on a turbo is so efficient and time saving. Constant pedalling, no traffic lights, no wind and no potholes – no external influences that distract from the interval targeted intensity. You can focus 100% on the training. This is one reason why sports scientist Björn Geesmann from STAPS ( is a big fan of this form of training – not only in winter.

Plus: For many indoor training programs last just 1 hour which makes Interval plans particularly effective – also in combination with train low and slow units.

Sports scientist and professional coach Björn Geesmann presents the best units for indoor training.

Low carb unit

In these units, the interplay of nutrition and sensibly chosen training intensity is decisive. In order to get the greatest possible benefit out of such a training, i.e. to improve endurance performance and thus the fat metabolism, the athlete should climb onto the turbo trainer with empty carbohydrate stores and start by riding at low intensity in the basic endurance zone 1 for 30 to 60 minutes.

This session is ideally completed in the morning after a low carb, high protein and fat breakfast or in the evening – after the athlete has eaten low carb during the day. If the athlete is used to riding with pre-depleted glycogen stores, they may ride longer intervals (approx. 5 to 15 minutes) in basic endurance zone 2 after a warm-up of 10 to 20 minutes.

Intervals at the individual anaerobic threshold may also be included into the unit after a few sessions if needed, however as carbohydrate consumption is high at these intensities the athlete should keep them short and only do a few.

Threshold intervals

These classic threshold intervals train the aerobic metabolism and thus the maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max). A relatively large amount of energy and oxygen is converted in a short period of time during this training. In order not to accumulate too much lactate and risk missing training goal, these intervals are ridden at the individual anaerobic threshold, but never above.

Once you have got used to this training session interval length may be increased from four minutes to up to eight minutes. The active rest between intervals may be of the same length as the interval itself at the beginning. As soon as the performance level has improved, the active pause may be gradually reduced to half the time of the actual interval.

Intermitted exercises

In this highly intensive form of training, 20 to 40 seconds of intensive riding are followed by 40 to 20 seconds of relaxed pedalling – in constant alternation for a total of 10 minutes.

This training will increase aerobic metabolism and will benefit from a physiological idiosyncrasy: Exercise and subsequent “recovery” are timed in such a way that the athlete can ride in the aerobic load range for quite a long time. “Longer than if they tried the same thing at continuous load or by means of classical training in the top zone”, explains the sports scientist. Thanks to the repeated short-term effort at around 120 to 140% of the functional threshold power (FTP), it remains at a constantly high level until the end of the interval series.

The active rest is chosen just long enough for the athlete to recover a little and metabolise some lactate. “The rest length also aims to ensure that the heart rate does not drop too much and that the oxygen intake continues to be trained,” says Geesmann.

Sleep low units

Even if it sounds like a guide to sleep, the following is about a mix of training and nutrition, too: with the aim of optimising fat oxidation and reducing the opponent of endurance performance – the lactate formation rate.

Part one of this training program is an intensive session in the late afternoon or early evening during which the glycogen stores are to be significantly reduced. Indoors threshold- or intermitted exercises intervals are suitable to do so because they convert a lot of energy in a short time.

After this session the athlete consumes only high-quality protein, such as whey protein, to support muscle maintenance and regeneration. The next morning, after a low-carbohydrate breakfast, the athlete rides a “train low” unit; i.e. at low intensity in the basic endurance range 1. Afterwards, they “have to” eat a high-carbohydrate and protein-rich diet so that the body quickly gets the nutrients which are important for recovery.

A fit athlete can incorporate such an efficient double session into his training program once a week at the beginning.