Ironman Turbo Trainer Simulation: My Favourite Sessions

Performance Coach

“Yes, It does say 5 hours on the turbo trainer…”


The reaction I typically get from my athletes when I give them this session.

As part of a new series of posts I thought I would document some of my favorite¬†training sessions that I often prescribe to my athletes, (and of course… do myself). Partly because I feel they could be useful for you, good reader; but also because these are the sessions I often get the most questions about from my athletes. So rather than repeat myself I thought having a handy reference I could point people to would be the way to go.

With that out of the way I’m going to kick things off with a brutal, (but effective) session… the dreaded ‘Turbo Marathon’.



What is it?

Simple and sinister…

15 mins
5 min @ 56-75% FTP or 69-83% HR
3×1 min @ High Cadence, (110+ RPM) 1 min RI @ <55% FTP or <68% HR
4 min @ 76-90% FTP or 84-94% HR

Main Set:
4:45 @ Target IM Power or HR, (preferably power – to be defined by previous tests/goals/input from your coach)

20 min run off @ Target IM pace, HR or RPE (depending on which metric you’ll be racing too)

Cool Down:
5-10 min jog to walk then move into a good stretching session


Key Consideration

  • Stay in the aero position for as much of the main set as possible.
  • Use the nutrition you intend to use on race day – this means the type, quantity,¬†and frequency. Have it all prepared and ready ahead of time.
  • Test your gear – most people don’t like wearing tops on the turbo, that’s ok, but you should use the shorts, shoes, and socks, (if you wear them) you intend to use on race day.
  • Do the session at the time of day you’ll be racing at, (early AM for most).
  • If you can approximate the temperature of the race then, awesome!
  • Go into this session slightly rested, (e.g. after an easy day or two… not ‘tapered’ obviously) this will give better data to use when you’re fresh going into the race.
  • I like to have people do this session about 4/5 weeks out from the race.
  • You probably want to have a good series or collection of movies queued up on Netflix, some Podcats and maybe some pumping tunes to get you through the last hour ūüôā

Why Would You Ever Do This?!?!

If you haven’t stopped reading already, there are some fantastic benefits to this session!

  • Testing for cardiac drift (if using power) – If you’re able to maintain your target power for the ‘main set’ then you’ll be able to assess this, by looking at how much your HR gradually raises during the session, if you have aerobic fitness, at that power. Good article here if you’d like to read more. If you’re not quite there you may want to adjust your power goals.
  • Gives you a pretty realistic indication if your race plan is achievable¬†– if this session physically kills you, you may have over-estimated… if you find it easy, adjust upwards!
  • Extended time in the aero position – most athletes don’t spend enough time, (especially¬†continuously) in the aero position, especially if they do a lot of group training or ride a lot on stop/start roads. This is a perfect session to see if you can expect back pain come race day!
  • Nutrition testing – Not many folk take in what they plan to on race day, (in the same quantity and frequency, and also importantly, while in the aero position and at race intensity). Intensity and body position and really affect how you absorb your nutrition. There can, (and will be) subsequent articles on just this¬†consideration – I believe it’s really that important.
  • Mental toughness, (obviously) – this is a hard session… getting through it, especially with a good result, can be a real confidence booster before race day.
  • Feel of running off the bike – after being in the aero position at race wattage how will you feel running off the bike? Don’t know? This session will help.
  • Non-stop peddling – most people aiming for peak performance don’t stop peddling much on race day – you’re on clear roads and most IM courses are pretty flat, (at least most don’t have extended screaming descents). Compare this to the stop/start of being out on the road. This session more accurately simulates the continuous effort of the race.

Convinced? Give it a try! I’d love to hear your experiences…


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