• Mark Turnbull

Winter Training Plan

Updated: Jan 7



If you want to get the most out of your winter of riding, you need a plan. The start of winter is the best time to think about your goals for next year, analyse your strengths and weaknesses and put together a training plan to get you there.




Working with a coach


If you are serious about making progress, now is the best time to undergo a fitness test. There is a tendency to put off having a test until you are fit, since no one likes to see low numbers and be forced to come face to face with their lack of conditioning. It’s more important, though, to establish a clear picture of where you are right now. So put your ego aside, get in touch with me for your free consultation and lets start planning your training. Firstly we will establish your fitness with an FTP test, and start following a bespoke plan. Though there are numerous plans available in training manuals or online, it is always worth considering getting some help from a coach as they can tailor your training to suit both your lifestyle and fitness goals.


Wrong type of training


There are two schools of thought about winter. The first advises lots of long, slow miles to help build up a decent base. You need lots of motivation for these long endurance rides — cold, wet, windy days are not fun. The other school of thought purports that maintaining some top-end fitness is important, whether that’s strength, speed or a combination.


The truth is that both long rides and top-end training remain important. Neglecting one to focus on the other is detrimental to your riding. Getting in the base miles is necessary, but so too is throwing in a few intense indoor roller or turbo sessions. Mixing it up a bit is key. Use the off-season to focus on weaknesses and build strength too. Be flexible, though, as going out in awful conditions too often can cause illness, and similarly too much high-intensity on the turbo can lead to burnout and demotivation.


There are so many different things you can do on a turbo that finding the session that best fits in with your needs and goals is important. Here’s a run-down of a few of the different sessions you can do. Remember, these are suggestions and may not suit everyone perfectly. Tailor them to suit your level of fitness. As you become used to the sessions and begin to see fitness gains, gradually increase the number of sets, and the duration of efforts for each session.


The sessions below use percentage of MHR, if you’re using power, the zones are also expressed.


Warming up and cooling down before a turbo training session


Begin any turbo session with a 10-15 minute progressive effort with a few minutes’ easy spinning. Also remember after finishing your turbo session to spin your legs out for a good 10 minutes to make sure the muscles flushed out; this should reduce the effect of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) the next day.


Russian steps turbo training session

Total time: 8min (one set)


Again, these are 100 per cent all-out efforts followed by really steady recovery and are great to add on to the end of a session. This session, despite being short, will hurt and isn’t for the faint-hearted. Give yourself at least 5min recovery between sets if you want to do more than one set.

  • 15sec on - 45sec off

  • 30sec on - 30sec off

  • 45sec on - 15sec off

  • 60sec on - 60sec off

  • 45sec on - 15sec off

  • 30sec on - 30sec off

  • 15sec on - 45sec off


Sprint turbo training session

Total time: 35min (one set)


These are great to add on to the end of a session or as a full session as a race approaches. This session helps improve your ‘jump’ – helping you get your final sprint going or getting away in a break. The long recovery ensures the energy system used is fully recovered for the next full-on sprint effort, so choose a low gear and spin your legs.


  • 15sec max sprint

  • 2min 45 sec spin

  • Repeat 10 times per set with 5min full recovery between sets


Ride replacement turbo training session

Total time: 2hrs 30min


Intensity should increase slightly as the efforts shorten. This can be achieved by maintaining a set cadence and then increasing resistance or using a higher gear as needed. After each effort, give yourself 5min recovery (steady spinning) in a low gear. You can shorten or lengthen efforts as suits you, or reduce percentage of MHR as needed. For this session, a quick leg-spin of 5min is all that’s needed as a warm up, as it’s long and the first effort isn’t too hard.


  • 55min effort 65-70 % MHR (zone 2)

  • 40min effort 70-75 % MHR (zone 2 upper)

  • 25min effort 75-80 % MHR (zone 3)

  • 10min effort 80-85 % MHR (zone 4)


Threshold efforts turbo training session

Total time: 57min


This session will make your legs ache, so ensure you have a solid warm-up and cool-down. Choose a gear big enough to push, but one you are able to keep on top of and not labour, keeping a cadence of around 90-100rpm. During the recovery sections, spin your legs out in a lower gear.


  • 10min effort 75-80 % of MHR (zone 3)

  • 5min recovery easy riding (zone 1/2)

  • 2 x 5min effort 80-85 % of MHR (zone 4)

  • 1min recovery between efforts (zone 1/2)

  • 5min recovery easy riding (zone 1/2)

  • 3 x 2min efforts 85-90 % of MHR (zone 4)

  • 30sec recovery between each (zone 1/2)

  • 5min recovery easy riding (zone 1/2)

  • 6 x 1 min efforts 90-95 % of MHR (zone 5)

  • 30sec recovery between each one (zone 1/2)

  • 5min recovery easy riding (zone 1/2)

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