Frequently Asked Questions

Our FAQ page addresses questions we are currently asked at Turbo Studio as well as topics we think you may find interesting.

They are well considered training programs which test your capability and sessions are set according to these tested capabilities. Specific courses and interval work using sound power based training methodologies are employed and programmed. Clients receive a report on their performance, and can see and track their own improvement providing complete accountability.

Turbo Studio uses the Lab model of the Computrainer ergometer. These units leave the factory with extra attention paid to ensure good calibration. Provided the user sets up their equipment properly, undertakes a suitable warm up protocol and correctly performs a roll down calibration (the specifics of this process we have established and execute consistently for all Turbo Studio Power Sessions), then the units are reliable and accurate in both the setting of resistance levels during training and the recording of a rider’s power output.

By way of an example, following are two charts comparing the rider’s power output as recorded on Turbo Studio Computrainers with the power recorded by a professionally calibrated SRM power meter. Two units were chosen at random from the Turbo Studio’s selection and the rides were performed on different days. One session is an interval set and another is a simulated club ride with highly variable power output. Summary data is provided, along with a chart overlaying the power data obtained from the Computrainer and the SRM. Ride #1 Duration (h:mm:ss) Average Power Normalised Power Work done (mechanical) Computrainer Data 0:49:31 195 watts 211 watts 580 kJ SRM Data 0:49:33 195 watts 211 watts 580 kJ 2 Of note from the above two examples: ‐ There is excellent correlation between the power resistance setting and recorded by the Turbo Studio’s Computrainers and a calibrated SRM professional power meter. ‐ There is no discernable drift apart in power measurement by the Computrainer and SRM during the course of these training sessions. In other words, Turbo Studio’s Computrainers maintain their accuracy through the course of a training session, as well as provide consistent resistance control through the course of Turbo Studio’s Power Sessions.

For those familiar with the concept of Normalised Power, the other thing to note is that while the recorded average power of the sessions is very close, so is the Normalised Power – which also indicates that the variability in the resistance and power output is being well captured by the Computrainer. ‐ For the more experienced and astute user of power meters, one might actually expect the SRM data to be slightly higher than the Computrainer, by approximately 2‐3%, which is typically the power losses attributable to the drivetrain of modern bicycles (chain, chainrings, cogs, pulleys etc). Nevertheless, these data are well within the expected accuracy level of the SRM power meter and Computrainer, and most importantly, the lack of drift between each is significant and important. The close correlation with the SRM suggests this is a result of the factory’s calibration processes.

So, when set up and operated using Turbo Studio’s protocols, the power measurements and resistance settings for Turbo Studio’s ergometers are accurate, consistent and reliable and Turbo Studio clients can train with the confidence that their performance is being recorded accurately and the training is suitable for their individual development needs.

I was asked about this a few times recently, and while it seems a fairly straightforward question, the answer is less so. The short answer is “it depends”. There are several methods of altitude training, and many circumstances under which it may (or may not) be applicable, and the impact on our bodies and endurance cycling performance varies widely.

So anyone who is using or contemplating the use of some form of “altitude training” should do some basic research to firstly define what is meant by it, as well as under what circumstances the application of such training may be beneficial (or indeed detrimental) to endurance cycling performance. What is Altitude Training?

The basic idea of “altitude training” is to train and/or live in a hypoxic environment (lower than normal/sea-level partial oxygen pressure), either by actually being located at high altitude, or by simulating the hypoxic conditions experienced at altitude.

It can also include the use of methods to raise the partial oxygen pressure (hyperoxic training) either by use of supplemental oxygen in training, or training well below sea level (there are places it’s possible). I won’t expand further on the use of hyperoxic training in this FAQ.

Hypoxic (high/higher altitude) conditions have an acute detrimental impact on cycling power output. So why would we use it?

Well the theory is that exposure to a hypoxic environment stimulates the body’s various systems (pulmonary, cardiovascular, endocrine, skeletal muscles) to respond and adjust in an effort to provide enough oxygen to survive and that these physiological responses may also enhance endurance athletic performance. It is an area of physiological and exercise physiology research that has been widely studied.

How does one do Altitude training?

Exposure to a hypoxic environment is achieved in several ways, commonly (but not exclusively) through:

- Actually living and/or training at altitude. This doesn’t really apply to Australia (or other “low land” countries), since we simply don’t have anywhere high enough for significant enough hypoxic conditions to exist . So if one wanted to train in this manner, you would either need to travel to another country, or use other means to simulate a hypoxic environment.
- Training and/or living in a semi-enclosed atmosphere controlled environment (e.g. “altitude rooms” or “altitude tents”) with either:

o hypobaric hypoxia (where the barometric pressure of the air is reduced, thereby lowering the partial oxygen pressure), or o normobaric hypoxia (where the barometric pressure is normal but the proportion of oxygen in the air breathed is reduced, usually by increasing the proportion of nitrogen).

- Use of “face-mask” connected to a devices that delivers hypoxic air (Hypoxicator).

Of the above, only being in a location at altitude allows you to train outdoors, the other two require training to be performed within controlled environments on an indoor cycling trainer/ergometer, since the enclosures and equipment are not portable. What types of altitude training are there?

Altitude training comprises three broad methods, although there are several variations on these basic themes:

- Live high, train high this may be beneficial as a unique early-season overload and also when preparing for competition at altitude.
- Live high, train low can be specifically used to enhance sea-level performance - Live low, train high may be useful for enhancing sea-level and altitude performance

The above three methods typically require a significant proportion of time spent training and/or living to be done in a hypoxic environment. Even so, not all research supports the use of such training; nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence to support its considered use by well trained athletes in specific circumstances.

The combinations can be achieved by some who live in geography that enable these options, or via the use of simulated environments while living high or low.

Another option becoming available is the use of devices to enable:

- Intermittent exposure to hypoxia (IHE) / Intermittent hypoxic training (IHT)

These IHE/IHT devices (typically a face mask connected to a hypoxicator device) are sometimes used on an occasional basis, for relatively short times periods (e.g. once or twice per week for an hour or two while cycling on an ergometer / indoor trainer). However the evidence to support the beneficial performance impacts of such IHE / IHT is equivocal and not supportive of such a method.

To quote Dr David Martin (Senior Sports Physiologist, Australian institute of Sport):

“For those selling devices that allow the athlete to experience IHE, much anecdotal information is cited. It may be tempting to believe that changes in resting hematocrit, haemoglobin and performance after a period of IHE substantiate the effectiveness of this technique. However, rapid changes in plasma volume known to occur after exposure to altitude can explain elevations in hematocrit and haemoglobin without a true increase in red cell mass. Additionally, a placebo effect or a training effect generally can explain improvements in performance. Thus, available evidence does not strongly support the use of IHE”.

Dr Randall Wilber (sports physiologist at US Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs and author of the book: Altitude training and Athletic Performance) also says the following:

“It is unclear whether IHE or IHT improves red blood cell count and haemoglobin production despite increments in serum EPO. Data are equivocal regarding the claim IHE or IHT enhance VO2max and endurance performance in well trained athletes”.

Should I consider using altitude training?

When deciding whether and what type of altitude training to use one also needs to consider for each individual, the:

- Current state of fitness and/or whether they are rehabilitating from injury
- Time of season
- Type of events being targeted and when
- Altitude of events / competition being prepared for - Duration of hypoxic exposure
- Unique response to hypoxia (everyone is affected differently and strategies need to account for that)

As with all things fitness related, if you haven’t already sorted the basic fundamentals of improving athletic performance, then you should not view altitude training as a “magic bullet”. The best way to improve performance is through good training, good diet and ensuring sufficient recovery.

Even when training at altitude, these fundamental principles still apply, indeed much more care needs to be taken as there are many additional impacts that altitude training may create that need to be managed (e.g. heart rate responses; hydration levels; carbohydrate metabolism /glycogen depletion; iron levels; immune system; oxidative stress; exposure to UV light; sleep recovery disturbance; and altitude sickness). Power (or HR) training levels will need adjustment and everyone’s responses are different.

Some scenarios for which one might consider the use of altitude training include:

- Athletes preparing for events/competition at altitudes significantly above where they typically live and train
- A cyclist who is already very fit and requires a novel overload
- An athlete seeking to enhance sea-level or moderate altitude level performance and has several weeks available for altitude exposure

In essence, the best use of altitude training is for athletes that are preparing for competition or riding at altitude.

How long does it take to attain an improvement and how long do performance benefits last?

Athletes will need to consider exposure to hypoxic conditions for several weeks. Studies have shown at least four weeks exposure to altitude is required if one is expected to derive associated haematological and muscle buffering benefits.

And this exposure needs to be a minimum of 8 to 10 hours per day.

As to how long beneficial effects last, well if one remains at altitude then they will of course maintain their adaptations accordingly, provided basic training fundamentals are followed. As for returning to sea-level, then this is highly individual and varies widely but studies have shown the beneficial effects may last for up to three weeks post-altitude. How does altitude affect power output?

From the Wattage FAQ:

“The effects of altitude on the volume of oxygen uptake (VO2max) and hence aerobic power are highly individual, so it is difficult to predict to what extent any one person will be affected, although as a general rule it has been shown that elite athletes, as compared to normal individuals, have a greater decline in VO2max under conditions of reduced ambient pO2 (partial oxygen pressure). This is caused by their higher cardiac output, which results in a decreased mean transit time for the erythrocytes (red blood cells) within the pulmonary capillary, and thus less time for equilibration between alveolar air and blood in the pulmonary capillary”.

The range of impact to aerobic power varies upon altitude, individual fitness levels, whether one has acclimatised and other factors. Different research studies have found performance is impacted as follows (but individual response varies):

Elevation above sea-level (metres) Available Aerobic Power compared to sea-level performance

Sources: via Wattage FAQ site: Q17 Bassett, D.R. Jr., C.R. Kyle, L. Passfield, J.P. Broker, and E.R. Burke. Comparing cycling world hour records, 1967-1996: modeling with empirical data. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 31:1665-76, 1999. Peronnet, F., P. Bouissou, H. Perrault, and J Ricci. A comparison of cyclists’ time records according to altitude and materials used. Canadian Journal of Sport Science 14(2):93-8, June 1989.

More information?

The details of how and when one should consider the use of these training techniques and all of the specific issues to consider is far beyond the scope of this FAQ.

For those interested in reading further about the topic, there are a couple of very good chapters on the topic from two excellent references which cover the science and research specifically applicable to cycling:

- Professor Asker Jeukendrup’s book, High Performance Cycling, includes a very helpful chapter by Dr David Martin on the subject.
- Dr Edmund Burke’s book, High Tech Cycling, the Science of Riding Faster, has a detailed chapter by Dr Randall Wilber, specifically investigating the use of altitude training in preparation for competition at sea level.

As well as an entire book on the subject by Dr Randall Wilbur: Altitude Training and Athletic Performance.

These are by no means the only available summaries or information on the research and scientific literature. However the above references should provide more than enough information for anyone to make sound decisions about how and when they should consider altitude training, and in what form.

written by Alex Simmons for Turbo Studio
March 2010

When out training, the most important thing from a fitness development point of view is the intensity of effort as, along with duration, this is what dictates the nature and speed of desirable physiological changes.

That's why as coaches we provide plans that prescribe training in terms of intensity (and duration of course). It might be a general level of intensity and/or include specific intensities during a part of a ride (e.g. intervals). To help us with that, we look for ways to provide guidance on how to get the intensity/effort at the intended level. There are many ways to measure or indicate intensity, e.g. O2 utilisation, speed, power, blood lactate levels, heart rate response, rating of perceived exertion.

When out training, the most important thing from a fitness development point of view is the intensity of effort as, along with duration, this is what dictates the nature and speed of desirable physiological changes. That's why as coaches we provide plans that prescribe training in terms of intensity (and duration of course). It might be a general level of intensity and/or include specific intensities during a part of a ride (e.g. intervals).

To help us with that, we look for ways to provide guidance on how to get the intensity/effort at the intended level. There are many ways to measure or indicate intensity, e.g. O2 utilisation, speed, power, blood lactate levels, heart rate response, rating of perceived exertion.

Some are direct (speed, power, O2 utilisation), some are response indicators (HR, blood lactate) and some subjective (perceived exertion). Some are highly variable depending on conditions (speed) and some are not all that practical outside of a laboratory setting (O2 utilisation, blood lactate levels).

Hence we are left with measures that are available to most of us when out riding a bike, i.e. RPE, HR & power.

The best is an objective and direct measure that is practical - and the only tool that fits that description is a power meter. It is, by far, the best tool for this purpose.

Power is also a direct measure of fitness (sustainable power over given durations). Coupled with RPE, it is a valuable guide to form.

Where power measurement is not available, then HR can be a useful guide, particularly for general aerobic level riding (which is the bulk of what endurance cyclists do). All that is needed is a reasonable understanding of the limitations of HR when used in this manner. Some of the limitations of HR include:

- impact of cardiac drift
- lag time with HR response
- utility declines as intensity rises, especially at supra-threshold levels
- utility declines when effort level is highly variable
- subject to daily fluctuations due to many factors other than how hard one is pedaling
- it is not a measure of fitness

However when you have power meter then, at best, HR is redundant.

Knowledge is Power!

This question comes up every so often, and it’s one that many seem all too quick to answer with anecdote and misinformation typical in the world of bicycle training. Nevertheless it’s a reasonable question as nobody wants to do anything to damage their pride and joy, especially now days with the common use of lighter weight carbon fibre and composite frame materials. Let me answer this one straight out: No. You won’t. But of course that answer assumes a few things.

You will need to bring your own bike to the Power Sessions - bike position is important when taking part in a high intensity training session. We do provide adjustable hybrid bikes for anyone that needs this service and it's free of charge.

Yes, we are more than happy to field questions with regard to training with power and general questions related to your training. This does not however, extend to the provision of a tailored programme outside of that which is provided during your Power Session. Please see our Coaching Plans page for further training options.

Bookings are made by indicating your preference for the same session time and day of each week throughout the period of one month (or more). This is to ensure availability for all clients throughout the course of their monthly plan. We do however, understand the stress that comes with balancing work, home and training. Please refer to our Cancellation Policy in our Term and Conditions.