There is no question that the home turbotrainer or windtrainer is a great tool for building and maintaining your fitness, not only through the winter months when road and weather conditions are less than ideal, but also throughout the rest of the training year.
I have prepared this document as a guide to what I think makes for a good home trainer set-up as well as some guidelines for using the trainer as part of your training program.
A GOOD HOME TRAINER SET-UP
There are only two items that are required for a home trainer set-up: a reliable trainer that is stable and safe (hold your bike secure) and a fan. Many riders overlook the importance of a fan that blows air on them while riding the trainer. While at work, the body is constantly working to control your body temperature. When you ride without a fan to blow cool air over your skin evaporating the water that expelled from your body (the bodies cooling process), the body if forced to work overtime to keep the body temperature at a safe level. Not using a fan and drastically affect the heart rate numbers you see while doing your indoor training. So get a fan and position it so that it is blowing directly at you from the front. Pedestal fans are great for this and can cost as little as $15 as discount stores.
Aside from the above items, there are a few other tools that can make your trainer work more effective:
A TV (possibly with a VRC)
Riding on the trainer is pretty boring. Efforts that fly by on the road can seem like an eternity in your basement. If you have an extra TV to help pass the time and give you a visual distraction, it'll get your head up and your eyes off your heart rate monitor.
Heart Rate Monitor
It goes without saying you should be using your heart rate monitor when training indoors.
You'll need a stopwatch to meter your intervals and perform certain field tests throughout the year.
Speed or Power
It isn't required, but a trainer set-up that shows you your current speed or power output (watts) can be helpful tool when training indoors. As you progress through your training plan, it can be helpful if you can use either of these forms of feedback during some of your sessions. An example would be that if you were performing Threshold intervals, it can be good to see that your speed when riding in the Threshold zone is 23 mph (or maybe you are producing 350 watts). As your training progresses you should see that your speed or watts increase when working at a given heart rate. IT isn't important as to whether these numbers are accurate. They are just there to use as a guide when training using that particular trainer set-up. Changes to resistance or other features of the trainer will affect these numbers and may make comparing them from session to session more difficult.
GUIDELINES FOR TRAINER USE
I just wanted to run down a few guidelines for indoor training.
As I mentioned above, training indoors can be pretty boring. Even if you have every cycling video Phil Ligget has made, you'll soon come to view him as the devil himself if you spend too much time on the trainer. Too much trainer time can also be harmful to the more delicate regions of your body. Prolonged time seated, with few spots of time out of the saddle (like you do when climbing a short hill), can cause saddle sores and numbness. Also dampness in your crotch from sweating can also cause chaffing and discomfort.
It has been my experience that 90-120 minutes of trainer time is just about anyone's limit. I've heard of guys doing more, but I don't recommend it, nor do I think it required for most riders.
If your plan calls for riding for Recovery or Endurance, ride for 30-45 minutes, and call it good. Or, better yet, find an easy to moderate form of cross training instead. Sitting on the trainer an only riding easy is mind numbing to say the least.
If you are compelled to meet your full training time for a certain day, you can break that time up into more bite size chunks if you want to. For instance, if an hour and forty minutes is a bit much for you in one sitting, you can ride for an hour. Then take a break for a few hours, and then do the remaining 40 minutes.
If your plan calls for riding in any intensity zone higher than Recovery or Endurance, do only the higher intensity time or efforts prescribed in plan, and can ignore the time in endurance that day.