This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift..
It’s that time of year again: the days are getting shorter and there is less and less time to ride outdoors. You come home from work, it’s already dark and the idea of squeezing in an hour-long session on your turbo just isn't appealing. Right?
But what if in that hour you could actually have fun, and challenge your friends and other riders around the world, as well as putting in a structured training session to boost your FTP or hills strength?
You’d probably start looking forward to your turbo session — maybe even joining group rides on weekends and some "virtual granfondos" scheduled throughout the year.
There are other benefits to training indoors, too. Using a turbo can optimise your session time by avoiding the constant stop-and-go of traffic and red lights. Not to mention that in the winter, thanks to slippery roads and cold temperatures, riding outside could be dangerous and counterproductive.
Zwift, the global online fitness platform for cyclists, allows you to do all of this. All you need is your bike, a turbo trainer, a speed/cadence sensor, a fan to cool you down, hydration and a computer or device with good graphics capability.
You can download the app on your computer, iPhone or iPad and make an otherwise boring indoor training ride fun and engaging.
Most of Zwift's users prefer a “smart trainer” because they enable a more realistic experience, changing resistance depending on the terrain in game, but even a basic turbo trainer with a speed and cadence sensor is enough for you to explore the fantasy world of Watopia (Zwift's virtual volcanic island) or other real-life scenarios (such as London or Richmond, Virginia).
If you like to challenge yourself, check out the Zwift races that take place throughout the day, every day — they’re one of the most popular events. Take on the 27km WBR Hilly Race and you could find yourself in the CVR rankings. Or try the Escape Velocity Ride, competing with riders across four different time zones and covering 42km.
Whatever your riding ability, there’s a race for you. And to make life easy, they’re all ranked by category (A–E), based around your watts/kg.
Zwift is definitely a platform that makes your indoor cycling experience more fun, but it’s so much more than that. Pro cyclists and triathletes even use it as an effective tool for their training.
2016’s Paris-Roubaix winner (Australian rider Mathew Hayman) used Zwift to train and recover from a fractured-radium injury that occurred just a month and a half before his success on the Belgian cobbles: during this time, he clocked a total of 1,000km on Zwift.
The Canadian triathlete Lionel Sanders, second at the 2017 Ironman World Championships in Kona, trains most of the time on his turbo trainer, including when he has long 200km sessions. His favourite routes are found on Zwift’s Watopia Island. “I’m like, this is what Kona is: it’s a volcano,” he said of the virtual island.
Finally, Zwift combines the social side of joining a group event with the functionality of a structured training workout.
Group Workouts can be found in the Zwift Events pages and allow you to take part in a more engaging and social, structured training session. All these structured sessions are designed to hit specific goals. For example, you can find a 16-minute anaerobic 30/30s, which finishes with a 10-minute steady-pace effort (where you challenge your VO2max and further aerobic adaptations) or an “Aerobic 12” — which is more focused on improving your aerobic capacity to use fat as main source of energy, and on improving your efficiency at lower intensities.
The extra advantage of the Group Workout is that all the riders remain together regardless of their power output. Zwifters only lose the group when they stop pedalling and fall more than six metres behind the pack. Group Workouts are aimed at helping cyclists become stronger on the bike regardless of ability — it’s possibly the only way the likes of you and me could complete a sprint workout shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark Cavendish and not get dropped!
And that’s the real beauty of Zwift. Indoor training can be a lonely experience, but Zwift lets you interact with other riders from all over the world, and test yourself as you take them on competitively. It also means you can find friends and set up a ride together or join a group.
And through the Mobile Link app, you can even send messages to a group or direct message your friends. With Zwift, you really can ride when you like, where you like and with whoever you like, wherever they might be in the world.
Article updated 10 February 2018