The Cycling Plus team gets to grips with Zwift’s Training Plans

With their challenge on Tenerife’s Mount Teide still months away, we check in on their training progress

This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift

As motivated as you might be about achieving an ultimate training target, you might fall short without short-term, incremental goals.

This is where training plans or structured sessions come into their own and as a Zwift user, you’re not short of options.

The most recent addition, Flexible Training Plans, takes into account your busy lifestyle, with windows to complete sessions in, rather than a rigid timetable.

To avoid overtraining, if you have to skip a session, the plan restructures to ensure you get the most from your remaining sessions that week. New sessions can only be unlocked once you’ve completed the last, encouraging you to follow the plan.

They’ve certainly appealed to Hannah this month, who is on the Fondo 60 three-week plan: “Like most people I like structure and, still being quite new to cycling, it’s easier having a coach telling you what to do, rather than leaving it to guesswork. Riding for 90 minutes would feel like a long time, but broken down into intervals it’s much more manageable.”

Other training options include Workouts, which can be done as standalone sessions focusing on specific skills, such as time trialling, or as part of a more long-term training plan.

John and Adrian have been using Workouts this month; John’s trying out some intense sub-hour sessions, while Adrian enrolled onto Zwift Academy, which opened its doors in August.

Zwift's training plans will help you reach goals
Zwift's training plans will help you reach goals

For cyclists confident in their knowledge of training or committed to a plan outside of Zwift, the other training option is Custom Workouts, which allows you to design your own sessions or download existing workouts from platforms such as TrainingPeaks.

Whether you’re starting a plan from scratch or well into one, there’s one number Zwift needs: your FTP.

Functional Threshold Power is the highest average power, measured in watts, that you can sustain for an hour. In Zwift, your FTP is used to determine the difficulty of your sessions; the higher your FTP, the higher the wattage targets you’ll need to hit during each interval.

While Zwift can estimate your FTP, either through a fitness level profile or through performance in non-workout Zwift rides, it’s advised you do a proper test (the main effort lasts for 20 minutes).

An estimated FTP can be under or over your true figure, meaning workouts can be too easy or too hard. Also, by estimating it, you miss out on the joy of completing an FTP test. Only joking, it’s a famously hideous experience.

You should know it’s going to hurt and will feel like it’s never going to end, but the figure you record will give you reliable, achievable workouts.

“Music is crucial,” reckons John, of a successful FTP test. “Build a 20-minute playlist of your most high tempo music that starts frenetic and dials it higher.”

“It’s the longest 20 minutes,” says Hannah. “Zwift warms you up nicely, then you get stuck into the 20-minute test. It was the first FTP test I’ve done so pacing was the hardest thing, but I felt I did a good job by the end. Zwift is always there to offer encouragement.”

Because an FTP test is so hard, you’re advised to go in fresh, so make sure you have a rest day leading up to it. Afterwards, take the rest of the day off and come back and select the training plan or workout that best fits.

Ride solo or hook up with a group that is riding the same session. Or, if structure isn’t quite working for you today, simply head into the game for a free ride around one of Zwift’s worlds, knowing you can pick up your training session later on.

Hannah Rowe

Hannah Rowe
Hannah Rowe

  • FTP: 120 watts
  • Zwift level: 04
  • Age: 32

“For the first few weeks of using Zwift I was just having a play around, getting to know the world and what all the numbers and icons refer to. But it has been really useful to commit to one of the Flexible Training Plans — each session gives me a target to hit when previously, before starting the plan, it would have been easier just to stop.

"It’s good to be told what to do by coaches who know what they are talking about. I enjoy the intervals, they push me hard and I’m already starting to feel the benefit in the real world, my work commute feels easier than it was a month ago.”

John Whitney

John Whitney
John Whitney

  • FTP: 256 watts
  • Zwift level: 06
  • Age: 34

“FTP tests aren’t new to me, I’ve done many down the years. I wouldn’t say I ever look forward to them — they always hurt like hell — but experience helps, knowing how you’re likely to feel and how hard to push it.

"I’ve been more interested in riding individual workouts this month, rather than an ongoing training plan. It seems to work better with where I am fitness wise. I’ve enjoyed exploring the new Innsbruck-Tirol world, which is a replica of the course of the Road Cycling World Championship. Its 7.9km climb is the longest I’ve completed in the game so far.”

Adrian Miles

Adrian Miles
Adrian Miles

  • FTP: 288 watts
  • Zwift level: 25
  • Age: 38

“My outdoor riding over the last month has been limited due to family holidays, so Zwift has made up the majority of my miles. It was nice to see the new Innsbruck-Tirol course go live — exploring new climbs and sprints freshen things up and keep my motivation high.

“The Zwift Academy is also open for a third season, which I’ve signed up to. I’m far too old to compete for the pro contracts on offer to the winners, but I enjoy completing the training sessions. Following guided plans with clear on-screen instructions makes the time pass quickly, and are the sort of sessions you feel in your legs the next day.”

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