This article was produced in partnership with Zwift
The days are short and, let’s face it, the weather is dreary. Tis the season to ride indoors. Luckily, Zwift can promise an endless supply of indoor workouts; the tricky part is knowing which one. Zwift offers over 1,000 structured sessions, and it can be overwhelming to know which one is right for you. Luckily, trainer Deena Blacking of Transmission.cc is here to help you answer the question, how do I choose a session that’s right for me?
For this series of articles we asked Benjamin Bathurst, Digital Marketing Manager at GravelBikes.Online, to be our guinea pig. Ben’s only time to ride is often after work. Instead of riding in the dark (and in the cold and rain), Ben opts to ride indoors on a stationary trainer with Zwift: “Zwift gives me a way to switch off after work with the side benefit of having a great workout. Just log in and your workout plan is there waiting for you all loaded up.”
To choose a workout that fits your needs, be clear about what you need before you start your search. Here are four key questions to ask yourself:
(1) What do you want to achieve? i.e. are you training for an event or fitness goal? (2) How much time do you have? (Per week and per session?)
(3) How much variety do you need in a workout to stay motivated? i.e. are you happy with long static efforts, or are you more committed to workouts that change them up frequently?
(4) And finally, the most important question of all…how big do you want it to be?
This week we are looking for sessions for a rider who is new to structured training, wants to train for a long sport, is short on time and wants to work hard but not kill himself. The four-week Fondo plan, which is rated “beginner,” is a good place to start.
Ben and I selected “Introductory Intervals” from the second week of the plan. It’s a 55-minute workout that does exactly what the title describes: the session consists of intervals between two and four minutes long, each duration at a different level of difficulty. It’s a great workout because it offers you several benefits at once:
1. Build your endurance fitness at a moderate level of effort
2. Keep you engaged by providing structure and variety
3. Train your ability to deliver consistent power
Build your endurance fitness with moderate effort
There’s a reason professionals work 20+ hours a week: miles mean smiles! Unless you’re a track sprinter, your fitness is based on endurance. However, if time is limited, you need to be smart about how you build your stamina. The structured workouts inside Zwift are a very smart solution.
Read more: How should I fuel for indoor training? Advice from a nutrition specialist
In this 55-minute session, you’ll have 31 minutes of moderate to reasonably hard interval work, as well as pedaling recovery in between. It won’t leave you for dead, but it will build your stamina base. The workout is also progressive in terms of effort level, which is perfect for the newcomer relative to structured training.
“The workout had two interval pyramids, which gave a clear build up and down. My body felt ready for the harder pushes,” said Ben.
The moderate demand of this workout is also great for times when you can’t just pass out on the sofa afterwards, for example, you need to be able to use your brain at work or do chores around the house, etc. Zwift rates it as “easy” or two out of five. However, if it’s your first foray into structured training, you’re entitled to feel that it’s closer to a three!
Stay committed to workouts that offer structure and variety
The best athletes are the ones who show up every day. Consistently. Unfortunately, consistency can also be boring, especially in resistance training. A Zwift workout helps you achieve consistency (and combat boredom) by committing to structure and variety. In “Introductory Intervals,” the pace changes every few minutes throughout the workout. You’re never doing the same thing for more than four minutes at a time. “The hour went by really fast compared to just walking around on Zwift,” explained Ben. “Because the session was broken up into small chunks, I was able to count down each time.”
Train your ability to deliver consistent power
Imagine you have 100 matches for 100 kilometers. The most efficient way to use these matches is to burn one every kilometer. But most fans don’t ride like that; instead, we randomly burn the box, running out of spark somewhere in the second half of the trip. Conversely, more skilled riders, especially time trialists, will have perfected it, knowing how to deliver consistent power so they can go as fast as physically possible with a given amount of energy. Whether you’re training for your first 100km event or working your way up to the pro levels, maintaining consistent power, managing your energy, is a vital skill for cyclists. In Introductory Intervals, Zwift asks you to maintain a constant power at three different intensity levels (percentages of your Functional Threshold Power or FTP). You do this two or three times for each effort level. By the end of the workout, you’ll have a good idea of how they feel and how they differ.
One last professional tip
If you want to increase the level of your training gains, turn off the controllable function and learn to regulate your power based on your own sensations. Ben admitted after this session, “I realized it was horrible trying to keep zone one or two on the undulating ground compared to the trainer pre-controlled zones.”
As a coach, I always recommend that an athlete try to do most of their training without the controllable coach feature. Give it a try and let us know on social media how it goes and share your experience. It might be harder to start, but if you keep following this process, over time you can become as strong as Ellen van Dijk or Filippo Ganna.