This article has been produced in association with Zwift
Riding both indoors and outdoors will result in a stronger you, one that overflows with stamina and skill. Grab an indoor coach now and you’ll be on top of your goals by 2024. How? Well, there are many reasons to immerse yourself in the world of indoor cycling, but as a sampler we have them: increase speed, endurance and strength in a safe and controlled environment; it is easier to perfect the technique without the dangerous distractions of traffic; and for those of you with young children, you can rack up miles without having to splurge on a babysitter!
Virtual training platforms like Zwift are also a breeding ground for structured workouts. Studies show that physiologically forging endurance and strength simultaneously impairs the growth of each. Fortunately, Zwift’s workout archive spans thousands, ensuring you can create each cycling fitness block individually. This means you can work to get faster, leaner, without missing a session.
And of course, riding indoors to the tune of Zwift is a pretty fun experience too. But you will discover this and many more reasons why riding inside the virtual will lead to the reality of a new PB in 2024…
Adherence is key
Many of you will remember days gone by when the only entertainment offered by indoor training came in the form of staring at the clock on the wall in your garage as the seconds ticked by endlessly. Tick. touch pedal stop Soon, your plans to forge a stronger and faster you had gathered dust, as had your turbo trainer.
Thankfully, the likes of Zwift have made those tedious rides a thing of the past, with tons of worlds, routes, climbs and workouts to tackle. This is something that has been proven in the laboratory thanks to the work of Professor Daniel Mestre of the University of Aix-Marseille, France, who showed that road cyclists rode harder and stuck to a plan of training longer when training indoors against the backdrop of a cycling simulator. Another study by Dr. Jim Annesi also revealed that adherence to the training plan was greater when indoor cycling was conducted against a virtual training group compared to standard indoor riding.
There is strength in numbers. This is true when it comes to the world of Zwift and it is due to the Kohler effect. That’s the idea that no one wants to be the weakest link in a group setting… and possibly go back to the schoolyard and pray that you’re not the last one picked for that afternoon’s soccer game. Viewed through a cycling fitness prism, this translates into digging deeper to avoid the virtual broomcart.
Research conducted at Kansas State University found that people who exercised with someone they considered to be fitter and stronger than them increased the time and intensity of their workout by a pretty amazing 200%.
Riding in a virtual Zwift group will also add accountability as you will inevitably run into the same riders at the same time. Group rides make your training a social experience, and Zwift gives you the ability to organize your own meetups with friends, tag along with someone who’s already Zwifting, or even join an event hosted at all over the world with hundreds of others. Agree to ride with a rider or two who have fancied you will make it a little harder to do it on the inside ride because Loose Women is on TV.
Stomach for the ride
Your gut microbiome consists of over one hundred trillion microbial cells. Over the past decade, the impact of these microbial cells on health and performance has become evident with studies showing their influence on metabolism, the immune system, and even cardiovascular fitness. The health, or otherwise, of your biome depends on a number of factors, including age, diet, supplementation, and exercise. And it is the last part that interests us here, specifically the research carried out by an Italian team led by the researcher Sabrina Donati Zeppa.
The gut microbiome composition of 17 students was analyzed before and after nine weeks of high-intensity interval sessions aboard an indoor trainer. The analysis involved the rather unpleasant work of stool analysis. The training program consisted of three mesocycles of three weeks each with the efforts progressing as follows: mesocycle 1, 3 x 55min sessions; mesocycle two, 4 x 60min sessions; mesocycle three, 5 x 70min sessions.
The result? Not only had the 17 students immeasurably improved their lives by discovering the joy of indoor cycling, they had also transformed their gut microbiome, resulting in a healthier and fitter group of students (until the Union opened of Students, of course).
Fun in the collective
Anyone who has ever ridden in a group, of which there are many of you, knows that the collective spirit is rather inspiring, motivating and fun. It’s the same on Zwift. No matter what time of day you want to go for a ride, no matter the time of year, you can always hop on your coach and connect with hundreds of like-minded people. Roll up a competitor before you leave them in the dust… before they leave you in the dust before you move… You get the picture. This virtual cat and mouse game is exciting. This has been taken to another level with the Zwift running option because at the end of the day, there’s nothing like running to fire up the fun synapses. And there are different types of public races taking place every day on Zwift, from short criteriums to mountain classics and time trials. With four categories to suit your skill level, you can start competing as soon as you’re set up on Zwift. The more you run, the more you’ll learn about its nuances and ways to succeed, making running a fun and complementary part of your training routine.
Stay stronger for longer
Sir Bradley Wiggins’ chances of winning the 2013 Giro d’Italia were halted by an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), with the Team Sky rider retiring before stage 13. Which , it certainly wasn’t surprising, as URTIs are extremely common in cycling, especially in colder climates.
A 2009 Finnish study noted that URTIs occurred more frequently when the ambient temperature dropped to 0°C or below. These temperatures are very common for cyclists when you consider the wind chill. Using a rather complicated formula that includes the speed at which you drive and the ambient temperature, you can calculate exactly how hot or cold the general temperature is. For example, if you are cruising along your local country lanes at 30mph when the air temperature is around 5°C, the wind temperature is -1°C.
This can aggravate the respiratory tract, although it is actually the dryness brought by the fresh air rather than the fresh air itself that is most irritating. This can be somewhat negated by wrapping a Buff or similar around the mouth. Or you can simply go further inland. It’s warmer, more comfortable and prevents you from staining your Buff with your rather sweaty but dry breath!