If you're serious about training, Zwift workouts are a great tool to help you build strength and fitness, through a structured easy to follow plan.
If you're like me you've possibly spent a fair bit of time on the trainer in recent months, first during the lockout and now due to the weather being horrible outside. The trainer has become my savour, helping me keep my sanity and continue training through all the disruption.
Winter is a great time of the year for keeping or getting in shape ready to hit the ground running – well, riding come summer. I tell myself the competition are resting over the offseason, so it's my chance to cash in while their sleeping, or so to speak...
On two occasions in recent weeks, I've come across someone who didn't know about workouts on Zwift, and others who simply don't use or understand them. To most Zwift is just a big world full of everyone riding around and virtually interacting.
FTP - Functional Threshold Power
If you're serious about training, Zwift workouts are a great tool to help you build strength and fitness. I've personally been using some of my favourites workouts (more on that below) in recent months which has made a huge difference on the bike out in the real world. FTP first
The first thing you'll need to ensure is that your FTP is correct, it's a good idea to complete is an FTP test.
FTP – your "Functional Threshold Power" – is the wattage you can stay below and sustain for longer durations, while going above it causes fatigue to occur very quickly. The number is an indicator of your fitness, and also helps shape your training zones, racing, and group ride category in Zwift.
The FTP test is intense but short, and calls for steady, seated, give-it-your-all power. Fitness-focused riders will take FTP tests as often as every six to twelve weeks. Remember it’s a benchmark, so as your fitness level increases so will your FTP.
Zwift offers an hour test, a 45-minute test and a ramp test which you can access from the workouts screen.
If you’re working towards a goal and committed to spending some serious training time indoors then working to a plan can help keep you focused.
Within Zwift there are several plans you can add to your account that will help you work towards a specific goal. Here are 3 beginner plans to get going with.
Zwift 101 - 1 week / 2 hours per week
This plan only lasts a week, so it’s intended to act more as an introduction to Zwift’s training interface and the world of structured interval training. It contains a couple of introductory workouts and two of the most popular short workouts, as well as a Ramp Test in the middle of the week to help you measure your FTP before you can start on a longer plan.
FTP Builder - 4 to 6 weeks / 5 hours per week
The FTP Builder plan focuses on building sustainable aerobic power, with the majority of sessions comprising of endurance and tempo intervals. Designed for riders who perhaps haven’t done a structured training plan before, the workouts are simple and easy to understand, and most last under an hour.
Fondo - 3 to 4 weeks / 3 hours per week
Created for cyclists who are building up to a long ride, or sportive/gran fondo, the Fondo is another great plan for anyone who’s new to structured training or coming back to the sport from a break. The plan focuses mostly on endurance and tempo intervals, but there is also a bit of work at threshold and beyond mixed in to give your fitness a boost.
You can adjust the length of plans to suit if you're targeting an event or specific goal, this is a great way to maximize your preparation.
Once you’ve selected a plan, next time you log on, Zwift will automatically offer you the next session in the plan. Each session is available for a time window of a few days.
Riding a structured workout is simple enough, after selecting which course you want to ride on you'll then select the workout which you want to complete, Zwift will take care of the rest.
Within the workout, the display screen changes to show your target power and also your target cadence if this is set in the workout. If you’re above or below the target you’ll get a message telling you to spin faster, or ease off. The top display will also show how much of your current interval is left.
Down the left-hand side of the screen is a colour-coded list of all the intervals: grey is recovery, blue easy, green tempo, yellow threshold and red is for max efforts. By completing an interval on Zwift you'll earn a star beside the interval on screen.
If you’re using the Zwift companion app then the Game screen will change to a workout screen, which gives you all the necessary information of the workout.
Some of the best Zwift workouts are,
This workout is designed to simulate steep, short hills that are almost like sprints. A combination of both anaerobic and neuromuscular power, (level 6 and 7), this workout is sure to fire you up! Warm-up 10 minutes and then do 3 x 1 minute fast pedaling drills >110rpm.. Ride at tempo pace and then do hill sprints every 3minutes. Each Sprint is 20 seconds long and building in intensity. After each sprint, come back to tempo pace. Cool-down.
To prep, you for different length hills, here are a bunch of hill intervals of random length and intensities. Go for it! Warm-up for 10minutes with 3 x 1 minute fast pedaling drills >110rpm. Then ride at tempo pace and complete the hard hills! Cool-down
Sometimes the climbs get steeper and steeper as you get closer to the top. This workout simulates the climbs of the spring classics that start out steep and get even steeper! Warm-up for 10 minutes and then do (3) x 1 minute fast pedaling drills. Then begin riding for 9minutes at sweet spot and then do (6) hill efforts, each is 2 minute 30seconds with the last 15seconds being very difficult! Ride at endurance pace between each at 70% of FTP. Cool-down.
You can check out all the GCN workouts here.
ERG Mode or not?
If you’ve got a smart trainer that’s capable of controlling resistance, then you'll get an option to ride your workout in ERG mode. This is the easiest way to ride, you just have to pedal, with zwift and your trainer altering the resistance to keep you on the target power.
If you don’t have an ERG-enabled trainer or don't want to use ERG mode then it’s up to you to make sure your power stays on target. This is viewed by many as the best way, as it teaches you to control your power better instead of relying on technology.
Make a plan
Set yourself a goal of a certain number of sessions per week, riding specific days, and keep to it. I'm currently riding 2 workout sessions during the week focusing on strength and cadence then hitting the trails in the weekend for long endurance km's.
Just do it
It's all too easy to not make time or come up with an excuse, but you know you'll always feel better after exercising. Once you've got into a routine you'll be off. Don't feel disheartened if don't finish a workout, it's all about consistency.
Don’t be afraid to dial it back
Sometimes a session just feels too difficult. Zwift’s workout mode gives you the option to change the intensity of the workout: don’t be afraid to knock it down a few per cent.
Having some music to listen to will take your mind off the pain, break up the work into shorter sections and keep you more motivated. Turn the Zwift 3D World Volume off and crank up the tunes.
Join a group
Mix it up by joining a group workout through the events calendar. You get to ride in a bunch with the rubber band effect which allows everyone to stay together, no matter what their FTP is.
If you want to use your indoor training time better then structured workouts on Zwift will allow you to set your goals and work towards them.