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What Is Zwift In Cycling?

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If you’ve been involved in the cycling community for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of Zwift, but you may not know what Zwift actually is. Zwift is a virtual workout app that allows athletes to workout from their homes by plugging into a virtual world. You can ride your bike, run or prepare for a triathlon within the virtual world. Zwift models multiple cities like New York, Paris, Richmond, and London, but it also has its own virtual world called Watopia that you can ride through.

On Zwift, you can ride predetermined routes, utilize professionally designed training plans, or just free ride around the virtual worlds.

You can even compete with other riders, go on group rides, or battle your own times to improve yourself as a cyclist.

How Does Zwift Work

For bike riding, Zwift is typically paired with a smart trainer and a tv screen, monitor, tablet, or phone. You need a screen to experience the virtual world. Having these 2 pieces together allows access to most Zwift features and allows you to monitor your stats such as power, speed, and more.

When using a smart trainer, Zwift can also adjust the resistance of your pedaling in order to simulate the environment that you’re riding through in the virtual world. You don’t have to use a smart trainer though. You can get a normal bike trainer and put a compatible speed sensor on it. The speed sensor will feed Zwift your speed and it will take into consideration which trainer you have and calculate your power output from that.

There are a few extra features and more detailed analysis that you can access by getting more sensors such as a heart rate sensor and cadence sensor but they aren’t necessary to use Zwift.

For running, you’ll need a treadmill a nice pair of shoes, and a foot sensor to monitor your leg movement. When you pair these with Zwift you’ll be able to run all through the virtual world. You can train for a marathon, run up well known climbs or run through the Zwift virtual world. They even have a volcano that you can run through in the Zwift world of Watopia.

Zwift is a great way for you to workout from home while still having a social setting and being able to ride and compete with friends.

Zwift Personal Training Plans

Zwift is a platform created to allow the best athletes in the world to train for upcoming events from their homes. It’s no surprise that they have amazing workouts and training plans built into Zwift.

The Zwift training plans have given people amazing results for athletes of all levels. Just a few weeks on Zwift and you’ll start noticing a difference in your riding ability. However, you obviously still have to put in the time and effort to see results. Zwift isn’t a miracle it still takes hard work to improve your riding but if you exert a good level of effort and follow the Zwift training programs, your riding should definitely improve!

The Zwift training plans include The FTP Builder, Gravel Grinder, Build Me Up, 3 Run 13.1, Fondo, and more. Except for Gravel Grinder, these programs will all help you level up from a beginner level and work up to some great cycling milestones.

The Functional Threshold Power (FTP) Builder will help you raise your functional power output. This is the power output you can maintain over a specified period of time.

The Fondo Plan helps you get better at long endurance rides and being able to attack climbs in the middle of long rides. When you go on long rides in the real world, you’re bound to come across some hills, so this is a great training program that simulates a real ride whether that’s a group ride or just a long ride that you do on your own.

Zwift Works With Other Fitness Apps

Zwift is a fitness app that allows you to ride through a virtual world but Zwift can be combined with other fitness apps such as Strava, FitBit, UnderArmour Fitness, and much more.

Strava is pretty big in the cycling community, there’s a saying if it isn’t on Strava it didn’t happen. Strava keeps track of your workouts using GPS on outdoor workouts or by connecting to apps such as Zwift to retrieve data. This makes it harder to fake a workout, so, if your workout is saved on Strava then people will believe you actually did it. With Strava, you can’t say you Everested or did a Century ride if you didn’t because they can see, whether or not it’s on your Strava profile.

Other apps can be synced to Zwift too but I’m not as familiar with the other apps, I mainly use Strava to track my workouts and rides.

2020 Virtual Tour De France

Throughout 2020 with the mandatory quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and the overall global pandemic, many cyclists and athletes were forced to find ways to workout and compete from home. This brought a rise in home bike trainers and smart trainers, as well as a rise in Zwift’s popularity.

Many cyclists and runners turned to Zwift as their way to keep up their fitness and hang out with their fellow athletes and friends.

One big event that was able to make modifications instead of canceling was the Tour De France. In July 2020, all stages of the Tour De France were hosted on Zwift and streamed live over the internet. This is the first year that the Tour De France was hosted virtually.

While we were facing unprecedented times, this was a great solution in order to keep the event alive instead of outright cancellation. Most other events just ended up canceling.

The Tour was hosted live on Zwift’s website for the world to watch and you could even ride the same route as the pros the week of the event.

Conclusion

Zwift has been a great addition to the cycling and fitness community in allowing people to work out in a social environment independent of weather and distance from their friends or teammates. The Zwift app is an amazing training platform that can increase your cycling performance in a relatively short time frame. You still have to put forth the effort to be able to get these performance increases, but Zwift gives a great foundation for growing as a cyclist and athlete. If you want to use Zwift the ideal setup is a monitor/computer combined with a smart bike trainer (shown below) but the cheaper option would be to use a normal bike trainer, not a smart one, combined with a speed sensor.

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