This article has been updated as of March of 2020. For cyclists and triathletes, training indoors is usually seen as a lonely and potentially boring task. But riding the trainer or running on the treadmill is often required for ambitious athletes due to bad weather, short days, a lack of suitable roads, or a desire to execute a workout as perfectly as possible.
The proliferation of smart trainers has triggered an entire industry of indoor riding apps that are not only effective training tools, but are also engaging and entertaining as well. Zwift is one example of a product that is taking indoor training to the next level.
Zwift offers hundreds of kilometers of roads to explore, group rides, workouts, and races to participate in, and even some videogame-style achievements and progression for extra motivation.
For coaches and athletes who have their goals and training plans mapped out in TrainingPeaks, Zwift has several integrated tools that can make it easy and fun to stick to your cycling and running plans.
How to Start Using Zwift with TrainingPeaks
To begin using Zwift with TrainingPeaks you’ll start by connecting your accounts. Once you have created a Zwift account you can navigate to my.zwift.com/profile/connections and find the TrainingPeaks section. Click “connect” and enter your TrainingPeaks username and password. That’s it!
Now, not only will your completed workouts sync to your TrainingPeaks account (including map and elevation data,) but also any Structured Workouts based on power for cycling, or distance and pace for running planned in your TrainingPeaks calendar will be available in Zwift as well. (You’ll also have a flashy TrainingPeaks kit available for your avatar as soon as you connect your accounts.)
A note for Garmin users: if you are already using the Garmin Connect Autosync, you may be tempted to just sync your Zwift account to Garmin Connect, but Garmin Connect won’t “pass on” workouts from Zwift to TrainingPeaks to avoid potential duplicate workouts, so you’ll want to set up the Zwift sync to both Garmin Connect and TrainingPeaks individually.
Understanding the Different Workout Modes
Once your accounts are connected and your equipment is set up, you are ready to ride. There are essentially three different riding modes in Zwift (Just ride, Workout with Trainer Control, and Workout Without Trainer Control), and each one can play a useful part in your training.
Just Ride Mode
“Just Ride” is just what it sounds like. This option allows you to explore the virtual Zwift worlds with pre-selected routes, or you can choose your own turns as you go. If you’re using a smart trainer, then the resistance will change based on the terrain.
You may find yourself shifting, standing, and changing your cadence a lot more than you are used to during indoor rides, and that alone can make an indoor workout that much more fun and go by that much faster.
With a variety of route options ranging from “intimidatingly mountainous” to “totally flat,” the Just Ride mode is a great option for unstructured workouts like longer endurance rides or recovery rides.
If you have a scheduled group ride or training race that you can’t make or gets canceled, there are dozens of rides and races in Zwift starting practically every 15 minutes that you can join at any time.
Zwift also allows you to plan your own group rides and invite your friends (or join rides that your friends plan and you have been invited to.) “Meetups” in Zwift allow the organizer to choose a route, planned ride duration, and even “Keep Everyone Together” if they want. When “Keep Everyone Together” is enabled, all the participating riders will be kept in the same group regardless of their power output. They can still move forward and backward in the group but don’t have to worry about getting dropped. This is a great option for allowing riders of different abilities to stay together, or if some riders want to ride harder on a given day.
If you have something a little more specific planned on a given day, Zwift also has dedicated workout features with two different modes. In addition to a library of built-in workouts, any power-based structured workout on your TrainingPeaks calendar will also appear in your list of workouts in Zwift.
When you perform a structured workout in Zwift, you will no longer get terrain-based resistance changes from your smart trainer, but your virtual speed will still change to reflect changes in your power output.
The Zwift display will also change from “Just Ride” mode to display all of the steps in your workout, including interval durations and power targets. You will also get alerts on the screen and banners on the road showing where to start and finish your intervals.
You’ll even get real-time feedback at the end of each interval showing how well you completed that step. When you use Workout Mode in Zwift and sync to TrainingPeaks, all of your intervals will be marked as laps as well, which your coach will likely appreciate when they go to analyze your workout.
When you choose a workout in Zwift you will also have the option of letting Zwift control the resistance on your smart trainer (erg mode), or just using the normal default resistance curve of your trainer. Each of these options can be useful, depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
With erg mode-enabled, Zwift will communicate with your trainer to automatically adjust the resistance to ensure that you are hitting the power target for that step of your workout. All you have to do is choose a good gear combination and keep up a good cadence.
Erg mode is useful if you want to make sure that you execute a workout as perfectly as possible, or if you haven’t developed the skill to properly pace the types of efforts you have planned (including the rest intervals if you tend to ride too hard.)
Without erg mode-enabled you will feel the normal resistance curve from your trainer, so you may need to adjust your cadence or shift gears to hit your power targets correctly. This setting can be more useful for workouts with really short efforts that the trainer can adjust to quickly enough, for intervals that don’t have specific power targets (all out sprints, for example), if you want to improve your control and pacing for certain types of efforts, or for FTP or other power tests.
Additionally, Zwift has an especially useful feature that lets you toggle erg mode on or off in the middle of a given workout as needed.
Using the New Zwift Run With TrainingPeaks
For runners, Zwift has added a running option with Free Run and workout modes as well as other running specific features. Treadmill technology hasn’t quite caught up to smart trainers yet, so grade changes based on the terrain or speed changes as part of a structured workout do have to be done manually (for now.) There are a variety of affordable bluetooth and ANT+ enabled footpods and belt speed sensors that you can use with Zwift to make sure that you are getting the most accurate data in Zwift.
Just like with your planned cycling workouts, any structured workout on your calendar will automatically show up in your workout library once you’re in Zwift’s workout mode, so just select today’s workout and start running!
So whether you are looking for a better way to execute your planned workouts, or just a way to help the training hours pass a little more quickly, Zwift may be just the tool you need to stick to your TrainingPeaks plan. You may even start looking forward to riding the trainer.