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How Virtual Training Is Saving Our Sanity

BY Cathal Clarke

At this point, few have been spared from pandemic-induced cabin fever. Read about how one coach is using group virtual training to keep his team sane.

For as long as I have been cycling, January has been synonymous with indoor group turbo training. Living in Ireland, this time of year presents the particular challenge of grim weather with considerably less sunlight in the day, thus making it a challenge to get those all-important miles in the legs. Therefore, the turbo trainer has been my savior for high-quality interval training. Some of the best training sessions I’ve ever had… let me rephrase that… some of the hardest training sessions I’ve ever had have been on the turbo trainer. As such, it has equated to a large part of my success as a rider and a coach.  

As we all know the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the world and changed the way we live our lives. Many companies and businesses realized that they no longer need hundreds of staff bunged into an office where the chances of catching and spreading a virus could be quite likely, especially when their job can be done from the comfort of their home. The same can be said for the group indoor training.

I quickly realized that with the availability and growing popularity of online video call platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, our beloved indoor group training could adapt to the circumstances the same way any other business has. We are already three weeks into our 12-week group training and it has been a resounding success. With the current applications such as Zoom and Zwift growing in popularity, we had a nearly seamless transition from a face-to-face group interaction to a completely online training experience. Overall, the feedback has been positive with a group of over 30 riders still putting in the training over video call indicating its current popularity.

We will take a look at a few of the reasons why online indoor group training could be the future for many cycling teams and clubs in the future.


A number of years ago, we began branching the indoor training out to other members of our club. Its popularity steadily increased each year, starting with only five or six of us training together in someone’s garage, now booming up to over 40 last year. The training benefits were what attracted so many people initially, however, it was the sheer enjoyment and motivation from suffering together with friends that made everyone come back year after year.

We can attribute a large portion of the success of the rides to accountability. You can’t escape the shared feeling of refusing to give up when someone is suffering through it beside you. In addition, the ability to push the riders on a bit more by adding one or two more efforts or increasing the time of an interval just a bit more to get as much as possible out of everyone is invaluable. The motivation is simply not the same when your athletes train individually.

Creating a Social Environment

In other team sports like football or basketball, you can physically get everyone onto the court or pitch to train together. Cycling isn’t like that. You can’t spread 40 riders across and ask them to do hill sprints up and down the road. It would be a disaster. You have to spend a lot of time training by yourself or if you’re lucky, in small groups. Group rides are still not permitted in Ireland at the moment, so when the opportunity arose to get everyone training together indoors as a group, (albeit online) it was no surprise that so many people enjoyed it. We are spending so much time on our own at the moment, so doing the group training and catching up with friends over the call is the only time some of us talk to other people outside of our own bubble.

Reducing Needless Travel and Face-to-Face Interactions

It is only now, after a global pandemic, that we realize how unessential it was for people to travel to a certain location just to ride their bikes. At the end of the day, you can ride from just about anywhere. Online platforms have cut down on needless traveling and one-to-one contact, yet our ability to train has not changed. Time is a precious commodity in today’s society, so many athletes appreciate finishing a session at 8pm, showering and relaxing just 15 minutes later, all in the comfort in their own home. This has freed up so much more time for people to do more productive things than what was previously spent traveling.

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About Cathal Clarke

Cathal Clarke is the founder and head coach of Fast Forward Cycle Coaching. As head coach, Cathal’s main role is to provide every rider, from beginner to elite, the opportunity to become the best rider they can be by providing evidence-based coaching and using extensive cycling experience to help achieve their cycling goals. Cathal is a Level 1 certified Cycling Ireland Coach and Level 1 Training Peaks Accredited Cycling Coach also having a BSc in Sport & Exercise Sciences and a MSc in Strength and Conditioning from the University of Ulster. Cathal is also a former international cyclist on track and road representing Ireland at the European Championships and other major UCI 1.1 and 1.2 races throughout his career. Check out his website: Fast Forward Coaching – FFWD Coaching