Athlete Cycling Indoors

How To Make Your Virtual Cycling Workouts Stand Out

BY Julie Dunkle

Virtual workouts can be a great way to maintain more personal connection to your athletes. Make sure you're good to go from your audio setup to your playlist to your interval pacing.

Whether you were “virtual workout intolerant” or just starting to dip your toe into virtual racing, once COVID hit, one thing became certain: if you wanted to train, you had to figure out how to do it from home. Virtual cycling workouts are an excellent way for coaches to “see” their athletes’ progress and for athletes to interact with each other, regardless of where people live. After all, even in the most grueling of trainer sessions, suffering with others always feels better than suffering alone.

That being said, with the sudden inclusion of so many newcomers into the virtual cycling world, we’re guessing that likely some of your athletes, or perhaps you yourself, haven’t quite mastered the art of virtual racing. Here are a few tips that should help you and your athletes maximize your at-home cycling workouts and dial in your setup. 

It’s All in the Preparation 

In order to make your workouts successful, you have to put in some effort to avoid technological snafus. Before you hop online with your group of athletes, run through this checklist first. 

  • Internet Check: execute a quick speed test to ensure that you have solid download and upload speeds. One to five Mbps is fine for general web browsing but if you’re going to be on Zwift and/or Zoom, 15-25 Mbps is ideal. No one likes to be at the end of an interval and have their coach cut out! 
  • Sound Check: Test the sound quality of your speaker, headphones, or earbuds. You can do this by recording a quick local recording video of yourself and listening back (here’s a link for how to do this on Zoom.) If your audio sounds distorted or crackly, it might be worth swapping out headphones.
  • Workout Check: Give your workout a once-over before your athletes log in. Do the zones look accurate? Are the intervals ordered correctly? Did you provide enough time for a warmup and cool down? If you have the time, it’s nice to extend the cool down time by a few extra minutes so your athletes can chat, discuss their progress and commiserate about what a tough coach you are. 

It’s Go Time

When your setup is dialed in and you’re ready to sweat here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Explain the workout: Athletes feel way more motivated to train when they have a certain purpose in mind. Whether it’s Over/Unders, VO2 Max or Sweet Spot Intervals, your athletes need to know what they’re working for. The warmup is a great time to go over this info.
  • It’s their workout, not yours!: It’s easy to get caught up in the group enthusiasm and go all-out for the intervals, but remember you’re the one doing the coaching. So if you’re gasping for air and struggling to speak, your athletes are going to have a hard time understanding you. By all means, keep the energy levels high, and authentically participate, but maybe just hang back in a lower zone so you can still communicate effectively. 
  • Add music: No one wants to listen to other people grunt and hyperventilate while they ride. It’s just weird. So turn create a playlist that is high-energy and not too niche specific. This Red Bull blog is a great place to start. 

Repurpose and Reuse!

Whether it’s due to time zones or general schedule variation, not all of your athletes will be able to attend each virtual training sesh. In order to accommodate everyone, it’s great to make the workout dynamic and publish it in TrainingPeaks. That way each athlete knows exactly how hard to push themselves based on their own zones and can execute the workout on their own if they have to skip the group workout. Added bonus, if you add the workout to your library, you can pull from it regularly without having to rebuild anything again. If your athletes are struggling to connect their TrainingPeaks account with Zwift, this article will help!

Before you dive into hosting your first virtual workout, take a few classes with ride leaders to appreciate what works, what makes a good instructor, how the best workouts flow. As a triathlon coach, you may not have started as a spin class instructor, but it’s not too late to learn! 

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About Julie Dunkle

Julie Dunkle is the Co-Founder of NYX Endurance, a Global Endurance Coaching Company. We’re a group of coaches who like to get our hands dirty. We believe in being in the arena so that we can be the ultimate foundation for our athletes. We train, we race, we fail, and we succeed. We are passionate about your goals and we created NYX because we love the process of unearthing your potential.  Julie is a 16x time Ironman finisher, with 7 Kona Qualifications and over 30, 70’s finishes, Julie uses her experience to offer personalized coaching. Follow NYX Endurance on Instagram and Facebook.  You can find Julie on the trails running with her two Vizsla’s Roo and Mako.