Thursday, January 18, 2018

Zwift Interval Workouts

Indoor interval workouts have really changed over the years with the introduction of smart trainers and virtual reality cycling training software such as Zwift.  It's changed for the better.  When I first started coaching, before virtual reality software and smart trainers hit the scene, the only way to do indoor interval workouts was with a good power meter (or power meter trainer such as a Computrainer) to measure power output (in watts) and a stopwatch to time the interval.  So, if I were to do say a 2x20@L4 interval workout, I'd have to calculate my power zones, then I'd have to dial in the power/resistance I wanted my computrainer to maintain, then have the computrainer maintain that power on my Computrainer during the timed interval with my stopwatch.  Saving the workout and getting a printout of the workout with cadence, heart rate, power, speed, etc. took some effort.

Today, doing the same interval workout is automatic with virtual reality software such as Zwift.  In fact, Zwift does everything for you except pedal.  You just start the Zwift software, select a workout from the menu (of over 500 workouts) and go.  The following is a workout I chose to do tonight. It's an L4 (Threshold) workout from Zwift called "Threshold Pushing"

It's essentially a 2x12@L4 workout.  Zwift knew that my latest FTP was (210w) so it automatically calculated my power intervals for me.   You can see that the power ramped up from 100w to 150w then back down to 100, then up to 200w, etc.  When you start the interval workout, Zwift automatically sets the resistance on the smart trainer and shows you the watts you should be generating.  If you're pedaling over or under the specified power, Zwift will tell you to power up or power down.  It's got a stopwatch built-in that tells you how long you have to maintain the current power.  Like I said, everything is automatic.  And, all the data you ever wanted to know (except average power) is projected on the screen while you're doing the workout.  (BTW, Zwift is working on projecting the average power on the display/monitor.)  When you'e done the workout, it's automatically saved in Garmin Connect and Strava for later analysis and printout.  At least it is on my computer it's automatically uploaded and saved.  From there, you can get a graph of the workout.  If you did the intervals correctly, the output (below) should look like the chart above.  Here's my output:

You can see that my power output pretty much mirrors the Zwift chart.  Both, 12 minute L4 intervals are perfectly flat averaging 190w.  That's what you want.  You don't want to see any drop in power on the 2nd interval.  I like being able to overlay my heart rate (see red line).  You can see my heart rate creeped up at least 8bpm on my second 12 minute interval.  That happens as you get tired/dehydrated, etc.  I was exhausted by the end of the 2nd interval and that's what you want to be after most workouts on your trainer.  The only thing I don't like about some of these 'canned' workouts is that it spends too much time in a warm-up and cool-down.  I don't need to be warming up and cooling down for 1/2 hr.  Ten to fifteen minutes warmup is fine for the warmup and 5 minutes it fine for a cool-down for me.  That's the beauty of Zwift, it will allow you to modify/edit these workouts.  I haven't done that yet but it's a good topic for a future blog.

I'm telling you, if you're serious about indoor training, Zwift and a smart trainer is the ticket.  It's so easy to do interval workouts....and a lot more fun than the old days.  You don't even need a coach anymore.  (You didn't hear that from me).  There are enough workouts/plans on the Zwift menu to keep you busy for years.  Want to increase your FTP?  There's an FTP program/plan in Zwift for FREE.  Back in the day, you had to pay for these workout plans, and they weren't cheap.

Power ON!  Coach Rob


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