So my focus this spring is to get stronger on the bike, in the hopes of training for an Ironman. I have heard some pretty good things about Zwift, the virtual reality training app. I decided to give it a go and see if would help me with the motivation and focus I need to get stronger.
I am unable to bike outside at the moment because of my hip surgery recovery, which you can read more about here. So this was an additional source of motivation to try out Zwift. I hooked up my new Stages power meter, downloaded Zwift, paired them via Bluetooth on my phone (with the Zwift app) and off I went!
My first ride was fun, motivating and overall a positive experience. I felt like the visual feedback really helped to keep me focused on my effort and cadence. I could try and catch up to other riders or “close the gap” as Zwift prompts you to do. This is a great feature, because you get a surge of motivation to pick up the pace when you are tired. This is actually one of the biggest problems I have when riding alone on the trainer. In a spin class, you have the group and the verbal cues to pick it up. In a race or group ride, the riders around you motivate you. This is a huge selling point for me. I have to say it was a bit frustrating to have to hold back, because of my hip recovery. However, I was able to put down some good watts and maintain a fairly steady effort for almost one hour.
Overall I loved Zwift and what it has to offer. I will have to try it out for longer to know for sure. But I can tell I am already hooked and will use this again, especially while I cannot ride outside.
Here are the 5 main reasons why I liked it:
1. Social Motivation.
Zwift provides the feeling that you are riding with others, just like you would in a race or group ride. These are after all, real humans somewhere in the world biking with you. I have had skepticism about the increasing blurring of boundaries between the technology world and the real organic world of exercise. With Strava, social media and virtual reality these days, won’t we lose the feeling of being in the present moment that is the beauty of exercise? Yes and no in my mind. I believe that Zwift was a firm reminder of how much I love riding with other people and the bonding I feel through the sport. I think it enhanced my motivation to get out and ride with others and reminded me of why I love riding outdoors. If you strike a healthy balance I believe Zwift can do some good when riding outside is not as feasible.
2. It feels like you’re on the road.
Zwift makes you feel like you are out on the road. This is amazing for any person who relies on their trainer because you get the added visual feedback of feeling like you are actually going somewhere. This cannot be underestimated as the “need for speed” and feeling of movement is one of the reasons I love cycling. I feel that I’m making progress and that I’m “logging miles” more so than when I do not have visual feedback. Similarly, I had the greater sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you covered some distance.
3. It is the perfect pick me up.
Zwift is a great way to get a boost when you are tired, lacking motivation or simply zoning out due to boredom on the trainer. The nice thing is that you can actually zone out for a while, and then tune back in to pick up some motivation by drafting with a group of riders or chasing someone. Alternatively, you can use the other riders as a boost when you need to put in those extra miles that you would normally have avoided. It acts like a motivational surge that is excellent for training purposes. Since video games are known to cause a release in dopamine, this makes perfect sense, and is why many will be hopelessly addicted to Zwift..I mean at least we know we have a problem.
4. Good feedback and visual graphics.
The feedback is not overkill or annoying, and the graphics are awesome. I found myself, not unlike on a real ride, peering off to the side to watch the scenery passing by. It is a cool feeling that is hard to reproduce, but I think Zwift has done a decent job at this. The riders actually reflect their gender and weight, and this is also a really great feature. Furthermore, you can actually monitor your own cadence visually, which helped me a lot to focus on picking up my cadence (something I struggle with). It has a good display of your power, speed and cadence and you can see the Watts/ Kg that other riders are at. This gives you a sense of your overall effort and whether you will be able to catch up to someone. The riders ahead of you and behind you are also listed clearly as a gage for this. To top it off I can still blast my pump-up beats while I go, and not feel that the music is drowned out by irritating virtual beeps and dings.
5. Good bang for your buck.
Zwift had many route options, and the riders will always change. This means endless novelty, and this is something very appealing for me to buy into the app. I like that the price is a solid 10$/ month as I feel any higher and it may lose it’s appeal. It is affordable, and if you use it a lot, could have great benefits for your training. The increase in motivation I experienced was already enough to convince me that the boost in performance will be worth it (and it’s way cheaper than a personal trainer!)
I am already looking forward to my next virtual ride. 🙂
I would love to hear about your experiences with Zwift.