Things I Have Learned as a Beginner Runner On Zwift

Things I Have Learned as a Beginner Runner On Zwift

After jumping into the world of running on Zwift, I learned a few things that have made my Watopian life much easier. This is not a “Getting Started on Zwift” type of post, but more an “I failed and learned these things” post.

The scene: A high-end hotel fitness center with awesome brand-spanking-new equipment. The person: a tall-ish, dad-bodded, synthetic-clad white guy.

Zwift RunPod

Fresh from putting my twin toddlers down for a nap after a morning at an indoor waterpark, I abandoned the other 11 people in our rented condo and hit the baller fitness room I spotted earlier, stoked to rock my new Zwift RunPod and log some video game miles on the brand new treadmills. Fast forward 30 minutes: sitting on the end of the treadmill in a puddle of sweat deep enough to support marine life, I am questioning my life choices and, more so, my fitness.

My internal monologue was something like this: “This warmup is really easy, though the speeds on the treadmill seem harder than Zwift was telling me they should be. Oh, wait. My Zwift is metric for cycling. *Flips through menus on treadmill.* OK, not great, but I can make it? The tutorial is pretty easy, so I’ll be fine. Finished that. Now the Threshold tutorial. Woah. Faster. Why is it so hot in here? I am the only person in the room; should the windows be fogging like that? *blinded by sweat* Maybe I should stop before I die.“

My first foray into run Zwifting was not a pretty (or well thought out) one. Rather than following the instructions and calibrating my runpod, I assumed that I could just jump onto the treadmill and work through the tutorial and maybe one or two of the early “how-to” workouts, no problem. Do not do this. Think about what you are doing before you do it. Also, be sure that you hear the *click* sound when you install your footpod. Mine shot an impressive distance off my foot and the treadmill (twice!) during my first run.

If there is an overarching theme to being new to the Zwift running platform, it is that classic Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” Since that seems too short to justify my huge Zwift Insider salary, here are a few things that made my life in the virtual world much easier:

  • Have everything ready ahead of time. While it is easier to run and grab something you forgot when you’re on a treadmill versus halfway through a six-mile outdoor loop, it’s always a bummer to have to jump off of your treadmill and risk dropping your connections/mess up your metrics/get asked to change a diaper because you forgot something.
Lasko 3300: solid fan for the money
  • Things you may want to have ahead of time include
    • Sweat towel(s)
    • Bidons (fancy cyclist term for water bottles)
    • Nutrition
    • Fans – more on this later
    • Technology – again, more on this in a bit
    • FANS
    • Whatever else you usually need while running
  • As a general rule in life, in work, and in Zwift, I try to plan ahead to maximize my time on the treadmill. For example, I don’t generally drink during my runs, but I know I will want to during the cool down, so I always have a half-full water bottle at hand. To maximize my time in-game, I always try to know what workout and/or route I am doing ahead of time, then follow this order:
    • Close all open apps
    • launch Pandora (Jock Jams radio)
    • launch Zwift
    • connect chest strap
    • connect footpod
    • select route
    • select workout (optional)
    • RUN!
  • Have fans available. At least two. I used to revel in the sweat running off of my body in sexy rivulets and flying off of the belt of my treadmill, but 1. I look like a drowning squirrel, and 2. believe it or not, it isn’t ideal. Eventually you will begin to think that you’re melting like Olaf in summer and won’t be able to maintain anything resembling a normal feeling or pace. Running indoors without fans, you lose the evaporative cooling effect that you get outdoors as your body moves and the wind blows. There is no breeze, so your body and clothes retain more water and heat; there is nowhere for it to go. Not just a comfort thing, there is a notable drop in performance as well.
  • Understand the technology. Since Zwift is a virtual environment, being sure that your equipment is working and works together is critical to having a good time. Some phones/tablets/computers will or will not connect to BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) or ANT+ accessories readily, so just know which peripherals will communicate with your main device. It is generally pretty simple to get everything to talk.

Being one of the unwashed masses, I rely on a regular dumb treadmill with a Zwift RunPod, a Garmin Triathlon heartrate strap, and my Samsung Galaxy S10 phone to run Zwift. The first time I run-Zwifted, I didn’t bother to calibrate my footpod, as highlighted above, and it was not an awesome time. Be sure to calibrate every time you use a different treadmill and every week or so even if you’re not changing machines. Generally everything communicates pretty well; the only other problem I have experienced has been with switching between apps and dropping connection to my ANT+ chest strap. In order to fix a lot of the technology problems, the user will have to exit Zwift, re-launch, and then connect and re-calibrate their equipment.

Zwift has made running during the winter months in Wisconsin much more bearable for me, and I no longer dread treadmill workouts. I recently did a long run outdoors, and whereas I would normally be hating life during my first outdoor run of the year, I know that I am already seeing #fitnessgainz, and will be going into summer triathlon season stronger than ever. I hope my few tips will make your Zwifting life a little easier, and that you can learn from my mistakes.

What About You?

What lessons did you learn from your first run-Zwifting mistakes? Share below!

About The Author

Casey St. Henry

Casey lives in northern Wisconsin with his wife and children. He found Zwift as a way to stay active during cold, low-snow winters. He is secretly trying to qualify for 2020 USAT sprint triathlon national championships in Milwaukee. Don't tell anyone.

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1 year ago

Hi Casey. Regarding the calibration of the footpod, I did mine outside, running 3km on the inside lane of a 400m track (using MilestonePod app). I don’t know if it was necessary but I did it a couple of times at difference paces. Knowing the exact distance I covered means it should be better than using GPS distance, and definitely more accurate than what the treadmill says. This means I don’t need to re-calibrate it for each treadmill I use. You can then ignore what speed the treadmill is telling you and just adjust its speed until your Zwift pace… Read more »

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