Zwift recently published their “This Season On Zwift” (TSOZ) press release summarizing plans for new Zwift features through the end of 2022. And while that press release gives some high-level details of upcoming features, we like to dig a little deeper here at Zwift Insider.
This is one in a series of individual posts discussing specific upcoming features in more depth.
Since its inception, Zwift’s definition of a “workout” has been very structured and anchored in ERG mode. This narrow definition can be good or bad, depending on who you talk to. Most everyone agrees that structured ERG workouts are a very effective way to build fitness due to their precise control of your power outputs. But others will say training in ERG doesn’t prepare you for “real” riding where you have to manage your power output with a combination of cadence, shifting, and gut feel.
Others might add that, while ERG training is effective, it’s no fun. And they have a point.
So when Zwift announced route-based Baseline and Finish Line workouts for Zwift Academy Road 2021, we were excited about the possibilities. Instead of completing a structured ERG session, these rides let us essentially free ride a route, going all-in on particular segments in order to test our sprint, VO2, and FTP power intervals.
While the implementation was a bit rough in 2021, the idea was solid. And now it appears Zwift has taken their learnings from last year and improved on the concept for Zwift Academy Road 2022, with the intention of bringing route-based workouts into the game as a regular feature alongside structured ERG workouts.
What Is a Route-Based Workout?
Let’s begin with a definition. What Zwift is calling a “route-based workout” is similar in concept to what most cyclists have done when training outdoors. Hill repeats, sweet spot training on a long flat route, or sprint training up the kicker on your short crit loop would all be examples of outdoor route-based workouts.
On Zwift, a route-based workout will use one of Zwift’s predefined routes to underpin the day’s efforts. For example (these are our ideas, not Zwift’s):
- Sweet spot training: Beginners could ride Watopia’s Whole Lotta Lava route, for 3 laps, while more advanced riders might try Innsbruck’s Lutscher route. In either case, try to hold 90% of your FTP while on the climbs, then recover in between.
- VO2 workout: Ride Watopia’s Jungle Circuit, going hard on the climb (110-120% of FTP) all the way to the start of the rope bridge each lap.
Confetti, Messages, and Automatic Bike Swaps
Zwift’s route-based workouts include a few features you won’t find in an outdoor ride. On-screen messaging will tell you when you’re approaching the next segment, and even coach you through it. Virtual confetti will celebrate your efforts, and automatic swaps on and off a TT bike will ensure that your timed segment intervals are consistent between efforts.
An Accessible, FTP-less Pathway
While we mentioned FTP in our examples above, one of the beautiful things about route-based workouts is that you don’t need to know your FTP in order to do them.
We all know FTP testing is no fun. Beginners have a particularly challenging time with the pacing and mental toughness needed to return accurate FTP test results.
While knowing your FTP may help you pace a route-based interval a bit better, riders can simply be told, “This climb will take you around 4 minutes, and we’ll be doing this 4 times. Pace yourself accordingly!”
As a bonus for Zwifters who don’t know their FTP, Zwift can take your longer route-based efforts and calculate your FTP automagically. Simples!
Route-based workouts feel more realistic than ERG-based workouts, because they are! If you’ve ever done a workout up Alpe du Zwift which included hard intervals and recovery sections, you know how silly ERG mode can feel.
It’s natural to let terrain define the efforts. Route-based workouts will work in concert with Zwift’s routes, instead of using ERG’s method of nullifying the terrain.
The first route-based workouts of the season will be the Baseline and Finish Line rides rolling out for Zwift Academy Road 2022. Zwift says, “We expect to unveil more of these workouts later in the fall/early winter,” and their TSOZ FAQ makes reference to a “Getting Started Collection” of route-based workouts which is forthcoming.
Route-based workouts, if done right, should be more accessible and immersive than structured ERG workouts.
While many riders will still love the effectiveness of ERG workouts, we think route-based workouts will become popular due to their accessibility and real-world feel. And as any coach will tell you, “The best workout is the one you actually complete.”