New to training with power? Sarah LaRoque (YouTube channel “Everything is Photogenic”) breaks down some of the basics of structured workouts on Zwift and other indoor training platforms. If your eyes glaze over when people start talking about FTP and ERG, her conversational style might help!
First, she explains Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and the tests that help you find your FTP. This is the number that Zwift bases your workouts around to make sure they are at your level and have the right training effects. It’s more commonly defined as the power you can sustain for about an hour, but you might not be able to hold it for that long, and that’s okay.
When you’re not using a smart trainer, you’ll shift gears and pedal faster or slower in order to match the target power in workouts. A controllable smart trainer gives you the option of using ERG Mode. This changes the resistance in order to get you to the target power using whatever gear or cadence you’re using. Turn off ERG Mode and you’ll be in Resistance Mode, which works like a non-smart trainer except you can manually change the resistance.
Watch the video:
LaRoque also explains the different training zones and how they are represented on Zwift. (These are close to, but not exactly the same as, Dr. Andrew Coggan’s power levels. Learn more about how they compare, and how Zwift divides the zones, with the help of Shane Miller’s video.)
- Zone 1 (Gray): Active Recovery. Not for building fitness.
- Zone 2 (Blue): Endurance. All-day aerobic zone, where you should be able to ride for a long time.
- Zone 3 (Green): Tempo. Brisk, sustainable, but challenging over time.
- Zone 3+ (Green, Yellow): “Sweet Spot.” A well-balanced training zone just below your FTP.
- Zone 4 – (Yellow): Threshold. At or near your FTP, this zone is always going to be difficult for any sustained amount of time.
- Zone 5 – (Pale Red): VO2 Max. The power you can hold for 3-5 minutes, maybe up to 8 minutes, at a very hard effort.
- Zone 6, 7 – (Bright Red): Anaerobic and Neuromuscular. This is your 1-3 minute power and your sprint power.
Zones 1, 2, and 3 primarily use fat for fuel, while zones 4, 5, 6, and 7 primarily use glucose (sugar). Zone 3+ is balanced between them. LaRoque points out that knowing your training zones can help you fuel appropriately before and during your rides.
Now that you know what to expect and what those colorful graphs mean, it’s time to get to work! Happy training!