Fartlek Training With Zwift

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Fartlek Training With Zwift

Zwift is the new kid on the block in the realm of socially driven cycling programs.  It allows you to ride your trainer with anyone around the world.  You can feasibly be sitting in your living room in Newfoundland, spinning away and you'll be able to pass someone from Australia doing exactly the same thing.  Some cyclists have embraced it wholeheartedly and some have scoffed at it.  A lot of cyclists have asked how they can do some kind of training with Zwift, and to this point, there have been few answers.

Sure, there are some workouts built into Zwift and you can always do any regular training plan workout while Zwifting (is that a word now?)  But doesn't that take the fun out of training with Zwift?  Isn't the point of a platform like Zwift to create the sense of actually racing through the streets, ascending climbs and bombing descents?  How can you combine training and fun in one simple package?

In the following video, I'm going to show you how to get some in some training with Zwift: Fartlek training.

What is Fartlek training?  How can it be done with Zwift?  Watch the video and check out the info below to find out.

Training With Zwift

First of all, what is Fartlek training?  Back in the mid-1930s, Swedish coaches developed a method of adding intensity to their cross country skiers' training plans.  They basically added interval work into their long, steady-state aerobic workouts to stimulate high intensity interval training adaptations.  Fartlek work is typically associated with running, but it can work with any aerobic activity, such as cycling.  It differs from regular interval training in that the speed/cadence/intensity varies in an “unstructured” manner.  This makes group rides a fantastic place to practice and undertake Fartlek training: your intensity and durations are entirely dependent upon the activity of others.

Riding and training with zwiftThe same can be said for Zwift.

Zwift, for those of you who may not be fully aware, is the newest socially integrated cycling app to hit the market; a virtual group ride, if you wish to call it that.  Because it mimics a group ride (although it's a group ride on a virtual platform with riders from all around the world) it's the perfect environment for Fartlek training.

Not only can you choose to follow a group of riders, some of whom are slower, some of who are faster, some of whom are better climbers or worse climbers, but you can also undertake segment challenges.  Similar to Strava, you can go for KOM points, sprint points or course records.  Additionally, you are constantly reminded that you need to “close the gap” and ramp up the pace to keep up with some riders in front of you.  Or, if you're having an off day, simply take a spin through a virtual world on your trainer.  Let yourself take in more than just an episode of Law and Order on your TV.  Maybe you'll find the legs to chase down the KOM on a segment or hammer your way through a sprint point.

How does Zwift help you build fitness the Fartlek way?  Simple.  Just treat your Zwift ride like any group ride: find a group and bury yourself to stick with it.  Or push the pace and drop them, knife through throngs of cyclists and power your way up climbs and over rolling hills.

With ANT+ integration and the ability to use power, speed, cadence, HR and/or a powered trainer all built into the app, you're set for a hardcore training experience at the hands of everyone around you.

Is there any reason NOT to do a little Fartlek training with Zwift?  Indeed.  Too much of any one thing will set your training back.  Don't overdo the Zwift sessions at the expense of building solid fundamentals.  Don't spend all of your time chasing KOMs and sprints, otherwise you'll risk going too high intensity too soon and toe the line of overtraining.

But honestly, those are (at the moment) unfounded fears.  Zwift is a great platform to be social, to have some fun and to get some quality variable training into your training plans.

Want to get involved in some training on Zwift?  You'll need a couple of things: an ANT+ key, a trainer (I recommend the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine unless you go for a smart trainer) and a speed/cadence sensor.

About the Author:

After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science/Pharmacology, I continued my education with a doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College. As I progressed through my education, I was able to apply the concepts I learned in the lab to my own daily workouts and goals. At the time, I was following some of the principles of traditional coaching and getting mediocre results. Frustrated, I realized that if I could apply all my physiology, chemistry, nutrition and training knowledge, I could “build a better mousetrap” not just for my own training, but for other athletes. With this goal in mind, I started Tailwind Coaching, to help cyclists [with busy lives and limited training time] become stronger, faster, fitter and healthier. And while I may not be a ex-ProTour rider, an Olympic Coach or even a prolific race winner, I am something that most coaches are not: a regular guy just like you who has a job, a family and a desire to be a stronger cyclist.