Firstly, winter is coming. But there are more reasons to release the bats from the forgotten corner where your turbo trainer has been languishing since spring. It will soon be time to reposition all the furniture in your house so that you, the turbo trainer and your bike can all squeeze in front of a laptop precariously balanced on a stack of boxes to reach your eye line.
My previous relationship with turbo training was very poor. I would look at the howling gale outside, pull out the trainer, sit in the saddle for five minutes whilst fiddling with youtube to find something good to distract me during the session and then pretty much give up seconds later out of sheer boredom.
I have a strong assumption that my poor attention span was down to a lack of context as to what benefit the session was having on me. I had no idea how hard or fast or I was peddling and whether it was all just a pointless box ticking exercise. Things have changed recently with an upgrade to a Wahoo KICKR SNAP, a smart trainer, and a subscription to virtual reality platform, Zwift.
Zwift is described as “your digital destination for fitness, fun and adventure” and from my early impressions of it, I tend to agree. It gamifies the normal indoor session by transporting you through your laptop into a magical virtual world where you join lots of avatars of real life cyclists who are all on the platform, at the same time, across countries around the world. As soon as you select your route and workout and start to spin, that natural competitive spirit within you sets your wheels in motion and your focus on pipping the rider ahead.
This is the new age of indoor training. It brings a different level of data that ignites a natural curiosity within you about how many watts you can produce and what’s round the next corner of this mystical virtual dimension. Not normally one to really care about data, I find myself analysing the numbers and working out how I can shave off time and increase power. It’s nothing short of addictive.
The Zwift platform has by no means reduced my desire to get out into the outdoor, real world. That will always win my vote in a choice between code and road. But it gives you options when the winter brings dark nights, short days and weather that makes you wonder if you will make it back home with all your phalanges. It’s an option for those days when you are too time poor to get out on a four hour ride, when you need a quick blast and when it’s just not worth skidding on a wet road just to get the miles in.
The technology behind Zwift is impressive in that it connects with all your other training tools. I use my Wahoo heart rate monitor with and upload my training to Strava as I would an ‘al fresco’ ride so that all of my hard work does not go unnoticed.
I feel like this ‘smart’ approach to indoor training is on the cusp of something huge. It’s not just a gamified way for me to get my miles but has also managed to disrupt traditions within professional cycling. The Zwift Academy is an initiative with pro-women’s cycling team CANYON/SRAM offering one female Zwift rider a chance to win a pro contract with the team for the 2017 season. The competition is getting tense as the final in December will seal a rider’s fate. What an incredible opportunity for an amateur cyclist to develop their skills and take part in virtual challenges to prove their worthiness to be part of a hugely successful women’s cycling team.
I am at the very beginning of my adventure through Zwift Island at this early stage in the autumn but I can’t wait to really take advantage of all the features when the thought of spending 20 minutes grappling with my overshoes leaves me cold. I’m trying to convince my friends to get on it too so that we can race each other’s virtual selves and get fitter in the process.