I have not owned a road bike for that long (just over 6 months), and merely took up the sport as a casual endeavour to compliment and support my running. However, since picking up a gluteal injury in September 2015 (piriformis syndrome), as well as facing some other health issues, my running mileage has unfortunately seen a dramatic decline. This has had a significant emotional impact on me, as I was hoping to have been at a sub 1:20 half marathon by this stage, having come from strength to strength from summer 2014 to 2015. It is also quite difficult to physically contain myself, as I cannot express in words alone how much I love being active. As I work toward recuperation, I have been extensively using Zwift. For the uninitiated, Zwift is an online cycling ‘game’, that allows you to hook up your turbo trainer to the software on your computer (via an ANT+ USB dongle), and cycle in an online world with other riders. I have already reviewed Zwift here:
So not being able to run as much is an issue. How do I maintain cardiovascular fitness? Outdoor bike rides are great, but I (unashamedly) will confess that I detest riding in wet and dire conditions. Quite simply, it feels miserable and senseless (at least for me) to grind along in the rain and cold. But a lot of cyclists enjoy this(?), and that is fair enough. Enter indoor cycling! Those who follow me on Strava will have seen a number of Zwift workouts from me recently. The things I like most about Zwift are as follows:
-Easy/convenient to ride at any time.
-Do not have to get ‘properly’ dressed (i.e. helmet, bike lights, long-finger gloves, etc).
-No traffic stops.
-Can fully engage in training aspects with no distractions.
-Safer than being out on the road.
-Weather issues/excuses are non-existant.
-Great (online) social aspect.
-Above all, it is really fun!
I also got a Wahoo KickR (click here for the review) which has added a whole new dimension to Zwift awesomeness. There is no way that a home trainer can be a substitute for the outdoor feel, but the KickR comes damn close! Using a direct drivetrain and resistance based on the virtual terrain, this is the closest feel one can get to riding on the road. Okay, so you cannot physically turn your bike, nor do you actually use your brakes to stop/slow down, but the overall feel is highly enjoyable. With no distractions, information is all on your screen and interacting with other riders is also really simple and intuitive. The addition of instant uploads to Strava, segments and achievements are truly icing on the cake.
I am now just topping over 200km of cycling activity for the week, and most of this is coming from my Zwift sessions. I have set-up my bike in my study, and keep my bike docked there whilst at home. This makes it very easy to ride; it is just a simple case of turning on my MacBook (which is connected via HDMI to my television), getting on my bike and peddling away! I keep everything I could possibly need right next to my bike (heart rate strap, gloves, water, etc). I also stash some snacks in my jersey’s back pocket before starting a ride, if I am doing anything more than 40km (25 miles). I think having a convenient set-up make the whole process of riding indoors a lot smoother, and when you know that everything is set-up, you will not only save time, but be more motivated to get your workout done!
Here is a quick video tour of my current set-up.
So back to the main point of this blog post. Zwift has not only provided me with the means to improve my cycling performance, but also helped me get through my running injury, both in terms of proving recuperation and maintaining cardiovascular fitness. It has also opened up a wide range of training possibilities I did not know existed with cycling. All efforts are now focussed on increasing my functional threshold power (FTP) and getting in shape for a 100 mile ride this summer. In all honesty, I will probably always be a runner at heart, and although cycling has helped me get through this difficult time and provided me with love and passion for a new sport, I eagerly anticipating getting back to my running schedule as soon as possible. With the London Duathlon in September, as well as signing up for the L’Etape London (by Le Tour de France), 2016 promises to be an exciting year!