Zwift: using your structured workout vs riding on a course

Zwifting has been an amazing upgrade to the indoor riding experience. Gone are the days of riding the fluid trainer and staring at the wall (you might not even know what a fluid trainer is). With Zwift we can now access workouts, courses and different Worlds. A plethora of choices!


Three way to do a workout


We have three choices for how to do our workouts in Zwift: 1) ERG mode (not even an option really); 2) using the structured workout, and 3) riding a course without having loaded a structured workout, like we would outdoors.


What is the difference between using a structured workout and riding a course?


To make sure we are talking the same language, using the structured workout means going into Zwift to ride, then heading to the workouts folder and loading the workout. This is using a structured workout. The structured workout option is great, as it has a built in timer and instructions, telling us what to do across the workout. Amazing for some of those VO2 sessions with shorter intervals!


What is happening to the gradient during our structured workouts? Nothing. In a structured workout the gradient is unchanging. No matter what course you have chosen, even as the gradient on the course changes, there is no change in your workout’s resistance. This makes using a structured workout a really good option for managing our efforts. Once we figure out gearing and cadence we can hit our numbers over and over, like in one of the 85% workouts. Very useful.


But, in that manner using a structured workout is still somewhat like ERG mode. To best prepare for our epic rides outside we want our indoor training to mimic outdoor riding as closely as possible. With this in mind the goal should be to move away from loading the structured workouts and doing your workouts on a course.


When riding a course - as in you haven’t loaded a structured workout from the workout folder - you experience the changes in gradient that happen on the course. These changes in gradient change the tension you feel on your legs, make you pay attention and shift gears, and teach you to manage your effort on varying terrain, just as you need to do in the real world. As you would training outdoors you can pick a course that matches the needs of your workout.


We want our indoor riding to mimic riding outdoors as much as possible. Zwift is a big step in making our indoor riding more realistic. With that in mind, try and move away from always using the structured workouts to doing your workouts on one of the many courses you can choose from.


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