Why Zwift? Part 3, "On the Road in Watopia"
After using TrainerRoad for months and slogging through workouts, I must admit that I did show some improvements. I was enjoying the TrainerRoad experience, working on different TR workouts and getting lots of good work in on the trainer. As the different workout sections came up, the trainer adjusted and hit those targets perfectly more or less. My FTP was slowly rising, and I remained moderately entertained by YouTube or Netflix while I rode. However, one thing I noticed was how restrictive the workout setting was with TR. To me it seemed that I was almost always going full gas, and I was struggling to find workouts that were good at base building. For my personal use, I was starting to find TR to be best when I needed a hard workout and limiting when I needed a light day.*
Now one thing I realized a long time ago was that monthly fees add up. I had TrainerRoad, Training Peaks, and Strava Premium all going and it was costing me about $35 a month. A free trial of Zwift was being offered, and I jumped at it. It was a strange experience at first. As I road in the virtual world, the incline changed and the smart trainer adjusted accordingly just as it did on the TR workouts. Hill, flats, and mountains were now available to me. It felt more or less realistic, enough to make it fun. While I had been used to this happening for wattage on TR, the changes due to inclines and declines was a new experience.
I enjoyed the first week just riding around the Watopia routes. and I thought it was pretty cool, but that in the winter I would really like the structure of TrainerRoad workouts to help me improve. I wandered around Watopia long before the expansions and new worlds were added. It seemed pretty cool, but more than anything I liked that I could simply ride and accumulate base miles. I did not have to worry about which TR workout would give me a solid hour that was not too hard for me to not be constantly over-trained, which is what I was starting to feel.
So now the conundrum...TrainerRoad was great for workouts, and Zwift was great for endurance days or easy spins. Both are critical to the training I do, as I found a good mantra for me is "Make the hard days harder and the easy days easier." It was tough to decide which was the right choice, but I knew that I couldn't afford both $10 for TR and $10 for Zwift. For a few months, I paid both premiums and used TR for the workouts and Zwift for easy rides and recovery days.
Somehow the folks at Zwift must have been reading my mind because within a few months, Zwift workouts became a reality. Slowly, training plans and workouts were added and eventually users were able to create their own workouts and even import workouts from other sources. If I wanted to do a block of sweet spot, I could easily build a workout complete with warm-up and recovery phases. It all worked, and eventually Training Peaks even created a feature that allowed me to create workouts in their interface for use on Zwift. This was nice because it allowed me to anticipate TSS and tweak workouts as I built them (I have since given up on paying for my Training Peaks premium, and do everything in Zwift or through free online workout editors like the one on Zwift Hacks.)
This was really the deciding factor. Now that I could input workouts or use canned workouts, I fully committed to Zwift as my indoor training platform. I took some notes on the TrainerRoad workouts that I liked, and I was easily able to recreate them in Zwift. Now, this did not just happen overnight, but soon I found that Zwift was helping me to do anything that I had set out to do on the bike indoors. As Zwift added new worlds and especially the Mountain on Watopia, I was able to simulate any free ride I could want with only a little imagination. It was $10 well spent...very well spent.
Next time: Zwift gets even better with races and group rides.
* I fully believe that TrainerRoad is an outstanding platform, but I simply enjoy the ability to ride freely on light days. Zwift allows this. That said, TR does maintain a slight advantage in ERG mode (seems to work better) and long term plans. If I had unlimited funds, I would continue to subscribe and use it alongside Zwift. Zwift is simply a better all in one option in my opinion and status as a semi-trained cyclist.