ZWIFT RACING VS BASE-BUILDING
CYCLING WEEKLY|November 12, 2020
As another national lockdown takes hold, Vicky Ware assesses whether continual Zwift racing is a safe and effective way to build fitness over winter
Vicky Ware

The virtual world of Zwift has offered a much-needed outlet to cyclists stuck in their homes during this year’s lockdowns. It has filled the gap, providing opportunities to ride, train, and race with others around the world. Provided you have a turbo-trainer, all you need to do is sign up to the service, log in, and select your event. Whereas the vast majority of real-life races have been canceled, the action on Zwift never ceases – easily fitted into your schedule. Hardly surprising, then, that this form of cycling has provided the impetus to stay fit. But, given the high intensity of most Zwift races, are we inadvertently pushing too hard when we should be backing off and building a base?

Unlike real-life racing, Zwift competition happens throughout the day and year, with no pre-defined seasons or built-in precautions to stop you from burning out. How much Zwifting can you get away with without taking liberties with your fitness and overdoing it? In short, is it really OK to race all year round? We asked a selection of training experts – including Zwift specialist pro racer Ashleigh Moolman Pasio – for their guidance.

Plan ahead

As with all the best practices, planning ahead rather than deciding what to do on the spur of the moment ensures you get the best possible outcomes. If you don’t decide what you’re going to do until you turn on Zwift, you’re more likely to choose an unsuitable event. You’re better off saving your racing legs for when they can do the most damage to your competitors while preserving your long-term form.

Pick one race series at a time and stick to your decision. Look at the racing calendar and see which race series suits you best. Plan a rest or a base period between that and the next Zwift series you do. How much racing you can do without burning out, or even just getting stale and plateauing rather than improving, really depends on your pedigree as a cyclist and how to fit you are. How much racing would you typically do in real life? If you’ve never done a season of racing before and are relatively new to cycling, doing multiple Zwift races each week is quickly going to tire you out and be counter-productive. If you’re a seasoned racer, you’ll know how to spot the signs of dwindling form turning into stale legs.

Perhaps more important when it comes to a long winter of Zwifting, is maintaining your mental form. Keep yourself motivated for racing by limiting the amount you do each week, and build in rest weeks. Plan for harder blocks of racing, knowing you’ll have a well-deserved rest period afterward.

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