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A closer look at Zwift

by editor
Friday 16th March 2018
Tags  Zwift   |   treadmill running   |   running apps
The treadmill is definitely something that divides opinion amongst runners. For every runner who reluctantly pounds the revolving belt only when the situation dictates - icy pavements, a hotel in the desert in 40 degrees C - there’s a runner who loves nailing their sessions without the distraction of traffic and dogs on extendable leads. 
But the treadmill has undoubtedly always been a solitary endeavour, and dare we suggest - a little boring? Until now. Step forward Zwift, who are looking to revolutionise treadmill running. 
What is Zwift?
It’s an app which allows runners to interact and virtually run with other runners all around the world. You run the app on your iPad or phone in front of you on the treadmill (or laptop or Apple TV if you have a home treadmill) and you run within a Zwift virtual world. Essentially it’s ‘gamifying’ your run, putting you in a session with other runners. However, you can also opt to do sessions on your own, if you’re not the sociable type. 
How do I get started? 
It's easy, even for technophobes. 
  1. Download the app from the app store - THIS IS CURRENTLY FREE!
  2. Open the app and enter your details
  3. Pair your devices - you will need a footpod (eg Stryd, Milestone or Polar Stride) if you aren’t on a bluetooth treadmilll. 
  4. Calibrate your footpod (you just need to run for 60 seconds to do this)
  5. Select a Zwift event or workout
  6. Start running

Zwift 1

You can also link to Strava and upload your run, just as you would do with an outdoor run. 
How does it work?
I tried out a Zwift session and the set-up was pretty painless. Once you’ve selected your event or workout you see yourself standing at the side of the road, waiting to get going. Then you run! For events and group runs there are 4 different groups, separated by speed, though you can speed up or drop off the back of these groups if you need to. The screen will give you instructions, such as ‘turn the treadmill up to 11kph now’ throughout the workout. It surprisingly easy and surprisingly mesmerising! You can pick off runners, if you’re the competitive sort, or you can enjoy the company, if you want a social run out. You can absolutely ruin yourself doing a workout, whatever level of ability you are. It's incredibly flexible for all runners and all sessions you might want to do.

Zwift 2

What are the benefits to training? 
  • Like any treadmill session, there's no cheating it! For intervals you set the treadmill at the speed required, for the time required and you can't ease off a bit like you can on the road.
  • The sessions are designed by top coaches, so you can be sure you’re doing a quality session that will benefit your running. 
  • If you’re struggling for motivation then signing up to some events or sessions could help you along. 
  • Likewise, if you’re motivated by a bit of healthy competition with your peers or yourself, then Zwift sessions could be up your street. 
  • If your training suffers in the cold then the treadmill could be a great way of keeping consistency. 
  • If you’re time-pressed then hopping on a treadmill but with a planned session can be a great use of time. 
Who is Zwift for? 
The short answer to this is anybody! When I asked the people at Zwift who their market was, they said ‘any runner with a goal’. That goal could be a race, weight loss, running for half an hour without stopping, breaking a time barrier for a distance, anything at all. They have plans for everybody from beginner to advanced. 
In terms of who would find it particularly useful, they’ve had feedback to suggest that runners who are particularly time-pressed (for example, parents of young children) can really benefit from it. They’ve also heard from people who feel quite body-conscious about running outside but have made good progress running on a treadmill using Zwift. It can also be great for people who have no option but to run in the dark and don’t feel safe doing it outside. 
I don’t think even Zwift would want runners to fully convert to treadmill running. Nothing really beats a nice run outside! But Zwift certainly has its place at times, whether that’s for a particular aspect of training (eg doing intervals) or to keep consistency at times when weather or life dictates you just can’t get outside to run.
Find out more at www.zwift.com

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