The Zwifter’s Dilemma

There is no doubt in my mind that Zwift has changed bike riding forever for both amateurs like myself and for professionals. Technology hit a point where all the pieces came together to make realistic indoor training both fun and affordable. My Zwift starter kit included a $400 Amazon laptop which I already had, a Power Tap Hub in my wheelset which I also already had, and a 10 year old dumb trainer with a groove worn into the steel wheel. All I needed to buy was a $15 ANT+ dongle and download Zwift and I was off to the races! While some may balk at the $15/month Zwift price tag, for me, it’s absolutely the cheapest bike thing I’ve ever bought that has yielded the biggest boost in real world speed.

Her set up smokes what I’ve got. Source: Zwift Media Toolkit

Zwift’s slogan is in this Youtube commercial is “Serious Training Made Fun” and I definitely agree. But there is a dilemma that many of us have run into where the fun of joining competitive group rides such as The Tour of Watopia or Tour de Zwift or the many races like The Morning Grind Fondo or the Dadurday Chase Race can be so enticing that us Zwifters skip rides that would better benefit our overall fitness. i.e.: training rides catered to our fitness needs

When I started on Zwift, huge gains came from just riding more and riding harder. That kept producing benefits for a long time. I had my first winter where my riding volume didn’t tank to nearly zero forcing me to build up all over again in the spring. When it did get nice enough to ride outside again, I was spared the discomfort and awkwardness of having the desire to haul ass on a beautiful day with no legs to back up my ambitions. I was killing it as soon as I came out of the shed!

Me in the springtime excited to ride outside but fat as a cow from not doing shit all winter

Just riding and racing without having a deliberate plan other than hitting a certain number of hours per week yielded gains for about a year but then I started hitting a plateau. Improvements were still coming but new wattage PRs were small and the gaps between setting them was getting wider and wider. Then I noticed that a lot of my Team DIRT buddies were noticing the same thing. And we were experiencing a lot of F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). The races are too fun and hearing about how awesome the race was that you missed led to regret. We were acting like high schoolers egging each other into race after race while also swearing that “no way am I racing tomorrow!”  Yet there we were goaded into our 4th race of the week hanging out in the pens the following morning. The peer pressure between us was getting out of control.

Recently, I am noticing a number of us starting to come to our senses and taking a step back from the fun of racing in order to take a step forward with our fitness goals. A lot of us also actually have IRL races on our calendars for the spring and summer and aren’t as focused on Zwift racing. It’s been interesting to watch how my internet buddies are approaching hitting these goals. A number of us are starting to use Zwift’s in-game training programs such as Build Me Up to boost fitness. Others have gotten creative using Zwift by selecting specific days for racing, organizing hill repeat days with friends for anaerobic work, team time trials for sweet spot work and sprinkling in some endurance and recover rides. Others are getting private coaching. I have started to use a local buddy for mentoring for XC races and Trainerroad to lay out a program. But I can’t disengage from Zwift. Trainerroad’s blue graphs are pretty boring so I run my TR workouts on my smartphone while pedaling around in group rides on Zwift on my PC.

Between the gas cans and the step stool, greatness is born

The cool thing about Zwift is that it gives you so much flexibility. Admittedly, Zwift does not have the depth of training tools of a program like Trainerroad but it is best in show when it comes to emulating the experience of riding an actual bike and if you are using a coach or writing your own programming, you can upload workouts directly into Zwift. It’s pretty amazing everything that you can do. I only expect that Zwift will continue to add more features over time to enhance social, visual and training aspects of the platform. 

I’d love to hear how you use Zwift to become a fitter rider so feel free to leave a message in the comments below!

Thanks for taking the time to read and I’ll see you in Watopia. RIDE ON!

Ken “The Badger” Nowell

[email protected]


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  1. mgardiner

    Our team has taken to racing Tues (KISS Choice), Wed (Team Celebration Series), Thurs (KISS Choice), then if people are feeling fresh enough Sat (DADurday) and Sun (KISS 100). That’s so much intensity during the 7-day period that I can do maybe 2 weeks of it, then need a rest week. My biggest struggle is the amount of quality in those efforts. Often times we do intervals after the Wednesday race, but we’re thinking of taking one of the Tues/Thurs race-days and making them intervals only days to focus on pure quality.

  2. josewence

    Great article, Ken. I’m definitely at that crossroad right now where the FOMO has caused some burnout. Not sure what my plan is yet, but I’ve been bypassing the random races and doing more structured work instead. Racing so much starts to feel like a chore when I’m always tired and that’s not fun for me.

  3. Hal

    This sounds very familiar. I realised recently I wasn’t improving and was doing mostly races (some workouts, but not many, and not with any schedule, just when I felt like it). I’ve started following a training plan with TrainerRoad too, I’m interested to see what kind of results I get. Now I have the opposite problem though! Most of my riding time is taken up with hard workouts, so I don’t feel like racing much!

    I also found TrainerRoad’s blue graphs pretty boring, which motivated me to find a way to do the workouts in Zwift instead. I didn’t want to have to run multiple devices, so I wrote some software to extract workouts from TR and convert them to Zwift custom workouts. I can now choose to do TR workouts natively in Zwift, or TR. I find harder/intense workouts are better done in Zwift, whereas less intense workouts I do in TR and watch TV or similar. I might release the software at some point – if I can find a way to do so without making it too easy for people to just copy all the TR workouts and stop paying. TR seem to be afraid of letting people do workouts outside of their app, presumably due to concerns about people using their content without paying.

  4. The Badger

    Hal, many of us are running into the same issue. Zwift is missing the robust training features of Trainerroad and Trainerroad is missing the engagement features of Zwift. So now we are left with having to purchase two apps with a lots of overlap. It seems that the situation is ripe for 1. a partnership between the apps, 2. an acquisition or 3 Zwift develops more features on it’s own to compete with those attracted to those aspects of Trainerroad.

  5. Bradlee Haley

    Great topic and I too have been on the must race wagon. Hi my name is Brad and I have a Zwift race problem. I’m better now that IRL has started. Good read thanks.

  6. Chris

    I’m a total beginner to cycling, indoors or out (not been out on a bike since I was a kid). I’ve been using Zwift now for about 10 weeks and my fitness has jumped massively as a result. I’ve been blogging my progress at It’s nice to find another indoor cycling blogger 🙂

    I hadn’t really realised about the fomo aspect until you mentioned it. Last weekend I did the tour and the giro. I definitely changed my schedule for them.

    Great post.

  7. Rocky

    I”m just coming from IRL training, where I was doing intervals, a plan developed by a coach, rest days, HIIT, tabatas, working in the gym, for, wait for it ZERO PROGRESS for 2 years.

    And what breaks this log jam? Zwift.

    And you all are plateau’d on Zwift. Well, that may come to me eventually, for now, I’m so glad I found Zwift.


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