Zwift racing, how to survive the winter?

I love to race on Zwift and thats also a goal in itself for me during “off season”/winter. I do want to pace myself though, and not go over board like i have before. Last winter I could race twice, maybe three times a week but it wasnt sustainable…

Any thoughts on how to balance racing and training with IRL season in mind during winter? I guess its individual but i think i could need some perspective what a hard race of 60 minutes actually translates to terms of impact… this is probably a very big topic but i would love to have a discussion about it.

Hi @Silje thanks for posting this! It’s a great one for discussion and very timely. Would you mind giving us more information as to why it wasn’t sustainable for you (I think I know why, but am curious to hear from you)?

I will start with the bottom line:

  1. Racing isn’t training, it’s execution (a chance to apply what you have been training). Racing won’t make you stronger/faster as you hear almost everyone say in Zwift.

  2. It is possible to balance racing in Zwift and training, but it probably means racing less than what you might want to… if your goal is to continue to progress/grow as a cyclist.

Considerations:

  • Races are not workouts. They are an opportunity to practice your skills and put your training to work in a competitive scenario. Sure, you work hard, but they do not replace training sessions because there is no focus or targeted stimulus in the way that workouts do. This applies to all races, indoors and outdoors.
  • Be cautious about racing weekly for several months in a row and/or year-around. Doing so can result in chronic fatigue and likely compromise the quality of your training sessions (in addition to missed training sessions). This is when riders start to see a plateau in performance.
  • You might need additional recovery time after races, so your training schedule will need to be adjusted for this.

Lastly, know that racing in Zwift is not the same as racing “in real life”. Zwift’s algorithms are not able to accurately replicate what happens outdoors when you and your bike interact with the elements, terrain, and riders around you.

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@Silje now for the practical application of the above… Using your current training plan as an example (Women’s Cycling Challenge), a race replaces a workout. So ideally, you would race no more than once a week if you want to continue progressing in your training, taking one week off racing every 3 weeks to honour a recovery week.

Then you would have to pay careful attention to how you are feeling after a few weeks. Are you still able to perform well on the workouts? Are you seeing improvements in your cycling/fitness? If the answer is yes, great, keep going.

I used to race in Zwift often - for a period of time I raced weekly. Then one day I decided to analyze the data files from my Zwift races. What I saw was in line with what my coach at the time told me: my efforts were almost identical, in every race - regardless of the course. The main reason for that is… your body gets used to that type of effort, and you end up producing almost identical power as a result. This is possible because racing in Zwift is not like outdoors. There is very little that matters in Zwift other than producing power constantly. No bike handling, no aerodynamics, no coasting, no gravity, no wind, no other riders… There ARE skills you can use to conserve and be more efficient such as cadence and body position (seated/standing), but that’s about it.

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stagnation…

long between those lovely days with happy legs and punch… i found replacing training with races. Basically no plan :slight_smile:
I still want to race but i want to know my legs and form agree with me and i would like to progress.

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Makes sense to reduce the amount of races and plan them into a training plan, not the other way around. I will be a little bit picky with the races i choose to ride and pace myself.

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That’s a good plan, and it will still allow you to have fun.

Hey T is been a while. I have to say the same applies to out of control group rides my pet peeve. My local group rides very often and much too hard on Sundays when many of us just want a nice enjoyable endurance ride. Nothing wrong with a couple of sections that are tough intervals but often my group does not know how to chill out. It often seems like every hill is a race to the top. As much as I like my friends I will often sit 20 yards back from a group ride like that and just do SST power and mostly ignore them.

Hey @Dean! Good to hear from you! Yes, that is a great point. I see that often as well in group rides, where it becomes a bit of a hammer fest.