Kevin Poulton and Elliot Lipski are the coaches responsible for the Zwift Academy program design. Registration for the 2019 Zwift Academy is now open. Sign up here.
Coach Kevin is head coach of Team Katusha Alpecin. With a focus on the successful implementation of indoor training, his athletes have won Paris-Roubaix, Grand Tour stages, World Tour classics, and numerous National and State Championships.
Coach Elliot is a coach on Team Dimension Data’s U23 team. He has a background in sports science and has a Masters degree in Applied Exercise Physiology which he gained at the University of Brighton. He previously worked at TrainSharp Coaching where he designed the 2016 and 2017 Zwift Academy workouts.
Here are some training insights for the 2019 Zwift Academy program, as well as a deeper look into each of the 8 workouts.
Why is it recommended to do the workouts in order?
Coach Elliot: We built the workouts to stretch you throughout Zwift Academy. The ordering of the sessions is a condensed sequence of sessions not dissimilar from what we would prescribe to our athletes across a season. Generally, you would spend a few weeks on each targeted area of development before introducing the next. The sessions will allow you to squeeze the most out of your body in the tests while allowing you to improve with fitness and form as you level up!
How much time should I take between workouts?
Coach Kevin: The Zwift Academy workouts consist of high-intensity intervals, so you’re going to want to give yourself adequate time to recover before attempting the next session. Sessions are about an hour in duration, so giving yourself 1-2 days recovery between workouts is sufficient.
Ideally, after completing a workout, you would follow this up with a light recovery ride the next day, then a zone 1 or 2 ride the following day, before completing the next Zwift Academy workout. Remember, that during Zwift Academy you’re looking to complete quality high-intensity sessions. That requires quality recovery.
How do I know if I’m fully recovered?
Coach Elliot: From high tech heart rate variability monitoring to low tech solutions like RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) questionnaires, there are different ways to measure this. The truth? There’s no exact rule to getting it right. Everyone responds differently to sessions due to their genetic makeup, training history, lifestyle, etc.
Try and listen to your body and make a note of your sensations (both physical and psychological) over a period of time. Eventually, you’ll identify patterns. For example, you may find you struggle with high-intensity sessions after a rough night’s sleep. But you’re able to handle lower intensity sessions just fine, and so might be better off swapping sessions. Soon you’ll build a picture of how to deal with fatigue, stress, and recovery. A diary is great for this, or inputting some comments into the notes section on Today’s Plan!
Any advice for optimizing nutrition for these 1-hour workouts?
Coach Kevin: Your body generally has enough stores of carbohydrates in the form of glycogen and glucose to fuel a 1-hour high-intensity session. No need to implement any specific nutritional strategies outside of a good healthy diet.
Take in a portion of carbohydrates with each meal, particularly after a Zwift Academy workout. This will allow you to begin the next session with adequate carbohydrate stores.
Would you recommend ERG mode or Sim mode?
Coach Kevin: ERG mode is simple. ERG allows you to complete the workout accurately without having chase power targets. Some of the Zwift Academy workouts have ‘free-ride’ sections where you’re challenged to produce maximal efforts. If completing a session in ERG mode, be ready to change gears during the ‘free ride’ portion to produce your best power.
If I'm still racing, how should I fit these workouts in?
Coach Kevin: It’s fine to fit your usual racing in with the Zwift Academy program. Just ensure you give yourself sufficient recovery before attempting the structured Zwift Academy workouts.
If you’re racing over the weekend, then you might stack your Zwift Academy workouts to the later part of the week.
How close together should I complete a ZA workout and a ZA race?
Coach Elliot: As with the workouts, Academy races are high on intensity in a short time period.
We recommend 1-2 days between each, though this isn’t a rule. If you feel like you have the gas to complete a race soon after a workout, give it a go! Racing in real life often comes after a tough day in the saddle, and the victory is won when you are tired, not fresh.
What should I do if I can't hit my power number targets?
Coach Elliot: Don’t panic! Every athlete, from the novice to the top professional, experiences a bad day every now and then. If the session is a particularly high-intensity one, it’s best to stop the session and cool down well, recover and attack it another day. If you find that you are struggling to hit the power targets on a number of different sessions (and it’s not a result of sickness), reduce your FTP by around 5% and try again. You could also try and complete another FTP test to confirm your zones are correct.
A LOOK AT THE EIGHT WORKOUTS
Please note, the workout images are based on a 250 watt FTP. The workout profiles in-game will be custom to your FTP.
1: Threshold Development
This is a classic FTP builder session, working below and above your set threshold. By spending time at these powers you can ‘push’ your FTP up from below and ‘pull’ from above. This is a great session to add progression to, as you can extend the duration of each main-interval, and as you improve, increase the powers inline with your FTP increases. The intensity of this session is where you will spend most of your time when riding IRL, so it is important to condition yourself to these types of efforts, changes in pace and cadence, all of which will make you a more efficient bike rider.
2: Race Practice
Race simulation workouts can be good fun, and condition you to efforts that you will likely experience in a race scenario, both in-game and IRL. They often include hard sprints measured at or just below your FTP, and tough, repeated anaerobic efforts. So in short, a bit of everything! Races are hard, and this workout is no exception—by supplementing this type of intensity with longer, steady rides at low intensities, you’ll see a nice lift in performance.
3: 20sec Power Duration
This session is structured to allow the athlete to 'fill in' their Power Duration curve. In this workout, we’re looking at your peak power. Over the course of the 20sec, your power will spike very high to begin with and then drop off. There is no need to pace this effort. It's all about maximum power and then hanging on as best you can.
4: Anaerobic Power Development
This session is a tough one, there’s no denying it! With only a few intervals, we are trying to maximize the time spent at high power. This means plenty of recovery balanced with short, sharp efforts. All of the intervals rely on a large proportion of your anaerobic work capacity. Think of this as a fuel tank, one you’re trying to empty in order to get it larger. You can empty the tank by going very hard for a short time (the 10 and 30 second intervals, in this case), or hard for a slightly longer time (3 minutes). Both efforts do the job, only in a different way. The recovery in this workout should replenish the tank each time. You might not feel like it by the end, but keep pushing and give this session 100%.
5: 1min Power Duration
This session is structured to allow the athlete to 'fill in' their Power Duration curve. In this workout, we’re targeting Anaerobic Capacity. Much of the session is based on preparing the athlete for the 1min 'free-ride' portion. This involves performing controlled intervals to give the athlete an idea on target power and pacing for the free-ride efforts. Despite only being 1min in duration, these maximal efforts require pacing. If you start too hard, then the drop off in the free-ride will be large. Use the warmup intervals to give yourself a target power for these efforts.
6: Chase the Breakaway!
Another tough race simulation session. We’ve included a short warm up to help you out. In lots of races, this isn’t always an option for the riders. In some cases, the first part of the race is the hardest of the whole day. Try doing a 3min maximal effort within the first few minutes of jumping on the bike! Hanging in after a tough effort is a mental game and this session will test you here. Remember: if you are suffering, so is everyone else. Get through the first few intervals and you will be well on your way.
This workout is designed to provide you with an example of how training is used to target your VO2max fitness. There’s a myriad of intervals that target VO2max, but this session will run you through some basic VO2max structure to repeat sustained high power.
8: 4min Power Duration
This workout also targets your VO2max. With an effort of this duration, we are looking for high power with very little drop-off. Use the warm-up intervals to gain an understanding of a target power that you can sustain over 4min. Avoid the trap of going out too hard, resulting in a drop- off in power.