Zwift has become a vital training tool for many of the top level professional triathletes. Take a scroll through the Zwift companion app and you’ll find huge names from the sport across both long and short course triathlon. From the likes of Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf to Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallists Flora Duffy and Kristian Blummenfelt.
- How professional triathletes train on Zwift
- Follow your favourite pros using the Zwift companion app
How professional triathletes train on Zwift
An increasing number of professional triathletes are adopting indoor cycling on Zwift as a pillar in their training regime. And it’s easy to see why. From the ability to target specific interval intensities with far more accuracy than they might be able to achieve out on the roads. To being able to maintain consistency when bad weather or low air quality makes training outdoors difficult. And of course, when it comes to prepping for races like the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona or Nice, the opportunity to execute a heat training protocol in controlled conditions.
Out in the real world, it’s not often that you’ll have the opportunity to ride shoulder-to-shoulder with the pros. But on Zwift, it’s easy. We take a look at how some of the top elites are using the indoor training platform and share some insights to help you train like a pro.
The Zwift convert
Why Laura Siddall has embraced indoor cycling
Favourite Zwift power up: Coffee Break
Top training tunes: BBC Radio 2 or a podcast
British pro triathlete Laura Siddall is a 4-time IRONMAN Champion and recently finished first female (2nd overall) at Patagonman Xtreme Triathlon 2023. Having previously lived summer to summer, Laura used to avoid indoor training in favour of riding out in the real world. But a broken collarbone and then the COVID pandemic helped Laura to discover the benefits of training on Zwift. And now she’s a convert to the virtual world the platform has to offer.
What converted you to training on Zwift?
“I used to live summer to summer, and I love riding my bike outside. So I thought: ‘Why would you sit on the indoor trainer when you can ride outside?’. Prior to Zwift, I’d had some bad experiences with indoor training which had put me off.
But then I broke my collarbone, and in the early days of rehab I couldn’t really ride – definitely not outside at least. Zwift kindly helped me get set up, and a new coach helped me to see how it can be effective for training. COVID was also a big influence on me fully embracing Zwift into my training routine, as it gave me an opportunity to stay connected with friends from around the world.
How does indoor cycling help to support your triathlon training?
“Zwift has so many benefits to enhance your training and develop a toolbox of skills that transfer into racing. I have a mirror in front of my trainer, so I can dial in my aero position and focus on technique and pedalling efficiency. Being able to lock into a power and hold your position for a set time on Zwift, without the distractions of riding outdoors, is great for building your mental strength.
What are your top tips for age-groupers looking to get the most out of Zwift?
“Zwift has loads of great training plans and programmes built in, so utilise those to help your training. Plus there are lots of group rides and workouts you can join for the social side of the platform. I would also say though: be careful. It’s easy to get sucked into chasing the sprint or hill segments, or to get swept along riding harder in a group. You can end up ‘racing’ more than your training intends you to. As with anything it can get addictive. So you have to be careful.”
“MAKE IT AS COMFORTABLE AS POSSIBLE”
Jonny Brownlee’s top Zwift tips
Three-time Olympic medallist Jonny Brownlee is one of many elite short course triathletes you’ll find riding around the virtual roads of Zwift. We caught up with Jonny to find out his favourite Zwift routes and training sessions, and to get his top tip for age-groupers looking for help to stay motivated on the turbo trainer.
What’s your favourite Zwift route?
“I like the Big Foothills route in Watopia. It’s just over 70km and it has lots of variety. Oh, and obviously any of the Yorkshire routes… but maybe I’m bias on that front!“
What’s your go-to indoor cycling session during the winter months?
“I normally just do a hard Zwift race, it makes things more interesting! If I’m not going a race, then a go-to session is 6 x 5 minutes hard with 90 seconds recovery.”
Do you have any tips for age-group triathletes who struggle to stay motivated on the turbo trainer?
“Make it as comfortable as possible. And also if you can, leave the bike set up and ready to go on the turbo so that you don’t have any barriers to stop you jumping on and doing a session. If you struggle to stay motivated, then have a TV as well and watch something easy like Match of the Day to help the time pass. It’s best to get on Zwift with a plan, either a session or a group ride, and make sure you stick with it. But if in doubt, do a Zwift race!”
You can have one Zwift power up to use out in the real world, what are you choosing?
“Definitely the feather power up. I hate getting dropped up the hills.“
What’s the most played song on your indoor training playlist?
“I don’t listen to music on the turbo. It’s the Fantasy Football or Leeds United podcasts for me!”
From pain cave to Kona podium
How Lucy Charles-Barclay used Zwift to become IRONMAN World Champion
2023 Kona champion, Lucy Charles-Barclay, is a prime example of the power of indoor training. Having completed a huge block of her Kona preparation from her “pain cave” set up at home in the UK, Lucy went on to have the race of her life at the 2023 IRONMAN World Championship – leading all the way from gun to tape.
In a recent YouTube video, Charles-Barclay discussed how indoor training helped her on her way to becoming IRONMAN World Champion. In the final build up to Kona, Lucy spent approximately 85 hours training on Zwift across the bike and the run – typically spending at least 4 hours a day on the platform.
Lucy Charles-Barclay credits indoor training with helping her to develop both the physical and mental strength to succeed at the IRONMAN World Championships. With the ability to control environmental factors such as heat and humidity, Lucy describes riding on Zwift as “just pure work, every single second” which helps to make you strong.
Alongside the strength and endurance gains Zwift offers, Lucy also reflects on the mental toughness that comes with indoor training – comparing it to the mental focus required in her pool swimming days. “Having a platform like Zwift makes it a lot more fun, but it’s the same mental training, When you’re inside those four walls you’re not going anywhere. You get very good at visualising the race course and how you’re going to feel at certain points.”
Highlighting that the Zwift platform is ideal for everyone from beginners to world-class professional athletes, Lucy has also set up a Team Charles-Barclay Zwift club so you can ride with her (virtually) during the off season.
You can turn it into a science lab
Lionel Sanders on the specificity of indoor training
As a Level 60 Zwifter, Lionel Sanders is possibly one of the biggest advocates for indoor training in the long course triathlon pro field -completing a vast proportion of his training from his home Zwift set-up.
In one of his recent YouTube videos, Sanders discussed the controlled environment that training indoors affords you – particularly when it comes to heat training and measuring data. “You can control it, turn it into a science lab and be very diligent with the adaptation process… if you like data and understanding how you’re progression is going – indoor training is the place to hone in on that.”
Follow your favourite pros using the Zwift companion app
Want to see what some of the top pro triathletes are getting up to on Zwift? The Zwift Companion app makes it easy to connect with fellow Zwifters. Simply open up the app, tap the ‘more’ button and then select ‘find Zwifters’. Here you can search for specific people or browse the list of featured Zwifters – where you’ll find plenty of familiar names from pro triathlon and pro cycling.
Once you’ve found the athlete you’re interested in following, tap the orange plus symbol. You’ll be able to see when they’re riding on Zwift, and even ride with them thanks to Zwift’s ‘Join a Zwifter’ function.
More top pro triathletes on Zwift
From IRONMAN champions to Olympic medallists: there are plenty of pro triathletes training on Zwift. Check out just a few of the many elites you’ll find on the indoor training platform below and see how your stats compare!
PRO FEMALE TRIATHLETES ON ZWIFT
Pro cyclists on Zwift
Triathletes aren’t the only professional athletes you’ll find on Zwift. There’s also plenty of pro cyclists making use of the platform – including Tour winners and UCI champions. Check out a few of the big names in cycling you’ll find on Zwift.