I have read in several places where riders have had great success racing on Zwift in place of a traditional training plan. Recovery rides are done on Zwift as well. The riders also monitor weekly tss carefully. Obviously a structured plan is easier to follow and peak. However if you were interested in being fast not just for a specific event which would you choose?
If a particular training schedule is motivating to a person, and it encourages them to ride regularly, it’s not surprising that they see some benefit.
That being said, Zwift racing (or outdoor group rides) will not come close to a structured training plan in terms of consistently and accurately stimulating the different energy systems you need to be a dynamic rider.
Fortunately you can do both.
Structured training on TR + occasional doses of group rides/Zwift races/etc
If you want to do both, just use a TR Low Volume plan for Base+Build+Speciality and then go race on Zwift or do group rides to your heart’s content.
Check out this thread on training without targeting a specific event:
“However if you were interested in being fast not just for a specific event which would you choose?”
The “best” is whatever combo is going to get you on the trainer more often but keeping in mind that if you can handle it, a well executed training plan is by far the best way to get faster. That being said, it won’t ruin your plan to do some Zwift races and as you get closer to the outdoor season working those into your plan on a regular basis will have some benefits.
Zwift races are just like outdoor group rides and races from a training perspective, both good and bad. Balancing Zwift group rides/races and solo workouts is really just the same dilemma anyone who enjoys outdoor group rides faces once the weather warms up. The good is you can get some intensity and they are a fun break compared to slogging away “alone” on the trainer. The bad things are they are not always the most efficient way to train so you either spend too much time for the work involved or get more tired for less focused work than a planned workout. Also, some folks tend to over do it and end up getting fatigued and unable to do more important work in their plan.
I think that it is pretty obvious that following your TSS pretty closely will help you improve somewhat. That being said, you will be good at what you train to do- If you use zwift and you are recovering and doing zwift races, you will be good at zwift races. I use both TR and zwift (zwift mainly for recovery rides or running simultaneously as TR to keep me engaged), and when I do the zwift races, I just find myself going as hard as I can for the duration of the race- there is little recovery.
With structured and varied training, you will become a better overall rider- not just good at going hard for however long the zwift races are. TR workouts allow you to target particular weak spots in your cycling.
Probably both work.
The problem with races on zwift for me was that I had to be on the trainer at a specific time which was difficult with my job. TR workouts allow me to do them whenever it fit my schedule.
If you have a budget for one, do the one that is more fun to you and will get your ass on the trainer
You need to understand that Zwift is a stimulus to the body. Like any new stimulus, if you let it adapt, you will get better off of it. So of course Zwift racing will provide improvement.
However, Zwift racing is broken into 3 categories… Length of race, distance of race, terrain of race. Outside of that, Zwift racing provides the same stimulus every single time. You can only manipulate those three variables so many times. The amount of time you spend in Z5-6 in a training session exceeds a opening 5’ of a zwift race. The level of FTP work in a structured session is greater than a zwift race.
Once that stimulus doesn’t provide enough stress, you stop improving. Your body is smart.
Zwift racing will always be hard, but don’t confuse “hard” with “enough to elicit a positive response” to see improvement
This is Basic Training 101 and is why a structured plan trumps doing races on a long term scale (8+ weeks)
I don’t know if this is any help but I often will have my smart trainer being “driven/controlled” by trainer road (or golden cheetah) sweetspot/over-under sessions while climbing a long ascent (ie alpe du zwift). Not a race per se, but it does add to the fun of it.
I have also done a 20’ ftp test the same way, and I loved it
Racing on Zwift I find super challenging but completely irrelevant to my actual goals and events (ultras at low IFs). But the racing in Zwift does make me feel -what I think is- some of the excitement of real ones.
Truth be told I am facing a conundrum of sorts, in that I don’t enjoy following TR programs faithfully, even though I trust they will result in the best improvement. On the other hand Zwift is fun, but they are sloppy when it comes to improving cyclists’ knowledge and performance. It shows in the respective communities too.