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Is Strava and Zwift Secretly Sabotaging Your Cycling Performance? Find Out Why!

In the ever-evolving world of cycling, technology has revolutionized how we train and track our progress. Apps like Strava and platforms like Zwift have become household names among cyclists, offering a wealth of data and a community of like-minded enthusiasts. However, what if I told you that these beloved tools might be making you slower on the bike? It sounds counterintuitive, but there are compelling reasons why your reliance on these platforms could be hindering your performance. Let’s dive in.

1. Chasing KOMs and Segments Can Lead to Overtraining

Strava’s King of the Mountain (KOM) and segment challenges are addictive. Cyclists often find themselves pushing harder and harder to climb the leaderboard, sometimes at the expense of their overall training plan. While competition can be a great motivator, consistently going all-out for these segments can lead to overtraining, burnout, and even injury.

2. Lack of Structured Training

Zwift offers a variety of group rides, races, and virtual routes, but the gamified nature of the platform can sometimes lead cyclists away from structured training plans. Instead of focusing on targeted workouts designed to improve specific aspects of fitness, riders might get caught up in the excitement of spontaneous races or group rides, which don’t always align with their training needs.

3. Poor training sessions and too much choice

There are hundreds of training sessions that you can complete on Zwift which can lead to decision fatigue and wasting valuable training time. They have also been created to be “fun” so there are lots of changes in intensity and short efforts, This means you lack the benefits of those longer steady-state intervals not to mention the most key component of fitness… Zone 2 Training!

4. Comparison and Mental Fatigue

Constantly comparing your performance to others can be mentally exhausting. Strava’s leaderboards and Zwift’s race results can create a pressure cooker environment where you feel the need to always be at your best. This can lead to anxiety and a negative mental state, which are detrimental to long-term performance and enjoyment of the sport.

5. Neglecting Real-World Skills

Zwift’s virtual environment is incredibly immersive, but it can’t replicate the unpredictability and technical challenges of real-world riding. Cyclists who spend too much time on the trainer may find that their bike handling skills, ability to read road conditions, and group riding tactics suffer when they transition back to outdoor rides.

6. Ignoring Recovery

Both platforms encourage constant engagement, whether it’s through daily challenges, group rides, or social interactions. This can lead to a mentality where taking a rest day feels like falling behind. However, recovery is a crucial component of any training plan, and neglecting it can lead to diminished performance and increased risk of injury.

7. Losing Sight of Personal Goals

It’s easy to get swept up in the social and competitive aspects of Strava and Zwift, but this can cause you to lose sight of your personal goals. Whether you’re training for a specific event, aiming to improve your overall fitness, or just riding for the love of it, constantly chasing virtual accolades can detract from these individual objectives.

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What is the Ride Harder Academy?

The Ride Harder Academy will help you transform your cycling skills, power and speed in just 12 weeks. It is simple to follow and will teach you to ride efficiently. This will mean you are faster on the bike for LESS effort and have MORE spare time available.


How to Use Strava and Zwift Effectively

Despite these potential pitfalls, Strava and Zwift are valuable tools when used correctly. Here are some tips to ensure they enhance rather than hinder your performance:

  1. Follow a Structured Training Plan: The Ride Harder Plan can be uploaded to Zwift giving you the best of both worlds. This progressive, structured training plan will mean that you are only completing sessions needed to improve without any junk. All the sessions are compatible with Zwift so you can ride on Zwift!
  2. Limit Segment Hunting: Set specific times for going after KOMs or PBs, and don’t let them dominate every ride.
  3. Focus on Key Metrics: Identify the metrics most relevant to your goals and avoid getting bogged down by too much data.
  4. Prioritise Recovery: Schedule regular rest days and stick to them, regardless of the latest Strava challenge or Zwift event.
  5. Mix Virtual and Real-World Rides: Balance indoor sessions with outdoor rides to maintain your bike handling skills and enjoyment of the sport.
  6. Set Personal Goals: Focus on what you want to achieve, not just on what others are doing.

By maintaining a balanced approach, you can enjoy the best of both worlds—leveraging the benefits of Strava and Zwift while continuing to improve and excel on the bike. Happy riding!

James Walsgrove

My cycling career started in 2005 when I purchased my first road bike and I was immediately hooked. Since then I have completed numerous cycling challenges including Ironman, Lands’ End to John O Groats, Mt Ventoux (all 3 ascents), London to Paris, the BBAR challenge which included a 12hour TimeTrial, Ride London and the Mallorca 312 6 times now.

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