How Tech Is Keeping Me Fit & Sane During Lockdown

The year 2020 didn’t go exactly as planned. And 2021 isn’t starting out that great either. That’s because of the global pandemic where terms like “lockdown” and phrases like “You’re on mute” became part of our everyday language. Early on in lockdown I made the decision to focus on my fitness to keep myself fit and sane. And my gateway for that was cycling. Indoor cycling to be specific. I’m not talking about Peloton. But something that is more in line with the type of road cycling that I do. Now I have invested in a fair amount tech to make that happen, so let me walk you through what that tech is and how it fits in:

  • Zwift: This is a massively multiplayer online cycling and running physical training program that enables users to interact, train and compete in a virtual world. You can get clients for iOS, Android, PC and Mac. Zwift allows players to ride their bicycles on stationary bikes or smart trainers while navigating through virtual worlds. You can cycle freely around the game worlds which include Richmond Va, London, Yorkshire, New York, Innsbruck among others, and join organized group rides, races, or workouts with other users. Zwift uses ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy technologies to transmit data that, in combination with my weight and equipment choices, is used to convert the my efforts as speed and power in watts. While there are other platforms out there for this sort of thing, Zwift are the leaders this space. At least for now.
  • I’ve chosen to run Zwift on a PC, which meant that I had to build my on PC. Here’s the specs of what I built:

Is this the hardest core gaming PC? No, but it does the job quite well and perhaps borders on overkill for Zwift as this setup is way above the minimum requirement for Zwift.

  • Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer. “Smart” trainers, which include a built-in power meter, permit accuracy in the measurement of watts as well as enabling an immersive technology experience, where resistance is applied or lessened to simulate the gradient encountered on the virtual courses in Zwift. This specific smart trainer is the most immersive trainer that money can buy. It can simulate road surfaces, uphills, and downhills almost perfectly. It connects to the computer via  ANT+ or Bluetooth Low Energy. I use the latter. You put your bike on this this trainer so that it looks like this:

The net result is that I have a setup that does more than a reasonable job of replicating real world riding. Seeing as I have the computer hooked up to this 4K TV from TCL that sits in our living room, I can run this at 4K 60 frames per second to maximize the realism. For the record I don’t do that because it is too realistic for my wife who gets motion sickness at that resolution when she uses this setup. Therefore I run it at 1440P instead to avoid that. Here’s what the environment looks like:

You can find me on Zwift pretty much every day doing a virtual ride of some sort. I’ve developed a somewhat structured training program that currently looks like this:

  • Monday: An “easy” 60 minute group ride at up to 1.3 watts per kilogram. Riding in a group tends to work you harder than riding solo.
  • Tuesday: A “harder” 50 minute group ride at up to 2.0 watts per kilogram
  • Wednesday: This is a day where I can do a race, a structured workout, or just free ride on Zwift. It is up to me to decide what to do so that things don’t get boring.
  • Thursday: A “hard” 60 minute group ride at up to 2.5 watts per kilogram
  • Friday: A Zwift open category race (meaning anyone of any ability can join) that lasts up to 60 minutes and the distance varies. The reason why I do an open category race is that racing is the best way to get a maximum effort workout. And races that have riders from a variety of abilities tend to be harder than races that are categorized by ability. That means you get a better workout as a result.
  • Saturday: An “easy” 90 minute group ride at up to 1.3 watts per kilogram
  • Sunday: An “hard” 90 minute group ride at up to 3 watts per kilogram

Watts per kilogram is a basic power-to-weight ratio measurement that cyclists use. This data point reflects how many watts can you hold for a certain period of time, divided by your weight in kilograms – and can help you to compare your fitness level with others, or just yourself as the higher the watts per kilogram that you can ride at, the faster and fitter you are. So when I choose these group rides, I try to mix in easy rides for recovery, and harder ones to challenge myself. That way I am constantly improving. And as I improve, I change some of the “harder” or “hard” rides for even harder rides. Since lockdown I have made these sorts of changes twice. Though I do mix things up with special events that Zwift sometimes offers to keep things interesting.

Since I have started doing this, two things have happened. First, my resting heart rate has dropped as per this chart from Apple Health and as captured by my Apple Watch Series 6:

Having a lower heart rate is a sign of better health. So that’s good. The other thing that has happened is that I have lost weight. I have gone from about 115 kg to just over 101 kg as per this chart and as captured by my Withings Body+ Smart Scale:

I seem to be losing between 0.5 and 1.5 kg’s a month. So I plan on continuing this to see if I get to below 90 kg’s. What isn’t showing up on either of these charts is my mental health. Since the pandemic started, my interaction with other humans in person has been dramatically cut. So having an outlet and being able to do something is really keeping me from losing my mind. Plus a lot of the rides that I’ve been on have allowed me to make some friends on line that I hope to ride with in the real world once the world stops ending.

That’s a quick overview of the tech that I am using during lockdown to keep myself fit and sane. I hope it gave you some insight and maybe an idea or two so that you can do something similar. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below and I answer them as best as I can.

One Response to “How Tech Is Keeping Me Fit & Sane During Lockdown”

  1. […] finally Mr. IT Nerd and I have a sweet smart trainer / Zwift set up taking up a 1/3 of our living room/dining room space so I didn’t think we would need or have […]

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