cycling · fitness · Zwift

You’ve joined Zwift, now what? 12 things to try

Let’s assume you’ve got the bike, a trainer, a towel, some water bottles, a fan, a heart rate monitor, and the rest of the Zwift set up. Tunes are blaring too, if that’s your thing.

You’ve got an account and you log in. What next? What’s a beginning Zwifter to do?

I’ve been Zwifting for awhile now and there’s still lots to learn and new tricks to try. It’s an incredibly rich virtual experience but it can be overwhelming for newcomers.

Here are some of my suggestions of ways to approach the increasingly complex world of virtual cycling. You do you, of course. Find your own way. But here are some things to try to get started.

Avatar: Of course the first thing is designing your avatar. You get to choose your avatar’s hair and skin colour. Other factors, such as size, match the numbers you’ve given Zwift. At first you won’t have a lot of choices about shoes, helmets, sun glasses, and kit. You get those by accumulating kms, leveling up, and doing events. My avatar wears the pink hat I got from completing Zwift Academy this year and a pair of Pride socks I got from doing one of the Pride rides this year. We’ve blogged about avatar selection before, since we have some issues, see here and here.

Friends: You can follow your friends who Zwift and allow others to follow you. Or not. Zwift’s privacy settings allow you to opt for ‘private’ in which case people need to request permission to follow you. I like it that Zwift notifies me when friends start Zwifting. My Garmin watch even allows me to give them a “ride on” from my watch. You can follow me if you like…

Challenge: The very first thing you might want to do is select the Everest Challenge so that you can work towards getting the Tron bike. Why? The Tron is the fastest all round bike on Zwift. I have the bright pink version but you can change the colour. You can’t buy it with drops. What are drops? See here. Short answer they are the virtual currency of Zwift, drops of sweat earned for effort that you can spend on new bikes, wheels etc. But the only way to get the Tron is to select the challenge and complete it by climbing 50,000 m.

Sam on her Tron

Ride with a pace partner: A good way to get a sense of your pace on Zwift is to try riding with the pace partners. I usually ride with Dan Diesel the slowest of the pace partners and Sarah rides with Coco Cadence who is just a bit faster. Dan weighs 82kg and rides at 125w (1.5 w/kg) and Coco weighs 65kg and rides at 165W (2.5 w/kg). That makes sense as Sarah races in the C category and I race in D.

It’s Zwift so everything is expressed in watts per kilo, or wpk. Cycling is a weight specific sport and it’s all about weight to power ratio.

“Your speed in Zwift is controlled by your power number, the level of effort you’re putting out at any given moment. Power is measured in watts and you can always see the watts you’re putting out by looking up in the top left corner of Zwift. If you remember back to physics class, it takes more effort (power) to move bigger, heavier masses around than lighter ones. And that’s why we look at power not just as an absolute number, but as one relative to a rider’s weight: watts per kilogram (power-to-weight ratio). To work out your power-to-weight ratio figure, simply divide your power output (in watts) by your weight in kilograms (kg). For example, a 125lb/56kg rider with a power output of 195 watts, is riding at 3.5 w/kg. Don’t feel like doing the math to find your number? Zwift automatically calculates this for you in game.” from Zwift

Why? The pace partners allow you to practice riding at a steady pace and you get extra drops riding with them. I enjoy practicing moving around in the pack, dropping off the back, catching back up, and then riding through the group.

Sam riding with Dan

FTP test: The pace partners are a good way to see what pace you normally ride at but if you want a more precise answer, and you might, you can do an FTP test. Why? “FTP – your “Functional Threshold Power” – is the wattage you can stay below and sustain for longer durations, while going above it causes fatigue to occur very quickly. The number is an indicator of your fitness, and also helps shape your training zones, racing, and group ride category in Zwift.” (from Zwift) Zwift will automatically adjust your FTP as you get more fit but it’s also good to do the actual tests for accuracy.

Group rides: You can ride alone on Zwift or you can join in on a group ride. Here’s a list of some of the tides I like. Read the descriptions on the Zwift companion app. Pick one that suits your pace. Why? You don’t want to be a flier, someone who rides off the front and pushes the pace above the one that’s advertised. Rides aren’t races. The big advantage of the group rides is going faster together. The ‘together’ bit is key. Rides have both a yellow beacon, the group leader who sets the pace, and a red beacon, who serves as sweep and helps the dropped riders get back to the main group. Some rides have a red fence as well that marks the front of the ride. Why ride in a group? I like the motivation of riding a certain distance at a certain time and I enjoy the social aspect of group rides. There’s some texting back and forth but also, there’s voice chat that happens on Discord.

Workouts: You can do workouts on your own in Zwift using your trainer’s ERG mode and the Zwift library has lots to choose from, including some for new and expectant parents. You can do workouts individually or as part of a series with specific training goals in mind. And you can also choose to workout as part of a group event. The nice thing about the group ones is that everyone stays together regardless of the watts you put out.

Route badges: One approach to Zwift that many people take is riding all the different routes and collecting all the badges. See Cate’s post on badge hunting. Different worlds are available to ride on different days and you can usually find a new route that matches what you want to do that day, at first at least. After a time you might find yourself with only the biggies left, like the PRL Full, which is 173 km and 2290 m of climbing or the Uber Pretzel which is 128 km and 2335 m of climbing. True confession: I haven’t done any of the biggies. The most I’ve ever ridden on Zwift is 60 km though I keep thinking I would like to join my teammates on their regular weekend metric centuries.

Do some races: Once you’ve got the hang of riding in Zwift you might want to try some Zwift racing. Here’s some of my fave races. Before you start out, def do an FTP test and join in the right category. You’ll also need to join Zwift Power which is the official results site for all Zwift racing. It also does a bunch of analysis of your riding and your strengths as a rider which you might find interesting. Why race? You might find it fun and motivational–I do!–or not, in which case, move on. For most of us it’s recreational gamified bike racing meant to be fun. Where else can you deploy the burrito power up, which makes you undraftable for 10 seconds! Here’s an explanation of the Zwift power ups.

Zwift power ups

Join a team: If you like racing and want to get more out of it, then the next step is to join a team. Sarah is a member of ZSUN and I’m a member of TFC. There are lots of them! Both teams participate in race series and host social rides. TFC also hosts two regular race series, the event the team was named after, The Friday Criterium, and Mad Monday. It’s a great way to meet riders from all over the world and find people who share your approach to training and racing. My favourite team event is the team time trial.

Meeting up: Another kind of ride you can do on Zwift is the meet up, which just as it sounds involves inviting other riders and meeting up with them. You can elect to just see your group in the world, and you can elect a banded meet up so you stay together regardless of putting out different amounts of power. Some people organize meet ups with people they know and ride with in real life. Others use them to ride with teammates to scout out race routes in advance.

Giving ride ons: When I first started riding in Zwift I had no idea what those things were that were filling up my jersey pockets! Turns out they were ride-ons given by other Zwifters. I wasn’t sure at first how to give ride ons, or if that was a weird thing to do. Now I am the Queen of Ride Ons and know how to give ride ons to lots of people at a time.

Ride on fit feminist friends! See you out there on the virtual road!

Also, what would you add to this list of things to try? What’s your approach to the world of Zwifting?

Zwift logo
Dancing · fitness · fun · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 31

Welcome to Day 31!

I hope today finds you with the space you need to take good care of yourself.

And I hope that you can recognize your own efforts to make that space, even if you didn’t always succeed.

You matter, your needs matter and your efforts matter.

And here’s a gold star for those efforts:

A large gold 3D paper star hanging on a white door.
Image description: This is the largest gold star I own. It’s a foldable 3D paper ornament and it is covered with sparkly gold spirals. In this photo, I have hung it on a white door.

Now, onto our movement and meditation for making space. (As always, feel free to do these or to do your own thing.)

One of my favourite ways to get moving is to join my friend Elaine Dunphy in either an ageless grace or a Nia dance class. Since I can’t bring all of you to one of her classes (what with Covid restrictions and the laws of physics and all), I asked her to create a short video for today’s post.

Here’s Elaine, in full positivity and joy, with a New Year’s Eve message and a short and fun movement practice for you to try as you create a little space for yourself today.

My friend Elaine Dunphy with a New Year’s message and a short movement practice for us today. I posted this on my own YouTube channel – the only other video on there is my husband doing the ice bucket challenge, so obviously I am not a prolific YouTuber. The still image shows Elaine in her dance studio. She has very short salt-and-pepper hair and she is smiling and holding her right hand up, palm towers the camera with her fingers held widely apart.

And as for a meditation, I am offering two today.

The first one is for people with a lot of space in their day, the second is for people with just a sliver of time for themselves.

A ten minute meditation from the Great Meditations YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person in yellow sitting in a classic meditation pose – legs crossed, backs of hands resting on knees, palms upward. The words ‘Clear Your Mind guided meditation’ are on the left side of the image.

And if you just have a minute, here’s a meditation for you.

A mini-meditation from the Headspace YouTube channel. Still image shows blue squiggles against a yellow background with the words ‘Health Mind’ written in purple on the upper left side.

I hope that these posts have helped you find space for yourself during the month of December when time seems to telescope, dragging on or collapsing without any relationship to the clock or to the calendar.

As we move into 2022, may you have the space you need in your mind, in your heart, in your days, in your schedules, and in the places where you spend your time.

See you tomorrow for my first Go Team! post.

blog · blogging · fitness · ICYMI

Top Ten Posts of December 2021, #ICYMI


1. Cate wants to know why she’s still menstruating at 53.5 and whether that’s a good thing.

2. I love it when one of our most read posts of the month is by a guest blogger. This month it’s a new voice here at Fit is a Feminist Issue, Julie on curling.

3. Another very seasonal guest post from a few years ago, it’s Carly’s thoughts on new year’s resolutions from a cheerful chubster.

4. Cate offers advice in her dear field poppy advice column. I think we’re all hoping there’s more of these yet to come.

5. Nicole offers advice too, to teens and others.

6. Marjorie’s guest post on keeping fit while healing from a hysterectomy

7. When plans change and your usual coping strategies fail, Sam’s musings on covid, stress, and falling into bed at 7 pm with a box of chocolates.

8. Diane’s post on balancing and juggling and making space.

9. Martha on taking time.

10. Elan on serving love and what that can look like when it comes to seasonal feasts.


Ring the Bell (or Whatever)

Well here we are, another year, another arbitrary marking of time. I was enjoying my time off. For the first year in ages and ages, I did not have some administrative nightmare to attend to on my break. I had plans. They were mostly plans to be alone in a forest but they were plans nonetheless. The universe cycles without regard for any plans of ours of course and, like many of you, COVID came knocking on my door. I’ll not bore you with the details of how. When I think about it, I get angry, imagine that the people involved were not careful enough, “if only you had thought to use that test earlier in the day” etc. The truth is, if not that day, then the next day or the next. It was inevitable. Now I find myself cooped up in my house with my two adult kids and one kid’s girlfriend. I am presented with the question of what to do with this time and for some reason, in this little family lockdown, it feels more like a moral question in addition to a practical one.

I often struggle with what to write in my monthly contribution to this blog. I mean what is feminist fitness? I think of words like permission and empowerment. I think about overcoming. I think about coming out from underneath something. I think about the picture Sam often posts of a little girl riding her bike yelling “Wheeeeee!!!!” She is using her body and speeding gloriously free in her joy. She seems unencumbered, uninhibited and free of the layers of expectation that will later burden her. What if she was never burdened? Who could she be?

That feels important and I know it’s just a fraction of the story.

In my “Isolation”, I have committed to walking my dog at least 6k every day and doing one hour of yoga. Seems pretty reasonable. Seems like good advice for any lockdown. I’ve also been doing some other things. I have been reading the revised curriculum for the first year of the program I teach in. My colleagues have revamped it to address our commitment to training with an anti-racist and anti-colonial perspective. As we have welcomed a more representative student population into training in the profession, we have realized that they not only need to be welcomed but they need to be seen in our welcome. That means teaching with more stories present in the room. So I have read excerpts from Legacy by Suzanne Methot and How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi, amongst other things. My colleagues have interspersed these readings along with the usual psychotherapist stuff (Freud, Rogers, Kohut, Schore, Wallin). It’s eviscerating to go back and forth but the point is to stop presenting the psychoanalytic canon as neutral and insert more of the world’s reality. The point is also not to just teach the white people to be better but to see everyone in the room. We need to hold everyone’s story and give it room to exist and its full implication unfold. We need to start with the students, who are not separate from the clients. We need to be “accomplices” instead of “allies” (D. Squire 2019).

I have chosen to take this time to watch The Wire, a show I missed because I had babies and other drama when it was originally released. After the first episode, in which I was left with a feeling of WTAF is this, I started to understand why it was so important, why it remains so important. Watch that show in the context of George Floyd, of Donald Trump and insurrections and voter suppression and you will see how it holds up. Bonus points for treating queer people like humans in the core story.

In my dog walk yesterday, I listened to this podcast about the Wellness Culture’s link to COVID denialism. It was a very depressing dive into the way the hunks of wellness industry, and pointedly yoga, has aligned itself with an elitist, individualist magical thinking laden perversion of an understanding of health and collective responsibility. Gwyneth Paltrow and all her ilk, scrambling for clicks and views and followers, selling us enlightenment and vagina candles and vaccine conspiracies.

I’m coming ’round to my point. I was walking my dog, listening to that podcast in my still feeling well triple boosted body that loves yoga and lives in an affluent suburban town on Treaty 19 territory. I was trying to decide what to write for my last blog of 2021 to be published on the last day of 2021 and realized I had nothing to say of any use that had to do with any personal feminist fitness journey. I have everything. I have more than my share. I have more than is fair and most of it isn’t even mine. I say that in terms of both stolen land and also that the idea of having things, devoid of how having them impacts the collective, is a road to hell too many of us are walking.

The other thing I listened to on my walk was this podcast, an interview with theoretical physicist, Carlo Rovelli. He was talking about how time does not really exist as we know it. There was so much interesting stuff in that interview but the best part was at the end, where they talked about his notion that our existence is not about our stuff, it is about our relationships. We are the interactive, always fluid nexus of an ongoing web of relationships. He got there using theoretical physics, the Intersubjectivists got there through psychoanalytical observations, Carol Gillian created an entire moral philosophy out of it and the Indigenous people got there through lived experiences. When are we gonna get there?

I’m in isolation. It’s fine. I have everything, more than my share and I need to ask myself instead, who am I going to be? Who am I going to love? Who am I going to uplift and put before me? Who will find me a worthy accomplice? I won’t stop the walking or the yoga but it has to be a means to a better end. It’s not enough just to get to the mat anymore.

Happy arbitrary New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Cool white haired white woman grandma with sun glasses on having a Martini
challenge · cycling · holidays · Zwift

I did it!

I successfully met my challenge of riding 5500 km in a year. I did the final 20 km this evening to make it to 5500 km for the year. I wish I could say I finished up doing a race or some significant challenge but instead season 2 of Witcher was involved.

I originally thought that 5000 km was a reasonable goal and I’ve been trying to get there for years. Usually, most years, I top out at 4000 or so even in years when I’m doing the Friends for Life Bike Rally and riding in the southern US for a week or two in the winter.

It’s also arbitrary in a bunch of ways. For example, I’ve not been counting casual errand running or bike commutes. There’s no good reason why not except that I don’t use my Garmin for casual rides and so those rides aren’t tracked automatically.

Then along came Zwift and the pandemic. That made a huge difference to how far I ride in a given year. Last year I made it to 5000 km for the first time ever since I’ve been tracking these things. This year same thing. At some point in the middle of November I hit 4600 km and knew I’d easily make the 5000 goal. Instead, I decided to increase my goal to 5500 to make it a goal I’d actually have to work for rather than one I would just casually and easily float past.

What was the upside of the stretch goal? Well, it kept me riding regularly through the holidays. I rode my bike on the trainer Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yes, I might have preferred walking outside with Cheddar but we had rain over the holidays and my knee wasn’t quite up for for very much walking.

Thanks for everyone who rode with me at the end. Hi Jenny! Hi Sarah! Thanks TFC teammates!

Sam’s Strava year in review stats page
fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation

Making Space: Day 30

This is our second last day of Making Space before I switch over into Go Team posts but, just so you know, the encouragement level will stay the same. 💚

I hope that you can find space and ease today and that you have some peace in your heart and mind.

We don’t have to earn our rest.

We don’t have to finish everything first.

Rest is part of our daily cycle, no matter what the ‘push through it’ advocates would have you believe.

Sure, there are occasional times when pushing through is the answer but those times are the exception, not the rule.

It’s ok, in fact, it is advisable, to listen to the signals from your body and mind and take a break as soon as you can.

Maybe your current obligations mean that you can’t take a long break but even a few moments here and there will help.

Please don’t think that I am pressuring you to put more things on your to do list, that is definitely not my goal here. Ideally, we’ll learn to build breaks into all of our projects rather than making them a project in themselves.

And I am definitely not telling you that this is easy or that you *should* already be doing this. Our lives are full and we are often under a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone.

My hope with these posts was that they could help you recognize that your breathing room matters, that making space for yourself is valid, that small breaks are good for you, too.

It was never about chastising you (or me) for the challenges involved.

So, once again, I celebrate your efforts to make space for yourself in your life, even if dropping your shoulders away from your ears for a moment is all the extra space you can make today.

⭐️ <- for your efforts to make space today

And now, on to the totally optional videos:

Today’s movement video was really energizing and completely warmed me up on this chilly morning. There are some jumping movements in this one but you can easily modify them as needed (I did!)

A short energizing workout from the 117 Wellness YouTube Channel. Still image shows the instructor in outdoor clothes and hat standing with their knees slightly bent and their hands in ‘prayer’ position in front of their chest. They are at the edge of a body of water and a dock is visible on one side and there are mountains in the background. Text reading ‘Energize Your Body In 6 Minutes’ is superimposed on the right side of the image.

I first clicked this meditation because I liked the title , then I noticed that it was from Calgary Public Library (yay for libraries!) which was a bonus, but the icing on the cake was when the meditation leader introduce themselves as Christine. A video from a library that recommends a pause and a speaker that shares my name? I am in!

A short meditation video from the Calgary Public Library YouTube Channel. The still image shows a person with long hair and glasses in a black turtleneck sweater and jeans sitting cross-legged with their hands resting on a stack of books on their right knee. The right side of the image is a blue semi-circle with the title of the video ‘The Power of a Pause 6 Minute Meditation with Christine Francoeur’ in white text.


To Resolve or Not to Resolve? On New Year’s Resolutions (reblog)

We’re fast approaching 2022 and many of us I’m sure are mulling making new year’s resolutions. Here’s Tracy’s thoughts on resolutions from a few year’s back. Hope you find them helpful.


Happy Betwixtmas!

I’ve written about this week before, the strange week between Christmas and New Year’s that we’re calling Betwixtmas now.

Mostly for me, it’s never been a thing. For me, for most of my life, the week between Christmas and New Year’s has been a regular working week. The people I grew up with held the kinds of jobs that didn’t go on hold. My parents were bakers and my friends’ parents were mechanics, nurses, transit workers, truck drivers, police officers, and so on. Only the school teachers and maybe some civil servants had the week off. Kids were off school but parents worked and somehow we all had to cope.

I didn’t know any university professors.

And my life for a long while also fell into the ‘working the week after Christmas’ pattern. As a student journalist that was the week of cheap hotels and the annual meeting of Canadian University Press. As a professor, it was the week of the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting. I know lots of people hated the timing but I loved it. After a week off before Christmas with family, I confess I was ready for a week of seeing old friends and of Philosophy.

The APA has long since given up that less than family friendly date and now its new dates instead overlap with the start of the teaching term in Canada. Me, I’ve joined the rest of the working professionals for whom the week between Christmas and New Year is technically a holiday. I say ‘technically’ because I also have a long academic to do list–drafts of papers, referee reports, reviews of people going up for promotion for other universities, etc etc. If you’re an academic, you know the drill.

This year this week has seemed extra ‘betwixt and between’ because thanks to the pandemic, lots of things to do just aren’t happening. I like to see friends this week and we’re not doing very much of that. I had a long list of movies I wanted to see in the theatre but that isn’t happening either. I am reading fiction, catching up on some shows I’ve wanted to watch (Witcher!), eating lots of chocolates, wearing my new socks, and riding my bike lots.

Just 60 km left before I reach my year end goal of 5500 km!

Also, I definitely need to eat a vegetable!

(I like the suggestion of someone on our Facebook page that for the weeks around the holidays, clementines count as vegetables.)

How do you approach the week between Christmas and New Year’s? What’s on your plate this week?

Here’s my past post about this week:

fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Making Space: Day 29

As we amble along together through the in-between, let’s remind each other that December 31 is a date, not an absolute deadline for everything.

Sure, for some of us, there are some legal things that may have to be finished up over the next few days but for most of us, there is no need to push to finish AllOfTheThings.

It’s ok to find as much space as we can to reflect, to dream, to rest or to have fun.

And however and whenever you make that space for yourself is the perfect way to do it.

Only you know what you need to do to feel like yourself and I wish you the time, space, and energy to do it.

And with this gold star, I celebrate your efforts to find that time, space, and energy – ⭐️

Our videos today are a 5 minute movement break from the Recreation Department at the University of British Columbia and a relaxation meditation from Great Meditations.

Whether or not you do these videos, I wish you ease today and always.

A 5 minute Movement break from the UBC REC YouYube channel. Still image shows the instructor in a blue shirt with her arms in a C-shape with the text ‘5 minute movement break’ next to her in black.
A 5 minute relaxation meditation video from The Great Meditations YouTube channel. Still image shows a cartoon image of a smiling person with long hair who has their eyes closed. The background is overlapping muted shades of blue and grey.


Winter Swimming and Risk in COVID Times

It is winter swimming time again, and I’m thinking about the rules. Sometimes they seem silly and arbitrary.

Sometimes they actually might be wise, depending on distance to populated areas or water conditions.

Back when the pandemic first started, my friends and I did a lot of debating about whether we should continue to swim outdoors. Pools were closed, of course, but it was too early in the season for lifeguarded beaches (not that we swim there anyway).

How far did we need to stand or swim apart to prevent transmission? Would we put an unreasonable burden on the health care system if someone got into trouble? Were we setting a bad example for inexperienced swimmers who might try to copy what we were doing? Most importantly, were we being really honest about our biases, and assessing the risks to ourselves and others accurately?

Eventually, we found solutions we were comfortable with, and continued to swim through 2020 and 2021. Open water swimming and cold water dipping experienced a huge surge in interest during that period.

This surge did push some communities to block off access to local water holes. The fenced-off area above was blocked this week, shortly after we dipped in water that wasn’t even waist deep. The ice was several inches thick and someone had needed considerable force to break it.

Diane wearing a silly hat and bathing suit, with an ice-covered pond in the background.

With the resurgence of COVID, I am once again rethinking whether and how I can swim or dip safely. Although my friends and I model safe behaviour, provide advice and some have even offered video seminars, I keep reading about people wanting to dip or swim by walking over ice to get in the water. This is dangerous.

The ice can cut you and you won’t even feel it; you could fall through a thin spot; you could have difficulties getting back out of the water; you could slip under the ice if the water is deep enough and there is a current.

Breaking holes in the ice can be dangerous for others, too. Dogs, skiers, walkers and snowmobilers also go on the ice. They could easily go through an unmarked, partly frozen swimming hole. If there is no open water you can reach easily and safely, consider joining the folks who enjoy winter sports.

The Memphramagog Winter Swimming Society’s event is still scheduled to go ahead in late February, and several of my friends are planning to attend, if the borders are open. That means they need to practice. So for now, I will keep going into the water, even though if feels really really cold since we can’t go as often as we would like. Last week, it was all we could do to swim ten strokes.

Diane in her silly shark hat and a big smile because she isn’t in the water yet. Aimee, in the background, is standing in the water and is looking very cold.

But maybe not. With COVID numbers rising, I am increasingly uncomfortable sharing a car. We are all vaccinated and boosted and we can wear masks or drive separately, but the open water is an hour’s drive away. That’s a lot for five or ten minutes in the water.

What about you? How are the latest COVID numbers affecting your risk tolerance for fitness activities?

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa. She is looking forward to strapping on her skates or skis over the next few weeks.