I’m sharing this largely because I wish I had known about it a few years ago, so maybe I can save someone else from that.
In short, Zwift is an app that puts you in a virtual world connected to your treadmill or your stationary bike. It’s kind of like being in “Second Life”, in a virtual world with virtual characters.
There are various ways to watch it while you run, but I just run it from my iPad and the iPad sits on my treadmill.
Here’s a promo video they made for it when it first launched in 2015 (when it was only for cycling):
A few things make it pretty neat:
Matched Speed: It can connect to your treadmill (or you can buy sensors if you have an older treadmill) and your character in the game paces at exactly your speed. With that, you can move through the world and it’ll track your pace, distance, etc.
Real people: While you’re exercising, the world is filled with other real people in the app at the same time. Zwift started as a biking app, so there are more bikes than runners, but having all of these people moving around helps to bring the world to life. They even do events like virtual 5K races at specific times, and you’ll see a bunch of virtual people lined up at the starting line.
Training plans: They have a few training plans to help get you started. They’ll tell you when to speed up, when to slow down, and encourage you as you go. It seems that they don’t have very many, but it’s a great way to help get started.
Gamification: As you exercise more, you earn points and levels and the kinds of things you get from a game. I don’t fully understand this yet, but I’m earning a lot of points!
All of that said, it doesn’t do much — just watching your character run can get boring after a while, even with the goodies I mentioned above. That’s ok, though. While the game has some ambient sounds, it doesn’t make much noise. As a result, you can still listen to music/books or watch TV while you work out, but have the added bonus of an interactive world in front of you instead of an LCD panel that is always creeping to higher numbers. 🙂
If you have a treadmill or stationary bike that you work out with, give Zwift a try. They have a seven day trial to play with it, and then it’s $15/mo after that.