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With 1.4 million Peloton users jumping onto state-of-the-art stationary bikes and treadmills to partake in virtual classes each day, working out without having to leave your home has become the new normal. There’s also a place in Peloton for triathletes, you just have to know where to look.
Founded in 2012, Peloton bills itself as “the Netflix of fitness” by offering at-home equipment and access to on-demand workouts with some of the world’s best instructors. As a fan of indoor spin studios, Peloton co-founder and CEO John Foley sought to harness that collective energy he felt during a group exercise class and deliver it beyond the 40 people who were actually present in the room. Unlike other indoor programs that are popular with triathletes, like Zwift, there’s an actual live person leading your class and pushing you on.
For a triathlete, the accountability of a community, real-time metrics, and easy-to-follow training plans are a major incentive. Triathletes are increasingly turning to Peloton to complement their tri training because it’s both convenient and motivational—but unlike those looking to simply “stay in shape,” triathletes need a structure that still points towards their goals. When done right, Peloton is an effective way for triathletes to get in those long and lonely (but intense) indoor sessions with the help of 1.4 million friends.
Enter, for instance, the $2,245 Peloton bike’s “Power Zone Training” offerings. Peloton Cycling & Tread instructor Matt Wilpers explains that these output and power-focused classes—Power Zone Beginner, Power Zone Endurance, Power Zone, and Power Zone Max—are one of the most effective ways to level up your fitness and track your progress when it comes to indoor cycling. These classes end up being one of the best “homes” in Peloton for triathletes.
The workouts are a target-orientated, highly-customized method designed to have you working at seven different levels of exertions throughout a ride. First, users complete a 20-minute performance test to find their functional threshold power (FTP; the highest power that a rider can maintain for approximately one hour.) FTP is a common marker for all triathlon cycling training—a measurement that has a place outside of the indoor world of Peloton for triathletes.
In the classes, the Power Zone instructor, calls out a cadence range and specifies the appropriate zone of intensity cyclists should be working in (after testing your FTP, you will learn your relevant zones.)
Each zone is also designed to address a hyper-specific area of fitness such as endurance, anaerobic capacity, or neuromuscular power. The concept is if one rider is only starting out and another just competed in the Tour de France, both will still be working equally as hard using their respective zones.
Wilpers added that understanding and challenging your FTP output is key to boosting your fitness and achieving results. As an experienced triathlete himself, Wilpers said this is how he prepares for a race—Peloton or no.
“Power Zone Rides and testing/retesting your FTP allow you to both monitor changes in your fitness as well as train at intensities that are appropriate for your fitness level,” he said.
For running-related training, Wilpers—a former Division I distance runner with 13 years of coaching experience—opts to use Peloton’s Tread and Outdoor race prep workouts “for anything from a 5K (sprint-tri distance) to a marathon (Iron-distance) using rate of perceived exertion as well as race paces.”
He adds, “For marathoners, [Peloton’s] Marathon Training Program is an 18-week periodized outdoor program for beginner to intermediate athletes, coached by competitive runners, a triathlete, and experienced outdoor coaches.”
The adaptable, music-driven program of classes, devised by Wilpers and other star Peloton coaches, incorporates tempo runs, race prep runs, strength classes, recovery fun runs, and long run warm-ups. This plan is currently available on the Peloton Digital app, so it can be used even without access to the costly machinery.
As a blueprint, Wilpers recommends a minimum of two to three workouts per week each for cycling, swimming, and running. In an ideal world, the ideal mix of Peloton for triathletes should be a combination of indoor and outdoor workouts.
“A lot of the specifics behind what those workouts should look like depends on what distance tri you are competing in,” Wilpers said. “Take classes like Power Zone Training and race prep workouts where you can test and retest your fitness. Recommended length and intensity of these workouts depends on your race distance, goal, and general experience as an athlete.”
To avoid injury Wilpers advises, “These workouts should be spaced out across your week so that you have adequate time to recover and try to avoid one workout ruining your ability to complete another. Listen to your body and/or hire a coach to help you plan it out.”
On other days, Wilpers points to Peloton’s Strength and Flexibility programs for triathletes to help supplement training.
Wilpers added, “With Strength, Peloton offers tons of variety here to help you with sport-specific strength to general strength and conditioning, while Flexibility has yoga, post-run stretches, and foam rolling classes to provide lots of options to stay healthy and flexible during your tri training.”
As with everything, it’s important not to overdo your at-home sweat sessions either, particularly when you have an event coming up.
“When training for a given race, think about 18-24 weeks of focused structured training, and then take a break and do some unstructured work before you go back to being focused. This way you avoid burning yourself out.”
A version of this article was originally published in January of 2020.