Today’s new norm of remaining socially distant means new and inventive ways of training need to be used to maintain fitness, especially for those competitive athletes of the Australian Defence Force.
Enter Zwift. Reminiscent of a video arcade game, Zwift is an online, multiplayer cycling program which enables users to interact, train and compete in a virtual world – with a lot more sweat.
World-wide travel restrictions mean the Invictus Games - The Hague are postponed until 2021.
Team Australia head coach, Navy Warrant Officer Geoff Stokes, said the Zwift platform kept the cyclists connected and allowed them to maintain virtually full race fitness.
“The competitors are spread all over the country anyway but being unable to meet for training camps poses challenges,” he said.
“Using software such as Zwift is a fantastic way of maintaining team cohesion and engagement.
“The team ‘meets’ three times a week with other members of the Adaptive Sports Program. They are able to undertake challenging rides from all around the world to work on their skills and maintain fitness.”
Warrant Officer Stokes said the program replicated many real-world roads for an authentic, immersive experience.
“When the screen in front of you shows you’re going uphill you certainly can feel it - you better believe it’s hard,” he said.
"We vary our regular ride meets for a few hills and bumps along the way but generally we keep it flat-ish.
“An added benefit, you don’t get in real road cycling, is the ability to talk to anyone regardless of where they are in the pack - this is achieved via an app, originally used by gamers, called Discord.”
The Invictus Games Foundation has recognised Zwift as a legitimate training aid. This allows the Australian team to ride with other competitors from all around the world.
Warrant Officer Stokes said the cyclists were participating in an Invictus Games social ride every week with some of the other competing nations.
“Usually Australia, the UK or the US hosts the ride meets. The first one had 258 cyclists,” he said.
“The numbers are dictated a bit by the time zone. Some guys have slept through their alarms for the 0200 meets.
“I tend to give my apologies beforehand as I know there’s no way I’m getting up at 0200 to train - I, however, normally join the group at least twice a week.”
Warrant Officer Stokes said an ongoing monthly fee allowed 24/7 access to the program.
“It cost $22, which is about a cup of coffee a week, and at the end of the day a great investment in our cyclists' physical and mental wellbeing - money well spent.”