Running on a treadmill will soon be a completely different experience as technology used to help indoor cyclists link to digital worlds becomes available for joggers.
Vast virtual expanses have been explored by cyclists on indoor trainers for years, using smart turbo trainers to connect with online platforms like Zwift and TrainerRoad.
Now, a runner version of Zwift has been developed, allowing the treadmill to be transformed into a gateway to online, real-time races, competitions, and experiences. Staring at the walls or TV while running on a treadmill can be tiresome, but the world of online running is very different. It's full of interactive and motivating challenges, social networking, and visual stimulation to help you enjoy your training more.
Unlike cycling smart turbo trainers, which automatically add resistance to your back wheel or rear hub, in certain modes Zwift Run will ask you to increase or decrease the treadmill speed depending on the type of challenge and terrain displayed on screen. There are currently no plans for automatic treadmill adjustment by the programme to ensure there are no issues with safety.
How do I connect to Zwift Run?
Until now, specialist treadmills costing thousands of pounds were needed to connect your running performance to digital platforms. But now it’s possible for less than £100 to hook-up to the online running matrix.
All you need is a PC, Mac, laptop, iOS device, or Apple TV, a subscription to Zwift Run - which is currently free, and an ANT+ receiver (such as this LifeLine ANT+ USB Stick). See the end of this article for a full list of supported devices.
Of course, you'll also need an internet connection (a bandwidth of 3Mbps or higher is recommended, with a ping of under 50ms).
After that, you just need some sensors on your feet so your device can know how quickly you are going. You can do this in two ways at Wiggle, both costing under £100.
The first option is to use a Garmin SDM4 Foot Pod
The Garmin Foot Pod fits onto your laces or under the insoles on certain shoes, allowing you to interact in realtime with the online world of Zwift. This means you can take part in online races against real people and friends, run through virtual landscapes, and get a wide spectrum of data on your running performance and fitness.
The second option is to get a pair of UnderArmour Record training shoes, which are fully compatible with the Zwift programme. The Record-equipped shoes track, analyse, and store a wide variety of data and can be used in conjunction with a number of training platforms as well as Zwift. Here's a quick look at some examples:
You can also combine the data from your shoes with that from a heart monitor for yet more accurate progress data.
Can I use Zwift Run if I don't own a treadmill?
Even if you don't own your own treadmill, you can still connect to Zwift Run at the gym if you have a portable smart device and somewhere to prop it up. It'll certainly make a big improvement on watching music television, and help keep you more focused on your goals.
Once you've set up a profile, it's quick and easy to log in and get started in any of the different modes, such as free-running (a non-structured workout) or entering an online competition.
Which devices are supported by Zwift Run?
For desktop and laptops PCs, you need at least:
- Operating System: Windows 7 64bit or higher or a MacOS 10.9 or higher
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo
- Memory: At least 4GB
- Graphics: 1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel HD, 4000/AMD R5
- Hard disk space: At least 4GB of free space
For iPhones or iPads:
- At least an iPhone SE, iPhone 5S or higher
- An iPad Air or higher, iPad Pro, iPad Mini 2 or higher, or iPod 6
Because of the complexity of the interactive graphics being used, older PCs such as Windows Vista, XP, or 32 bit systems will not run Zwift Run. For more details, visit Zwift's support page.
As of February 2018, Zwift Run is not supported by Android devices, although, according to Zwift, this is currently in development. However, you can use the Zwift Mobile Link app on Android to control your Zwift programmes on other compatible devices. For example, if using Zwift Run on an Apple TV, you can interact with the programme using your Android device without having to dismount from the treadmill.