Treadmill running is one of the best ways to work out while maintaining your distance from other people, but it can also be lonely and, frankly, borwing. The Zwift Runpod (opens in new tab) helps overcome that sense of isolation by giving you an avatar in a virtual island populated by runners and cyclists for group workouts and friendly competition.
The Zwift Runpod is essentially a cadence sensor that attaches to your shoe. It’s simple to attach, and there’s no need to unlace your shoes; just remove the back of the pod and slide it underneath the laces, then place the sensor itself on top and twist until it clicks to fix it in place. It holds firmly, and won’t fall off even in an enthusiastic sprint session.
Once it’s attached, grab the Zwift app for Android or iOS (it’s a pretty hefty download, so it’s best to do it over Wi-Fi), pair the Run Pod via Bluetooth, and you’re ready to begin.
While you can use the Zwift app with your phone, it works best with a tablet – the interface has a lot going on, with your virtual runner plus occasional route options, a leaderboard, speed, distance, heart rate, calories burned, splits (by mile or kilometre), a miniature map and more all on-screen at once.
When using a treadmill, you can easily end up preoccupied with the numbers on the screen in front of you. With Zwift, you can place the tablet over all that and pretend you’re on the open road or track.
While you run, you’ll be surrounded by other athletes using Zwift – both runners using the Run Pod, and cyclists using exercise bikes – each with their country’s flag above their head. You can cheer them on with a tap of your screen, though aiming a finger at the small button to do so is rather tricky when you’re running hard.
Completing runs earns you the usual badges and achievements you’d expect from a fitness app, but you also get customization options for your virtual runner, allowing you to change the default orange T-shirt that marks out new users to something more interesting, change your hairstyle, and even add hats and new trainers.
As more countries go into lockdown and time outside is strictly limited, treadmills are likely to become more and more popular with runners, and Zwift does a good job of bringing a little community spirit into your living room.
It can't replicate every aspect of a group run in the fresh air, but if you find indoor running dull and are struggling the the idea of being wedded to your treadmill for months to come, the Zwift RunPod could be exactly the motivation and distraction you need.
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