Zwift introduced the Workout mode beta over the weekend and I just got a chance to check it out. My first thought is, yea, this is a game changer...
There are a whole bunch of preset workouts to choose from right now. Zwift HQ tells us that the ability to program your own workouts is a feature that is coming soon. I know I am anticipating the ability to program workouts as well as everyone else. However, in the meantime, there are plenty of workouts already in game and I'm sure there's something for just about everyone for now. After you select a workout and set your FTP (if you already know it), you can start your ride. If you don't know your FTP then you can chose one of the FTP test workouts to help estimate it. Right now there are a couple of workouts comprising of 20 minute tests. That's the test I happen to do and I think it's a pretty good test and estimate.
While you are riding, a couple of things I noticed. The center widget tells you your wattage in big numbers and tells you what step you are on for the workout. The widget on the left shows you all the steps in the workout and what step you are currently on. The bottom of the screen has a scrolling ticker-tape graph that is color coded according to your wattage. I didn't have HR hooked up but I found out they also overly your HR over this graph as well. When you are about to enter the beginning of a interval, a blue portal comes up that you ride through signifying the start of the interval.
When the interval is about to end, another portal, this one white, comes up. Also, the left-hand widget has stars next to each step in the workout. Each time you complete a step, you get a star. Fail to hit your targets for the step and it's no star for you! Anything worth noting is that you don't get any power-ups or participate in any of the KOM or sprint challenges while in workout mode. You also don't get points for each mile/km you ride. However, once you complete a step and get a star, you get a bunch of points that may or may not make up for the points you didn't get for just riding.
If you are not hitting your targets, the game will tell you "MORE POWER!". Just imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying this to you. The opposite happens as well. So if you are over targets, the game will tell you to "REDUCE POWER". The graph at the bottom reflects this as well. It was kind of odd that it was green when I was over power and then reverted to gray when I was under power.
In the end, once you complete your workout, there's no fireworks or fanfare or cheering section. It just ends. Just like in real life I suppose. In my workout I failed to hit one of the targets because I hopped off the trainer to grab a drink. Even though the pause screen came up, the workout didn't actually pause and continued to roll. That's why I failed and only ended up with two out of three stars.
Overall, the interface is clean and intuitive. Anyone should be able start up Zwift and get going with a workout pretty quickly. The hardest part is picking a workout. Like I said, there are a lot of workouts already in there so until Zwift introduces the ability to program your own, there should be just enough to keep us satisfied until then. I'm really happy with what Zwift has come up with. This is going to make those winter training sessions so much easier and fun!