Zwift categories are a useful and important part of the Zwift ecosystem. But their use can cause some confusion, so in this article we'll look at how, why and when to place yourself in a particular category for a group workout or race.
What are Zwift Categories?
There are generally 5 categories into which races and workouts are divided. In their simplest form, they can be regarded as pace groups. Group D is run/walk pace, Group C is moderate pace, Group B is experienced pace and Group A is advanced. Group E means everyone or mixed ability.
This categorization helps to keep you together with runners of similar ability, allowing you to enjoy the company of others and thus benefit from the Zwift community experience.
It is also important for you to train at the correct effort level. Too hard and you risk becoming demotivated and worse still, injured. Too easy and you are unlikely to make any performance gains. Selecting the proper pace category will help you keep the pace you're aiming for.
How Do I Choose the Correct Category?
We can be a little more specific about these pace groups:
- If you can run a 5K race in under 20 minutes then you should regard yourself as a Group A runner.
- If your 5K time is between 22 and 25 minutes you are likely more suited to Group B.
- If your current 5K times are between 25 and 30 minutes then Group C is for you.
- Slower than 30 minutes and Group D is most suitable.
These times are only approximate but should give you a good idea of what category may be most suitable for you to join. This can change, of course, and for a variety of reasons. If you train hard and make some gains in your performance it may be sensible to move up a group. If you are just coming back from injury or time out from running, it may be appropriate to step back from (for example) Group B to Group C as you look to get back on track.
In a group workout session, groups A-D will run at different paces and they will also cover different distances. So if Group A is doing a 10K workout, Group B might do between 8 and 9km, Group C between 5 and 7km and Group D between 3 and 5km.
If you are currently fit and healthy there is nothing to prevent you from placing yourself in the group above in order to challenge yourself to a harder workout. Equally, if you are not feeling great but you still want to train, you can legitimately run in the next group down to give yourself an easier workout.
However, in general, the idea of group workouts is to run together as a group and help each other through. It can be frustrating for others if you join a group that is clearly too slow for you and you fly off the front, effectively not taking part in the ‘group’ workout. Falling off the back of a group is fine. We all have off days and days when we just aren’t feeling it.
Stuck Between Groups
In the unfortunate situation where you find that your average pace sits between two groups, you have a few options. You could join the slower group. If the group workout is an interval session, you could work a bit harder than the suggested pace for the interval itself and then slow down to rejoin the group during the recovery period. You could message the group before you all start to let them know that’s what you’ll be doing.
The other option is to join the group above and give yourself a harder workout. You can always reduce the difficulty percentage down to lower your effort. This might see you fall off the back of the main group but you’ll get a great session in. There is also the option of doing your own solo workout anytime, which will be tailored to your exact pace.
In addition, there are a number of group workouts which are not divided into groups but are based on your own set pace. These will be Group E workouts. The whole group starts the workout together but you work at a pace set for you by Zwift and the focus is not primarily on staying together but sticking to the instructions on screen, which may be different for the runner next to you.
Racing is really taking off on Zwift Run. This is where sticking to your category is increasingly important! Provided you are fit and well and you are up for racing, you should place yourself in the right category for your ability. It is unfair to others and considered unsportsmanlike conduct to place yourself in a lower category in order to challenge for the win.
Categories A through D will each have podium positions available for first, second and third, much like age-group categories outdoors. It is poor form to deprive a legitimate Group C runner of a podium position because you have dropped down from Group B.
Again though, if you are coming back from injury or you are not feeling on good form, you are welcome to join a different group. Just don’t win!
It is up to you to place yourself in the correct category for your ability. Zwift does not automatically assign you to a category.
We want you to enjoy your Zwift Run experience both in races and group workouts. Sticking to the best category for your ability ensures a better training session for you while ensuring a level playing field for competitive races with those around you.