Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton

Who Cares About Long, Steady Distance Training?! We Don't have TIME for it!

Let's face it, neither you, nor I, nor anyone that we may know, is going to quit their day job, hit the lottery, and ride their bikes for the rest of their lives. We are not professional cyclists. We are instead parents, siblings, students, accountants, small business owners, realtors, just anything but our Walter Mitty dreams of getting paid to ride our bikes over this small, yet still beautiful planet. Traditionally, volume in the sense of a season of easy, steady rides, has always been the precursor to a strong cycling season. But who has time to ride their bike at wattage levels that do not create that great a training response? Who has the 15 or more hours per week, plus the income, to go out and ride, feed that ride, recover from that ride, and then be ready for a strong set of intervals, or a fast group ride, between those already mentioned?
Cycling Center Dallas really focuses on training with intensity. I learned a long time ago that focusing on intervals in the threshold, maximal aerobic power, and anaerobic areas yielded the biggest bang for the buck, and tended to pull a rider's Functional Threshold Power (FTP) up, like a pair of suspenders on a skinny kid's pants. And now, science really DOES back it up. 

At Cycling Center Dallas, we'll be using Critical Power Testing to basically reduce our training zones from the now-fifteen-year-old 7 zones, to just about FOUR:

  • Aerobic/Recovery (<80% of Critical Power)
  • Threshold (80-100% of Critical Power)
  • Vo2Max (100-150% of Critical Power)
  • Anaerobia (150% of Critical Power and above). 

The goal will be to help improve your fitness through the development of more, better, mitochondria. Here's another GREAT article that explains it much better than I can.

The bottom line is this. If you want to get the most bang-per-buck-per-minute, improve your Stamina, Speed, and Strength for better bicycling, then Cycling Center Dallas offers the perfect location, coaching, and programming, for you. How do we do it? Through Intensity Intervals. We're so lucky to have such a long season of cycling in North Texas. Get ready for it by training at either studio, and see what we can do for you. 

Coach Wharton

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! Do the Work, Reap the Rewards.

Dr. Alison Elmquist is one of our most CONSISTENT Clients at Cycling Center Dallas!

One of the most important themes in any training program is the commitment to consistency. As a coach, I see it every day. The cyclist that shows up, warms up, comes prepared to work, and perseveres through good days and bad, is the one who sees the benefits and improvements over time. 

Think about it - As much as I want people to show heart and display spirit when they come to the studios, it's the simple act of a routine that best determines outcomes. Too often we see people show up with great intentions, but over time, work, family, stress, fear of failure, and other mental blocks conspire to have them drop out over time. But those who are willing to sacrifice just 60-90 minutes at a time, and go through the routine, ideally at the same time and same location each week, begin to 'get it', mentally and physically. The body responds better when it begins a routine. Now, as you all know - plateaus DO happen. But it's honestly better to get to a plateau through a routine of work, than it is to plateau at lower level of performance, and WISH you were a stronger, faster, cyclist. 

The studios exist because they offer a venue that is Consistent in location, Consistent in the quality of coaching and expertise, and Consistent in the time schedule that can offer something to everyone. If you are a cyclist and you CANNOT make one of our scheduled time slots, then give us a call or send us a note. We're here to help you improve, be it your schedule or ours (as long as it's reasonable... Remember, we're up at 4am most mornings, so asking for a custom class at 10pm one night a week, while feasible, may not be reasonable, just sayin'.). Studies show that a cyclist training just six hours a week in a program of gently increasing intensity and duration of intervals, can lead to improvements in power output and Critical Power of 10% or more. 10% more power can mean up to 1mph for a recreational cyclist, or an extra hour of stamina out on the road. So think about consistency in your training plan, your venue for training, weather, time, atmosphere and the environment. Then think Cycling Center Dallas, and come visit.

Coach Wharton

What a Difference 9 Hours Can Make...

Couple of quick questions...

How many of you remember Driver's Ed?

How many of you remember how many hours it took until you were able to drive without an instructor?

Are any of you Commercial drivers? How many hours did it take in a Driver's Ed course to become competent enough to take the exam, which I hear is more difficult...?

Are any of you PILOTS?! What's the average time a pilot in training needs to take his or her first solo? How many hours does it take until you're ready for the review?

In all of these questions, looking through the internet, it seems like the answers are anywhere from 10 to 30 hours.

Now - how many have ever taken a Bicycle Driver's Ed Class?

Well, if you haven't... you should. It's NOT boring, it's NOT redundant, and it's NOT filled with dogma about how you should do this and shouldn't do that.

Think about the first time you ever rode a bike. Think about the anxiety, but also the rush, the freedom. You were wobbly. Maybe you rode on the grass. But you had your friends or family or someone else there to help you stay upright, keep pedaling, and brake to a safe stop. As a kid, you probably rode on the sidewalk. But somewhere, after those first few hours of supervision, the planning stopped, the expectation of traveling and responsibility grew, and you either just DID it, and learned along the way, or, you may have had a bad experience as a novice cyclist in traffic, decided it was just TOO RISKY, and quit, only to return years later.

CyclingSavvy changes all of that. As an instructor, I really don't care whether you ride 12 hours a year, or 12,000. I don't care how much experience you have. Just like my previous post, we ALL have something to learn, and a great part of learning, is teaching. Furthermore, ALL of us have had moments on a bike where we felt anxious or threatened for our safety. ALL of us have been conditioned to do things and act in ways that we think MAY help us ride more safely, but they aren't always the best method available. Finally, we ALL need to be respectful of our "Beginner's Mind". Learning new ways to handle a bike, learning new ways to conduct yourself in traffic, learning new ways to handle yourselves (plural) in a pack, is a GREAT way to improve your skills, improve your confidence, improve your COMPETENCE, and then translate that in to better rides, more often.

Here's a paragraph outlining their mission...

Teaching traffic cycling is primarily a battle against cultural myths. Myth-busting requires more than mere “information” or “facts.” It is a social phenomenon that requires a social approach. To that end, five key underlying principles guide the course:

Reframing – bicycling must be reframed from a dangerous activity to an essentially safe one. How crash data is presented is as important than the data itself.

Engagement – students are guided to discover for themselves why cycling is safe. When students themselves identify an essential fact it carries far more weight.

First Things First – essential skills must be second nature before cyclists can comfortably interact with complex traffic conditions. Even “experienced” cyclists are lacking in some of these skills. Some of the parking lots drills were developed by Keri Caffrey and Lisa Blount for the “BOBbies” women’s bicycle club. Others are found in TS 101, as well as in other cycling curriculums. The sequencing of these skills is critical.

Progression – each step must be reasonably achievable to the novice cyclist. We cannot “throw them into the deep end of the pool.” Success can only be built upon success.

Enactment – students put their new skills and knowledge into practice individually through road sections and intersections of increasing complexity. After each section they naturally reinforce for one another the positive and successful experience. This final public “enacting” of the new approach is the nail in the coffin of the old “cycling is dangerous” myth for them.

Cycling Center Dallas shares this mission. I hope you'll think about some event in your past, perhaps an altercation with a motorist, or a confusing moment out on a road, solo or in a group ride, where you didn't know what to do, where to place yourself in the road, or how to navigate so that you and everyone else could just get to where you were going, without conflict. Maybe you got a ticket or a warning. Maybe you were driving in a car, and saw a cyclist act a certain way. CyclingSavvy is there to help you find the answers to those questions, find the optimal way to handle certain situations, and make every ride a better ride. It's the Fourth "S" in our Wheel of Progression - "Stamina, Strength, Speed... and SKILL". Don't you WANT to be a better cyclist? Don't you WANT to understand what works and what doesn't? Wouldn't you RATHER do this in a controlled setting, instead of trial-by-fire, which is the way most cyclists learn? Think about all your friends who don't ride, and ask them 'why'. A LOT of it comes from anxiety and a lack of education about the fundamentals. Even experienced cyclists can, and do, DO IT WRONG.

So sign up today, and let us help you become an even better cyclist, by improving your Skill and using your studio-improved Stamina, Speed, and Strength. Think about conflict-free cycling. Think about planning more rides, to more locations, without worrying about the anxiety of obstacles, physical and mental. And think about what others will say and think when they learn that you've completed this course, and then practice it. Roads were built to transport people and goods. We want you to be a better cyclist, and we can think of no better way than to start with a review of some fundamentals in a setting that is enlightening, fun, and relaxing. I'll be teaching, so come join us!!

Coach Wharton

The Beginner's Mind

One of my favorite books, which is now completely out of print, but may be available as an "Ebook" somewhere, is a Coaching and Philosophy book titled "Thinking Body, Dancing Mind". It's a Taoist approach to Sports and Business. If you think about it, the title really says a lot. Our bodies are almost analytical in nature. They mostly move in a linear fashion, automoton-like. The heart beats, the lungs inhale and exhale, hair and nails grow, and bone and muscle are incredibly efficient and passive, ready to go at an impulse from the brain. But it's the MIND that is always dancing - playing 'what if', 'why not', and 'how?' It's a great read, and I recommend it to anyone. In fact, here's a link to some summaries and comments...

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that there's a chapter in the book titled, "The Beginner's Mind". To summarize, when we work to become adept at something, to learn all of the aspects of a sport, a calling, a line of work, the best approach is to ALWAYS try and hold on to "The Beginner's Mind". Keep an open mind. Be willing to learn more, to listen, to read, and more than anything, to teach and instruct yourself, because often it is in the questions of others that you'll be able to understand where knowledge gaps come from, where you may need to do more research, and maybe learn that there are different ways to approach a challenge, either for you, your colleagues, or your own students. 

Tracy and I did just that this weekend, when we attended the USA Cycling Coaching Summit, held in Colorado Springs, at USA Cycling's headquarters. We heard from over a dozen speakers on myriad topics, some of which were repeats, but many of which were new. The most important aspect of the whole weekend was that we were there, she as a Level 2 Coach, me as a Level 1, not to teach or present, but to LEARN. So even with 22 years of experience as a coach for me, and 12+ years of experience for her, once again, we were students. We were beginners. Beginner's minds are open, they are self-critical, they are filled with wonder. Tracy and I sat as close to the front as possible, listening to these masters of their fields, watching their expressions, taking notes, asking critical questions, listening to the questions of others, and forming our own conclusions. Sometimes these were in agreement with the lecturers, sometimes not. The final review of each topic came between programs, when we met with coaches whom I've met and dined with over the years, as we reviewed the programs, the speakers, and the different ways those lectures and themes could possibly help us, help others. 

My favorite character when I was growing up was "The Professor", in Gilligan's Island. In reality, Russell Johnson, the actor, was SO MUCH MORE than just a character on a 3-season television show. The was a War Hero, a Disabled Veteran, a film star, a producer, an author, and an extremely successful AIDS activist. But he never stopped LEARNING. I remember when I read his autobiography, he remarked that Gilligan's Island was just a short part of his career, but it defined him, and he embraced it. He and Alan Hale, who was better known as "Skipper", would travel to Children's Hospitals dressed in character, to help brighten the days of kids who were incredibly sick, and their families. His ambassadorship brought him incredible joy, and hope. In later years, when he was a well-known AIDS activist and fundraiser, his speeches were always well-received, and he became, basically, his character, as he learned the in's and out's of that horrible disease, its' spread, and prevention and possibilities for a cure or vaccine. So the actor became, alternately, a chemist, a biologist, a spokesperson, and, honestly, a Professor. But he did it not just by preaching or professing. He did it... by learning. 

We at Cycling Center Dallas are proud of our accomplishments and publications in the field of coaching for cyclists. That said, we are, and will always be, students of the sport, first and foremost. It's why I earned first my League Cycling Instructor Certification, and later, my Cycling Savvy certification. It's why I wrote my first book. It's why I continued to write manuals and booklets , and despite having that Level 1 Cert way back in 1997, I continued to attend the Coaching Summits, bought the books from other coaches, highlighted them and dog-eared them, and practiced their modalities myself. It's why I continue to practice, try NOT to be too preachy, and work to explain things as simply as I can. In many ways, I like to think that I'm the "Professor". No, I don't have all the credentials and academic background to claim a PhD, but I DO believe that wisdom comes from listening, thinking critically, keeping an open mind, and then taking a position based on what one knows or understands as best-practice. I'm sorry that the Professor never learned how to build a raft to get the Castaways off the island, but I'm satisfied that while stranded, he learned as much as he could about the island, his fellow islanders, and the surrounding ocean, to give them the best shot for survival and evacuation as possible. Hopefully, this weekend's Summit will lead to greater understanding, and an ability by Tracy and myself to help you achieve more on the bike and in your lives, in a safe, convenient, effective, and clear way.