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

Pacing Yourself For the Critical Power Tests

Power Testing is an important and exciting week! 
15 - 1

This week, we are going to determine just how effective this last block of training really was. If you are new, this a chance to establish a Critical Power and Anaerobic Capacity baseline.  You will be performing a three minute, eight minute, and thirteen minute test over two separate days. On Monday and Tuesday, we will be performing the 13 minute critical power test, and on Wednesday and Thursday, we will be performing the, eight minute and three minute tests. The goal here is to make sure that the tests are performed as hard as you possibly can perform them. You are trying to generate as much power as possible over those periods of time. These will be performed on a 2% slope, and they will be self – paced.   This is what you will see on your screen during the tests.

Thirteen Minute Critical Power Display v2

If you have never done power testing before -   Getting a power testing session under your belt  is especially important for you as we will finally be able to get your accurate Critical Power (CP), and find out where you are performance-wise, so we can measure your progress going forward. We will walk you through it and explain everything.   Your goal is to get the experience of your first power testing session and practice pacing, smoothness and using your gears and cadence to generate power over the duration you are testing.

For those who have tested before- this is a chance to try and beat previous records and measure progress. 

Pacing Strategies. We experimented with different ways to attempt to get the highest average power. In the past I have advocated that you start a little bit easier, and should try finish strong.

The goal for these tests will be to maintain an even power out. I will be giving you each a goal, based on your numbers during last week’s 3 and 8 minute Pre-Test intervals, and other data from the PerfPro analyzer software. You will attempt to find a power output you can maintain without having to slow down for most of the test interval.  The graph will look flat for a longer period of time.  In the last 90 seconds, you will start to push it.  Your power should continue to ramp up during this time until the end of the effort, when you should feel like you are unable to go much harder. Again - LEAVE WITH NOTHING LEFT!!!

Here is an image to show you what I mean… Pay attention to the Red Line. This is an Exponentially Weighted Moving Average, and it shows you your "Real Time" metabolic effort in watts.
Rising Intensity Version 2 on 13 minute test

Focus this week on maintaining a STEADY POWER OUTPUT for most of the test, following the wattage goal set for you by Coach Wharton. Then, with roughly 90 seconds to go, up the cadence, up the power, and shift to get as much out of your system as possible! It’s literally “CRITICAL” that you do so! It is, after all, a “Critical Power” test!

We have to get EVERY KILOJOULE of energy out of you, in order to get a good value. The more information we get, the better we can gauge progress, and capacity. We want your weekend rides to be more enjoyable, and will do everything we can to help you continue to improve your fitness and cycling knowledge, through the studio, software, and testing.

Here are some cool things we will know about you as a cyclist at the end of your power testing session.

·         Your Critical Power Number (CP, or FTP) – This is the number on your display. It is individual to you and determines how much load you get during your workout. 

·         Your Power Duration Curve -  This will reveal to us an accurate estimate of how much power you can produce during different durations.  For example, how much power you produce if you were to go as hard as you can for 2 minutes, or 4 minutes, or 10 minutes, or 50 minutes, without actually having to do a max effort for that duration. 

·         Your W prime  - This gives the coaches at CCD a better idea of what your capacity is to do shorter, harder intervals above CP, and recover from them.

I would wish you Good Luck, but you don’t need it!

You have
  • SKILL...
  • KNOWLEDGE... and

See you at the studio!


PS – Be fed, hydrated, rested, and lightly salted before class. Hydration makes a HUGE difference!!



Understanding the Graphs, What They Show, and How to Use Them To Be a Better Cyclist.

What can I see on my graphs during my work out? 

There are a TON of cool features about your workout that you can view in real-time on your workout Noel Wallace - 2015-01-08T08-26-22 - Snapshot_copy1graphs. Here are a few:

·         Your Power Output

·         The load you are receiving

·         Your cadence

·         Your speed

·         Your heart rate

·         Your W prime depletion

·         Your O2 saturation and Hemoglobin(if you are  using the Moxy)

·         Your Critical Power Line (FTP)

How can the information on these graphs make me a better cyclist? 

Now that you have a visual of what exactly is going on during your ride, you can react to it and get instant feedback. You see immediately how smooth you are pedaling, and can attempt to improve that (cadence and power line – but be patient! This is harder than you may think).  You can see how you paced the last interval and how that affected your cadence, and ability to successfully complete it. You can see what is happening with your ability to recover between intervals (W Prime). Based on what you’re seeing during your workout, you can adjust to improve your efficiency, pacing and approach to better meet your goals. 


Coaches look at pedaling efficiency as something to help you gauge and improve upon using the graphs


One of the more basic, but most important elements of improving as a cyclist, is to become more efficient.  Since you can SEE your power and your cadence line right in front of you, it’s easy to determine if there are a lot of fluctuations, or if your power line stays pretty smooth.  

Take a look at the graph below.  The light blue line represents the power output and the pink line represents cadence, or rpm.  Notice how much the light blue line fluctuates?  The cadence is also not smooth…. or steady.  Since these two elements are related, the constant fluctuation of this rider’s cadence is resulting in a power output that is neither smooth or efficient.  This means wasted energy and lost momentum.

notsmooth (1)

Now, look that this next graph.  Notice how the the power output is much more steady, and follows the load very closely?  The cadence is also steady, except for one data dropout around minute 36. 

Developing the ability to pedal smoothly as well as keeping your power output more steady and consistent will save energy, and make you a much more efficient rider. If you are constantly letting your cadence drop and then chasing it back down, you are losing momentum.  To get the momentum back, you have to go harder that what you would have otherwise needed to do . All those spikes in effort will suck your energy tank dry much more quickly.

By developing the ability to maintain a smooth consistent power output, you will be able to ride longer before fatiguing.  You will also be able to ride faster at the same effort level.  


Here is another example of two wattage lines to compare

8minuteinterval noelcropped

This is an interval from a workout one of our veterans did where the rider did a really great job pacing and staying smooth during an 8-minute rising intensity effort.  As you can see there are very few fluctuations in his power line. Compare that to the next image, where the cyclist’s power during the interval fluctuated greatly.

In both of the images, Heart Rate is shown in bright red. If you look at the rise and fall of the heart rate in image 1, you can see that the cyclist is really pushing himself, and his heart rate is NOT recovering completely. Every interval yields a new high by a beat or two, and every recovery stays high by a beat or two. This is good information – it helps cyclists understand the relationship between heart rate and power output; in other words, cyclists end up working harder and harder INTERNALLY to get power OUT to the pedals.

Look also at Image 2’s green line. That’s called “Saturated Muscle Oxygen”. When a muscle is stressed, different things happen. In this case, because the intervals are hard, the amount of oxygen in the muscle is being steadily decreased. The results are individual, but once your CCD Coaches know what your highest SmO2 is, they can ‘tune’ the workout to get you in to different ‘zones’ for training. So now, we can see what’s going on INSIDE (Heart Rate, Muscle Oxygen, even Total Hemoglobin Counts), as well as OUTSIDE (Cadence, Power, Speed when outdoors).


The last example we will give you is an example of a failed interval


Looking at this part of this cyclist’s workout, we can see that this rider failed on the last two intervals shown.  But why?  Well, you can see the red line that represents their W prime reach zero.   What this tells us is that this was a successful interval and overall workout in taxing this rider to the limits of their capacity, and they did a great job in accomplishing the work required to get to that point. It also tells us NOT to expect the cyclist to recover for the last interval in such a short time. This rider would have successfully accomplished the workout goals for this day.  We don’t always want to expire cyclists’ W’ – we DO want to set goals that adequately fatigue and help riders adapt for better loads, more frequent intervals, etc.

All of this is viewable on-screen, and the Graphs complement the Dashboards.   This is one more reason why the workouts at Cycling Center Dallas are so effective; we study this, we teach and train it ourselves, and our ability to interpret this information in real-time is unique.


5 Reasons Why Suspension Training is A Great Strength Training Tool for Cyclists and Triathletes

You know core strength training is important. Increasing core strength and stability will improve your power and balance while increasing stamina and delaying fatigue.

Cycling is a non-weight bearing and non-impact activity. But while this may be part of what draws you to cycling, it doesn’t do you any favors in terms of  bone density. Studies that show cyclists have lower bone densities than other athletes, which could leading to greater chance of injury on and off the bike.  Strength training can offset this but giving your body the stimulus it needs to develop and maintain bone mass.

Athletes tell me they know strength training is important but they also have trouble fitting it into their workout schedules. Fortunately, now there are tools to make it easier to accomplish effective strength workouts faster and in a more spore-specific manner.

Suspension training is a relatively new strength-building technique that’s widely adopted in other fitness disciplines, but largely undiscovered by cyclists and triathletes. Even many coaches I’ve talked to have overlooked it, despite the fact that suspension training is proven to deliver precisely the strength and stability benefits cyclists and triathletes need most.

Here are five reason why you need to make core strength  development the heart of your off-season training.

1. Learn to move your body…. not a bunch of weight plates.

Suspension training works by requiring you to move and stabilize your own body weight through a variety of movement planes. Compare this to traditional weight machines or barbells that have you sitting or lying down, core supported, locked into a predetermined path of motion, pushing a consistent mass over and over.

Think about it. Weights may help increase your ability to push a bar around, but they don’t translate into real-world (= on-bike) benefits nearly as much as doing a bodyweight or suspended pushing movement. Or any movement which requires proper core stabilization and control of your body in space (you know, the way riding your bike does).

Building strength for individual pieces of your body without teaching those piece to function together is both inefficient and dangerous. The approach contributes to poor movement and does not translate well to the demands of cycling and triathlon. That doesn’t mean there is not a place for machine work. But for someone training to support endurance performance, it should be secondary to developing the strength and mobility required to move and stabilize your body as a unit.

Suspensionforcyclist5_copy2. Achieve your goals more effectively, in less time, wherever you are.

Less time in the gym means more time for riding, friends and family, or just recovering/relaxing from your last tough workout. With suspension training, you don’t need to drive to the gym/find parking/check in/put your stuff in the locker, and hope it’s not too crowded to get time on the machines you want.

Suspension devices, by contrast, hang up on the door or anchor pretty much anywhere. In fact, were developed for Navy SEALS to use in barracks or anywhere they happen to be, outdoors, in barracks, or in hotel rooms.

You crank out two or three sets of 3-5 different suspension exercises covering a variety of movements. And you’re done. You do the work, you make it count, you get on with your life. Plus, suspension works while traveling, on the pool deck, in the park, wherever. Finally, a suspension trainer is a lot cheaper than the variety of weight machines or dumbbells you would need for a workout of comparable movements.

3. Get stability you can use.

Functional resistance training is more than just pushing weight around. It’s about developing motor patterns and neuromuscular timing that achieve best efficiency of movement.

Strengthening stabilizing exercises like hip abduction or side planks are a good start, but simply strengthening these muscles will not teach them when they need to fire to maintain proper body alignment while performing movements powered by larger, stronger muscles.

Here’s an example. You’ve probably watched someone do a squat or a step-up where their knees collapse inward. This is most likely happening because the stabilizers on the lateral part of their legs are sleeping on the job; failing to activate properly to create alignment of the knee, hip and ankle joints before the larger muscles contact to extend the hip and knee.

Similar alignment issues may find their way into your pedal stroke or run mechanics. Specific suspension hip movements or single leg balance work (depending on your level)will help improve this alignment. The muscles responsible for stabilization need to know both when and where to fire so they can create the stable platform enabling the prime movers to do their job. This is especially true for maintaining a solid pedal stroke on the bike when fatigued, or during the single-leg stance phase during the run.
 Suspensionforcyclist4   Suspensionforcyclists3_copy
4. Develop injury resilience.

For the endurance athlete, strength training should be less about building muscle and more about building strength and resilience. The breakdown in form that comes with fatigue not only depletes your energy reserves, but can also result in negative loads on your joints and muscles. This often contributes to acute and/or overuse injuries that slow your training or sideline it altogether.

5. Control your body through your core.

A strong core that can maintain control of both your and your bike can be a saving grace when you are hit by that unexpected gust of wind or get slammed by that unseen pothole. It will also help you maintain run form through adverse conditions  or fatigue, and even drive your swim stroke.

Everything done on a suspension trainer requires that you engage your core. This stabilizes your position and develops strength. It also increases your ability to control your body in space as your arms and legs create force against resistance. And those increased core abilities deliver benefits that come from better control in all aspects of your endurance performance.


Find out more about Small Group Personal Training Sessions or View the Schedule and sign up for a session today!