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

The More I Use Xert on Myself and My Clients, The More In Love I am With the Entire Concept.

I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks now, but the new information has been coming in so frequently that I’ve literally been unable to keep up. That said, here’s what I’m seeing…

·         My Xert Users are achieving fitness breakthroughs in their Xert modeling, and their Focus.

·         I Myself am seeing this in my own riding. I’m trying to set new Max Wattage PR’s now and then, and I’m also trying to “Game the Hill” using the MPA and Wattage Xert app.

·         I’m instructing my clients to do the same.

Here are a couple of examples…:

Jim is a recreational cyclist in his 60’s, who contracted with me because he was sick of getting dropped on rides with his peers. He also wanted to learn how to be a better climber for the times when he traveled to Colorado.

Climbs in Dallas are much different than climbs in Colorado, but the idea is still the same; improve fitness, then “Focus” on the area of training that will best fit your activity profile. Jim wanted to be a climber in the summer, and, honestly, a “Puncheur” when riding in Dallas. So I set him up with the Xert Apps, taught him how to keep the rider profile current through Garmin Connect and Garmin Express, and gave him some specific intervals during the week.

Things started happening in late September, and I THINK THEY ARE JUST REALLY, REALLY cool!

In Mid-September, while it was still hot and windy, but travel season was over, Jim had a Fitness Signature on Xert of:

·         Peak Power: 650w.

·         High Intensity Energy (HIE): 10.9kJ.

·         Threshold Power: 209w.

Then, on September 21st, on a local solo effort, THIS happened…!

JNFalk Hill 1

THAT, dear readers, is a FITNESS BREAKTHROUGH.


For FOURTEEN SECONDS, Jim was pedaling at a power output that was ABOVE his MPA. Was the model wrong? NO, NO, and NO. He just hadn’t put that level of effort out before, and he earned his “Medal” on the Garmin 1000 Screen!

So remember those previous Max, HIE and Threshold values that we had been using? Here’s what a breakthrough means for those…

·         Peak Power: 649w (we still haven’t really worked on a true “Sprint”, but that will come.).

·         High Intensity Energy (HIE): 12.4kJ (a gain of 12%).

·         Threshold Power: 214w (a gain of 2%!).

And here’s what the chart looked like after the re-analysis.

JNFalk Hill 4

Now, interestingly – take a look at Jim’s PREVIOUS hill. It’s the one in red that is on the left side of the image. Notice how the MPA line (Dark Blue) kind of follows the curve of the red line, which is wattage? I’ve seen this a bunch, and I love it; It’s basically a way for a rider to “Get More” out of an effort. In other words, you can always go a bit longer at a lower intensity, and not dig too deep. In this case, Jim knew that he really wanted to hit the SECOND hill stronger, and he followed a more “Steady” profile. The terrain dictated the watts and cadence, but yeah – this was a solid moment where Jim was able to “Chase” his MPA, and then break it.

But wait – it gets better…
JNFalk Chart 1 
Here’s a chart of Jim’s recent activities. What you’ll see is typical with all cycling exercises; if you don’t train hard here & there, your Max Watts, Threshold and Anaerobic Capacity (HIE) will slip a little. But when Jim went out and rode THAT SAME RIDE JUST TWO WEEKS LATER….
JNFalk Hill 5

So what had been a 214w Threshold and a 12.1kJ HIE, slipped, and when Jim put the spurs to this hill again… Well, the model needed some updating, and here it is…

·         Peak Power: 651w.

·         High Intensity Energy (HIE): 12.9kJ.

·         Threshold Power: 219w.

Here’s the Updated version.
JNFalk Hill 6

What you see is basically that the MPA slope is more gradual, which makes sense; when you train for higher intensity, it allows you to go harder, longer. Because Jim has real data, and paced himself according to the MPA app on the Garmin 1000, he had another Gold Medal, and got to update his training information from Xert.

But you may think that this is just one example…. Well, here’s another.

Jing was a great client of mine, who got a job and moved to Northern California, and he’s experiencing the same type of thing; Breakthroughs that translate to more successful cycling.

Here’s Jing’s Activity Chart; I’ve highlighted his first Fitness Signature, after an adjustment period when he was moving in, unboxing, etc.

His Fitness Signature in mid-September read:

·         673w Peak Power.

·         21.3kJ HIE.

·         251w Threshold.

What set this Signature up was this particular hill in Palo Alto, called “Emerald Hill”. Here’s the wattage and hr and MPA profile.

This was his first ride out on this type of terrain, and he was nervous, so you can see it in his wattage profile; it’s at or above Threshold, but he doesn’t last long above it, before backing off.

So, here he is a couple of days later, where he had another Fitness Breakthrough, though it wasn’t quite where you might think….

The image is of the hill that he climbed, and you can see that he marshalled his resources well, using the data in the Garmin 1000, and pushed it on the final part of the climb.

But here’s the catch; remember how I harped about Jim needing to get a “Real” Peak Power? Well, elsewhere in this file, Jing actually DID hit a new Peak Power, going from 653w to well over 800, and that altered the Fitness Signature Significantly.

With the new data in hand, it looked more like this:

·         811w Peak Power.

·         20.0kJ HIE.

·         249w Threshold.

And that tells me that maybe he could have eked out a slightly better hill effort. Well, here’s the next week….

So you can see… he’s learning how to “game” the hill, using his on-screen MPA and Wattage App!

Here’s the next week. Same hill.

I’m actually going to zoom in on two efforts, since he kissed his MPA on both of them, BUT HE DID NOT SURPASS THEM!

Here – Have a look:

He’s learning how to “game the hills”! In our discussions, he’s come to realize that hills like this are a game of patience and pacing. They’re not perfect, but I like how he’s playing it a bit conservatively at first, and doesn’t tap in to his HIE until the last 1/3rd of the hill, and he still doesn’t go too far. Now – could he go harder? Certainly! But that’s at the cost of possibly blowing up. We’ll continue to work on his Threshold, but I’m really happy with how Xert makes teaches you how to “Think” a strategy, be it a hill, an attack, or a pacing strategy for any recreational athlete.

Finally, I’m going to recount my own experience from this weekend.

Work and Coaching have really taken their toll on my time, and it’s been rare for me to get out and get any real consistency or volume, other than lifting weights 2-3 times a week, and maybe getting to ride in between other efforts. But that said, I AM a “fast-responder” to stimulus, and after getting in some decent rides on some weekends, I had a couple of experiences of my own, using the MPA App.

First – there’s a hill in Glen Rose, TX, that was once part of their rally course, which always spelled the “Make it or Break It” moment for me in this rally. It’s just 4 miles from the finish, but the cyclist who “gamed” the hill best, usually got to solo home.

I NEVER got it right.

But recently, I’ve been back out there, and with the MPA App and my metrics inserted, I tried to “game” the hill with a better pacing Strategy. Here’s the first effort on this hill in, oh, 6 years? 7? I really don’t remember completely.

Do you see where the red circle is? ROOKIE MISTAKE!!! I rode TOO HARD, TOO EARLY, and I FORGOT ABOUT THE SECOND HALF OF THE HILL!

I can’t show it right now because my internet is kludgy, but my heart rate went through the roof on the steeper part, and I basically blew up and denied myself a smoother transition going in to the second part of the hill, right after the “knuckle”! So MPA and Xert revealed that I COULD have ridden it better. I just screwed it up.

Here’s the second time I tried it – about a week later.

*** Believe it or not – this IS the same hill; my internet is not cooperating and I’m having trouble zooming in appropriately.

Notice the difference in the two wattage profiles? The first is more of a parabola, while the second is more elongated, and doesn’t really kick up until AFTER the knuckle in the hill. For this hill, I was watching my Garmin 1000, and I watched that Xert App as my wattage went Black (Threshold), then Yellow (<3min of MPA remaining), to Red (<30sec MPA remaining!), but I never was able to make it go Purple, because I WAS COMPLETELY KNACKERED by that point! Again – I can’t show it, but my HR broke 190, and I traveled a good bit further up the hill before I backed off.

(Edit – HERE it is… Finally)!

Finally – this past weekend, I had the chance to ride a good old-fashioned rally, and about 20 minutes in, I was dealing with some riders that I don’t particularly feel safe riding around; they always wear earbuds – in grupetto’s – and you can hear their music when you ride beside them, it’s so loud. AND they’re a couple, AND they don’t really have a sense of situational awareness. So, with just a few people left in the front, maybe 5, including me, these two, and two others, I saw a hill, and I saw an opportunity.

I had already depleted my MPA a bit here and there as we picked up our speed, rolling out of town, but at this moment, I increased my power output as the hill rose to meet me, then stayed steady at or around my threshold, and finally increased my wattage one more time as the hill picked up its’ pitch one more time. Looking through my right arm, I noticed that the shadows which had been behind me were getting gapped, and after another 20 seconds of Threshold, I was alone.

Now, I TRIED to go from “Yellow” on the MPA app, (<3min of MPA left) to “Red” (<30sec of MPA left), to “Purple”, but it just got to the point where it was crazy-hard, I felt like my eyes were going to pop out and my lungs were going to burst… and I backed off, which you can see in the image. I was able to keep pedaling as the gradient lessened, and while my MPA didn’t necessarily rebound, the Red/Blue gap opened up, giving me some room to recover.

The result? Well, I spent the rest of the ride alone, and had the motorcycle escort to myself the entire time.

Here are my overall results from the day:

It was a pretty good day: nice average speed, great kJ count, GREAT Strain value, in perfect temps, under sunny skies, rolling terrain, and the knowledge that THIS STUFF REALLY, REALLY, REALLY works.

Xert takes a complete re-think of intervals, efforts, hills, and timing. I think that was one of the things I was never good at when I was racing all the time: I had really bad timing, and didn’t figure out when to play the game and when to back off, and recover. Now? Well, I had some idea of it with W’, but the model, especially on Anaerobic efforts, just didn’t hold up. This Xert MPA stuff? In REAL TIME, with REAL VALUES yielding REAL RESULTS?

Well, it works!

Want to learn more about Xert, MPA, and how you can apply it for yourself and your cycling? Check us out at


Bone Health and Cycling: Part 2

This is part 2 of the blog on Bone Health and Cycling.

The following section is especially important for those who cycle as their main force of exercise to stay on top of their strength training.  However, ANYONE concerned about improving or maintaining bone strength will gain much from the following information.


Put Forces on your Bones to Make Them Stronger

The aspects that account for bone strength include bone mineral density, content, bone size, and thickness.  When muscles contract they pull on the bones to which they are connected. These forces provide the stimulus for bones to grow both thicker and denser. Maximal strength training and impact forces are the best way to provide this stimulus to your bones.  A bone needs to experience a tenth of the amount of force needed to break it in order to be stimulated to create increased bone density (1).  Remember this key factor in your strength work. 


Don’t be afraid to lift relatively heavy weights , and add some plyometrics and impact training into your program.   Some examples of these things might be jumping rope or any kind of jumping or, even punching a bag for fun to provide some impact for your upper body.  Adding these things to your program AFTER developing a foundation will ensure that you are ready for the higher forces that these often place on the body. Strength training results in your body’s ability to actually increase the amount of muscle fibers that are fired when asked to, as well as how fast they are able to fire.  Both of these things result in the muscle being capable of producing more force, which in turn, means more forces exerted upon the bones to which they are attached.

In addition to providing greater forces to stimulate bone growth, strength training also reduces risk factors that result in broken bones by increasing muscle mass and improving balance.  This is especially important in older populations at any activity level. If you have better balance, more strength and muscle, and stronger bones, all of those things come together to make you more physically resilient and stable. You will be better prepared to handle unexpected that unexpected gust of wind or pothole due to increase core and total body strength and stability.   If it happens that you are involved in a crash, your bones are less likely to crack under the impact.  Now, you have two ways of staying off the injury list.

How to Strength Train for Strong Bones.

Put random forces on your bones to stimulate growth. Some research has shown that the best results in the short term come out of subjecting bones to high forces in a more random fashion. Shorter term training programs of more random high intensity forces on your muscles and bones have actually been shown to be more effective than programs that progress over time.  Now, this is contradictory to a program you might put together for performance gains, but it is still something that should be considered if you are concerned about improving your bone strength.   Also, these are short time results.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t periodize your program, as longer periods may be needed to produce the benefits to bone density in that case (2).   If you are following a periodized program and want to make sure it addresses your bone health, my suggestion would be to continue to do so.  However , make sure to include one or two exercises that target bone health regardless of what the overall program goals are. The goal of these movements is to provide the forces on your bones to stimulate adaptation.
Select exercises that involve large muscle groups.  The movements involving the larger muscles or multiple muscle groups are all good choices, assuming an adequate amount of resistance is used. This is because the larger muscles can produce more force than the smaller ones.  Multiple muscles working together will also be able to generate more total forces on the bones as well as provide forces in multiple planes of motion. 

Allow for longer rest periods between sets to allow for greater force production. Circuit training is a type of training program where individuals are performing movements, one right after the other with little rest, and then repeating the circuit multiple times.  It has NOT been found to be as effective for bone and muscle growth This reason for this is due to the lower amounts of resistance used, because of the short rest periods, and the forces you can push are lower.  Circuit training may still help with bone health in the long term and is still great exercise.  However, if stronger bones are your goal, design a program that involves more strength, higher forces and longer rest intervals.  This will allow for more maximal forces to be produced during the sets.

If you are someone who likes to attend group circuit classes or are not as comfortable lifting heavy weights, or with high forces, research argues against that.  In addition, if you are a cyclist or long distance runner who doesn’t utilize strength training or doesn’t lift heavy weights for whatever reason, you are also at risk. This is especially true for lighter and leaner individuals. 

Choose movements to load key areas of the body.

The shutterstock_104557892_copyresults of studies support that bone density is site-specific.  This means that all of the bicep curls and chest presses in the world will not help you increase bone density in your hips and pelvis as much as doing lower body movements that put stress on the hips and pelvis. Lumbar spine stress is achieved by loading weight on the back, such as doing deadlifts or squats with weight (done with proper form), and by performing sit-up type movements and back extensions. Stress on the femur occurs when legs are put under heavy load or impact forces. So if you want strong bones in your hips, legs and spine, make sure you are including movements that target those areas. Or conversely, if you have a particular area you are concerned about, make sure and give that area some more love with some additional site-specific exercises.

Include Jumping, Sprinting and Plyometrics in your program.  Plyometrics are movements that enable a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a timeframe as possible.  In addition, the movements make use of the elastic properties of the muscle to generate an even more forceful contraction. They train the neuromuscular system to fire off more fibers, which also creates more force. An example of a plyometric movement would be Jump Squats or Lateral Cone Jumps. The faster the muscle is stretched and lengthened as it controls your deceleration, the more energy is obtained from the elastic properties of your muscle fiber, and the stronger the following contraction will be (3).  Any of the plyometric or jumping exercises are good choices for stimulating bone growth because of the high forces of the muscle contractions, as well as impact forces they generate.

Impact sports in which loading is applied unevenly and at a high rate also provide more stimulus for bone growth.  So if you participate in sports such as tennis, basketball or other activities that involve jumping, accelerating or quick changes of direction, you have a definitive advantage when it comes to maintaining strong bones.  If this is you, strength training as also crucial to ensure your muscles and tendons can handle these high, and changing in directional forces .

In addition to suspension training movements, consider adding movements where the spine is placed under load, such as squats with a bag, bar or employ the use of a standing machine. Loading up a leg press might be beneficial for the hips, but will not put the necessary compression forces on the spine which are lacking the most in cycling and are the most important for cyclists to include. The “Farmer’s Walk” (an exercise where you are simply carrying heavy weights), heavy kettle bell or dumbbell, or barbell work, kicking, punching, or flipping heavy bags, jumping rope, high intensity running, shuffling or cutting, and jumping, are also all good additions that will stimulate bone growth.  These things can supplement your suspension training program as well, if you have access to additional equipment. An example of this would be performing a suspended squat jump, followed by a suspended pushup with high resistance, and a sprint to the end of the block. These would be three extremely beneficial exercises to stimulate bone growth.

Conclusion: If you are concerned about your bone health, it doesn’t mean you need to turn your program upside down.  Simply include one or two random exercises that stress your legs, hips and lumbar spine in a random manner with some impact and force. If you are just starting to strength train, or have knowledge that you already have low bone density or osteoporosis, the more explosive exercises should be phased in gradually as you improve your strength and fitness level. Always develop the foundation before adding higher intensity, or more specific work to your program.  Just keep in mind that being consistent and including bone building activity in your program during the long term will produce benefits. 


1.       Essentials of Strength and conditioning NSCA editor Thomas R Baechle

2.       Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:  November 2008  Physiological Adaptations to Strength and Circuit Training in Postmenopausal Women With Bone Loss.  Brentano, Michel A; Cadore, Eduardo L; Da Silva, Eduardo M; Ambrosini, Anelise B; Coertjens, M; Petkowicz, Rosemary; Viero, Itamara; Kruel, Luiz ] .

3.       Jumping into Plyometrics : Donald A Chu, PhD