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
12:37

21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! Day 5: Is Sprinting Really Worth It!?

Sprint
Sprinting on a bike is really fun, really exciting to watch... and really not terribly important for the recreational cyclist. That said - it's still something to practice, because it's a great way to improve your fitness, because it leads to more muscle and bone, a stronger heart, and improved economy when you're NOT sprinting.

Now, I'm NOT a sprinter, but I still train and coach short, intense intervals periodically, and here's how it's done.

Sprinting requires a lot of power, in an almost instant transition. A pedaling cyclist is using their aerobic system most of the time; sprinting requires that you use one of the simplest foundations of muscle contraction - the phosphagen system. It lasts between 2 and 15 seconds. Today's stage, for example, was about 13 seconds of incredible intensity, so the cyclists were literally 'Firing on all cylinders'.

First, remember - you should probably be at least somewhat fit, so call us if you have questions or doubt your ability. We'll work on other things first.

Second - WARM UP THOROUGHLY. Sprinting cold is asking for trouble. Spend at least 20 minutes warming up, increasing intensity and power, staying on top of your hydration, and keeping your carbohydrate stores topped off. A few pick-me-ups, or false sprints, where you just increase power output over 15-30 seconds in a steady rise, until you are breathing hard, and sweating a bit, will definitely help.

Third - cycling sprints on Television are rare, and usually occur at the END of an event. They're just too hard to replicate too often in a stage, or even over the course of three weeks. Do just a few, between 3 and 10 seconds, and make sure that you spend AT LEAST 3 minutes recovering, and HOPEFULLY more like 5. Professional sprinters can take up to THIRTY minutes between sprint efforts. It's just that taxing!

Fourth - Start in a gear that allows you to accelerate instantly. I usually begin in my big ring, but somewhere in the middle of my cassette. When my legs begin to spin out, I shift to a harder gear and attempt to spin out in that gear. If I'm lucky, I'll get one more shift before exhaustion sets in, and my power begins to drop.

Finally - if you're outdoors, BE SAFE. Sprinting for a sign on the road, or a painted line is one thing. Sprinting to beat a changing light or to get ahead of a train just is NOT worth it. Be safe, know the road ahead of you, keep your chin up and your eyes forward, and be prepared.

Sprinting is sort of like the candle on a cake. The mix is all chocolate and red velvet, the icing just pure, delicious sugar, and the candle, when lit, is something to wonder at.... and then quickly blow out! They're fun, they're hot, and they're VERY short-lived. The fitness gains include increased power output over longer periods of time, a higher metabolism, and the growth of muscle and bone, because of their intensity.

Thanks, and if you have any questions about this tip or your cycling, give us a call or just stop by before our evening classes!

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Coach Wharton
12:29

21 Days of the Tour de France, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! - ROUGH ROADS!!!

Cobbles
Can you believe it? We're only four days in to the Tour de France, and there's been enough drama and action for a month's worth of cycling!

It seems like the people that design the course every year, scheme of ways to challenge the cyclists and their teams, while providing incredible sights for tourists and the global audience. Today's section, with over 18 miles of roads built from cobblestones, will literally jar the handlebars out of a regular cyclist, and when the weather is poor, these roads are almost impassible.

Riding a bike out on the road is always a challenge. There's wind, weather, temperatures, traffic, and of course, construction zones. While we all wish for smooth asphalt, courteous drivers, and no debris, the fact is that this is rarely the case.

When you ride on rough roads, there are a few things you can do to make the ride a little easier.

First, take a little air out of your tires. Modern tires are so good that they can be ridden well below their maximum pressure, and a tire with some cushion can absorb a lot of impact and road buzz.

Second, ALWAYS wear gloves. Gloves help you ride with less strain, and most modern gloves absorb impact as well.

Third - keep your chin up, and look down the road. Usually, there are areas where motor vehicles have already rolled, and their weight has compressed the earth a little, under the areas of their tires. When you ride in the right or left wheel well, things definitely get smoother.

Fourth - this is one area where you MIGHT consider a lower cadence, if only to help you maintain some torque and balance.

Finally, if you encounter rough roads more often than not, consider riding a wider tire, or buying some wheels with wider rims. Modern racing wheels are actually getting wider, and modern tire recommendations are now down to below 100 psi for most cyclists, unless they're really big.

Thankfully, most modern roads don't use cobblestones or brick. Cities and States employ asphalt and concrete. But asphalt can be rough on the joints of a cyclist, and concrete can break up from weather. Ride aware, ride within your limits, and be prepared with good equipment and fitness.

Cycling on rough roads doesn't have to be a drag, or prevent you from exercising. They're just another skill you can award yourself when you've overcome their challenges, giving you more opportunity to ride when and where you want, for whatever reason!

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Coach Wharton
12:00

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. 

http://biketechreview.com/performance/supply/48-mitochondria-the-aerobic-engines

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. 


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Coach Wharton
09:47

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.

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Coach Wharton
20:00

Listen to Your Heart, but WATCH Your WATTS!!!

Take a look at this chart. We've got a good workout from Paul Dybala, a client at the White Rock Lake location. What's interesting is that if you look at the red line, which displays heart rate, you'll see a minimal trend of rising intensity, but it sort of plateaus, both on range and max/min for each interval. However, if you look at the Watts, in light blue, well, it goes UP, and UP, and UP! But HR doesn't show you that. 

For decades, Heart Rate was viewed as the primary indicator of fitness. Zones were developed, based on good science, to indicate levels of intensity and fitness results. But with HR, intensity was just too vague to account for quantifiable values. Again - look at the chart. Heart rate range between intervals was pretty similar each time, and yet, wattage went up - significantly. Not even cadence changed all that much for the intervals themselves.... 

What does it all mean??? Well, for one thing... While you can get a good idea of your workout intensity from Heart Rate... you'll get a more acute sense of your work, with Wattage. Secondly - while Heart Rate Monitors can be purchased for around $50, Wattage meters, which WERE once in the stratosphere in terms of cost, continue to decline in price, while remaining both accurate and consistent. This image shows the successful merge between the Physics of Wattage, and the Physiology of Heart Rate. You can't have one without the other, but it's the Wattage that determines the success of your workout - with heart rate alone, you're just not getting the full picture. 

Stay tuned, though. Cycling Center Dallas is working with a MoxyMonitor, to measure Muscle Oxidation levels and Total Hemoglobin, which, when combined with wattage, will yield a TRULY complete picture of the cyclist, inside, and out, in real-time. 

Curious? Come by for a visit, or register at CyclingCenterDallas.com for your first class - it's free, and you'll leave smarter, and more driven, to achieve your fitness goals with us. I promise. 

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Coach Wharton
17:19

Knowledge is Power, and Power Gives You Knowledge

Cycling Center Dallas Gives YOU the Power.
More than once I've heard the criticism that cyclists don't need to know that much about power, because they can feel there way through a ride, and if they are fit enough and strong enough they can perceive their way over Hills and Dales. Beginning cyclists will tell me that they don't need to know about power", because" all they want to do is just ride their bike." Well, I'll respectfully disagree. Because knowing what you can do over different and varying periods of time, in terms of power generation, how you can recover from those intervals, how many of those intervals you can perform, and just how hard each of those intervals is and what it does for your body, is the key to improvement. I used to teach spin classes on a regular basis, and those spin bikes were intentionally built without much in the way of hardware that could give you knowledge. Spin bikes remain high on MPower meant, in terms of the feelings that they leave you with when you have completed a session, but they remain vague on just exactly what it is that you can and you do accomplish.
 
The studios at Cycling Ctr., Dallas, give you all of the perception of empowerment, but also give you the instant feedback, the updated analysis of your ride, and the on site help of coaches who know exactly how to help you get through that quantity of intervals, the quality of each interval, and the overall volume required to help you get an effective training dose. When you train with a power meter or an ergometer, the knowledge gained can tell you exactly how hard you need to work to accomplish a goal. Now, writing outdoors is a fairly stochastic event. But when you have trained for myriad and multiple intervals in the anaerobic, maximal aerobic, and threshold training zones, your capacity to do work grows, while your perception of that intensity declines.
 
At Cycling Ctr., Dallas, we are adept at studying wattage and power output not just on a per interval basis, we study it on a per stroke basis, per workout basis, as well as empirically, which means all of your past workouts and how they build upon each other. We are also looking at cadence, speed, cadence on slope, posture, hydration status, and even heart rate, which you will notice I did not mention first. Heart rate training is just to broad and to individual, and too dependent upon too many factors, to properly establish precise protocols. Furthermore, we are also studying fatigue, energy output, power to weight ratios, etc.
 
But the bottom line here is that as a cyclist in my studios, you do not need to obsess over this if you do not want to. If you are simply looking for a convenient, safe, effective workout, this is the place. You will be challenged, and the music will be kicking, and the coaches will be tickling your chin, and helping you get through the workout, which will leave you spent but on the road towards improving.
 
All of this training with power gives you the knowledge necessary to improve. The knowledge that you gain can give you the power to become a better cyclist.

Knowledge is Power, Power Gives you Knowledge

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