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As most of you know, I am always searching for ways to use technology so that we can better understand cycling fitness and performance. I’ve been using the Moxy Muscle Oxygen Sensor since 2014, and have developed some strong ideas about how its’ use in our studio can help us understand the following:
· Proper Warm-Up Procedures for maximal saturation and vasodilation.
· Fatigue when performing intervals.
· Glycogen Depletion and replenishment.
· The effect of intensity on muscles before, during, and after intervals.
· Recovery and Optimizing the timing of caloric replenishment.
As the Moxy became more common, Garmin got on board, and allowed their smart head units to accept SmO2 and ThB from Moxy’s on to the screen via custom fields, and once on screen, this data is now being recorded in the latest .FIT files, so it allows me the chance to look at information both acutely and empirically. Having these two data points, along with Heart Rate, Wattage, Cadence, Speed, Slope, and elevation, has really opened my mind towards just what is possible, and what isn’t.
Well, we can now add a new phenomenon to my amateur observations; what happens when a cyclist trains at low elevation, but competes at a significantly higher elevation.
On April 1st and 2nd of 2017, I traveled from my home in Dallas, TX (elevation ~430’ or 130m above Sea Level), to Ft. Davis, TX, to compete in a Stage Race known as the HammerFest. Last year, my wife and I traveled out two days early, and rode some, to try and adapt to the elevation (5050’ or 1540m) and dry air. I’ve raced and ridden out here enough to know that my performance definitely suffers, and the goal in the weeks prior to the event is to raise my Threshold as high as possible, while also trying to raise my Vo2max. It’s a tall order, but there have been years where I’ve competed well. That said, most of the time, it’s a real struggle, and I have to believe it has much to do with showing up just a day before the race, and making the first stage, my body’s introduction to strain at elevation.
Now, thanks to the Moxy, I think I have the proof.
In the weeks building up to the competition, my intervals routinely showed rising wattages, with SmO2 levels bottoming out in the 25% range, give or take. I’ve known athletes who were able to take their SmO2 values down to the teens and single digits, but they came from a power-lifting background, and tended to be on the heavier side; perfect for most Texas cycling, but not ideal for Ft. Davis.
On the morning of April 1st, however, when I performed my warmup, I was SHOCKED to see that my Moxy was reading in the MID 50% range, as soon as the signal was picked up by my Garmin 1000. At first, I felt this was a result of the low temperature, but as I went through my warmup, I saw that SmO2 would routinely drop down to 10% during my warmup efforts, but would rebound over time to a more-expected 70% or more.
Now, the first thing to consider is that during my warmups at lower elevation, I never began an interval set until my SmO2 would rebound to AT LEAST 85%, and as high as 92%. Furthermore, it takes me about 30-35 minutes to get my ThB values up to about 12.40. When I’m at both of those numbers, or close to them, I know I’m vasodilated, that my core temperature has risen, and my legs, at least (I measure at the Left lateralis), are ready for any efforts I throw at them.
On this morning, however, SmO2 never went above 79%, ThB never surpassed 12.34, and again, as soon as I put any real effort in to my surges, or the climbs, SmO2 dropped to between 8 and 15%, and ThB never changed.
Something was seriously off.
I finished the first stage, a Point-to-Point effort that climbed Mt. Locke, with three major climbs that finished at 6790’ (2070m), and was REALLY disappointed in my results. My watts were down, my cadence was low, I felt heavy and it felt like my legs were dead. As soon as the effort ended and I began to recover, my legs began to REALLY HURT, like I had just undergone a SEVERE resistance training protocol, with multiple sets of squats at high loads.
Disappointed as I was, I waited for my wife, who was also a bit disappointed in her performance, and we rode down together, to eat, recover, and prepare for the next stage, to be held that afternoon. Ironically, the physiological results of that stage were completely different, with an warmed-up average SmO2 in the 85% range, and a range-under-stress in the 30-45% range, which is MUCH more typical of my values during hard efforts. Furthermore, my ThB basically maxed at a stable at ~12.49, and the effort itself showed little change, around 12.00 or thereabouts. It did drop to 11.80-ish toward the end of the stage, but overall, my muscles “Felt” better, and I felt like I could challenge in the race. Now, it didn’t end up that way, but results aside, it’s the physiology that we’re studying in this post.
I’ll attach the files to the blog post if possible, and if not, I’ll try to set them up for download on Google Drive or something like that, for people to study independently, since, remember, I’m not a Scientist. I’m a hack.
So, what’s the lesson to be drawn from this? Without the Moxy, I never would have known just HOW IMPORTANT adaptation to elevation is for a cyclist, or any athlete’s, performance. During my first stage, I basically raced myself in to a deep state of muscle strain, and ended up sore for days afterward. Ironically, had I gone out on the Friday before the race, and actually performed some intervals of similar strain, I would have basically gotten through that penalty phase of adaptation, and would have been better prepared for the efforts at elevation on Stage 1. Who knows – I might have actually had an even better physiology for the 2nd stage, and would have been completely prepared for the third stage that was going to be held the next day. Sadly, a final winter rainstorm blew through the Davis Mountains overnight, and my wife and I both decided to skip a rainy, sleet-covered, 26 degree race with snow above 6000’ (1830m), and winds above 20mph. We’re both too old and cautious to try racing in those liminal conditions, especially when we know there’s really no financial reward to speak of, just a possible great story to be told from the ER.
The Moxy Monitor remains one of my most crucial elements for training and competition. Without it, I’m left guessing as to how ready my body is for work. I will definitely call off a training session if I see numbers that are ‘off’, and I also work hard, as a coach and as an athlete, to provide consistent, safe, effective protocols for warmup, hydration, and recovery.
Listening to your body is one thing; actually seeing it perform via wattage, heart rate, SmO2 and ThB, provides a holistic approach that is incomparable. I cannot WAIT to go back to elevation and ride – only this time, I’ll make sure I have an extra day squeezed in to actually perform some ‘elevation adaptation’ intervals, that will leave me more prepared to take on the slopes and loads required to achieve my best.
· 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…!
THAT, dear readers, is a FITNESS BREAKTHROUGH.
What’s a FITNESS BREAKTHROUGH? Well, it’s when your ACTUAL POWER OUTPUT is HIGHER than your Predicted MAXIMUM POWER AVAILABLE!
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.
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…
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.
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 http://bit.ly/BikeCCD.
In order to understand whether your body is properly hydrated or not, I’m a liberal user of, and proponent for, Pee Strips. Yup - strips that you pee on to determine your hydration status, among other things. Cycling Center Dallas and Online Bike Coach spend hours looking at extrinsic information, like Watts and KiloJoules, but too often, the intrinsic information is ignored. Reagent Pee Strips allow us to determine things, like a body’s PH levels, Leukocytes, Protein elements in urine,, and most importantly, Specific Gravity.
Specific Gravity is basically a way to see how much extra ‘stuff’ is coming out with your watered urine. It’s no longer enough to have a look in the bowl and determine whether ‘Clear and Copious’ or ‘Dark and Clouded’ is the best determination. Instead, when you pee on the pee strips, the chemicals are reacting to what’s in your urine, and the results are pretty revealing. Distilled water has a Specific Gravity of 1.000, and most healthy humans have SG’s in the 1.005 - 1.015, but basically, the further out you go from 1.000, the more dehydrated you are.
At the studio and online, we have been emphasizing the need for hydration as a critical element to training performance now for years. If you read back on this blog, you’ll remember that I suffered a serious heat stroke in late June of 2010, and later that year, met Dr. Stacy Sims at the Olympic Training Center, and she changed my world. Nowadays, we not only focus on hydration on an individual basis, we use it as part of the training strategy. Right now, at the studio, I have two clients who have incredibly high sweat rates, and they routinely post Specific Gravities that are in the 1.030 range and worse. They’re both triathletes, and they’re both concerned about the stigma associated with CamelBacks and drinking to a schedule. As a coach, I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold claim;
If you TRUST YOUR COACH, then understand that you’ll be a STRONGER, FASTER, MORE EFFICIENT cyclist by drinking THE RIGHT MIX, ON A SCHEDULE THAT KEEPS YOUR SPECIFIC GRAVITY IN THE 1.005-1.01 RANGE, THAN ANY AERO, WEIGHT, OR SOCIAL PENALTY YOU MAY SUFFER FROM WEARING A CAMELBACK.
There - I said it. Now, I’m going to back it up with an event that happened this weekend, just to drive the point home.
My wife’s travels over the summer left me working the studio, and I was unable to ride as much as I have wanted, so upon her return, I was able to drive down to Fredericksburg, Texas, the second weekend of August, to ride with a friend who lives down there. He knows all the roads, is a past State Champion, and is making the most of small-town life. He’s a great guy, and lives humbly, so I thought this would be the best companion for a lot of LSD (Long, Slow, Distance) rides of 2-4 hours, out in the countryside. I got down a day early, and we planned on departing around 7am on Friday Morning, to ‘beat the heat’.
Well, we’re definitely human. We ended up talking and catching up all night, went to bed late, and slept in. We rolled out around 9:30, and, well, August 12th just happened to be - THE HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR IN TEXAS. So at our speeds and with our relative levels of fitness, HYDRATION… WELL-UNDERSTOOD AND COMPREHENSIVELY PREPARED-FOR HYDRATION, was FUNDAMENTAL TO OUR SURVIVAL on that day.
I rolled out with a 70oz Camelback, and two 24oz. Chilled water bottles. My friend rolled out with…. 2 24 oz water bottles with neoprene coozies wrapped around them. We rolled out just as the heat began to hit, and made it to a town called Comfort, after roughly two hours. Now, we did get water at a filling station, but the route back to Fredericksburg left us climbing, with maybe a slight headwind, and we ended up suffering as the heat of the day wore on. This road is also incredibly remote, so we were going through our fluid ounces at a higher rate. Eventually, I inadvertently separated myself from my friend, and climbed up to an overlook where there’s a small State Park that protects an abandoned tunnel, which has become a famous bat cave, home to about 19,000 bats.
I found a cool spot, drank up the rest of my Camelback, and downed another bottle, so I was at well over 100 oz. in just about 3 hours, and waited. It took about 10 minutes, and when he showed up, he looked just ragged. Fortunately, there is a Hole-In-The-Wall restaurant about 200 meters up the road from this lookout, and my friend knew the owners. We rolled over there ---- and spent the next two hours in the A/C, drinking lemon water and recovering. Even after that, in the 8 miles home, he STILL didn’t feel or ride well, and cramped on all but the slightest of efforts. We spent that afternoon and evening keeping him in a cool shower, and drinking to recover. A quick step on the scale showed that he’d lost about 6 lbs, which, for a skinny guy, is REALLY dangerous.
Me? I drank the other bottle, and then made a poor-man’s carb drink by mixing a flat Dr. Pepper with water, which I also drank on the 40 minute ride home. I then immediately drank a recovery drink, and took out a pee strip. The result? Well, it was a life-or-death issue. Here - take a look.
And here it is compared to the baselines you get on a reagent strip container.
So - after FIVE HOURS in the sun, in which temps hit a peak of 111 DEGREES… I was STILL HYDRATED at a SPECIFIC GRAVITY of 1.01. How much did I drink? 70+24+24+24 = 142oz, of which all but 24 of those ounces was NBS Hydration (remember the Dr. Pepper trick). Also - Look at the Leukocytes. I actually WAS burning fat, which was the mission for the weekend. Furthermore, look at the PH levels. That’s purely from the NBS. If I had decided to attempt some hard intervals, I would have been prepared for them internally, since intensity leads to lactic acid and increased Co2 output. Being slightly alkaline can help offset some of the challenges those efforts bring.
Here it is - Sunday morning, and my friend still hasn’t really recovered from the heat stress. It reminds me of that life-altering day in late June, 2010, when I drank the wrong drink, didn’t drink enough of it, and suffered a life-altering heatstroke that left me with impaired vision in one eye and a higher likelihood of migraines overall. I just hope this message gets across to others; you CAN exercise in the heat - you just have to be EXTREMELY prepared for it, and honestly, DRINK your way out of it.
PS - I honestly feel sorry for the Dallas Cowboys… They’re getting umpteen million dollars for a Gatorade Sports Science Institute in their new facilities in Frisco, and I can’t believe they’d be using almost 50-year old information and higher concentrations of sports drink, to their detriment. One can only hope that every sports franchise, in a warming world, will see just how powerful these new, scientifically based sports drinks, can change your cycling for the better.
But people still have questions, and cycling is a sport full of skeptics. Me? Well, I'm a believer, but only after I did years of my own research, looking at how the RSX and then the Q Rings affected net torque curves on my CompuTrainer SpinScan. More recently, thanks to the contributions of Dr. Christie O'Hara, InPower now shows net torque curves on their own software, which then explains where you should position your Q or QXL chainring for Optimal power output. I routinely see about 3-8% improvements on my clients, and in fact, we have a DEDICATED INDOOR BIKE with a Rotor InPower crank, that can show the improvement in real-time for a client. Swapping out my drivetrain cranks (I have a round ring, a Q ring and a QXL ring, each on their own crank), takes around 10 minutes, and the cyclists can SEE the effect; we just place them at a known wattage on the CompuTrainer, then measure the output delta on the crank. It's that simple, and it's real, real-time, information.
So watch these videos, and if you have questions, contact us and ask away!
They're broken up for viewability, but the first one is the full length. I welcome dialogue, and again, if you're "Q" Curious, we'd love to show you how it works in real-time, at the Cycling Center Dallas Studio. Think about it - a $200-300 investment in 1 hour COULD deliver a 3-8% improvement in your power output, just like that.
The latest method of doing just this comes from Baron Biosystems of Canada. Their platform, called Xert, provides a unique way to take instant and empirical data from a cyclist, measure its’ effects on the body, and then determine some crucial elements that can determine the effectiveness of a workout, and the effective trend towards a goal. I’m really excited about this technology, and I think that it will be incredibly useful for riders and racers of all levels here at Cycling Center Dallas, and via the internet through Online Bike Coach.
Let’s start at the beginning.
First – a cyclist just creates an account on XertOnline.com. If the rider has an account with Strava.com or Trainingpeaks, older data can be imported and analyzed. If the cyclist has data on a Garmin with a .FIT or .TCX series of files, then the data is imported just like a thumb drive. The meat of the setup is found in the area titled “Athlete Type”. Here’s an image.
There are twelve different types of cyclist described, from a 10-second “Power Sprinter”, to a “Below Threshold Power” Triathlete. Just read through the descriptions, and select the area where you think your cycling strengths best apply. Some knowledge of ability is required; if you’re in doubt, defer to something in the middle, like “GC Specialist”, which focuses on your 8-minute average power-to-weight ratio.
(One thing to note is that, even though the categories reflect cyclists that participate in longer, multi-hour events, when you look these athlete types and at their particular strengths and weaknesses, they all boil down to an ability to perform at a given duration. Everyone is unique in their ability and this chart helps capture those differences.)
The website churns through your past data over a period of minutes, to help determine several parameters for fitness. It then presents you with a summary page, showing the following:
- Total # of activities
- Average Ride Time
- Total Ride Time
- Average Distance
- Total Distance.
The next line down is where things start to get interesting. The data provided for this continues to grow with more people getting on to Xert, so the data is being filtered by age and gender, and is perpetually updated. You get a “Fitness Comparison and Ranking”, showing your BEST and CURRENT value. In this case, my ‘365’ watts over 5 minutes is just 97% of my Best watts of 375 over 5 minutes, which I have hit in the last six weeks. The Median for this age group is 336 watts, and the 90% percentile is 422 watts. My 365 watts puts me at about the 66th percentile for the population.
*** Now – I DO need to make something clear, because it can be confusing. Xert’s ‘365’ is NOT the ACTUAL VALUE that I may or may not have achieved in the last 42 days. Instead, it’s the MAX POTENTIAL VALUE that I COULD have achieved on this day. I’ll make that more clear in a paragraph or two. Xert's unique algorithm determines this in the background and I have found it to be REALLY close every time we've tested it.
On the next section of the page, there’s a GREAT image, affectionately known as the “Spider Chart”. It basically looks at the 12 different power categories, and determines where you rank in relation to ALL of them. This can help you identify holes in your training, or strengths. In my Spider Chart, shown below, my most recent training has tilted me slightly toward the short-and-mid-intensity specialties, between 2 and 8 minutes, while my time schedule has prevented me from riding longer events or rides.
You can mouse over the orange dots, and it will re-state your current records, and where those records sit in relation to the rest of the population.
Finally, there’s a ‘Progression Chart’. Now, this is a bit complicated, but there is a method to it, and it does help you understand what’s going on with your fitness.
The first thing to focus on is the left-side “Y” axis. The left Axis is showing, in my specific case, that “MAX WATTAGE POTENTIAL” for my chosen Athlete Type - Breakaway Specialist - 5 minute power. The circles (Best Activities) correspond to activities where I reached my 5 minute max wattage potential on that day. Mousing over these circles shows what my maximum 5 minute wattage was on that day. In addition, if you mouse over the vertical bars, “Best Activities”, which is that small script on the lower left side of the graph, acting as a key, changes from day-to-day showing your maximum 5 minute wattage.
In this example, March 9th of 2016, Xert calculated that, based on everything I’d entered in prior to this day, I had the POTENTIAL to hit a ‘359’ watt average over 5 minutes. However… after a solid block of Specific, hard training, which again, I’ll explain in a short while, that value bumped up to 371 watts on April 2nd.
So that’s a roughly 3% boost in 3 weeks, which, honestly, is pretty realistic. So look at that first when you get down to the Progression chart.
Next, slide all the way over to the FAR RIGHT “Y” axis. There, you’ll see “Weighted Average Daily Accumulated Energy (KJ). This is NOT a part of the Progression Chart. Instead, it’s a way to see, through the vertical red/purple/green bars, just how much WORK you’re doing on a regular basis. Again, it’s NOT a fitness indicator so much as it is a “VOLUME” indicator. We can debate the pro and con of any scoring system, but this is just a convenient way to look at work, and how it’s being used on a daily basis, out to about six weeks. But it gets even MORE detailed.
Take a look at the Key along the bottom of the graph. You’ll notice that in the chart above, it says
for that specific day of April 3rd, 2016. This is a measure of how much training I had been doing. On that given day, which was actually a race out on the Scenic Loop of Ft. Davis, TX, my “Weighted Average” of WORK, measured in KILOJOULES, breaks down to:
- 811 kJ of Low Intensity Energy Use (Largely Aerobic energy use)…
- 56 kJ of High Intensity Energy Use (Largely Vo2 and Anaerobic energy consumption)…
- And ~12 kJ of PEAK energy Use (completely anaerobic and near-maximal effort).
You’ll be able to tease a couple of more things out of the graph at this stage of learning.
First, that ‘Wandering Trail’, can help you improve on your SPECIFICITY, and basically, stay away from rides that don’t suit your goals or purpose. The more intervals you perform at a specific intensity and duration that is based on your goal, the more that ‘Wandering Trail’ rises or falls toward your w/t goal.
Second, the vertical bars are designed so that you have a light-red to imply ONE workout in a 24 hour period, and you have a darker-red rectangle, to reveal TWO workouts performed in a single day.
Now – let’s finish up with the Progression Chart by looking at the circles and dots, and understand just what those mean.
The circles show you just how well you did on a given day. A purple circle generally means you worked hard by didn’t accomplish anything special that. Sometimes when you’re tired, purple circles may provide indication that you weren’t able to produce your best results that day. Gold, silver and bronze circles indicate that you had shown an improvement.
A SMALL purple circle, like the one found on March 20th, symbolizes a ‘but that ‘Best’ wasn’t hard enough to merit a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal. The LOCATION of the dots is in relation to their wattage.
So, just to review:
- Purple dots are ‘Highs’, but not ‘Record Highs’.
- Medals mean you hit a new breakthrough in fitness.
- The size of the medal means how definite the achievement was.
Let’s look at one more thing before we leave the Progression Chart…
Take a look at that ‘Wandering Trail’ or, the ‘Focus’ Line. You’ll notice that it rises and falls. While I think there might be a better way to show this metric to the viewer, it really IS an interesting category. What it’s saying is that, based on ALL of the work you’ve done over your recent training, the ‘FOCUS’ centered on one particular category in the Spider Chart or ‘Athlete Type’ mentioned above. As I did my workouts and tried to focus exclusively on intervals that would improve my 5-minute Power, the FOCUS line rose. When I performed rides that had longer durations, and gaps between intervals, like on weekends, my FOCUS line actually dropped. If you look at the past 3 days of workouts, you’ll see that my FOCUS line once again rose, as I resumed training after a two-week hiatus.
I think there is some REAL potential here, because if you follow Xert’s premise, it’s not just the rethinking of power and time-in-zones and recovery that is required, it’s the actual CONTENT and INTENSITY of the INTERVALS that makes for such incredible potential. And THAT is where we’re going to go next…
PART II – APPLYING THE NEW IDEAS INTO ACTION VIA INTERVALS
I’m going to skip over Xert’s Power-Duration Curve stuff, and will return to it later, but the reason I want to discuss the Intervals Builder first, is that it is, in my opinion, the absolute strongest feature in Xert’s arsenal. Furthermore, once you have your Fitness Signature, there are APPS, available on Garmin’s Connect IQ and via Android (iphone coming soon), that will allow you to further exploit Xert’s Power-Duration Model and Maximum Power Available information. Again, I’ll get to that later, but for now, let’s discuss Xert’s Interval Builder and why it’s so important to your fitness goals.
Once you’ve got your fitness profile, and established your goals (3 minute, 5 minute, 8 minute, stuff like that), it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get there. To do that, head over to the left-hand bar of options, and click on ‘WORKOUTS’.
You’ll get two options in the sub-menu; “Standard Workouts” and “My Workouts”. Let’s start with some “Standard Workouts”, and then we’ll tinker with some custom workouts to sharpen the blade a bit.
Now, remember – my goal is to have a stronger FIVE MINUTE POWER. That puts me in the “Breakaway Specialist” category. So, I’ll go the THIRD COLUMN, which is “WORKOUT FOCUS”, and click through until I find some appropriate intervals. If you click on the Title, it will sort by “Focus”, and “Breakaway Specialist will be on Page 1.
Now, let’s click on the second workout – Seiler – and see what it looks like…
This interval set shows that, UNIQUE TO ME, if I were to perform FOUR SEPARATE, FOUR-MINUTE INTERVALS, at 372 watts (OUCH!!!!!) each, with just TWO MINUTES of recovery, that the amount of STRAIN (see middle of the image) would be adequate to optimize my 5-minute output, over time.
HOWEVER – take a look at the PURPLE LINE. That PURPLE LINE is an indicator of “MAXIMUM POWER AVAILABLE”, and you can see that it intercepts the RED LINE of the SECOND INTERVAL, the THIRD INTERVAL, and the FOURTH INTERVAL. Now – if you believe Xert’s programming, THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! Let’s ZOOM in so I can explain why.
Xert’s Foundation goes like this: When you ride a bike, you use “Low-Intensity Energy” (your aerobic system), “High-Intensity Energy (Your Vo2 and Anaerobic Systems), and “Peak” Energy systems, which is your Phospho-Creatine System and Sprint power. The “Maximum Power Available” curve declines as you cross over your Threshold Power, and it rebounds when you recover beneath it.
For the first interval, that purple line of “MPA”, and the red line of “Watts”, don’t cross paths. The interval ends with an “MPA” of less than 600 watts, while the interval’s overall 4 minute effort was at “372”. But, for the SECOND interval, the decline of “MPA” intercepts the red line with about 23 seconds to go. In the image above, there is theoretically NO WAY that I can hold 372 watts at that moment, with an MPA that is at 343 watts and declining. This happens again, a bit earlier in Interval #3, and again in interval #4. So I have to alter this workout if I know that I’m going to be able to even complete it.
If I go down to the bottom of the screen, I can see that there are three options in this interval. I’m going to extend the recoveries out to 2:30, and see what that does for me.
When I click on “Calculate”, I get this…
So – I pushed my ‘Point of Failure’ out for the three intervals I’m concerned about, but not quite. Also – look at the ‘FOCUS’. I’m still in ‘Breakaway Specialist’. Let’s see if I can buy myself some more recovery, and be at least theoretically successful in these four minute intervals.
BOOM! At 3 minutes of recovery, I am going to be JUST ABLE to COMPLETE the intervals, if I can hold 372 watts!
Now – as an Indoor Studio Professional, here’s an ADDED Bonus. Go to that upper right hand corner of the chart, and you’ll see either “TCX” or “ERG” buttons. If you click on them, they’ll export the workout in to a “watts over time” protocol, for your Indoor Ergometer!!!
Here’s what this protocol looks like in PerfPro Studio, the system that I use with Online Bike Coach and Cycling Center Dallas.
Now – we don’t have ‘Maximum Power Available’ just yet on PerfPro, but we’re lobbying for some type of licensing deal that is satisfactory to all parties. But this literally re-writes the book on interval training with power.
A couple of quick notes:
- Traditional Zones are thrown out the window. We know what aerobic rides feel like, we know what “Threshold” feels like. Xert has apps that define zones based on CURRENT MPA, FATIGUE OVER TIME, and ENERGY USE. Thus – THEY SHIFT, based on fitness, and real-time work spent at different intensities.
- The intervals can sometimes be MUCH, MUCH HIGHER INTENSITY than we’re used to, and are LONGER than you may feel comfortable with. Sometimes they are the opposite SINCE THEY DON’T HAVE YOU ATTEMPTING SOMETHING YOU CAN’T DO. And THEY WORK. They REALLY, REALLY work. Many times, the workouts bring you RIGHT TO YOUR EXACT LIMIT meaning, you won’t complete the very last part of the interval. THAT IS FINE. YOU ARE STILL GETTING THE RECOMMENDED TRAINING DOSE.
I think I’ll stop here – and will focus on the Apps in another blog post, but you should go through the workouts, look at them, and then, click on the “New Workout” option, and experiment with building your own. You’ll see how changing the three deltas of intervals – Frequency, Intensity, and Time (FIT) can alter your specialty, and can determine your Maximum Power Available, to determine whether the workout is doable or not. YOU CAN BREAK THE MODEL!!! And that’s a GOOD THING. But the more information you put in to Xert, the more it’s going to learn about your fitness and capabilities, and the more it will ‘Tune’ the workouts. One Day’s “Breakaway Specialist” workout, may be tomorrow’s “Rouleur” workout, as Threshold or Anaerobic Capacity Wax and Wane.
I’ll be back with a full Blog about Xert’s Apps on a Garmin, but for now, read through, download the FREE BETA, and insert your data. I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Enjoy the ride!
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.
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.
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!
- KNOWLEDGE... and
- GOALS to GUIDE YOU!
See you at the studio!
PS – Be fed, hydrated, rested, and lightly salted before class. Hydration makes a HUGE difference!!
What is BikeScore?
BikeScore is a way to gain "points" for your workouts. It is basically a points system that tells you how much training stress a workout gave your body. The more points, the more training demand that workout placed on your body. This value takes the concept of time spent working out, as well as how hard the workout was, to give you a score. Each workout at Cycling Center Dallas has a BikeScore. With BikeScore, we can give you a specific target for each workout, as well as measure a gradual increase in your training over time, by gradually increasing your overall BikeScore each week. Here are some typical BikeScores you may obtain during a ride...
- Less than 50 - very low (recovery complete by following day)
- 50-150 - low (recovery generally complete by following day)
- 150-300 - medium (some residual fatigue may be present the next day, but gone by 2nd day)
- 300-450 - high (some residual fatigue may be present even after 2 days)
- Greater than 450 - very high (residual fatigue lasting several days likely)
Most of the workouts at Cycling Center Dallas are between 70 and 90 points per hour. The closer the bike score gets to 100 for an hour workout, the harder the workout is going to be. However, a ride outside can be much higher due to the longer duration. Remember that bike score takes into account both the intensity and the duration of the workout. So a long hard group ride or rally could easily get up into the high 200s, or even 300's, and will probably leave you with some fatigue the next day or two.
How do we use this in class?
To obtain accurate bike scores for you we first need to know your correct Critical Power(CP). BikeScore takes into account all the time you spent above and below CP, and how long your workout lasted. We have a BikeScore goal assigned to each workout located Here:
So, for this workout, if you were to complete the workout goals at your CP, you would have earned 82 points. If you start paying attention to the bike scores, you will notice they gradually increase a point or two per workout each week. This is because we plan the workouts to gradually increase in difficulty as you adapt to the training and become stronger. So you will be getting more points per workout as well as a gradual increase in your overall points through the training block. After your workout, you can also find your BikeScore in your the report that was emailed to you.
How can knowing this make me a stronger cyclist?
Being able to plan and measure your training doses is a powerful tool. Now, instead of shooting in the dark with workout goals, we can now give you a “progression” strategy to get you to your goals more efficiently and faster. We challenge your body with appropriate intensities, and slowly grow the load in a way you can adapt to and continue to meet the demands of each workout. Each block slowly grows your BikeScores, and finishes with some testing so we can go into the next training block with your new CP values.
Now, what you do on your days away from CCD also will accumulate BikeScore Points. If you have an on bike power meter, you can obtain your BikeScore from outdoor rides, and get a complete picture of your training. Download this data at home and share it with us, or bring in your head unit, and we can download it while you wait. Either way, this information will help us, help you, achieve your goals when cycling! And remember - if you don't have it already, you can also purchase a copy of PerfPro Analyzer. At this time PerfPRO Analyzer is only available for Windows, but it will allow you the ability to look further into your workouts and augment them with outside ride data.
Next week we will be taking a look at the the Relative Intensity (RI), and where this value fits into workouts you are you doing at CCD.
If any of these describe your lifestyle, this blog is for you:
- If you are a working professional with a demanding job that requires a lot of time at a desk
- You travel a lot for work.
- You spend a lot of time driving for either work or family obligations.
One of the most common issues I see with working professionals who are also amateur or recreational athletes is the negative effects on posture that they bring into their training.
Here is an example:
Jim came into the Cycling Center Dallas studio the other day to start training. He is a recreational
cyclist who wants to be able to ride with his favorite groups, but also wants to look good, get some muscle tone, and not have to worry about tweaking something in his spine, which sometimes holds him back. He is a working professional and work demands often take away his training time. He is very serious about his career and usually ends up spending A LOT of time at his desk.
Long hours at the computer and in a car have left obvious marks on his posture. Tight shoulders, tight chest muscles, a lack of mobility in the upper spine…i
t could be any one of those or all of them. At this point it doesn’t really matter, because whatever is causing it, the effects on his movement are going be the same.
We spent several sessions addressing this issue by working on corrective movements throughout his workouts and/or after his workouts. I also gave him a couple of quick and easy, specific stretches to do at home. Within a few weeks, his range of motion and posture were noticeably better. He was more aware of it, and his positioning looked better on the bike. He also remarked that the pain he felt in his neck and shoulders during the last half of long rides was significantly lower. He was definitely ecstatic about his progress and results after our sessions.
If you have tightness in your shoulders, torso or back, it could be affecting your training.
Try this test at home:
1. Stand tall with your arms loose at your side
2. Make a fist in each hand, and in one motion place your right hand over your head and down your back as far as possible. At the same time, take your left fist up your back as far as possible like this image shows:
3. Have someone take a photo of your hands behind you (if you don’t have anyone to take the pic, set up your phone to take a video and then replay, pause and take a screen shot).
4. Switch hands and repeat, with the left arm up top, and right arm down below.
If both fists only have a small amount of distance between them and are pretty equal in that distance. You probably don’t have anything to worry about.
If you see there is a difference in the distances between your first and second image, like this....You not only have tightness and mobility deficiencies, you also have an asymmetry between the sides
Tight muscles in the chest and back, or a lack of mobility in the upper spine (or both), can negatively affect your bike position, and if you are a triathlete, your run and walk mechanics, and extension in your swim stroke. If you have imbalances mobility and flexibility.
This type of posture could also result in decreased aerobic capacity throughout any activities you do. Think about it… is it easier to breathe when you are hunched over, or standing up tall, allowing the expansion of the diaphragm?
Hold about 30 seconds
Repeat 20-30 seconds each side
This will work the shoulder muscles through both and internal and external rotation.
Thoracic spine stretch:
Tight shoulders may not be the cause of a round back and shoulders.
If you have poor mobility in your thoracic spine (upper back), you are forcing the surrounding areas to take up the slack in that area and perform duties they were not meant to do. This creates harmful compensations.
Below is a great stretch for the Thoracic spine. Try this one after long rides or a long day at the office. It will probably feel unbelievably amazing!
1. Lay on on your right side with your left leg bent and slightly forward of the right leg’s knee, and resting on a foam roller (use a rolled up towel, or any kind of block if you don’t have a roller).
2. With your left hand, reach across to the gap between your left hip and elbow. Place that hand on the rib-cage. Then, twist gently back toward the floor with the left shoulder. Keep your left knee contacting the foam roller or towel.
3. Attempt to get your shoulder blade of the left side as close to the floor as possible, and then extend the left arm out to the side.
4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Try these stretches either after workouts, on recovery days or after you have spent a lot of time seated.
See which ones feel the most challenging for you. The odds are that this is also the one you need to do the most. If you have an asymmetry, work the tighter side one or two more times.
And don’t push through pain. If any of the movements cause pain, back off how hard you are straining. If you still find there is pain with movement, there may be another issue going on.
Although there are other areas of your body that tend to exhibit pain and tightness when you have to sit all day or have poor posture, I have found the Thoracic spine is one of the more common and easily corrected areas with cyclists whose daily activity is creating pain, which presents limitations on their cycling.
Stay tuned for more articles and posts, and contact me if you have any questions, need a more extensive program, or are interested in setting up a full functional movement screen and corrective exercise session. my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org