In previous posts, I covered the top and middle of the “My Fitness” home page. Now, we’ll start cutting down to the bottom of the main page, and we’ll look at the four charts, what they mean, and how Online Bike Coach and Cycling Center Dallas use them to assess progression, fatigue, fitness, stress, and strain.
The first chart that you see is the “Stress” progression chart, and it’s got a lot of different things going on, so let’s break them down, one by one.
Let’s begin with Xert’s definition of “Stress”. There’s a great link that I’ll include from the Xert website itself, but I’ll also define it as I see it, so maybe that will help. First, the link: http://baronbiosys.com/?p=1229
Now - let’s enhance that a bit.
STRESS is a measurement based on how much WORK you do (using KiloJoules), and which fraction of that WORK comes from the three types of WORK that is calculated by Xert.
In Xert, you’ve got
- “LIE”, or “Low Intensity Energy”, which is Aerobic…
- “HIE”, or “High Intensity Energy”, which is the amount of work you perform ABOVE Threshold or FTP….
- And “Peak Stress” or “Peak Intensity Work”, which is completely anaerobic, and is focused on your absolute highest intensity power.
So every column in the “Stress” progression chart, resembles a matchstick, and is comprised of Red, Blue, and Green colors. I’ll zoom in and show you some examples.
I’ve highlighted a ride from November 3rd of 2016, and here, you’ll see the red, blue, and green areas. Now, this is important, and I need you to understand…
The Red (LIE - “Low Stress”) value, the Blue (HIE - “High Stress”) value, and the Green (Peak Stress) value are NOT the ACTUAL Low, High, and Peak Stress values of THAT SPECIFIC RIDE. They are the “Weighted Average Daily Accumulated Work” values that INCLUDE that ride.
What that means is this: Every ride builds upon the previous rides, a “Training Load” based on work performed and in this case, a 42-day rolling average is used. So ALL of your previous rides, their highs, their lows, and their peaks, will be weighted, averaged, and included in this column. This is done to show you that the VAST majority of cycling is done in the “Low Intensity” zone, and it takes TIME and WORK to create PROGRESSION in the “High” and “Peak” zones.
At Online Bike Coach, this information is a Big Deal! Let me show you another chart, so you can understand just how important “Volume” is, as well as “Quality” workouts…
This is a chart of my cycling from January 1st of this year, through April the 3rd.
If you look carefully, you’ll see that as I approached a race that was held the first weekend in April, my “Weighted Average Daily Accumulated Work” showed some signs of growth in January, then again in February, but it really showed signs of growth in March as I increased both the Quantity of my workouts (KiloJoules of Work - shown by the general rise in the height of the columns), and the Quality of the workouts (Shown in the general growth of the Blue and Green areas inside the columns). It finalized itself on the last day shown, when I raced a REALLY long, REALLY hard event. Lots of high intensity, and even some peak intensity power, made me competitive for the entire event. It was a great weekend!
I like this chart because it helps me better understand just how much average work a cyclist can put in over time; everyone is constrained by schedules and commitments, and there are times when a chart can actually end up looking pretty flat. It’s those charts where I need to tweak the workouts and set up intervals that increase time in High and Peak areas, while still keeping to a schedule.
Now - let’s see what all of that work actually did for me.
This race was held out in Far West Texas, and it involved REAL mountain climbs, at altitude. There are several climbs that are at least 5 minutes long, so that’s where I tried to “Focus”. Again, you’ve seen that I like to “Focus” on 5 minute power in previous posts, so now you know why I chose my “Focus” to be that of a “Breakaway Specialist”, which is… 5-minute power.
If you follow the “Green” line of this chart, from left to right, you’ll see that my “Focus” trended “Up”, as my volume and Intensity also rose. The Weighted Average showed that my workouts were migrating toward my 5-minute goal, before I tapered. Had I not lost two training blocks, which you can see via the gaps, I would have probably achieved that 5-Minute “Focus”, and maybe I would have performed even better in the event.
Finally, let’s take a look at the “Threshold Power” line, and see if my overall Stress and Focus, helped raise my overall Fitness.
If you follow the new Yellow line on the chart, you’ll see that my Threshold Power DID generally rise, from a low of 243 watts, to a high of 279 watts. The time spent NOT cycling didn’t help it, nor did the time that did NOT include some of that “High Intensity Energy” workouts - those hard, specific, difficult, but necessary intervals that stress a cyclist’s cardio-vascular and neuro-muscular system. The volume worked, but it was the “Focus” that really led to the best gains in my Threshold. Also notice - my Threshold ROSE during my taper, which is EXACTLY what you want to have happen. One more reason that I was better prepared for this event.
I’m going to highlight a few of the “Dots” and “Circles” that you see on the chart when “Threshold Power” is included. Basically, the dots mean this;
- If you receive a dot on a column, it means that on that specific day, you had a “Fitness Breakthrough”, or a “Near Fitness Breakthrough”. Xert calls these “Best Activities”.
- The color of the medal tells you whether you had a breakthrough in one, two, or all three areas of overall fitness (HIE, Peak Power, or Threshold). Bronze = 1, Silver = 2, and Gold = 3.
- The size of the medal translates in to just how many maximal efforts Xert detected on that day.
- The more medals, the more breakthroughs. It can be confusing at first, but I do like it for it’s celebratory nature; A medal is a breakthrough, and we all want breakthroughs!
***One small note: if you see a circle instead of a dot on a workout column, it also has significance. While you did not hit a Fitness Breakthrough, you DID have one, or several REALLY HARD EFFORTS that contributed to your overall fitness and performance. So go chase some dots, eh!
I’m going to stop there and let you digest it, since it’s all still pretty new. But in summary, think about the Stress Progression Chart in this way:
- You’re looking at a “Weighted Average of Daily Accumulated Work” in KiloJoules.
- Every Column has red, blue, and green components, that correspond with work done at sub-threshold, above threshold/VO2, and Peak power.
- You have to have consistency to show gains. Doing the work is a big chunk of training.
- “Focus” will rise and fall with intervals and time spent at HIE and Peak.
- Threshold will rise and fall with those same intervals.
- This is a GREAT way to track Energy, Threshold, Focus, and Fitness Breakthroughs.
Online Bike Coach is committed to helping clients improve their fitness and prepare for the cycling seasons and events of the future. In my opinion, Xert helps me work with clients more clearly and “by the numbers” than any other system I’ve yet seen. If you have questions, contact us through our website and make an appointment today.
Next up - We’ll look at a similar Progression Chart, the “Strain” Chart.