Have you ever been in a race and ten minutes in you say to yourself: “I think I’m in trouble” – but after another ten minutes you suddenly think: “I’m starting to feel pretty good now”. With CB Squared, they have the ability to get you starting at that feel good point. We investigated what they were up to and find out our own physiological limitations.
So many riders train for a specific event, only to arrive, pull out a written down warm up program that 20 other riders are using and for the first time give it a go. So much time is spent focusing on equipment, training, nutrition but the vital warm up period is often ignored.
But starting out either cold or over exerted at an event and you will be burning unnecessary energy and fuel stores. You will be required to push out more watts and work harder, all of this at the start of the race, rather than conserving your energy for when it really counts.
CB Squared, is run by Chris Blomfield-Brown who primarily works in the race car industry and this is how he came to focus on this issue. With motor racing there are so many sensors and evaluations on the car, but they soon realised that they weren’t physically monitoring the drivers.
As drivers fatigue, their concentration reduces, their reflex time diminishes and performances deteriorate. The same can be said for cyclists. What if you could look at the physiological stresses the body is being put under and help train those components.
When you are riding, the main limiter for most riders is oxygen availability and usage. The oxygen usage will determine how long you can hold a certain wattage and also impact on your heart rate. Every rider uses oxygen differently and this was certainly the case when we went along and tested the system.
Using ‘Muscle Oxygen Monitors’ which are designed to measure the percentage of hemoglobin-and-myoglobin-carrying oxygen in the capillaries and cells of muscle tissue, where oxygen is consumed to produce energy. What does this mean?
If you have been into Altitude while you are in the chamber, they have a little clip that goes onto your finger. They use this clip for some basic medical tests as well. This clip measures the amount of oxygen in your system. With the Oxygen monitors used by CB Squared is measure where and how much of that oxygen is being used.
So with a monitor on your arm and a monitor on your leg, while exercising, you can see on the computer monitor, that all the oxygen is being used in your legs and very minimally in your arm.
An oxygen sensor wrapped around the arm
Your body needs time to adjust to cope with carrying this oxygen during exercise and that is where the importance of the warm up comes into it. If you don’t warm up, you straight away go into the red zone, a feeling we will have all experienced. At the same time, warm up too hard or for too long and you will have depleted your stores and be commencing your race at a sub optimal level.
With the correct program CB Squared can start you at that optimal ‘feel good/strong’ place. Using new non-invasive technology to measure the oxygen levels (your energy source) in your muscles so they can prescribe a Personalised Warm-up Program that raises your muscle oxygen levels without causing fatigue.
The testing looks at numerous variables
During my testing, it showed that I only needed 11 minutes to reach my prime warm up zone and most of this was achieved by high cadence work. The reason for this was that my body requires a lot more oxygen when I spin at a high cadence. After 11 minutes, my oxygen systems were active and I was ready to race.
If I continued to warm up for a period after this time, the usual recommended 20-30 minutes, I was actually starting to fatigue my systems and would be starting in a sub optimal rate.
Does this mean that everyone should reduce their warm up? No, because everyone system responds differently, some riders need much longer or will be required to do low cadence work in order to activate their system. The length of the event doesn’t matter, road race, crit or TT – the warm up and activation of your system takes the same period of time.
CB Squared shared that they had found that almost all warm-ups can be tailored and optimised to properly prepare the cardiovascular system without overtaxing the muscles. For example, they were able to boost one rider’s muscle oxygenation (smO2) levels from 49% to 92% (great place to start a race)! Using that same Warm-up Program for another rider would only increase his smO2 by 5%.
Tests conducted at the National Masters TT on 15 athletes, showed that only 2 athletes were commencing the TT at an optimal level. Half of the riders warm up programs were so deficient, they may as well have sat on a chair instead of warming up and the other half were commencing the TT in a fatigued state. This is at a National event with riders who had spent so long preparing for the event and yet at the start line they were not operating at their prime.
Throughout the testing, CB Squared were able to look at my recovery rates after periods of exertion, based on how fast my oxygen levels replenished themselves. This would tell me how long I need to recover in a race after covering an attack, or if I am rolling turns, how long I need between efforts.
Chris running through the testing protocol with a rider
Recent upgrades to Garmin and Training Peaks now allow riders to show their oxygen levels on their screen, if they are riding with an oxygen sensor. This will provide live updates to the rider during their ride and is a perfect piece of information and of course, this is now starting to find itself into World Tour riders training.
To further his training and also to expand the testing protocol, Chris has spent time discussing this advancing technology with Joe Friels and Training Peaks. The usage of this system is seen as a potential disruptor to the power meter market but also to be used in conjunction with it.
If you want to undertake the testing or get yourself a personalised warm up program, then riders should contact Chris at CB Squared. At the facility they can also undertake FTP tests, the 5-1-5 test which is used to help set your power zones in a more precise manner, they can also provide specific training programs.
Disclosure: MWCC was invited to undertake this testing from CB Squared.