Canadian Cycling Magazine - - MAINTENANC­E -

You’re hav­ing a good work­out. The in­ter­vals ac­tu­ally seem eas­ier than they usu­ally do. Tra­di­tion­ally, you’d ei­ther be the dil­gent ath­lete and stick to the tar­get power the work­out or coach has pre­scribed. Or, you might amp up the watts on those in­ter­vals. Ei­ther way, you wouldn’t be able to get a pic­ture of your ac­tual fit­ness un­til later, once you did a fresh FTP test.

Ar­mando Mas­tracci wanted to build train­ing soft­ware that could tell you your fit­ness without the need for an FTP test. The Toronto-based com­puter science en­gi­neer won­dered if he could fig­ure out a rider’s fit­ness from reg­u­lar ride data in an au­to­mated way. His ex­per­i­ments in early sum­mer of 2015 re­vealed it could be done. Roughly a year later, he re­leased Xert. Once you upload your ride data with power met­rics (power data is es­sen­tial), the soft­ware’s al­go­rithm can tell you your FTP. In fact, with the Xert Garmin Con­nect IQ app, you can see just how long you can hold a spe­cific ef­fort, in real time. Have you cranked it up to 300 watts? Well, the com­puter says you can only do that for three min­utes, so make it count. Wait. Did you just hold that for four min­utes? Great. The soft­ware can then ad­just your fit­ness sig­na­ture ac­cord­ingly. The soft­ware can also rec­om­mend work­outs based on your fit­ness, your goals and your level of fa­tigue. It can even pre­dict your fu­ture ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

So, with Xert, will coach­ing by al­go­rithm re­place hu­man coaches? “It will put bad coaches out of busi­ness,” says Jamie Sprules, Xert’s se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions. He stresses that Xert doesn’t re­place the art of coach­ing: know­ing an ath­lete from his or her work sched­ule and fam­ily life to past in­juries.

As for the fu­ture of Xert, it’s go­ing for the heart. Cur­rently, power is the tool for cal­cu­lat­ing your fit­ness sig­na­ture. Heart-rate data, how­ever, was be­hind a lot of the devel­op­ment of the soft­ware. Then it was left be­hind be­cause heart rate is more com­pli­cated to work with than power. “Heart-rate data in­te­grates ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pen­ing to you,” says, Ar­mando Mas­tracci. “It’s all en­coded there. But you have to find a way to de­code it. What’s go­ing on? Why is my heart rate in­creas­ing? Be­cause I’m go­ing too hard? Be­cause my thresh­old is too low? Or be­cause I’m over­heat­ing? Or I just ate some­thing? All of these things leave a foot­print on the heart rate. We have ways to pull that in­for­ma­tion out. It’s not easy.”—

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