I don't think I like SMART workouts. What am I missing?

I’ve been using Xert for several months now and I really like basically everything about it - EXCEPT SMART workouts.

I mostly avoid indoor riding, so this sentiment is from using the Xert CIQ Garmin app (which in general I like as well!).

What I dislike is that in my experience, you end up having to follow workout power really closely, and this seems like the opposite of what it should do. If I’m feeling good and my power is going slightly above target, the intervals get easier. If I’m not feeling as good and my power is slightly below the target, the intervals get harder. I get that SMART is relying on metrics other than just TP. I’m posting this in training because I feel like I’ve missed something?

I feel like for me, I’m losing flexibility in riding around the target power. Mostly when I’m just a little under what the target for the interval is, I just kept getting further into a hole I can’t dig out of. Or the workout gets so easy I wonder what I’m accomplishing. I can obviously still do the workout and sort of ignore the specifics of what it’s saying (which is what I sometimes do), but then having the workout displaying on my screen is less useful. If I’m riding at say 300W and feeling good, but the target is only 290, the interval target starts dropping. Conversely, if I’m not feeling quite as good and I’m at 280, the target starts going up.

I basically feel like I’m seeing an interval range in green, but keeping within that range still isn’t enough for the interval to not change on me.

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SMART intervals are comprised of two types.
Those that scale to your evolving fitness signature and are not anchored on %(F)TP. Example, MMP and %LTP options. Or dynamic intervals that vary in duration or power using XSSR and Target MPA options.
You are describing a dynamic power interval that changes target watts based upon compliance during the duration of the interval.
My suggestions would be –

  1. Use the new feature to export a selected workout to your Garmin unit. The icon :watch: is shown as long as the workout includes less than 50 steps (Garmin limitation).
    The workout will run as normal (%FTP targets) using Garmin’s outdoor format.
    Yes, you lose SMART functionality, but the strain goal is the same and targets are based on your current signature.
  2. Try creating a similar workout with dynamic duration intervals instead which will shorten or lengthen (up to 50%) based upon compliance to target. In this case a failure to attain the target would lengthen duration while overshooting would shorten it. The idea being once you reach the strain goal you’re done. :slight_smile:
  3. Consider learning how to Free Ride to Focus to meet your strain goals for the day (Focus Duration, Difficulty, XSS). No need to load a workout onto your Garmin. Instead monitor a few Connect IQ fields (Focus, TTE/TTR, Difficulty, XSS) during the workout portion of your ride.

Reference –
Advanced Workout Design using SMART Intervals – Xert (baronbiosys.com)


Some good suggestions from @ridgerider2

I find SMART workouts better indoors on ERG mode and don’t see them as being very practical outdoors, so would choose easier workouts (ones that don’t even need a workout player / that you can just manage with laps) or just ride to focus as suggested. Terrain, traffic etc make it even harder to follow

This is also fine as an approach. Xert’s post-ride analytics and overall tracking takes into account what you actually did (actual load, actual focus), and there is no ‘workout compliance’ metric to make you feel guilty. So if you do a bit more or bit less based on how you feel, future training recommendations will be updated anyway. And don’t worry, you’ll still benefit from the training / workout even if you are not exactly following it.

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The export to Garmin I haven’t used yet, because I’ve been doing a lot of short interval stuff. More than 50 intervals! :grin:

I already opened a trouble ticket when I happened to choose an older time based SMART workout. That’s even worse!:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I free ride all my zone 2 stuff, and obviously for group rides. This is the best part of Xert, how it helps you see all your metrics. The planner is awesome for building my schedules.

Ok,so I’m at least not missing something here. I’ve been doing the Cheung CX specific workouts which aren’t SMART.

Looks like I’ll need to copy the workouts and modify them. Another thing I like about Xert. That’s pretty easy.

EDIT: I’m big on structured workouts. I’m way more motivated to get our and do a set of intervals, than to just “get out and ride” and try to meet my efforts that way. Plus it’s really flat here, so I don’t have any real hills to use as intervals.

Thanks for the feedback. I’m open to more if there’s something I’m still missing here? If I’m modifying workouts, is there something still “smart” but with more leeway?

Yes, I do like that there’s no “you didn’t hit your target” stuff. So it’s more my OCD that I don’t like seeing the interval target be wildly different from what I"m doing.

Although now that you bring this up, I wonder if there’s an opportunity here for the AI here to look at your power, HR, etc, and give you details on what your fitness did for that workout? You can sort of see this in the progression metrics, but there’s not something to see HR data there, which is not something that is really useful longitudinally there (similar to HRV), but on a per workout, where your HR is could be interesting. Yes, you can look at that in the workout, look for drift, etc, I’m just wondering if there are other metrics that can be teased-out algorithmically?

Helpful insights from @ridgerider2 , as always. Thank you!

FWIW, I find SMART time-adjusting workouts very practical outside (rather than the dynamic power workouts). Of course, it depends on the available terrain, traffic, etc., but here’s the SMART - Dirty Little Secret (variable duration) that I can easily do on a loop outside. I ride hard when I hear the beep, then ride easy (~100W recovery) and wait until you hear the next beep and do it again! The recovery interval after each sprint will shorten/lengthen based on how I did on the previous sprint + how much above/below I am below the 100 W recovery target:

This!!! We have been saying for years that the structure of a workout isn’t what makes it good or beneficial, it’s the strain (e.g. XSS) from doing the workout! Even if you didn’t perfectly follow the workout, you still put strain on your body that helps contribute to improvements in fitness! :slight_smile:

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I hear what you are saying. That’s just not how my brain works! :laughing: I like to put my workouts into buckets of what I’m working on. It helps me focus, and it helps me to push myself.

I guess my problem with the SMART workout is that it’s doing the opposite of what I want. If I’m doing well, I want it to push me more. If I’m not doing so well, I want it to give me a little grace, but still get the workout in.

Maybe I’m having a fundamental disagreement with the strain model applied in this way. I’m very much a polarized training guy, and limit my work between LTP and TP. Unless I’m purposefully doing hard starts where I want to let the interval power sort of drop, I just mentally don’t feel like I’m accomplishing as much. If my target is a 2-12 minute effort, I want it to be at a consistent level. Or, I’m specifically doing an over/under or micro-interval, in which case the changes are prescriptive and I want to have structure around that.

Well, If this is the only thing I don’t like about Xert, I can still handle it. I can customize the workouts I like to be more in my style. I’m still going to angle for SMART intervals that take into account how you are performing that day that I guess are the opposite of how it works today. If I’m having a good day give me more strain, and a bad day give me less.

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Yeah, could be a misunderstanding of the system. The SMART intervals in our workouts are intentionally designed to bring you to a very precise level of fatigue (or recovery). There’s no way for the system to know if you’re ‘feeling good (or bad)’ - the best you can do is to manually increase (or decrease) the workout intensity. For example, bump to 105% if you’re feeling good & want to push, or back off to 95% if you’re feeling a bit off. HTH! :slight_smile:

Oh crap. I can change the intensity in the app! I totally forgot about this! This might be the piece I was missing! I had used this on the trainer, but it wasn’t helping me with getting the resistance right, but is probably exactly what I need out on the road.

Let me play around with this. Thanks Scott!

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Fair point for sure. I only ever tried dynamic power outside…may give it a go outside next year - think the next months will be just riding for me now

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I mostly like it for SMART recovery intervals. I do my best to hit the power target for the ‘ON’ intervals, but I like that I can make the recovery intervals adjust based on how I did the previous effort. Especially helpful for sprint/all-out intervals IMO.

If a SMART workout is designed to dynamically adjust based on how the intervals are completed, and at the same time the workout is done on an indoor trainer in AUTO mode, then how does the system know when or by how much to adjust if ERG mode will ensure you meet the power targets? Will it automatically turn off ERG mode for the hard intervals? Is there a way to know whether it will turn on/off ERG mode while reviewing the workout details? I’m new to these SMART workouts so just trying to understand exactly how they will work.

Just to be warned about the %MPA SMART intervals, as your erg will just get increased to force you to hit the desired MPA.

E.g. An interval is 10s at 50% of MPA which should be c.600w for 10s. Turbo takes 3s to respond to the start of the interval. You will find yourself doing 750+ to catch up the lost 3s.

If you fail to hit the 750, your next interval might start at 800.

They work a lot better for lower intensities when ‘a little more work’ has a lower chance of being a binary pass/fail activity.

XSS/hr works a lot better for this and I think Xert should adjust all of the high intensity SMART workouts to XSS/hr for the “on”.

Hmm… Sorry you had a bad experience… many of our workouts were already adjusted to avoid situations like this. Is there a particular workout/workouts where you experienced this? We can review and make adjustments, if necessary.

I’d agree with you here. After the initial release/testing of these new SMART intervals, we did make a few adjustments to how/where they’re used. For example, we often try to use TMPA intervals in tandem with SLOPE mode ‘ON’ intervals, allowing TMPA to be used for recovery intervals - this allows the user to recover adequately before the next interval/set, based on how the previous effort was executed in SLOPE mode.

We do also have limits in place for how much the power target can increase (or decrease) if the target isn’t being reached, however I don’t recall of the top of my head the exact value.

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SMART - Heroes is a great example of how we can combine SLOPE mode & SMART Target MPA recoveries to create a very unique & interactive workout experience:

With a Road Sprinter focus, it’s a fantastic workout to build your top end power. Since working on your top end power requires you to be sprinting near your Peak Power, nailing the recovery intervals between each sprint is crucial. If you don’t allow MPA to recover enough, you can’t adequately sprint at high enough intensity to work on your Peak Power system. Therefore following each of your 20s sprint efforts in SLOPE mode (6%), Xert will dynamically adjust the recovery interval (purple arrow below), such that your MPA is adequately recovered before the start of the next sprint (blue arrow at the top):

I raised this with a workout (One Step Closer), and it was fixed to XSS for the ON. I can see Slope for the ON also being good.

I do think that there is something unique to doing %mpa intervals on erg that will always result in a proportion of “punishment” so to speak. Because erg won’t let you go higher than the interval, the only way for the software to drag MPA down is to ramp the trainer difficulty. If for any reason these intervals are close your limit already, it can get a little brutal!

I don’t know what it takes to eliminate trainer delay - Trainerroad have it down, but they state that they have sort of a ‘library’ of delays for each trainer and apply it that way. E.g. an interval on a kickr 5 might actually start 3 seconds early so that your effort coincides with the software’s “on” interval. I’ve noticed that the start delay and end delay on XERT are not equal on my Kickr - the start delay is almost always start + 2-3 seconds, and then the interval almost always ends at end +1-2s.

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Yeah, we can take a look at that workout and make an adjustment - I’ll add it to the backlog :slight_smile:

In the past, we’ve thought about having EBC determine & apply the necessary offset automatically, based on each user’s paired trainer and how it responds to changes in power. As you pointed out, each trainer responds a bit differently. Not likely something we’ll add immediately, but certainly something to consider.

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Perhaps an easier idea to implement would be to let the user define a start and end delay for their trainer. That way you don’t have to try to figure all of them out but still give the user a way to implement it on their own.



Also Xert - SMART - My Way or the Highway - 4.0 (xertonline.com)

This also uses PP MPA.

I was going to fire this up. 30s on 30s off at 480 sounds ok, but I’m not up for that to immediately become 700w on 700w off :sweat_smile:

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Great post. I’m working my way through how these recommendations ‘work’ and what the workouts are based on and Peak Power seems to play a major part.

Those 30s intervals are 1.45 x my absolute maximum tested 1min power (1 rep all out) and I’d have to repeat them multiple times.

Does Xert take in to account different aspects of the riders power profile? As this could be skewing things occasionally for me if I’m supposed to be able to fold these numbers based on the fact that I can sprint for 3-5 seconds hard but can’t keep going at lower powers. (5s vs 20 min proportions are v different for different riders). Or is it just that it’s designed as a sprint workout with longer sprints? and the theory is we should be able to do that against ‘instant max power’?