The essence of what training in alignment looks like began to crystallize in Colby Pearce’s mind after an email exchange with a listener of the podcast.
“As you’ve identified in your show, amateurs look at pros for things like training, not realizing that all pros do is ride, sleep, and eat. For those of us who race, how much training is too much? Where is the drop off in terms of results? Personally, I’m not willing to train 20 hours a week even if I had the time. Anyway, I’d be curious to know where the curve starts to drop in terms of fitness and health. When does it move?”
This episode is Colby’s musings on the matter, which he hopes will prove useful as you determine your own sport-life balance.
Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and the right relationship to your life.
Colby Pearce 00:25
Greetings listeners! You have returned once again. I’m so grateful for your presence and your attention because it means I get to empty my brain contents into this recording device – and the goal is that you find that useful. “That” being all those brain contents. It’s me your host, Rob Lowe. Welcome back to Cycling in Alignment.
Colby Pearce 00:50
Today’s episode is about training in alignment. What does that mean? It means we’re going to unpack why you do what you do.
Colby Pearce 01:02
Looking over the episodes that I have produced, well, I didn’t produce any of them, Jana produce them… Looking at the episodes that I’ve created, spontaneously brought into existence – well, that’s a terrible way to say it. It wasn’t spontaneous. ANYWAY, the episodes that I’ve made so far, I’ve got a very diverse list of guests. And I’m quite happy with the people that I’ve spoken to. (Some of them are even going to come back for additional discussions; including next week, I’m going to talk to Jessi Stensland again. I’m so excited.) And that’s been great. And I’ve also been able to unpack some of the philosophical marbles that are rolling around in my marble container. And that’s been helpful for me therapeutically, you know, selfishly. If these things sat in my brain forever, and then I died, or well sat in my brain until I died, I’d feel a little bit incomplete because many of my experiences I am hoping are useful to other people as I share them (and my insights). So I feel as though some of the episodes I’ve been releasing recently have been on the technical side. And that’s all fine and good. But now we’re gonna swing the balance over the other end of the pendulum. Because we can’t just talk about boring things like power meters and pedal stroke technique all the time, we have to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Because otherwise we become unconscious automatons mindlessly smashing out the cadences and the watts. And this is no way to go through life. Life is about details and details come down to examination. When you stop and look at the incredible detail in the petals of a flower, you really learn to appreciate the beauty of nature. And then time stops and you realize what’s important. And then you get back on your bike and keep pedaling.
Why your train the way you train
Colby Pearce 03:10
So, training in alignment; this episode was really crystallized, I’ll say, by an email exchange with a listener of some of my other episodes. This listener will go unnamed. But I do have his permission to read his email. So here goes – I received this I don’t know, maybe two weeks ago. I was thinking about it more this morning.
Colby Pearce 03:37
This is a great question. And it’s reflective of many thoughts that I’ve had bouncing around in my head recently. And so let’s, let’s take a few minutes to unpack this.
Colby Pearce 03:37
“As you’ve identified in your show amateurs looked at pros for things like training, not realizing that all pros do is ride, sleep and eat. I guess what I’m wondering and perhaps your audience is wondering, especially those who race, how much is too much? Where is the drop off in terms of results? I will be the 60 plus racing age next year. I could train like a pro and I will not beat the top two or three guys. They’re just better than I am period. But where is the next cutoff? Personally, I’m not willing to train 20 hours a week even if I had the time. Anyway, I’d be curious to know where the curve stops, where the curve starts to drop in terms of fitness/health. When does it move?”
Colby Pearce 04:38
First, I’m going to bust out some movie quotes. And there’s a famous scene in the second Matrix movie, if you’re not a Matrix fan, you’ll just have to follow along and pretend like you are. And if you are a Matrix fan, you’ll have to bear with me while I pretend the merovingian. The merovingian is the French guy in the restuarant for those of you who don’t quite know, but you’ll remember the scene quickly. He’s got a very cleavage-licious wife, and he’s drinking wine and he talks about how French is his favorite language to Kherson. Remember this scene? Morpheus, Trinity and Neo are there to find the keymaker. And that is the point. Merovingian begins the scene with this sentence, “I am a trafficker of information. I know everything I can. The question is, do you know why you are here?” Morpheus responds, “We are looking for the keymaker.” And merovingian comes back and says, “Oh, yes, it is true.” – He’s French. So if I get a little French accent going, you’ll know why – “The keymaker of course, but this is not a reason and not a why. The keymaker is a means to do a what?” Neo says, “You know the answer to that question.” Merovingian responsed “But do you? You think you do but you do not. You are here because you were sent here. You were told to come here and then you obeyed. It is of course, the way of all things. You see there is only one real constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality, action, reaction, cause and effect.” Now Morpheus doesn’t really like this sentence at all. He’s all about choice. So his response is, “Everything begins with choice.” And merovingian snaps back “No. Wrong. Choice is an illusion created by those with power for those without power. Why is the only real source of power, without it, you are powerless. And this is how you come to me without why, without power, another link in the chain. But fear not, since you are so good at doing what you are told, I will tell you what to do next.”
Colby Pearce 06:59
Probably lost a few listeners with that whole thing. But the point I’m trying to get at is unless we know why we’re doing what we’re doing, we’re just executing someone else’s plan, someone else’s idea, someone else’s directive. So this is the platform from which I want to examine why you’re training the way you train. And the reason I think this is an important concept to bring up is exactly what our listener brought up in his email. Many endurance athletes simply, blindly apply the “more is better mindset”, the “let’s take a bath and cortisol” mindset, the “drink more coffee, eat more carbs and go harder and longer” mindset. And don’t get me wrong, this can be an effective training method, you can win some races, that way. You can get really fast that way. I did it for years. It is the way to go all in on something. But what I want people to understand are two basic concepts around this. One is that that comes at a cost. It comes in short term costs and several long term costs. We can talk a little bit about those.
Colby Pearce 08:15
And the second is that that plan of action doesn’t always guarantee you better results. That’s something to be acutely aware of. Are you one of these people who trains like a human hamster? Like a human Labrador just chasing the ball over and over again? Every time you have a chance to add an extra hour of riding you do? Do you assume that all riders who train a lot more are better than you because they train more than you? This is a really quick and simple way to fry your adrenals. This is a pathway to bathe yourself in cortisol, right? Chronic endurance exercise will overload your adrenals. But I want you to ask yourself a really important question. If your paradigm is to go-go-go and move all the time ride your bike or run or swim or a combination of these things or any other endurance exercise, maybe its schemo, maybe it’s cross country skiing, whatever the method is, it’s kind of irrelevant to the discussion. It’s still the same MO which is always doing more and more and more.
The more is better mentality
Colby Pearce 09:28
Let’s ask a really important question: What are you running from? What are you exercising from? Are you exercising your demons? (As Scott Storrie would say) Overtraining is a form of escape. Paul Chek has said that before as well. What are you escaping? Is that your childhood? Is it your boring life? Is it your terminally unsatisfying job? Is it the other seemingly unsolvable problems in your life? And I know these aren’t easy questions to look at and people probably don’t really want to consider them on a daily basis, but when we ignore the really deep stuff over a long enough timeline, the result is health challenges. Big, nebulous health problems. This is how you give yourself cancer. This is how you give yourself some sort of immune challenge. This is how you end up at the doctor’s office and they can’t really figure out what’s going on. Because the challenge isn’t that you ate some dirt or got food poisoning or were in a car accident, the challenge is that you’ve had 20 years of buried emotion that brings about a consequence to your health.
Colby Pearce 11:08
In 1996, the first year I turned professional (and I use that term very loosely, professional, meaning I had a professional license that was about the only professional aspect of my racing at that point), I was a member of Team Shockley, which was a very powerful squad. And one of my teammates Matthew koSchara and I sat around one night speaking about our teammates, and evaluating kind of our competitors, our colleagues in the sport, our contemporaries, etc. We played a game, the game was one where we evaluated each rider and we calculated whether they were overachieving, relative to their natural talent line, underachieving, or coasting, we’ll say. Or were they sort of mid-lining, were they in the middle ground, were they achieving what they could, approximately, in terms of race results and performance, given their talent levels. And we played God for a few minutes and went through the peloton, examed all our teammates and all the riders we knew well, and discussed why we thought they were maybe overtraining, overachieving perhaps, meaning they were maximizing every aspect of performance that they possibly could and sort of turning their natural engine into something that was getting the best possible results.
Colby Pearce 12:36
And this is the line of thought that I think a lot of athletes, of course, take. The mistakes that can happen in that line of thought are: one, it takes a lot of ego to assume that you can push the envelope or the ceiling of your performance all the time. I mean, what are you doing when you’re trying to be an overachiever? Well, there are a couple different ways to break that down. You can think of it in terms of every single ride. So let’s look at a typical week, let’s say you’ve got an endurance ride on Saturday your coach gives you of four hours – I’m just making up numbers here – and that’s supposed to be at some prescriptive zone. And ostensibly a lot of coaches will prescribe these zones and power – I do that sometimes not always, depends on the context and the athlete and some other variables. So the athlete goes out on this four hour ride, and they’re supposed to ride in a certain power zone or heart rate zone or whatever. And because they apply, the more is better mindset and the I’m always going to maximize everything mindset, they ride at the very limit of that zone, the ceiling of that zone. Or perhaps they disregard the zone and they ride above it frequently, assuming that more is always better. So every time they go up a rolling hill, if they’re supposed to be at a particular power zone, they add another 30 watts or 40 watts because they’re just climbing and that’s what you do when you climb, you go harder. And then they come home and upload their file and they look at it and they’re in a certain intensity factor and they’re happy about that and they’ve achieved that goal, or maybe they’ve exceeded it.
Colby Pearce 14:22
This is the equivalent of dunking yourself in a swimming pool. When you’re constantly pushing at the top of a ceiling. It’s a dunk and every day when you do that on every ride, even on your easy rides, I’ve seen riders do this, you’re continually dunking yourself. And what happens when you dunk yourself over and over again well eventually you drown.
Colby Pearce 14:47
So, you can also apply this same logic the same more is better mentality, the same push the ceiling logic on a weekly scale or a monthly scale or an annual scale. There are riders I know and I’ve worked with, even ones recently, who were reticent to take a break at the end of the season not understanding that there is an ebb and flow to all natural cycles. And human beings are subject to these ebbs and flows, because we are natural creatures, of course. But for some reason this person thought that they would get behind, if they took two weeks off, or three weeks off. I’ve had a couple athletes in this paradigm recently. But this is a recurrent theme. This happens pretty much every winter. And the concern is that they’ll get “behind” and never make up that time. It’s as though they’re visualizing that training is something you’re making progress on, as though you’re climbing a mountain and the mountain never ends. And if you stop applying forward pressure, you roll back down the mountain, and then you’ve gained less altitude than the other people who just kept going. But that’s not the way to think about training. That’s the wrong paradigm.
Colby Pearce 16:06
Training is more like a tide. It’s got daily tides, it’s got weekly tides, and has monthly tides, and it has an annual tide. It’s even got a tided that’s bigger than that. For Olympic athletes, that would have a four year tide. And when the tide is coming in, you want to push. When the tide is coming in you want to add load. When the swell hits the shore this is the time to apply training load and increase – dunk yourself regularly, to mix analogies, but I think we’ll get the point.
Colby Pearce 16:46
When the tide is retreating this is a time for recovery, this is a time to not push. And there are periods of the season when this is unquestionably true. I mean, think about it. I’m sure if you’re a cyclist has been a sport in the sport for more than a couple seasons, you can identify with times when it seemed like you could just add miles and add intervals over and over again and do no wrong. And then suddenly, there’s a point in the summer when everything turns on its head and every interval feels like it’s potentially a mistake or something that will put you in danger. Or just doesn’t have the same impact. And if you’re paying attention, this is a really easy point to feel. And I’ve mentioned this in previous episodes, but what I’ve noticed is if someone has a pretty clean run in the spring, that is no major illness, no major crashes, that point where the tide changes usually happens around summer solstice or the third week in June. How do you offset this by giving someone a mandatory break before that time when they put away the bike, lay down the sword for a few days, perhaps a week? It doesn’t mean you can’t be active doesn’t mean your body has to be slow and stagnant. You’re not going to get fat in a week, you’re not going to get fat. So these are ways in which people, athletes at time can allow their myopic focus to overshadow the natural truth, the most simple natural truth, which is a basic law of all human existence, that is that everything in biology has a rhythm and a flow to it. And when you ignore that, when you work against the flow too much you cause yourself damage.
Colby Pearce 18:45
So back to my Matthew Koschara conversation that we had in 1996; you can sort of break this down a little bit and understand it better and apply to the individual and this may give us some insight. So consider someone who is super talented. We’ve all known this person, maybe you are this person, probably not. These people probably don’t listen to my podcast. Let’s just say that we have this generic, talented athlete, I won’t pick on George. And this athlete can do no wrong when they touch a bike. Basically, the more they train, the better they get, and they start winning races at a young age. And from a phenotype perspective, we can pick on a sprinter. Sprinters tend to win races with ease. Unless you drop them or unless you break away from them. They just smoke you when it comes to the line, and that gets to be annoying for the remainder of the peloton. Because sprinters can have it really easy. And whenever anything comes easy to anyone, it’s human nature for them to not see what the big deal is. Maybe even take it for granted. I’m not saying all sprinters do that but it certainly happened.
Colby Pearce 20:00
On the other end of the spectrum, we have someone who is perhaps less brilliantly talented especially at finish line gallops we’ll say. And perhaps they’re more of an all-rounder. So quite a skilled cyclist quite a strong cyclist, but lacking the snap perhaps to win a race in a sprint, not quite light enough to win on the hills, not quite big enough or powerful enough to smash everyone in time trials. And so these types of riders can make up a great percentage of the peloton and be quite feisty and quite strong, and yet not really win so many races. And these types of racers can work for years and years in the sport and not have too many victories. In fact, when they do cross the line first, sometimes you can see the years of struggle and work and labour in their eyes. You can see it in the tears on their cheeks. So someone who’s an all rounder, might be a little more inclined to be an overachiever in our Matthew Koschara conversation model.
Colby Pearce 21:13
And someone who’s a sprinter might be inclined to become an underachiever. And this is basically recognizing that the circumstance of your abilities relative to the abilities of your sport, or relative to the demands of your sport, I’ll say, can play out to influence your own rider psychology.
Colby Pearce 21:33
Now, maybe it’s your personality, it was that way and you’re larger than life to begin with in some ways, and you get into cycling and you just kind of don’t care about it as much and then you’re winning stuff. That also can happen. That’s an outcome.
Colby Pearce 21:47
But oftentimes, I think that someone’s personality in the sport of cycling is shaped by their experience. How many races have they won? How many times did they cross the line ahead of the group, versus buried in the group or at the tail end of the group. You know, cycling is a sport where it’s not like ball sports or team sports. I mean, if you’re on a volleyball team, you either win or lose every game and if you’re on a pretty good team, you win some matches. So then you get to share that victory with your teammates. But you can race your bike for an entire year and never win a race easily. And some people ride their bikes for many years and don’t win races and some of those people are paid to ride their bikes for many years.
How cycling athletes are different from other sports
Colby Pearce 22:30
So this is how the sport goes. It’s a little different than most in some ways. Cycling is a sport that can cater to all morphologies. Morphology is just the study of the shape and size of an organism. And consider in the Tour de France, we’ve had riders as large as Magnus Backstedt who weighed 95 kilograms. In case you don’t know what that means is 209 pounds. We’ve also had riders like Louis Konya who weighed 52 kilograms, that’s 115 pounds. There’s probably no other world level sport, not one that I’m aware of, that has such a large spread of body sizes and weights, body types. And yet these athletes both succeed at the World Tour level and win races at the world tour level. And just as a side note, I hear people complain to me all the time about how they’re too big to climb fast, and immediately, I’ll point out that Miguel Indurain won the Tour five times and he was 80 kilograms. Now the response might be “Yeah, but he was on the sauce” – maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t, I don’t know. But that’s kind of irrelevant – I’m pretty sure Miguel Indurain succeeded as a climber, probably well before he got on the program. Even if he was on the sauce, there’s only so much that stuff can do for you. Not gonna go down that rabbit hole. There’s all sides of that equation. Anyway.
Colby Pearce 24:04
So where are you in your athletic development? This can lead us into some insight into why you train the way you do, and why you make the choices you do. And consider that this is a theme I’ve been addressing in various other pods with other people. In Episode 10, I made all kinds of words about work/life balance in the context of cycling. That was a solo-sode. In Episode 12, Jessie Stensland and I speak about the freedom of the beautiful robot and specifically Jessie tells her story about how she used to train like many endurance athletes, sort of cruising along doing her thing, always running, always swimming, always cycling. And then she began her program at EXOS. And her coach there one day quizzed her as to why she was getting ready to go for a run. And she said, “Well, it’s run-o’clock. This is what I do every day at this time.” And he said, “You’ve already done all your workouts for today. I’d like you to rest so that you’re fresher for tomorrow.”
Colby Pearce 25:13
And it was pretty clear when she told that story that had a big impact on her paradigm of how to train as an endurance athlete, because this coach was basically telling her stop embracing the more is better paradigm. Train smarter, not harder. Or, as Danmon would say, do less. My buddy Damon Shanks – who used to be a mechanic and decide to go to law school. How’s that for rototilling your belief systems.
Colby Pearce 25:46
Which brings me back to my next podcast, Episode 24, with Ron Kochevar, which was titled “Rototilling your Belief Systems” and Ron’s whole MO is all about thinking critically about your reality. Digging deep into the entrenched behavior, the belief systems that we all deal with in our daily lives when we play out the recordings. When we rehearse, practice, and rehearse the same behaviors day in and day out. And I think there are a lot of powerful lessons to that episode. Every day is a new day, we can wake up and decide to redefine ourselves at any moment. It’s just by choice that we decide to keep doing the same things we’ve done for the last year, six years, 12 years.
Colby Pearce 26:41
Episode 17, I talked about the six foundational principles. If you’re following these principles, and constantly examining how they are integral in your life, eventually you will hit rock bottom and find a foundational truth. Because if your health is compromised regularly, then you’re not respecting these foundational principles. This is core truth.
Colby Pearce 27:09
One more episode I’ll mention is 25. That’s with Trevor Connor and Rocco Orlando. And this is about how to train yourself right off a cliff. Both these guys tell powerful stories about overtraining. So, if you haven’t checked those out, there’s some resources, some seeds have been planted.
Paul Chek’s stages of athletic development
Colby Pearce 27:27
But Paul Chek’s podcast was perhaps the most relevant. And if you recall, Paul talks about the four stages of athletic development or the journey of the athlete. The first stage is that of the child. And when the athlete is in the stage of the child, his or her experience is of sex and violence loving, that’s what Paul would refer to it as, which really means that life is very polarized. Everything is good or bad. Or it’s what I call the Disney paradigm, meaning when a six year old watches a movie, they quickly become very acquainted with who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. And every character that is introduced in the film gets a role. Most of the time, the majority of the characters have a role. And that role is good guy or bad guy. And when you carry this paradigm forward into adult life, everything becomes good or bad.
Colby Pearce 28:34
I spend my whole life constantly reminding myself and others not to think that way. Because the vast majority of things in our lives are not good or bad. In fact, really, all of them are neither good or bad. They’re just things. They’re either objects or events. Mountains don’t care. This is a very stoic perspective on life. And it’s something I’ve really sought to, that’s not even the right way to say it, I wouldn’t say I sought to embrace it, it just calls to me. It’s something I feel aligned with.
Colby Pearce 29:12
So when you are in the child’s stage of your athletic development, you see everything as good and bad. You are working towards good and running away from bad. And this is not a mature way to view the world. It’s not a mature lens. Also, the child athlete looks to their coach or their peers for praise and approval. So if you’re looking for praise from your coach, this is an indication that you’re in the child phase of your development and as an athlete, and this isn’t good or bad, it’s just the opening phase. This is a phase that everyone goes through. I’ve gone through it.
Colby Pearce 29:56
So I want to be clear: There’s no judgment from me about any of These and I’m not saying you have to be certain point in this development. What’s important about this model is that you recognize your own behavior, and you can figure out where you are. And then if you want to make changes in your behavior, you have the skills to do that. You know, part of seeing the roadmap is figuring out where you are; well, right now I’m giving you the map.
The child phase
Colby Pearce 30:22
The child is exactly as you would expect, someone who’s exploring, learning about the sport. Maybe they’re not so ambitious, maybe they’re more making mistakes, fumbling a bit. And that’s all part of the process. That’s why we embrace sport. You know, I spoke about this in my last podcast with James Wilson – wasn’t my last podcast, but my first podcast with James Wilson, I expect to have him on for a second one – And we are talking about the beginner’s mind, and how we all have that shred of hope, that we’re going to go do something new, and we’re going to be the world’s best at it. I brought that up, and he said, he had just had an experience with that. He went to go learn, I believe he was learning how to shoot targets. And he came home from his first day and his wife said, how’d you do and he basically admitted that he kind of was a little disappointed that he wasn’t, I don’t know who the Lance Armstrong of shooting is, but he wasn’t the most amazing shooter ever in the history of the sport. (Not that Lance is the most amazing cyclist in the history of the sport, most infamous, perhaps, but you get my point.) And this is the essence of being a child in the best possible way of that archetype. Which is to simply embrace the child’s mind and accept that you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s the point. You signed up for it. You are learning something new.
Colby Pearce 31:50
So if you’re in the learning stages of the sport of cycling, then embrace that don’t feel like a jerk when you do something wrong in a group ride. That’s a moment to put aside the ego. Now, if you make that same mistake multiple times, after people have asked you not to, or told you how to do things better, or it keeps not serving you, then you’re being a bit of a knucklehead. But if you’re learning something for the first time, that is the moment to be a child and to open yourself to that experience. You’re filling your teacup.
Colby Pearce 32:27
If anyone expects you to know how to do something at an expert level when you’re learning how that’s on them, not you. I’ve had this experience many times. At the World Tour level as a staff member, when I worked on the Garmin Sharp team in 2014 I got my ass kicked over and over by fellow staff. And sometimes it was fair. Sometimes it wasn’t.
Colby Pearce 32:51
I gotta tell story. This is a good story. One of the directors on the team is Andreas Clear. And Andreas is the most perhaps stoic human I’ve ever met, or certainly among them. Very sharp guy, great director. Also an amazing athlete. One day, we were departing for the start of the stage. And I climbed aboard the bus with Jonathan. And we all made it to the start. That day, my job was to drive one of the team cars in front of the peloton and do evoc course; the function of this job is to report back to the directors before they get there and tell them about the conditions of the course. The wind, how strong the wind is, how crappy the road is, how smooth the road is, if the climbs are really what the race book says they are, if there are any extra climbs that suddenly appear that aren’t in the book, etc, etc. This is indispensable information for the directors because it helps them prepare the riders for what’s coming. They can go to the radio and speak to the riders and let them know what they’re in for. So we do the whole stage I do the evoc course everything goes fine. And then at the end of the day, Andreas walks up to me at dinner and says, “Colby, we were all five minutes late to the start today because of you. And the reason is because you were supposed to drive the evoc course car from the hotel to the start.” When it’s your job to drive the evoc course car on course it is also your job to drive it from the hotel to the start. But because Jonathan had come and talked to me and said, Let’s get on the bus. And this was my third day or second day or maybe first day of actually doing evoc course I didn’t know that.
Colby Pearce 34:54
So Andres took that opportunity to educate me and he did so very well. He was very professional. He was calm. But he was also very firm, and made it extremely clear that I had screwed up. Not all of the interactions I have with staff that year were as pleasant or clear as the one I had with Andres. I learned a lot of lessons. That’s all good. You’re there to learn stuff.
Colby Pearce 35:20
That said, I wasn’t embarrassed, I wasn’t ashamed, I didn’t feel like I’d really made a giant mistake. Although in hindsight, it was pretty clear what I’d done, it didn’t occur to me because you don’t know what you don’t know. And Andreas was forgiving of that fact. Now had I done it the next day, I probably would have really got yelled at by Andreas or maybe someone else. Because I would really be disrupting the rhythm of the team and just delaying the departure of the staff from the hotel, everything happens on a schedule there and it’s really precise. You got a lot of people to organize, a lot of bikes to get ready, etc. So this is one of the many details of the world tour program that unless you’re on the inside, you would never have the opportunity to see it. And when you get there and learn things like this, it really becomes fascinating. There’s a precise operating system to every day from start to finish. I just didn’t know the workings of that day.
Colby Pearce 36:14
So the point I’m trying to make is don’t piss off Andreas . No, the point I’m trying to make is that if you are a child, you can’t really fairly beat yourself up for not knowing something that’s unrealistic, just accept that you’re a child.
The warrior phase
Colby Pearce 36:34
The second phase is that of the warrior. The warrior phase is probably where most competitive athletes are. And there’s no chronological age to this by the way. There’s not even a cycling age per se; if you’re cycling ages nine you can be a warrior if your cycling ages three, you can be in the warrior phase, meaning three full years of racing. If your cycling age is 25 you can still be a warrior. I was still a warrior in some ways after racing for 25 years. So what is the warrior all about? The warrior is there to conquer the world. The warrior is there to sniff under all the rocks, overturn the stones, optimize every aspect of performance, dork out on every single watt and gramma drag and arrow helmet and wheel and tire pressure and chain lube and oversized derailleur pulley and smash all the intervals and optimize all the things and the warrior needs focus. The warrior needs clarity. The warrior needs coaching. Think about it. If the warrior has all this energy, all this drive to go be a competitive athlete and do all these things and that energy is not directed. It can be really disharmonious. It can be very discombobulating. I mean, Paul says it all the time, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
Colby Pearce 38:02
A warrior needs organization, a warrior needs direction and a coach is one of the critical aspects of that. But not only the coach. A real warrior will assemble a team of people that can help him or her. And that team, if they’re assembled carefully, can be instrumental in their success. If that team is not assembled carefully, or elements of that team are in conflict, it can cause problems.
The king or queen phase
Colby Pearce 38:32
That brings us into the next phase of development, which is the king or queen phase. Or archetype I should say of athlete’s development. The king or queen begins to develop a persona and they start to acquire an empire. And when your team gets big, that’s the Empire. The Empire can take many forms. It can be a fleet of bikes, a fancy house, a bunch of cars, sponsorships you’ve got to manage, it can be money you’re making and then you’ve got to have a team of people and more money, more problems, right? So you’ve got money, you’ve got people to manage that money. And then you have people who you hire to do things because now you’re so busy managing your career and flying around the world winning bike races or whatever you’re doing that you can’t be home trimming your hedges and shoveling your driveway in the snowstorm. That stuff is for for people who do manual labor. So you’re hiring out your menial labor to other people, you’re hiring out your taxes, you’re hiring out your contracts, you’ve got a manager, you’ve got a team of people that are working for you. And the bigger your king or queen status becomes the more people you have under you and then the more people you’ve got to manage, and the more people you have to make sure are on your side truly, honestly, authentically. Because when you are an elite athlete and you are focused myopically on one thing and you hire these people to serve you and to manage your empire, they are in a unique position to take advantage of you because it’s really easy for an athlete to not see when someone wants to exploit them. Because by definition, athletes are focused on their task. So there’s a powerful bond of trust there. And at times, kings or queens of their sport can become defeated by their empires, they can become taken down by their empires, the Empire can become either poisoned, filled with poisoned dragons, or it can become something that overwhelms them.
Colby Pearce 40:42
Don’t assume that I’m only talking about World Tour riders here. I mean, I had and have an empire of my own that I’ve dealt with. And I was never a world tour level rider, although I did get paid to ride my bike. But you can be a really good domestic rider who technically isn’t even pro and you’ve got an empire you’ve got your van that you live in, or your network of people and your team that you rely on. Whether that’s your actual cycling team or your own personal team, your massage therapist, your mechanic, your person who makes your orthotics, your people who give you equipment at cost or for free or manage your sponsorship, your manager, your acupuncturist, your chiropractor, your doctor, the person who reads your bloodwork, your significant other, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband – these people play critical roles in your empire.
Colby Pearce 41:46
You see a lot of women who are super successful racers who have husbands or boyfriends who end up being their mechanics and team support staff. And that can be a really good relationship. A really good program. Hopefully, that relationship is rooted in something deeper than simply sport, because unfortunately, sometimes you see the sporting career end for the woman and then the relationship collapses. And at that point, we see with clarity that the relationship was based on the alignment of those two people, one serving the other, the codependence of their relationship, there wasn’t something deeper than that, it wasn’t able to grow past that point, so truth was eliminated.
Colby Pearce 42:33
And a king or queen can become tired of the sport over time they can they can become worn down by it, just the repetitive nature of it after years and decades, it can become a bit much.
The wise man or wise women phase
Colby Pearce 42:45
The final archetype of this plan is the wise man or wise woman. This is the role played by a coach, ideally, that is to say, ideally, a coach has reached this phase. And the previous phases are phases that they have traveled through and, I’ll say, progress through with closure. Becoming a wise man or wise woman is also known as the second simplicity because the call of life becomes internal, not external. You’re no longer the warrior out to win the accolades and the medals and the money, you’re not there to get the endorsements and the sports car or the fancy carbon wheels. That’s not what it’s about. It’s more internal focus.
Colby Pearce 43:34
In a sense, you are putting down the sword. Which doesn’t mean you never race again, it doesn’t mean you don’t practice, it can still be quite enjoyable to go practice a sport you’ve done for 35 or 40 years, or maybe reached this phase, after 15 years, it can still be perfectly acceptable and pleasant to go practice a sport from that perspective. It’s not necessary, but it can happen. But there’s not this intense need to compete, there’s no desire to push the limits necessarily. It doesn’t mean you don’t find them at times, but you don’t have anything to prove, we’ll put it that way.
Colby Pearce 44:13
So understanding where you are in this athletic pathway, and this paradigm of growth can help you understand what you’ve got coming forward on the map and maybe perhaps what you’ve already progressed through. And this can help you make decisions about conscious training. That’s what I’m trying to get at.
Colby Pearce 44:35
So I know that’s pretty philosophical stuff. I will give you some practical takeaways from this, I promise. It’s not all theory and metaphysics – just most of it.
How athletic development influences your athletic pathway
Colby Pearce 44:50
Things that can influence how this plays out in your athletic pathway include the personality of the athlete – and there can be confounding variables here or a little clouded confusion. Many times an athlete can assume that they just quote are “wired to go go go”. That they’re the type of person who have been labeled type A and if they ever slow down, they’re not sure what they’ll do with themselves. Well, okay, there’s innate nature and then there’s learned behavior. And there’s also belief systems.
Personal beliefs systems
Colby Pearce 45:35
A belief system is a choice, by definition, but it is a paradigm of thought that dominates the way we look at the world, or the lens through which we view the world. And when someone has chosen to call themselves Type A, and when someone tells the world, broadcasts constantly, that they are an endurance athlete, and that is their identity, sometimes we have to dig deeper in the layers and discover why it is that they have chosen to embrace this label of who I am. What is it about your own history that has pushed you down this path? Did you have obese parents? Were you obese once? You know, as Jones Carney recently said to me, not about this specific aspect of a personality, but just in general, he said, “Oh, I’m not sure I want to go there because that’s a part of my personality I’ve been trying to assassinate for years.” Which was just such a corny thing to say, I can’t even tell you. I know the Carney brothers both pretty well. Very well. I should say I used to know them both pretty well. Recently reconnected with Jonas. And that was just vintage Carney, just a perfect sentence.
Colby Pearce 46:57
So if you’re living consciously, if you’re really thinking critically about how you walk through the world, there are parts of your own personality you are trying to assassinate – or there should be. There ought to be. Because that’s part of growth. Growth is looking at the things you’ve done well. Growth is recognizing honestly, with clarity, the things that you have struggled with. When you can look inward with true honesty, then you can crystallize and manifest your highest self. And that includes looking in the lightest parts of your own history and the darkest parts – and accepting them as the perfect balance. The perfect set of circumstances that brought you to be where you are. Looking back on your life, and looking at your hardships and wishing that they weren’t there is a child’s viewpoint, but it’s also unrealistic. All human existence, all human experience, by definition has light and shadow, good and bad.
Colby Pearce 48:18
So consider some of the postural manifestations of your psyche, both on and off the bike. You can literally see based on how someone is standing, what their perspective, or their MO is in the world. Not as a hard rule, but you can figure out how someone approaches other humans based on their posture. And you can read into their psyche and, of course, there can be limitations to this perspective.
Colby Pearce 48:55
This is something Thomas Meyers talks about in his anatomy training courses: learning to read how a person walks through the world and stands in front of you, sits in front of you can tell you a lot. And when the hips are shifted forward of the ankle bones, this can sort of be interpreted as leaning forward, going, doing. Kind of focused on the to do list, focused on perhaps maximizing the ceiling of productivity. And what is the origin of that psychologically? Is it a person who feels inherently less than and thus must overachieve in order to feel adequate? This is certainly something I battled for much of my cycling career. And the logic doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it.
Colby Pearce 49:55
The old story goes: I’m an average athlete. I’m not Lance. I’m not Marianne Vos. I don’t have an amazing VO2. I’m not Jonathan Vaughters. I’m just me. And my numbers are.. Well, I was tested when I was pretty young by Andy Coggan. And he was quite honest in his assessment. But his words rang in my head for many years afterwards, because he told me I was average for an elite athlete. And I knew quite well what that meant, because I knew that Andy had tested mostly American cyclists. So that put me square in the middle of the good guys.
Colby Pearce 50:38
But what does that tell you? As soon as you have that perspective, the immediate line of thought is, well, I’ve got to train harder than the other guys right around my peer group, so that I can advance to be one of the best American riders, one of the best American elite riders. And that’s based on the assumption that everyone else is not an overachiever. It’s based on the assumption that everyone else is just going to train and be happy with where they’re at. But the reality is, we’re all in the warrior phase. At that point in our careers, we are all trying to win the contract with, at the time, US Postal Service, not knowing what that meant. Or some other protein, we were all trying to hit the next level. And so everyone was training super hard all the time, everyone was constantly forcing that ceiling, or bumping up against that ceiling of performance in every single ride on every single zone. And every week, and every month, we were pushing the envelope. That’s what you do. That’s normal for someone in that phase of their athletic career.
Lesson’s learned: Balancing your training load and life
Colby Pearce 51:49
What we’re here today to do is understand where you are in your life path, what you have at stake and what the consequences are. That’s how you evaluate whether that makes sense. And I’m not here to tell anyone they should train less hard than they are. But I am here to help people see the truth. When you compare yourself to someone who’s racing at the World Tour level, and they’re regularly doing weeks that are 20-25, maybe 30, hours long.
Colby Pearce 52:20
The problem is that we can also do that as weekend warriors, at least for part of our week. So now we’ve got someone who’s working 40 or 50 hours a week, and then they’re riding five or six hours on the weekend. And I’m here to tell you that for most athletes, that is not sustainable. Nor is it optimal.
Colby Pearce 52:47
It’s based on the more is better mindset. And frequently, these riders are north of 40 years old. And when you’ve been on the planet for four decades, and you’re playing along with Western society, what you’ve done is accumulate more life responsibility, more things. Fundamentally, you’ve accumulated actually, more things. I said things the first time I was kind of thinking about it in terms of the more esoteric meaning, like things meaning responsibilities and objects and family members and pets and obligations. But actually, it’s more physical objects. And the more physical objects you own, the more they end up owning you. You got a giant house. Now you need a power lawnmower, and a power snowblower. And then you’ve got to maintenance your power lawnmower and power snowblower or you’ve got to pay a gardener to come at your house and maintenance the power tools that you’ve got. And you’ve got a three car garage, and now you’ve got to fill it with three cars, and then you’ve got to maintenance those cars, or pay someone to maintenance them. Then you’ve got to manage that person. And then your empire has grown.
Colby Pearce 54:10
So when we play along, when we are good little consumers like we’re told to, as the merovingian says, we accumulate more things, and then our lives become more complicated. And then we begin families and our children want things and because we get lots of things for ourselves, they get lots of things for them, and we want to give our children all the things that we never had as adults. And that results in more things. And things require money and time and energy, to acquire and to maintain. And there’s a difference between acquiring and admiring. We can look at beautiful objects but we don’t have to own them all.
Colby Pearce 54:56
This is a lesson I’ve been learning my whole life. Not that I buy a lot of beautiful things, but I’m a good little consumer just like most other Americans, most of the people in the world actually.
Colby Pearce 55:16
So when we have a sport that emulates professional level load, which most sports do, many sports do, but I would argue most other amateur athletes don’t necessarily try to duplicate professional training load, like cyclists do. So guys are out doing training camps, and they’re riding, you know, 160K a day, 200K a day. And amateurs go and do the same thing at times. But I don’t think amateur tennis players do that. They don’t practice for six hours a day. Is it that they’re smarter than cyclists? I don’t think so. I think part of it is that cycling is a vehicle that takes you cool places. And that can be a bit of a confounding variable. When you want to go ride to a mountain town that’s 60 miles away and then you got to get home, well, that ends up being a long bike ride.
Colby Pearce 56:09
So part of it is the functionality of cycling. But also part of it is confusion about this paradigm of duplicating or replicating the training load that pros do. And that is just another form of the more is better mindset. It’s also a function of cycling being a uniquely dork out sport with all our power meters, and FTP focused riding and training. This causes problems because it exacerbates and amplifies the engineering perfectionist type A mindset.
Colby Pearce 56:45
So if in 2001, or I’ll say 1991, when no one had power meters, we had riders who were type A and who were trying to ride at the top of their heart rate ceiling for every single zone and every single ride. Well, when you give them a power meter, and you tell them to do that, and they can work out every single kilojoule of work done, and look at their intensity factor for every ride. You’ve kind of made that monster worse. Especially in the case of an athlete who’s training for the very specific demands of an event, in which we know precisely how the outcome will be, i.e. a climb of 10 kilometers that must be climbed to at 5.6 watts per kilo in order to win based on last year’s results plus a little bit or something like that, however you want to do the math.
Colby Pearce 57:39
So we clearly lay out the demands of our event, our time trial or hillclimb, or a road race as clear as we can in a road race or criterium. And we train for the demands of that event. And then you are constantly comparing yourself to where you think you should be based on this scale. If I’m going to win my race, I have to be here. And right now I am here minus 9%, 11%, 4%, whatever. And we relentlessly march forward looking for tiny ways to make progress on that goal. Now, there are two sides of this coin, just like there are with every coin, that which measures improves and power meters are undoubtedly a powerful tool to both measure and quantify improvement. But just as in all things, there has to be balance. And if you bludgeoned yourself with numbers all the time, you will burn out and if you focus so strongly on the numbers and convince yourself there is no way to win a race without the numbers being exactly as they are, I can tell you from experience, you’re selling yourself short, and you’re also missing the point of being a warrior.
Colby Pearce 58:51
The point of being a warrior isn’t to always come home with the elixir. You’re not anywhere near the end of your hero’s journey at that point. You’re just in one phase. Hero’s journey is a much more in depth and expanded version of Paul’s archetype, fundamentally. It’s got a journey and you come home with this elixir and you fix everything. But that’s not the point of a warrior phase. The point of the warrior phase is go unturn rocks and hunt creatures and battle stuff. The battle is the point. It’s to go into battle and fight honorably. That is the outcome of the warrior phase, ideally.
Colby Pearce 59:36
When you are convinced that the outcome of the warrior phase is to win the hot chick and the Lamborghini and you don’t do that, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There are athletes who are absolutely convinced that the entire point of a warrior phase, whether that phase takes one season or 12, is to win a gold medal or a particular race whatever it is, state Time Trial championships, Olympic road race – makes no difference for the point the example which race we’re talking about. They’re convinced that if they do not win that race, the entire phase was a failure or a waste and they should be embarrassed. And this is extreme thinking taken to its worst possible outcome. Because you were evaluating the entire process phase of your development on the end result, and that is backwards thinking.
Colby Pearce 1:00:38
When someone truly understands how sport works, what they see is that results are a side effect of effort. They are a consequence of process, not the other way around. The end result does not justify a warrior’s phase. That is not what the journey is about. And if you can’t handle that, you should consider trying a different sport or taking a break and meditating for a while, until you can get your head straight. Because if you have these priorities backwards, you’re just setting yourself up for problems, for misery really. Gor unhappiness and no one wants to see that. It’s a lot of time and effort, the sports way too hard to just be miserable about it.
Colby Pearce 1:01:26
I battled this in my own little journey at times. I’ve actually recorded my own Hero’s Journey episode a couple times but hasn’t been released yet. I don’t know if I’m going to do that. Not sure if I’m ready to share that with you guys, we’ll see what happens.
Colby Pearce 1:01:37
What we have to consider is the balance of your training load relative to the demands of your occupation, your family, and all the other things you signed up for. And before you go tell me about how you got a whole platter full of stuff assigned to you that you didn’t ask for, I’m going to just back you up right there and remind you that everything is a choice when it comes down to it. Everything is. You got married, that was a choice. You had kids, that was a choice. You bought a house, even if it wasn’t the house you wanted to, that was a choice you made. You signed up for it. You want to get really esoteric? You had an unexpected pregnancy and that resulted in a family member, you signed up for it. You think you didn’t, you absolutely did. Being an adult is about taking full responsibility for every choice you make. But not only that, the world has a way of delivering us what we need, not what we want.
Colby Pearce 1:02:49
Think about that.
Colby Pearce 1:02:55
By definition, most athletes in the warrior and king queen phase are very single minded and myopic. And that has a simplicity to it, which is brilliant, but that simplicity comes at a price. The simplicity is the focus of your day. Every day when you get up, you’re thinking about whether it’s a rest day, or an interval day, or a race day, or training day, or a long day, or a gym day, etc. And that becomes beautifully simple. And all the rest of your life responsibilities get crammed into rest days. This is how it works. Dentist?Goes into rest day. Got to get my car fixed? I’ll make an appointment on my next rest day. So I can ride over to the shop and pick it up when it’s done. Or my interval day so I can fit it in around my intervals. This is how the athletes world works. And it’s beautifully simple but it comes at a price.
Colby Pearce 1:03:49
All athletes love to talk about all the things they sacrifice, but what are we really sacrificing? Is it beer and parties and one night stands? Or is it really true intimacy? True connection? Is it true alignment with adult responsibility? What are you running from? What are you burying all of the things with? Are you going for another six hour ride so you don’t have to deal with the unsolvable problems in your life? I would submit that that is not a healthy way to handle things.
Colby Pearce 1:04:36
You will sleep much better when you get authentic deep sleep rather than smothering your sleep with a sea of fatigue. Are you one of those athletes who falls asleep in 0.18 seconds when your head hits the pillow? Most of the time, this is not because your subconscious is at rest. In many cases, this is not because you have all your mental ducks in a row, and you are walking through the world at ease with your authentic self, for all to see. In most cases this is because you’ve obliterated yourself. And you’re swimming in cortisol and drowning in adrenaline, and your body is exhausted.
Colby Pearce 1:05:29
So if you want an honest reflection, wake up tomorrow morning, look in your bathroom mirror and stare yourself straight in the eyes. Do you have bags under your eyes? That is chronic cortisol my friend. Time to take a real look in the mirror.
Train smarter, not harder
Colby Pearce 1:05:52
So the most important question is, are you doing everything for your sport at 100% and only getting 0.1% better, when you could be training smarter and be just as good or perhaps even better?
The law of rate of diminishing return
Colby Pearce 1:06:10
You know, there’s a rate of diminishing return. This is rule number one about endurance sports. There is a rate of diminishing return meaning when you start adding training load, you get better and better at a quick rate. And then the better you get, the more you have to train to get a smaller incremental gain. And when you are an amateur athlete, when you are practicing the sport for the joy of the experience, does it make sense to sacrifice and burn everything else along the way, just to gain that extra couple tenths of a percent? For what? For local amateur racing?
Colby Pearce 1:06:58
Now, if you’re a 19 year old kid who’s on the verge of getting a world tour contract, this is a different discussion. Then you are properly entering the apogee of the warrior phase, and you are arguably justified in going for it. These are the types of opportunities that we only get a couple times in our lives, maybe once in our life. So I’m not telling you that if you’re on the verge of doing something amazing the sport you need to back off, that’s not my message. But the majority of the athletes out there are here to experience what they can experience in the sport. And they can do it with so much less effort and smarter training. And perhaps use that training as a vehicle to dig deeper in their lives in other areas. Because when you free up load from one focus, room is made for other things to surface
Colby Pearce 1:08:04
Consequences of chronic aerobic overload. While we’ve got all kinds of things to consider: we’ve got the possibility of catastrophic injury and that can be acute injury from trauma, getting hit by car, crashing. The more you ride your bike, the more likely these things are. We’ve also got long term injuries; overuse injuries, when you ride your bike all the time, the chances of you getting injured from that activity just go up and up.
Colby Pearce 1:08:38
We’ve got to consider long term damage to your hormones, long term damage to your heart. The body isn’t really adapted to extreme amounts of endurance exercise, especially at high intensity. You can fry the living crap out of your adrenals by riding your bike hard all the time. And your body’s got to deal with all that oxidative stress. That is a massive overload. And if you want to know more about long term damage to the heart, just read Chris Case’s book. It’s called “The Haywire Heart” and it is all about how cardiac rhythm can become disrupted chronically from too much hard aerobic exercise. He wrote it with Leonard Zinn and Leonard has had this exact experience himself, he’s lived it.
Colby Pearce 1:09:30
We also know that endurance athletes are subject to recurring illness over a long enough timeline, especially when you’re training really hard. Why? Well, you’re processing so much O2, and your hormones are weak, and your adrenaline starts to drop and you’re testosterone levels start to drop, your anabolic hormones are constantly under stress and that weakens your immune system. All you need is one ride in the rain with a bunch of cow shit on your water bottle and there you go, your body can’t defend against that invader and boom, you are sick as a dog. Happens all the time.
Colby Pearce 1:10:15
Also consider the chronic stress on a cellular level to the mitochondria and the paroxysms. This is not trivial. I mean, if you want to know more about that, just find some old articles on Greg Lamond, he will tell you that, yes, part of why he retired or struggled later in his career was because he got shot by his brother in law and he has a lot of metal in his body, which doesn’t really mix well with mitochondria. But there’s got to be a correlation between the amount that Greg pushed himself and his incredibly high VO2 and how much his cells could handle that oxidative load.
Colby Pearce 1:10:54
So the rule is, generally speaking, thinking about this from a big picture perspective, exercising for long durations, can be okay. And exercising at very high intensity can be okay, in proper doses. But when we mix, long duration and high intensity that’s really taxing on the body, that really stresses hormonal levels. And anytime you are really disrupting hormones, repeatedly through exercise, that will have long term consequences in your own circadian rhythm.
Colby Pearce 1:11:38
There is a natural 24 hour rhythm to hormonal cycles for both men and women, I’m not talking about menstruating here, I’m talking about cortisol levels and adrenaline levels of adrenaline and other hormones that cascade throughout the day that have a rhythm, that have a flow, that have a tide. And when you ride your bike for six hours, or run for six hours, you disrupt that rhythm, of course. Now, some people are more robust at bouncing back from that. But there are long term consequences to this. The durations, at which those tides tend to swing are right around 90 minutes. Right around three hours. And right around six hours. Now depends a little bit on the intensity we’re talking about. But what I’m saying is if you compress your rides to under 90 minutes, you’re having a pretty minimal hormonal impact. Even if you go pretty hard most of the time. The next sort of threshold is around three hours, meaning you can go about three hours before you really start to have a lasting impact on cortiso in particular. Cortisol rises and sets with the sun. So it rises in the morning, and it sets in the evening when the sun goes down. But when you exercise midday for three hours really hard, you start to bump back your cortisol levels, so they don’t go down as readily. And when you ride for six or seven hours, of course, you disrupt that rhythm. That’s just one minor hormonal impact that we can sort of see. And when you ride long many days a week or many weeks in a row, then eventually you impact your hormones over time. And that is not trivial.
The law of increased risk with increased load
Colby Pearce 1:13:37
So we talked about the first rule of endurance training is the rate of diminishing return. The second is increased risk with increased load, meaning the harder you push, the more risky something is going to go wrong. You’re going to injure yourself, you’re going to get sick, you’re gonna get a flu, you’re gonna catch a cold. The more you ride your bike, the more likely it is you’ll fall off of it. So we have to recognize that risk. And I’m not saying don’t ride your bike for long durations. What I’m saying is take adult responsibility for your choices and understand that when you ride your bike a lot, you are increasing the risk of things happening, getting bitten by a dog.
Colby Pearce 1:14:26
Also recall that all stress summits; not only the stress that you experience on the bike, this isn’t only about your performance management chart, CTL is meaningless without the context of the rest of your life. So, it’s incredibly frustrating to me when people look at their CTL and they worry about what their training load is and they’re doing math in their heads for their training stress balance and how much TSS they need in the next three rides to avoid a dip in their load for the next week, or whatever little math calculations they’ve got going on. And they’re ignoring the fact that their boss just gave them a new deadline. Or they just broke up with their girlfriend. Or their kid just left for college. Or they just moved. All stress summits. So when you detach the stress that happens off the bike from the stress that happens on the bike, you’re not looking holistically at the picture of your total life stress and how it impacts you in your training, your recovery. It all works together.
Colby Pearce 1:15:45
So there are days when you get up and you have a program. And you say, I can’t do this today, or it doesn’t make sense for me to try these intervals today because I can feel that it’s not right. There’ll be another day to do intervals. That’s part of the journey of the warrior is learning to discern when training is effective, and when it’s not. When you’re a mindless warrior, when you’re an automaton you smash everything David Goggins style.
The law of balance
Colby Pearce 1:16:18
But before I get to Goggins, the last part that’s most important, endurance training, by definition violates the single most important law that dictates every biological function in your body. And that law is the law of balance. What does the body attempt to do at all times, always? To optimize health the body seeks one thing: homeostasis, balance. The blood seeks to balance levels of sugars. The organs seek to balance digestion, blood flow, hydration. They seek to clean the blood. They work to keep your body running within very narrow ranges. Sleep seeks to balance your energy balance. When you’re tired, you need sleep. When your batteries recharged, you wake up.
Colby Pearce 1:17:33
So the fact that we in endurance sports glorify – Well, first of all, we seek to imbalance by definition, but then we glorify those who imbalance. I mean, especially this last year, looking at the number of people who have done things like everesting. And I’m not slamming anybody who’s done that. Those are amazing achievements. And there’s some people have done multiple everesting. I’ve never done one. I’m not trying to say anyone’s bad or wrong for doing this. But I’m pointing out that this comes at a price. And I don’t think everyone’s aware of that. That’s why I’m laboring to point this out.
Colby Pearce 1:18:13
So I’m sorry, if you already figured this out, and you’re rolling your eyes right now, you probably already press stop. But I think it’s really important to recognize that when you choose to do these extreme activities, and it looks so cool, and you post on social media, or you get accolades from your friends, or respect from your competitors, that’s all well and good. But you’re doing this at a cost to your own body. And when you do it repeatedly, those costs add up to a long term consequence. And I can’t say what that consequence will be. But I know that the bill comes due.
Colby Pearce 1:18:48
In many ways, I am now on a mission to undo my own bill from years of travel and racing. And I’ll say that my bill wasn’t as big as some people’s was. And maybe that’s just blind luck. Maybe it’s because I only raced to a certain level. Maybe it’s because I had a smart enough instinct to not eat like total crap my whole life, just the first part of it. Who knows? Doesn’t really matter. The bill is here, and now I’m paying it. I’m healing my gut long term from years of abuse. I am healing my adrenals from long term years of abuse. Many intervals. Many stressed out nights packing track bikes in the garage until one in the morning when I had to get up at four to go fly to Moscow for World Cup the next day. The list goes on and on.
Colby Pearce 1:19:41
So when we violate the law of balance, because we sign up for this amazing thing called endurance exercise, and we decide we’re going to become bike racers, we must recognize that we are making an adult choice and that choice is working against our health to serve something that is a mental construct, and a social construct. And that’s okay. Just be ready. When the Lazy Susan comes around and you get your consequences.
Colby Pearce 1:20:13
Remember, Pheidippides died and he only ran 26 miles. And now we have an event that glorifies this event, this historical event. And people run marathons all over the world, and it’s an accomplishment. But the guy who did the first one, he died. I don’t think that we should forget that fact.
Colby Pearce 1:20:45
And the modern incarnation of that is David Goggins, who has accomplished so much and is such a powerful motivator, and a total badass. But in my opinion, gives so many people the wrong message. Because 99.9% of all people who tried to do what Goggins does, will kill themselves. They will die, or they will rip their biceps off. The guy did over 4000 pull ups in 24 hours, if I tried that my bicep would not be attached to my arm.
Colby Pearce 1:21:17
Now, the fact that Goggins can do that is an incredible testament to what humans can do, and it’s inspirational. And it’s worthy of applause. And also, we have to take in context that Goggins is a mutant, he is the point one of point one. So emulating him, and idolizing him is not necessarily what I think we should be doing as endurance athletes. conceptually. I know most people don’t think about David Goggins when they’re out riding their bike, and thinking about Froome, or whoever, Sagan and Peter Sagan is also the point one. Ben Overman is also the point one, as is Marian Voss. And so many other women out there who are smashing pedals all over the place. But that doesn’t mean that we are them. Nor does it mean we should hold ourselves to that standard.
Colby Pearce 1:22:23
So I asked you to consider that for most people who are amateurs, and maybe you’re in your warrior phase. Somewhere, I’m just going to give you some nuts and bolts, somewhere in the eight to 12 hour range of training, it’s quite adequate to train hard, enjoy a real life. That’s eight to 12 hours a week, by the way. You can make real progress as an athlete, you can get plenty of intervals done, you can accomplish a lot in the sport and make progress in your quest to be a warrior. And there are lots of variables you can manipulate in that timeframe without adding more time.
Colby Pearce 1:23:05
So if you’re currently training in that range, and you feel like you’re not getting better, then it’s time to dig. It’s time to read more books or challenge your coach or ask your coach questions or get a coach maybe if you don’t have one. Or perhaps change coaches. And learn to shake the tree a little bit, figure out what else can be done to expand your abilities.
Colby Pearce 1:23:29
Now it’s possible that you’ve already hit your threshold. Maybe you’re already doing everything you can do to be as fast as you can and then you’ve just got to enjoy the process. Being a warrior isn’t only about being faster, it’s also about the experience of warrior-ing, which is not a word. If you’re doing more than 300 interval sessions a week, you’re definitely violating a law of balance, two to three is plenty. You can make those two to three days quite hard and you can make them double sessions. But you better be prepared to counteract those with enough rest and recovery.
Colby Pearce 1:24:15
Also, keep in mind that the older you get, the more you must offset your bike – cycle training with non bike cycle training. Like does a bike cycle because how he says it in 40-year Old Virgin which is pretty much me because I don’t own a car. I don’t own a car, I drive a bicycle. So the older you get, the more you need to do to offset your load on the bike. That’s just the way it works. It’s a lot of cycling because cycling makes you a worse athlete over time. That is to say, if you were couch fit and you start running your bike, you will become more fit as you ride your bike and then the curve flattens out and then it becomes bell shaped and goes on the other side. And you become a worse athlete, the more you ride. This is an inescapable fact. So how do we offset that we do it by conditioning our ankles and feet. We run and walk, we lift heavy objects. We do multiplanar exercise. We twist, we engage thoracic extension, etc. See many of my other episodes.
Colby Pearce 1:25:36
I want to finish this episode with a quote again from the merovingian “Ah, yes, who has time? But then if you do not take time, how can you ever have time?”
Colby Pearce 1:25:49
The point there being take time to critically examine how you’re training and offset your cycling with appropriate activities in your life. Whether those be activities of exercise, or other. And this will help you make steps forward as a more holistic person, which then reinforces and complements your journey as a warrior or a king and queen in your sporting path.
Colby Pearce 1:26:30
That one was pretty philosophical. It’s late. I’m going to bed. I hope everyone enjoyed this podcast, if you have comments, as always, you know where to find me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colby Pearce 1:26:44
My inboxes currently 25 messages and that is after a couple pretty heavy rounds in the last few days. I tried to work towards zero but man, how often do you hit inbox zero. So like the unicorn of 2021, I suppose. The unicorn of the modern era. Take care everyone. Talk to you soon.
Colby Pearce 1:27:05
Next week, Jesse’s coming back and got some more surprise guests coming too – super excited. Gonna ramp up the guest list. So keep your pants on. Thanks for listening.
Colby Pearce 1:27:20
Attention space monkeys, public service announcement. Really, technically, it’s a disclaimer. You already know this, but I’m going to remind you that I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a doctor. So don’t take anything on this podcast to constitute lawyerly or doctorly advice. I don’t play either of those characters on the internet. Also, we talk about lots of things. And that means we have opinions. My guests’ opinions are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of anyone who is employed by or works at Fast Talk Labs. Also, if you want to reach out and talk to me about things, feedback on the podcast, good, bad or otherwise, you may do so at the following email address. email@example.com. Gratitude!