Dr. Stephen Seiler – The Past, Present, and Future of Polarized Training

In this episode we learn about the inception of the polarized method, and we discuss Dr. Seiler’s current research on the all-important aerobic threshold.

Dr. Stephen Seiler

Welcome to episode 100! Today we are joined by Dr. Stephen Seiler, one of the preeminent exercise physiologists working today, and the man who has popularized the polarized training method. We are proud to have brought you 100 episodes of training advice, tips from the pros, and the science of cycling performance. Thanks to all of you for coming along with us as we’ve interviewed some of the best physiologists, nutritionists, and athletes in professional cycling, and many of the most knowledgeable coaches in the world. To that point, the very big announcement we’d like to start with is that Dr. Seiler will be coming to Boulder in late April. Stay tuned for more details on his visit, and opportunities you’ll have to meet Dr. Seiler.

Today in episode 100, we get nearly two hours of Dr. Seiler. Our conversation is mostly casual, but there are many moments of enlightenment and clarity. Yes, Trevor wrote an outline for the show, as he always does. Then we proceeded to completely disregard it. Still, we learn about the inception of the polarized method, from the creator himself. We discuss Dr. Seiler’s current research on the all-important aerobic threshold. And we jaw—that’s my nod to his Texas roots—about the future of sport science. One last thing: Are you following Dr. Seiler on Twitter!? If not, you should. He’s @StephenSeiler. He frequently posts workout challenges, surveys, and his commentary on new scientific research and studies.

Quick reminder to everyone, that you can find us on social media at @fasttalklabs. Take a selfie of yourself listening to Fast Talk—on the trainer, out climbing some hills—and tag us. Now, sit back and grab your favorite beverage, or, better yet, find a nice long stretch of lonely road to listen in. Let’s make you fast!

References

  1. Cavar, M., Marsic, T., Corluka, M., Culjak, Z., Cerkez Zovko, I., Muller, A., et al. (2019). Effects of 6 Weeks of Different High-Intensity Interval and Moderate Continuous Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance. J Strength Cond Res, 33(1), 44-56.
  2. Dudley, G. A., Abraham, W. M., & Terjung, R. L. (1982). Influence of exercise intensity and duration on biochemical adaptations in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol, 53(4), 844-850.
  3. Esteve-Lanao, J., Foster, C., Seiler, S., & Lucia, A. (2007). Impact of training intensity distribution on performance in endurance athletes. J Strength Cond Res, 21(3), 943-949.
  4. Guellich, A., Seiler, S., & Emrich, E. (2009). Training methods and intensity distribution of young world-class rowers. Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 4(4), 448-460.
  5. Hewson, D. J., & Hopkins, W. G. (1996). Specificity of training and its relation to the performance of distance runners. Int J Sports Med, 17(3), 199-204.
  6. Laursen, P. B. (2010). Training for intense exercise performance: high-intensity or high-volume training? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 20 Suppl 2, 1-10.
  7. Medbo, J. I., Mohn, A. C., Tabata, I., Bahr, R., Vaage, O., & Sejersted, O. M. (1988). Anaerobic capacity determined by maximal accumulated O2 deficit. J Appl Physiol (1985), 64(1), 50-60.
  8. Medbo, J. I., & Toska, K. (2001). Lactate release, concentration in blood, and apparent distribution volume after intense bicycling. Jpn J Physiol, 51(3), 303-312.
  9. Munoz, I., Seiler, S., Bautista, J., Espana, J., Larumbe, E., & Esteve-Lanao, J. (2014). Does Polarized Training Improve Performance in Recreational Runners? [Article]. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(2), 265-272.
  10. Noordhof, D. A., de Koning, J. J., & Foster, C. (2010). The maximal accumulated oxygen deficit method: a valid and reliable measure of anaerobic capacity? Sports Med, 40(4), 285-302.
  11. Seiler, K. S., & Kjerland, G. O. (2006). Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an “optimal” distribution? Scand J Med Sci Sports, 16(1), 49-56.
  12. Seiler, S. (2010). What is best practice for training intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes? Int J Sports Physiol Perform, 5(3), 276-291.
  13. Seiler, S., Haugen, O., & Kuffel, E. (2007). Autonomic recovery after exercise in trained athletes: intensity and duration effects. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 39(8), 1366-1373.
  14. Seiler, S., Joranson, K., Olesen, B. V., & Hetlelid, K. J. (2013). Adaptations to aerobic interval training: interactive effects of exercise intensity and total work duration. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 23(1), 74-83.
  15. Skovereng, K., Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Seiler, S., et al. (2018). Effects of Initial Performance, Gross Efficiency and <(V)over dot>O-2peak Characteristics on Subsequent Adaptations to Endurance Training in Competitive Cyclists. [Article]. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 9.
  16. Stoggl, T. L., & Sperlich, B. (2015). The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Front Physiol, 6, 295.
  17. Swart, J., Lamberts, R. P., Derman, W., & Lambert, M. I. (2009). Effects of high-intensity training by heart rate or power in well-trained cyclists. J Strength Cond Res, 23(2), 619-625.
  18. Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., Ravn, T., et al. (2016). The Effect of Different High-Intensity Periodization Models on Endurance Adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 48(11), 2165-2174.
  19. Sylta, O., Tonnessen, E., Sandbakk, O., Hammarstrom, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., et al. (2017). Effects of High-Intensity Training on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptions in Well-Trained Cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 49(6), 1137-1146.

Episode Transcript

Intro  00:00

Welcome to Fast Talk. The Velonews podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.

 

Happy 100th Episode

Chris Case  00:13

Hello, and welcome to Fast Talk. This is Episode 100 with Dr. Steven Seiler. I’m your host, Chris Case, and I’m sitting here with my co host, my Fast Labs partner, with the creator of the Fast Talk podcast. Coach Connor. Trevor, I must ask, how does it feel to have recorded and broadcast to the world 100 episodes of this show?

 

Trevor Connor  00:37

Really exciting. Actually, I did the math the other night, up until about 10 episodes when Jana joined us.

 

Chris Case  00:43

Mm hmm.

 

Trevor Connor  00:44

I was spending about 15 hours editing each episode. And I just did the math of how much time that adds up to.

 

Chris Case  00:52

That’s a lot.

 

Trevor Connor  00:53

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the show.

 

Chris Case  00:54

Years and years and years. Did you ever imagine we would get to 100? From based on those moments, first moments when you were recording with a little recorder in a empty room with echoes and a different co host?

 

Trevor Connor  01:10

We at the very beginning? Yeah, it was at sitting there with an H4N in a room going, hey, these high ceilings and wood walls make great acoustics. With this thing sitting in the middle of the floor trying to record. I think we got six episodes done. It took me a month to edit half of the first episode, I didn’t think we are getting past those first six.

 

Chris Case  01:32

Well, I didn’t join until Episode 32. And I was very green at that point, too. I don’t know that I said more than a few words and some of those first episodes. You on the other hand, you were a bit more dialed, shall we say. That being said, since that time, we’ve come a seriously long way. We’ve had some of the most amazing guests on this show.

 

Trevor Connor  01:55

Yeah, I look back, it’s kind of funny. We wrote up a here’s the concept of the show. And I think pretty much everything that we planned before Episode One has been thrown out. I would say the biggest change the most exciting part is the guests that we got in when we started. We were just splicing in old interviews that we did for Velonews articles, trying to get some some other voices in there. Now I think one of the most exciting things about this show is the caliber of guests that we keep bringing in I can’t tell you how often we record a show. And I was like, wow, did we just spend two hours talking with that person?

 

Chris Case  02:32

Mm hmm.

 

Trevor Connor  02:33

The one thing that has remained consistent that we said from the beginning is this show is not going to be just us sitting here giving our opinions.

 

Chris Case  02:42

Right.

 

Trevor Connor  02:43

You know, certainly I’ve been on 100 episodes. Now, if you’ve been listening to a lot of our shows, you know my opinions.

 

Chris Case  02:50

Mmmhmm. Educated opinions.

 

Trevor Connor  02:53

I hope periodically.

 

Chris Case  02:55

Good, good.

 

Trevor Connor  02:56

But we always want other opinions on this show. I love the episodes where you bring somebody in who completely disagrees with what we’re saying. I love getting those side interviews that say something different. Because I think the to cover training signs, you need to hear all the different sides. You need to hear different perspectives and then decide what’s right for you.

 

Chris Case  03:19

All right, so let’s get into the episode itself. Today, Episode 100. We get nearly two hours of Dr. Seiler. Our conversation is natural casual even but there are so many moments of enlightenment in clarity. He’s, he’s such a knowledgeable man. Trevor wrote an outline for the show, as he always does. Thank you, Trevor and-

 

Trevor Connor  03:45

What was the original theme?

 

Chris Case  03:46

Yeah, I don’t know. We proceeded to completely disregard it.

 

Trevor Connor  03:49

Completely. I think our original theme was past, present and future of exercise physiology.

 

Chris Case  03:55

Yeah.

 

Trevor Connor  03:56

To our credit. I think we mentioned all three of those words at one point

 

Chris Case  04:00

We did. We did that’s a big, that would be a really long podcast if we did cover all of that material.

 

Trevor Connor  04:06

That is fair. And And fortunately, that’s about the extent of which we stuck to the outline.

 

Chris Case  04:12

Yeah. That being said, we we learn about the inception of the polarized method from the man who popularized the ideas. We also talked about Dr. Seiler’s current research on the all important aerobic threshold and we jaw and I like to throw that word in there since Dr. Seiler is a Texan. That’s kind of I feel like that’s a Texas term. We jaw about the future of sports science. One last thing before we get into it, are you following Dr. Seiler on Twitter? If not, you should. He’s a wealth of knowledge. He frequently posts workout challenges, surveys, and his commentary on the new scientific research and studies is worth seeing. Check him out. He’s @Steven Siler. Now, sit back and grab your favorite beverage or better yet, find a nice long stretch of lonely road to listen in. Let’s make you fast.

 

Chris Case  05:12

Well, we are sitting down for our hundredth episode, it’s hard to believe. Here we are Trevor. And I know you know, we’re, we’re sitting there, say two months ago looking at each other. What should the hundredth episode be? It didn’t take us long to come up with the idea. We were thinking the same thing.

 

Trevor Connor  05:33

Yep.

 

Chris Case  05:34

And here-

 

Trevor Connor  05:35

There’s only one answer.

 

Chris Case  05:36

There’s only one answer. And he’s on the on the line with us from Norway. Dr. Seiler, thank you so much for joining us for this momentous occasion.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  05:46

Well, thank you. Hey, it’s Jay-Z, calling from Norway.

 

Chris Case  05:50

Jay Z. I think your bigger than Jay-Z now. I’ve been trying to come up with a better analogy to to really encapsulate how I mean, Jay-Z is old. I mean, he’s he’s passed.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:03

Hey, don’t put down old.

 

Trevor Connor  06:07

That’s fair.

 

Chris Case  06:10

Okay good point. Good point.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:11

Your being ageist right off the bat.

 

Chris Case  06:13

I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. I’m very sorry.

 

Trevor Connor  06:16

But, but I will admit, I actually listened to some Jay-Z the other day, and I kind of went, nah.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:23

That’s exactly-

 

Trevor Connor  06:24

So we might have to come up with something.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:26

I was going to say, that’s the exact response I get from my teenage son. So I guess what I am like Jay-Z.

 

Chris Case  06:34

Okay, well, we’ll keep it at Jay-Z. For the time being, maybe we’ll come up with something better. Maybe your teenage son will modify his perspective a little bit.

 

Trevor Connor  06:46

Being, Canadian you’re the the rush.

 

Chris Case  06:51

Rush. That is really dating him.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:53

Oh, wow. I was listening to Rush when I was like on the school bus going to track meets as a teenager. So-

 

Trevor Connor  07:00

That makes two of us.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:02

Gosh, see, nobody that’s listening to us knows what the heck you’re talking about now.

 

Chris Case  07:09

I bet that’s not true. I bet that’s not true.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:11

You think? Are there people my age?

 

Trevor Connor  07:14

People as old as us if there’s any left that are actually-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:18

Still riding bikes and doing st-

 

Chris Case  07:21

If we want. If we want to attract a younger audience, which we do, then we’re going to have to come up with a better analogy.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:28

Okay, well, I’ll leave it.

 

Chris Case  07:30

But we don’t have to come up with that right now. But we can, what we want to do today to talk about a little bit of the past and a little bit of the present and a little bit of the future is have Dr. Seiler walk us through those things. How did we get here? When it comes comes to the polarized training model? How, what are we working on now? What is he working on now? And what do we have to look forward to in the future? When it comes to training science to exercise physiology? That’s really what we want to talk about today’s episode.

 

Trevor Connor  08:05

Yeah, I mean, obviously, we can’t cover the whole history of exercise physiology. But a really interesting question that I’m not sure we’ve ever given this context is we’re in this middle of this debate of is, should we train polarize? Should we train sweetspot? Should we just be doing especially if you only have six, seven hours per week? Should you just be doing high intensity all the time? And there’s people on all sides of this camp, how did, what’s the history? How did we get to this debate?

 

Dr. Seiler’s Physiological Background

Dr. Stephen Seiler  08:34

I, for me, if you start with me, I’m trained in the United States, my physiological background comes from there, although, as a student we did we were influenced by research that was coming out of Scandinavia, because a lot of the endurance physiology research was actually developed. And you know, there was a lot of good work in the 50s, 60s, 70s coming out of Scandinavia. But, I was trained as a student, like almost everyone in my generation with a lot of research that was based on doing studies on untrained people, on students often. Fit reasonably fit, but but not specifically trained students that were part of some physical education-education class. And they, they did a study they-they were participants in some eight week training study. And this is kind of, you know, when we were first getting into physiology and exercise physiology and all these exercise science programs developing, then you get a lot of these studies from the 70s, maybe early 80s. That are showing that, yep. If you train people for eight weeks at about 75% of their maximum heart rate and you adjust a little bit along the way, so you basically put them at their threshold, have them cycle for 45 minutes a day. Well, their VO2 max goes up and there threshold goes up, it works. And that kind of became the best practice model for stimulating endurance training adaptations. And we all kind of did it. It’s even part of the American College of Sports Medicine kind of guidelines for training. And it does work, if you’re, if you’re untrained. It works, if you haven’t been training and are coming back and you want to just get get rolling, then you kind of just find a reasonably tough intensity and hang on for 45 minutes and, and then call it a day, and you’re gonna get a nice response in a few weeks. So that’s, that’s kind of background, and then, and we don’t, we didn’t do much research on the actual athletes, we because they weren’t coming into laboratories and so forth. So I guess what kind of happened for me was when I moved to Norway, just as fate would have it, I started getting these impulses and hearing things that didn’t quite jive with that model. And fortunately, I was able to interrogate that inconsistency by, you know, actually doing some research studies and aligning myself with different groups in actually in different countries. And then, ultimately, kind of what emerged was a bit different picture, when you started looking at people that had made it past the first six, six months, let’s say.

 

Trevor Connor  11:46

Yup.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  11:47

You know, once you get past the first six months or so of regular endurance training, then the picture seems to change. As far as in terms of what works and what doesn’t particularly continue to work. And so that’s when things for me got interesting. And ultimately, then, you know, this pattern I saw, we just gave it a name, you know, because it was kind of polarize. It wasn’t too much in the middle, it was kind of the opposite of what I had been taught. And so that that term came, for me was just a way of distinguishing from this idea of finding that threshold and hanging on there as long as you could. So, so that’s, that’s kind of the the background, I never planned this. It certainly wasn’t a, a priority kind of thought that well, I’m gonna go to Norway, and I’m going to disapprove, you know, I’m going to disprove the standard training model that I’ve learned in the United States, because I certainly didn’t expect to. And I and I was kind of part of it, I love going out and beating myself up every day, and doing intervals and threshold and so forth.

 

Chris Case  12:58

Do you remember, do you remember, the first time you that you coined that term, or you used it in a piece that you had written?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  13:06

There were the two papers that bring this kind of to bear. One was written in 2004 and the other 2006. So that’s how old they are. There, they’re coming up the other 15 years ago, already, before that, I used the term a bit in some lectures before the data actually got published, I was already kind of starting to use the term and, and where did the term come from? I gotta be honest, I think I had been reading some cosmology kinds of popular science stuff, and, and, you know, black hole, the first thing I kind of found was this idea of a black hole, you know, that that sucks everything in. So I thought, well, that’s kind of that seems to be what happens here is that people get sucked in, you know, the intensity gets pulled in towards the middle. Another way of saying that would be regression towards the mean, you know, you kind of I do remember making a slide of a kind of a black hole concept that I presented and think that was around 2001. So it took a you know, it took me a while to kind of get my head around what was what I was seeing, and then, you know, kind of try to frame it appropriately. And and I can assure you, it was not immediately received as any kind of like, oh, yes, this is correct. You know, that’s not the reception I was getting from the sport scientists. I think I’ve so said before, I presented in a in France at a European Sports Science meeting in I and it was one of these kind of symposiums and it was a good audience, a big audience, and I just couldn’t remember as I’m speaking, seeing, national team coaches, you know, coaching types that were in the audience nodding their head affirmatively. And at the same time getting responses from the sports scientists in the audience so that we’re not affirmative at all. They were like, no, wait a minute, this can’t be right. So that was really, I think that was kind of where it started was, the coaches already kind of knew a lot of this, at least a lot of the good endurance coaches in Europe, in Scandinavia, they were saying, yeah, this resonates this is this is how we do things. We do a lot of, you know, volume, low intensity work, we do some interval training, but we, we kind of know that if we want to just thrash our athletes, it’s, it’s we, the way to do it is to train too much, you know, middle of the road intensity. But then that it didn’t resonate with the Sport Science people, because they’re the ones that have done studies that were more short term on a lower, you know, less trained group and so forth. Now, I’m generalizing here, but that was the kind of the basic SWAT, uh, confrontation, or whether it was coming was the, you know, sports science studies from the lab with untrained people versus the trial and error, field based knowledge that had developed in the sports environment, or in the performance environment.

 

How to Become a Great Physiologist

Trevor Connor  16:17

So I’ve said this on the show before, I think you’re you’re proving this point, this is this is something that was said to me that had a huge impact back in 2006, the physiologist at the National Center in Canada, told me, you want to be a great physiologist, go see what the coaches are doing. Because the coaches are always 15 years ahead of the science. And literally at that same time, that’s what you are doing. The scientists at the time are saying, we don’t really buy this concept, but you had all the coaches not in their head, and you were saying there’s something to this, and then you went and proved it.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  16:51

Yeah. And I guess I for whatever reason, I respected coaches, that there was some kind of tacit knowledge that they had. And just because they were not able to use the lingo of science, I think I had a feeling that that, you know, didn’t matter, that they still knew stuff that was worth knowing. And so that’s kind of, I think, just starting from the standpoint of respecting the other respecting the knowledge of the other’s field, you know, the coach or the, you know, the practitioner, I think that’s a really important starting point for cooperation. And what I would say is, is that that has really improved. In the last, you know, two decades or decade and a half, I think we are seeing these kind, these environments where you have, you know, teams that are built being built up around the athlete group that, you know, whether it’s the professional cycling team or the university sports team, there’s, there’s kind of a better integration of, you know, sports science and coaches. Not everywhere, but it definitely there are areas there are places where this has been done pretty darn well.

 

The Sweetspot vs Polarized vs High Intensity Debate

Trevor Connor  18:19

So one of the things that I thought was really interesting when we created this outline, and I was thinking about this, how did we get to this sweet spot versus polarized versus high intensity debate there, there’s a grounding and science behind all of them. So when you look at the the high intensity bias, you pointed out exactly back then. And still, you have a lot of researchers that were doing a lot of high intensity research because it’s, it’s really hard to get somebody in a lab to do a six hour ride, to have them do a lot of low intensity for and, frankly, that sort of adaptations is measured in years. So by necessity when you’re you’re doing lab testing, you’re really focusing on interval work, what’s the most effective interval work and I think that drove a lot of the the high intensity bias. You look at the the sweet spot approach. If you look at training with with power the book by Hunter Allen and Dr. Coggans, there’s a table in there, which is called the expected physiological adaptations from training and zones one to seven. That’s really the the foundation is sweetspot. You look at Dr. Coggan. He is a heart specialist. He has a real grounding in biology and medicine. And his approach to figuring out what is where’s the best place to train as he took all the different physiological adapt-adaptations, so things like increased plasma volume, increased mitochondrial enzymes, I’m literally just reading this table and then figured out where do you see the the biggest adaptations in these different systems and when you look at his table, what he landed on with his science is you get the big bang for the buck in that sweetspot zone. That that’s where you see the biggest adaptations and the most systems.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  20:07

Hmm

 

Trevor Connor  20:07

What I find interesting about the history of polarized with you is, this is something that’s really hard to test. So it didn’t start with the science, it started more with you looking at what are athletes doing? What are coaches doing? And then you had to figure out, how do we actually test this? How do we actually find the science for this?

 

How Training is not all Good for you and What That Time Frame Looks Like

Dr. Stephen Seiler  20:27

Yeah, if I were to construct a table based on what I learned, as a master and PhD student, you know, then it would, it would not be different than what Dr. Coggan presented, you know, it’s consistent with what I learned as well. But what I didn’t learn at that time, what we just didn’t talk about was the, the back side of the coin, which is that, hey, training is not all good. You know, it’s stressful, it does damage, it does cellular damage, it causes immuno depression, it causes inflammatory responses, it stimulates, you know, you know, all these things that we now talk about a lot, we didn’t really talk about as much back then. Or we kind of packed it under this thing called overtraining, which was an extreme situation. I think maybe that’s what has happened for me is just to try to look at from the helicopter perspective, when you trained, so many times a week and per month and a year, and we’re in the hundreds, you know, the the typical athlete can number their training sessions for a year in the hundreds. Even a guy like me, maybe 250, a year. An elite athlete, maybe 500-600, individual bouts of stimuli and stress every year. And from that helicopter perspective, then you start to look and say, well, signal stress, you know, adaptive signal, stress response, and there’s a balance there. And it seems that over time with trial and error, the,a lot of endurance environments, figured out that they could kind of maneuver the, you might call it the balance point, or fulcrum for this, this scale, where you have signal on the one side, you know, adaptive signal and stress on the other, they could kind of shift that balance a little bit in their favor, if they manipulated the training intensity distribution. And it seems like the way they found that to work is that they said, well, we’re going to trade some intensity for more volume, we’re going to stay under the radar on stress, and collect more time. And then we’re going to do the high intensity, but we’re going to do it, what should I say a bit judiciously. Because it’s a it’s a sword that that is double edged. And so that’s that’s what it seems to have happened. Obviously, these, these coaches and athletes were not specialists in physiology, but they did know enough to figure out what, what was working and what, you know, what was allowing them to repeat, you know, and have that consistency of training that seems to be necessary for long term progress.

 

Trevor Connor  23:29

And I think you just hit on the the key word, this is where I landed when I was trying to figure out what what the or compare the different sciences behind these different approaches is, you said long term, there is a time component to this. So when you look at these different tables of where do you get the biggest training stimulus? It’s what’s your timeframe? And I would agree that if your timeframe is short, so like if an athlete came to me and said, I’m out of shape, I got an event in six weeks, how do I train part I’m not gonna say go out and do a whole bunch of long, slow four hour rides.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:00

Right

 

Trevor Connor  24:00

I’m gonna say here’s some interval work, destroy yourself, because that’s how we’re going to actually, I’ve had athletes do this and I call it the rocky approach. I’m like, we’re gonna get you fit really quickly, and then you’re gonna burn out really quickly. So-

 

Chris Case  24:14

Right the fafter you rise, you fall.

 

Trevor Connor  24:16

You know, so yes, I would agree with with Dr. Coggans table when you look at zone one, zone two, the training stimulus isn’t high. But it’s over time. It’s this is the the high intensity is measured in weeks, the the low end long, slow, low intensity work is measured in years. And I always go back to a real key paper for me which you’ve reference, is that paper by Dr. Larson where he said exactly that. He said high intensity is quick, but it seems to have a ceiling. The low intensity work doesn’t seem to have a plateau you can continue to improve.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:54

Or at least it’s a lot farther down the road. Yeah. And I you made me, you reminded me of something and I I think this is also important to remember is that the lab studies were biased methodologically by the concept of equating total work.

 

Trevor Connor  25:14

Yes.

 

All you Need to Know About Polarize Training

Dr. Stephen Seiler  25:15

And this is a fundamental that is, that has been a gripe for me feel. And I kind of developed a different approach, which is this ISO effort or equating effort, because I think it’s more consistent with the way athletes actually trained. But if you go back through the literature, for years, the way the accepted way, methodologically, of equating different training groups was to equate total work. So if you’ve got this interval group, they’re going to do high intensity intervals. And you’re going to compare with this group that’s going to do steady state, you know, moderate intensity or low intensity training, then you equate four total kilojoules of work. And what do you end up with? Well, the interval session is, you know, a total of 25 minutes in the in the so called low intensity session is 45 minutes. You know, so it’s, it’s, it’s not even, what anything alike what athletes would actually do. And so there’s a bias there, that also has influenced things.

 

Trevor Connor  26:25

And that’s a part of some of that bias, where I do give it some validity is often they were looking at recreational or unfit people. And you’re not going to take somebody off the couch, who’s just trying to improve their health and say, oh, go out and do a four hour four or five hour bike ride, they’re not going to do that they’re going to have an hour in the gym. And the question is how to maximize that hour in the gym, where you can do 20 minutes of intervals, gets some really good training stimulus, or the most they’re going to do is just 45 minutes easy. So I do see some expl-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  26:56

Oh, yeah.

 

Trevor Connor  26:57

Some rationale behind that. But it just doesn’t apply when you’re talking about athletes who are trying to perform.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  27:02

And think about that a little bit, because it strikes me that we don’t think this way. But that tells us that the untrained person, from a stress perspective, they are less prepared to deal with a two hour submaximal 65% of you know, heart rate max ride than they are, you know, six times three minutes. That’s basically what you’re saying is you can’t get people in, you know, two hours, they’ll just say, no, I can’t do that. But they can do six times three minutes, because they’re so out of shape, their heart rate flies up anyway, they’re good, it doesn’t take much intensity to get them up in that high intensity zone. And they do their three, you know, three minute repeat, bounce, and they’re exhausted, but they can do it. And they go home thinking, whoo, I worked really hard. And versus the two hour, you know, where you just sit there and you know, do the work, that they’re actually not fit enough to be able to do that. So I find that an interesting contrast to the way we typically think is the heart high intensity is really hard. But that’s the stuff we can get people to do in the lab because they can, they’re, they’re unfit enough that they actually don’t have to go that hard to get the cardiovascular responses.

 

Trevor Connor  28:29

I was actually looking at a paper you wrote, where you point out exactly that and use numbers use power and pointed out the fact you take a really unfit person and have them do intervals. They might, let’s say they’re doing two three minute intervals, they might be doing them at 270-260 watts, which you take a pro cyclist, the World Tour level cyclists, that’s what they’re doing they’re long, slow at four or five hours. So that very unfit person when they’re doing those intervals, like you said, it’s not that damaging, because they just can’t do that.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  29:01

No, because they just do not have the machinery to to bear, you know, bring to bear. And so I think this is the same. Let’s take the world that you and I don’t work so much in strength training. But if you talk to elite power lifters, you know, these guys and women that can lift these amazing loads, they train less frequently, you know, they do heavy, really heavy sessions less frequently than the lesser trained because it takes him so long to recover. They’ll go 10 days between deadlifts, you know hard deadlift sessions. And I think there’s some you know, resonance there. As as we start to really develop the athletes and they are able to really recruit and mobilize the full capacity of their systems, then there is a bigger cost as well.

 

Trevor Connor  30:00

Another example is you can talk about sprinters, you take track like top top level track sprinters, you look at their workout, they won’t do a lot of sprint’s because they’re breaking 2,000 watts. It’s incredibly damaging on them. Where you take somebody like me, I could go out and do a five hour ride and sprint every 10 minutes, and it’ll hurt me, but it’s not going to kill me because I can’t break 1,000 watts.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  30:22

Yeah, because you don’t have the amplitude. Yeah, so the, in you’re touching on something, that’s what I’m finding. And it’s not just me, but others are finding because I keep getting these questions. They say, well, this polarize thing is that also the way we should train and string training? And is this also what sprinters are actually kind of doing? And, in a way, yes, we’re seeing the similar, we’re seeing similar patterns, like the sprinters, the running sprinters, we published a paper, Thomas Haugen, and Espen, Tønnessen and I were together on a paper and Thomas is just an expert on sprinting. And I was just brought in to deal with certain aspects of it, but he looked at all the science looked at the the practice. And he said, the practitioners, they, they use basically a polarized sprinting model. Where they very rarely do real all out sprints, in fact, almost never truly all out because of the the cost that you know the the damage to joints, that I mean, they’re the muscle fibers and so forth. But they do a lot of you might call it 90% loads, which for a sprinter, the difference between 90% and 100% is huge. That’s like for an endurance athlete, the difference between I don’t know 65-70% of heart rate max and 97%, heart rate max. So I there is there does seem to be some consistency emerging in this approach. And I don’t have all the answers as to why but I, I am intrigued by the fact that it’s it doesn’t just apply to endurance.

 

Trevor Connor  32:07

I think it some of it comes and I’m just talking out loud here. But I think some of it comes down to as you get to higher and higher levels, as you said, the high intensity, that getting up in that zone three, doing the really hard work is very damaging. It’s very tough on you, it takes a while to recover from it. So you need to be more and more judicious with it.

 

Dr. Seiler’s Threshold Training Work with His PhD Student

Dr. Stephen Seiler  32:28

And I’ll throw in something else here when when I had a PhD student not so long ago, his name was Øystein Sylta. And so those who follow along, they’ll they can find some of his articles from his PhD work. And when Øystein and I were kind of feeling each other out as to, you know, do we want, do we want to go into this kind of scientific partnership for four years together? That you know, because that’s what it is with a PhD student and the advisor. He said, look, I I think threshold training is really important. And I think threshold training is really hard. You know, he was a marathoner. And he says, and when you’re really fit, it is demanding to run threshold for so long. And I said, All right, I want you as a PhD student, because obviously we think a little bit differently, but, you know, so that’s good. We’re gonna make each other better. And, but I think he obviously had a point. And it’s also goes to my point is nowadays, if you ask me, you know, I often talk about three zones, you guys have heard the green and the yellow, and the red are zone 1,2,3. And physiological, these turn points. But if I were to even simplify things more, as a coach, when I’m coaching my daughter, I basically think two, two zones. Green and not green.

 

Trevor Connor  33:57

Red.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  33:58

Yeah, green, and, you know, some shade of red, because I’m thinking under the stress radar, over the above, you know what I mean? And so that’s the way I’m planning the training is, is, hey, we’re going to do these things. And we’re going to do a lot of low intensity, we’re going to collect, you know, hours, we’re going to build a base, and then we’re going to judiciously use our high intensity days, in different ways. Sometimes it’s going to be threshold, sometimes it’s going to be zone four, but it’s, it’s it all goes into that category of this is a day that is going to be costly. I want it to be costly, but I have to also build in space around that day with the low intensity sessions after so that this athlete can recover. And this athlete has to be disciplined enough to keep the low intensity low, you know, so that that’s it becomes pretty binary for me

 

Clarification on Dr. Seiler’s Zone Models

Trevor Connor  35:06

Something we’ve received several emails about where people get a little confused. So I just want to clarify this. So Dr. Seiler talks about his three zone models, zone one being that that low intensity zone two been often what people think of as sweet spot, and zone three being the high intensity. What’s really important to understand here is in the scientific community, when they’re talking about that zone two, which we think of as sweet spot, the scientific world calls that threshold, because that’s between your aerobic threshold and your anaerobic threshold. So they think of threshold as a range. So I know some of our listeners have been confused, because they hear scientists talk about threshold. And that’s actually a little bit different from when you’re talking about go out and do threshold intervals, like those four by eight minute intervals, those are actually more a zone three workout, even though you or your friends on a training ride might refer to those as threshold intervals. That’s a zone three workout. And when you hear scientists talk about threshold work, they’re talking more about sweet spot, or that-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:13

Yeah

 

Trevor Connor  36:13

-zone two, I just want to clarify the-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:15

Right

 

Trevor Connor  36:16

-people.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:16

Yeah, for sure. For me a four a four times a workout is in that zone three, you know, it’s it’s higher intensity than threshold. But, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s, it’s 100 watts difference, it may only be 30 watts higher or 25 watts higher, but it’s enough that it pushes people into that zone three.

 

Chris Case  36:39

In the best of ways, are you using your daughter as a experiment? Are you trying new things with her is it a case study?

 

How Dr. Seiler Coaches his Daughter Compared to Other Athletes

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:47

I think, I think any coach does that to a certain extent, but only to the extent that there’s agreement with that between athlete and coach. So at least for my daughter, if she’s fairly new in the game, so a lot of it has been trying to just get off to a good start and build. But my daughter is an independent, 21 year old girl, and she, she says, look, you know, I’m gonna do things my way, sometimes I’m going to adjust. And, and she does, but what my daughter tends to do is she can go harder than I then I prescribe on the hard days, she can go in harder can be in the form of higher intensity, but more likely, it’ll be in the form of more repetitions at some particular intensity. Like an example is that I know she’s getting ready for a half marathon things are going really well because we feel like we’ve cracked some codes on how her body works. So we’re doing some very specific work. That’s, that’s more half marathon pace, which is kind of that upper threshold. So we’re doing, she’s doing some sessions that would be categorized as threshold training. Like, the last session was two kilometer repeats on the track with 400 meter floats. Two kilometers for her is seven minutes 7:05 or so. And then a 400 and 92nd float, and told her to do six of them. And her being my daughter, she used a standard mathematical correction factor, which is take whatever dad says and multiply it by 1.5. And then, you know, and then do one more after that.

 

Chris Case  38:41

Yep.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  38:41

Anyway, so she does nine times to K, kicks ass. I mean, it’s a great, she did a great session, but she will tend to push the limits. And I tell her, I said, all right, I’m okay with that. You know, you know your body. But you have to be okay with me being super strict regarding what you do the next day and the day after that.

 

Chris Case  39:05

Hmm.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  39:06

Does that, you know, does that make sense?

 

Chris Case  39:07

Absolutely.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  39:08

Is that my job is to think big picture and to think long season continuity. Keep this kid healthy. You know, and she, her tendency will be to, you know, she loves to go to dig you know, she brings a big shovel. So, so we we balance each other out and grow and I have a growing respect for her ability to listen to her own body and learn and make small mistakes and, and I think that’s the way good athletes work is they, they listen to you as a coach, but then they listen to their body. And they find you know, they find their version of an optimization process. And so I have a lot of it brings me a lot of enjoyment, obviously, because she’s my daughter. But I learned a lot from just really interacting with her and understanding how our brains working, you know, her body, and how she’s responding to the different prescriptions and so forth. So, you know, coaching is fun, it’s frustrating, you guys are coaches as well. So you’re always experimenting, but always with the deepest respect for that I am never going to try to, I’m never going to do an experiment that I think is too risky.

 

Trevor Connor  40:33

But a good coach needs to experiment, because there’s always individual difference.

 

Chris Case  40:38

Right.

 

Trevor Connor  40:38

Right. And I mean, we’re, as we addressed at the very beginning of this episode, sometimes the coaches are experimenting to the point where they’re straying from what the science is saying, and they’re figuring out stuff before the science even gets there. So that that is a necessity in a way to advance.

 

Trevor Connor  40:38

You’re not experiment, it means you’re applying the exact same plan to every athlete, and you’re not looking at what makes them unique.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  41:02

Yeah, you know, and I believe there’s precedents for this in other environments. I mean, you know, if we, I’ve said this before that research on average people does not scale up. But what do you see when you have these high performance environments like Formula One racing, and you know, NASA, and so forth, they are having to figure out stuff that has not been figured out before. So they’re having they they’re playing with a fresh deck of cards. And they measure lots of stuff. And then eventually, they figure stuff out that five years later is in the car, you’re driving, you know, to work and back. And so the the high performance environments often are these innovation arenas, these, you know, and there are spectacular failures in these high performance environments. But the success is lead to innovation. And so I do think that’s the way it ends up working is that our elite coaches and athletes are on the ragged edge of what’s possible, but in doing so, they learn a lot about human physiology, human psychology, and the interaction between the two.

 

How Athletes Can Avoid Hurting Themselves Due to Excessive Training

Trevor Connor  42:17

So I want to go back to something that you said earlier about your daughter, because you and I had talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but we weren’t recording. That I think is a really important point is knowing the purposes of those workouts. So I do something similar, where sometimes I’ll get on the trainer, or I’ll do my intervals. And when I finish the intervals, I go, boy, I’m having a good day. I feel like I got more in me. And what am I do is, since I’m on the trainer, I’ll hop into a Zwift race get get a little more intensity. But,  get it on the day when I’m supposed to be going hard. But then the next day when I’m supposed to be riding easy, it’s easy. I don’t care if I’m feeling good. I’m not hopping into a race on that day. And I think that’s important because I have seen athletes where they’ll do their interval work. And the next day they get on the trainer or when they’re supposed to be going easy and go, I feel pretty good. And then they do a little intensity on that day.

 

Chris Case  43:15

Right.

 

Trevor Connor  43:15

The throwing intensity every day, and then you start losing the purpose.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:18

Absolutely.

 

Chris Case  43:19

I think you see it all. I think you see it often that it’s a really good at hurting themselves. Really good athletes know, they can hurt themselves one day and back off. And a lot of other people don’t have that. So they need a coach to tell them. Today is the easy day. You’re good at hurting yourself, but I need to be the one to tell you, you need to also rest.

 

Trevor Connor  43:40

Yes.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:41

I agree that the best athletes are really good at hurting themselves, but they are also really good at not hurting themselves.

 

Trevor Connor  43:50

Right.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:51

If that makes sense. It’s it’s, it’s knowing when

 

Chris Case  43:54

Mm hmm.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:54

There’s a time and a place for everything. And there is a time to bring the big shovel and dig. And so like, there’s, I’ll give you an example. There’s these three brothers in Norway, the Ingebrigtsen brothers that are all 1500 meter specialists, fantastic runners all have run 3:31 or lower for 1500. And if you know running, that’s fast.

 

Chris Case  44:18

Mm hmm.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  44:18

And, and they, they will sometimes race. And then after the race, they will continue their workout. So they may run in a national race or even a World Cup race. And then after the race, they’re not done because their coach has said look, you know, that was just a three and a half minute race. You know, you’ve now you’ve turned.

 

Chris Case  44:45

Yeah, that’s not much.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  44:46

Yeah, now you’ve turned on the system. Let’s not waste this day. Because if we waste if we just do this much then then we’re going to have to race go hard tomorrow and then you get to halfway hard days in a row. I would rather I get bang for my buck from this hard day. So that, you know, and I, I think this philosophically has influenced me as well. The other day, I did the same that you said, Trevor, I did a Zwift race, except I did this the race first. The race was only 25 minutes or so, or 28, I can’t remember. Anyway, you know, I worked hard. But then I thought, alright, you know what, I’m going to recover a bit. And then I’m going to hop back on the bike, and I’m going to do some of these 30-15. And so I was able to do 20 of those are actually 21,21 times 30-15, with good quality, 15 minutes after 20 minutes after that race. Now that may, you may say, well, that’s because you suck and your race, you just didn’t work very hard. But, but actually, you know, my average heart rate during those 25 minutes was 93, or 4%, of heart, you know, so I was working pretty good. But I thought, you know, I’m gonna get a little more out of this session, because I want to improve, I’m going to push myself, and then it makes it even easier to be very disciplined the next day, and go easy. That, you know, does that makes sense. And my daughter, my daughter says exactly the same, he says, Papa, you know, if I, if I do a really solid high intensity session, then it’s really easy for me to keep the intensity low the next two days, because I kind of have to, you know. So it’s, again, this idea of, it’s so simple, but it’s still we’re still saying it, hard days are easy, days easy. And just the ability to maintain that discipline in your training structure, solves so many problems.

 

Trevor Connor  46:46

So I’m going to stop short of saying that every time you have a hard day, you should fall off the bike, I think there is such a thing as doing too much where you’re just doing damage.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  46:55

Oh yeah I agree.

 

Trevor Connor  46:57

I will say if you are doing a training program, where you kind of have hard days, but the next day you get on the bike, you know, like I’m ready to go again. And you never have that day, or you’re just like, I’d actually really be very happy to ride very slow, right now.

 

Chris Case  47:13

Right.

 

Trevor Connor  47:14

You’re probably not going hard enough on your hard days. A good hard day, you should be able to get off the bike not fall off the bike. But the next day, go yeah, I’m quite happy to not break 120.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  47:27

Yeah.

 

Trevor Connor  47:28

Or whatever.

 

Chris Case  47:29

Right. It should be, it should be pretty obvious that you’ve essentially obliterated yourself to the point where you’re like, I’ve had this I’m, I’m done. And tomorrow, I can’t do anymore.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  47:39

Yeah, and and there will be days, I think, you know, and I say this to my daughter, because let’s say when you when you go into a high intensity session, there’s two ways of regulating it. The one is to say I have a specific power or pace that I’m going to hold. So you go in there, you go into the session with this kind of anxiety, that man, I hope I can hold those 385 watts, you know. And then the other way is to say I’m going to go in, and I’m going to go on feel. And it’s going to I want it to feel hard but manageable for four times eight minutes. And that’s what I’m going to do. Well, these are two very different psychological approaches. And I think both of them have their place in a build part of the season, when you just want continuity, you want to do the work, like I’ve said this with my daughter, I said, look, just go on feel just, you know, but let’s keep heart rate below zone five, I want you to don’t get above about 93%. You know, so we’re going to try to be in that zone four that I talked about in a five zone model, but just go on feel and don’t worry about the speed on the treadmill or on the track. Because that that can often become very psychologically, almost damaging, you know, if you don’t hit those exact paces, every time you do a hard session versus the you know, where you say I’m getting ready for this race, I need to hold this power. This is my time trial power, you know, where you’re very external load focused. And, and there’s a place for both, but I think it’s probably a good idea to mix it up a bit. And don’t always get caught up in your watts. Because you’re not going to have a great day every day. Some days, it’s just going to be a decent day. And you just do the work and get out. You know and accept that. And don’t take it as a as a as a crushing defeat. Because that is the nature of the beast. You’re going to train 500 times this year, and they’re not all going to be great. I think that’s part of learning, too. You know how training works and I know you feel, you understand this. But for young athletes and for people, you know, they’re like my daughter, they’re kind of on a general climb, you know, they are progressing and they have this expectation that every workout is going to be a new, a new top, a new PR, new FTP, a new five minute power, you know? And when that doesn’t happen, then they what do they do? They double down. Instead of saying, you know what, I think I need some rest. They say no, I just got to go harder. So this is the this is the danger that can you can easily fall into with all of that feedback of lots and so forth, is it you get, you start to train the metrics instead of training your body.

 

Trevor Connor  50:50

I think it was in Joe Friel’s book, that I read this, but it was a long time ago, I remember reading this and it had an impact on me of don’t try to keep doing the interval work harder each time. What you do is find the right intensity, and then spend a few weeks learning to tolerate it better. And I do think that’s a better approach.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  51:11

Yeah, and I would frame it as first extend and then intensify. So it’s like these stair steps, you know, they have links, and then they have a rise, rise, run, rise, run. And if you think you know, like a prescription, like, let’s take these eight minute intervals, because everybody talks about those, you know, you might start with three of those three times eight minutes. And you you do it, and so your average power was 300 watts for three times eight. So then you’re faced with a decision, what is the next step in the progression? Should I go to 310? Or should I try to do one more eight minute interval?

 

Trevor Connor  51:54

Right.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  51:55

And in general, I would say, well, first, let’s try to go one more. And maybe even go to more, I tend to like to get 30 to 40 minutes worth of, of quality work is the kind of the accumulated duration, before I start thinking about stepping up the power, or the intensity. So it’s this, you know, first extend, and then intensify, extend, and you can extend quite a bit. And as you know, you know, a 10 watt increase on the intensity is big.

 

Trevor Connor  52:26

Yep.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  52:27

So the increments on the intensification will have to be small. But if you can just think of the competition implications, or the performance implications of being able to hold that power, five times eight, instead of three times eight. You know, think of how you’ve improved your repeatability. So that’s a big victory. That’s a big improvement. But it doesn’t necessarily show up as a higher six minute or five minute power.

 

Trevor Connor  52:57

Yeah, I have these, I’ve talked about them before these hill repeats that I do. And I got several years ago kind of caught up. And I want to be able to hit the power I used to be able to hit and I got myself to that point. But the difference was back when I was at my best, I used to do seven, eight repeats. Now I’m doing three.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  53:16

Right.

 

Trevor Connor  53:17

So you look at indigo, you said yeah, at the same power. So it makes you feel good about yourself. But no, I’m not anywhere close to the same level. Because I used to be able to do that seven eight times. And I’ve-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  53:28

Because you’re actually paying a much bigger price, you know, you’re having to dig much deeper.

 

Trevor Connor  53:32

And I have noticed lately I’ve gotten back to the mindset of I’m going to do these at lower power, but I’m going to try to get more of them because that repeatability that sustainability is so important.

 

The Best Training Mindset

Dr. Stephen Seiler  53:44

And then if you take that mindset, and you multiply it times the maybe 100 hard sessions you’ll do per year, then you start to see that, well, this makes a big difference. Because if I, if I give up a little bit of intensity, I can get a lot more accumulated duration. And if I’m trying to develop, you know, create a signal for adaptation, then that can be a very good trade off. Because I can create a good signal for that patient. But for at least a lot of athletes based on the research that we’ve done, what we see is that there seems to be a pretty significant extra cost of really, really taking it up to the highest intensities. You know, zone five versus zone four and this intensity scheme is more is not just a little more costly, it’s a lot more costly from a recovery point of view. And so that that has I think significance when you’re thinking about choices you’re making about these hit sessions, how are you organizing them and and I’ve become more and more convinced that I am going to be willing to make that trade, and reduce my intensity or the intensity of my daughter, you know what she’s doing, reduce the intensity just a little, but then get a significant addition in total accumulated duration. And that seems to be a good trade off, because the overall recovery, you know, she recovers faster athletes in general seem to recover better, in that, with that approach. For my daughter, it’s just it’s, we found it was just absolutely critical that when she because she would go, she would push those four times a minute intervals, for example, just she would just push them too hard, she would bury herself. And she was up at 98% of heart rate max, you know, she was just cooked, and she couldn’t recover. It was taken too long. So if you looked at the big picture, she was losing training, you know, she was, you know, the cost was much bigger than what it was worth. But then when we adjusted the intensity down just a little bit, everything got better. Including the personal, you know, the PBs.

 

How Heart Rate Limits can Help With Training

Trevor Connor  56:07

When I give those to an athlete, I always give them a heart rate limit. I go this is do high wattage is you can sustain but you’re not allowed to break through X heart rate. So for example, with me, my threshold heart rate is right around 172. So my limits 174.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  56:23

Yup.

 

Trevor Connor  56:24

Even though I can get up to 180 to 183.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  56:26

That’s very much like what I do with my daughter and myself when I’m smart enough, is just kind of put a ceiling on the on the heart rate. And that just makes it a makes us able to come back the next day and do some more work.

 

Chris Case  56:39

Well, let’s let’s shift away for a bit now from the conversation we were just having to the present day. And if you wouldn’t mind, Dr. Seiler, speaking to that speaking to the current state of endurance training a bit more?

 

The Current State of Endurance Training with Dr. Seiler

Dr. Stephen Seiler  56:54

Well, I think what’s, what’s fascinating is that we, the world has gotten so small, you got these tools now like Zwift, you know, different kinds of online, interactive tools, groups through Strava, and so forth, where you can compete, you can test yourself against others, daily, if you so choose and-

 

Chris Case  57:24

Hourly if you so choose.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  57:24

Hourly, if you so choose. That’s so true.

 

Trevor Connor  57:27

Every five minutes.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  57:29

So it’s a fascinating development. And in the parallel to it at the elite level, of course, is that you have television and everything that has driven this development of World Cup schedules that are just packed with events. And the seasons are long. The seasons are much longer than the off-season, which is the opposite of what used to be true. And, and so that is affecting how we train, it’s affecting periodization ideas. You know, let’s say the idea of periodization, from 50 years ago was based on that you would maybe have two or three big events per year, maybe even just one, but not very many. Versus today, even for the high performance athlete, they have to be able to think, well, it’s not so much peaking that I’m trying to do. It’s sustaining. It’s, you know, it’s keeping my body at some kind of a reasonable plateau for a long time. How do I achieve that? Because I’m racing weekly. And it’s not because I want to, it’s because I have to that’s, that’s the nature of the beast. So anyway, I think this is interesting. But if we take the age groupers like me, you know, I can go into Zwift every day. And it is so tempting to chase that squirrel. You know, there’s events, there’s races, there’s, you know, stuff, oh, I could do that, it’s a 20 minute race. That’s not too bad. You know. And when you do that often enough, then you fall into that black hole.

 

Trevor Connor  59:15

It is hugely tempting. I’m on Zwift a lot. And I have learned I have to start putting swift into ERG mode because it’s like you said it’s like the dog going squirrel. You think you’re going to do something controlled and then all of a sudden a group of 50 riders passes by you and next thing you know you’re in the middle of a race.

 

How to Avoid Over-Training Temptations

Dr. Stephen Seiler  59:33

Well. And you can even choose group rides I choose group rides a lot, I kind of sample them and and it says this group ride is going to be between 2.3 and 2.7 watts per kg and I say oh good, that’s perfect. You know, and then it’s at two, nine and three from like after 60 seconds, you know? And my temptation is just to hang on just to say well, okay, you’re trying to get rid of me. See if you can do it, you know, and then and then and then I’ve been dragged completely out of my intended intensity. So, it, and I, and I’m, I’m the guy that supposed to, you know, I’m teaching you guys this and I and I, I get sucked into it myself sometimes. So I’m just saying that in this modern, you know, highly accessible environment, I think it’s just wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zwift. But you really have to do what athletes do. And that is plan your plan your work and work your plan. You know, if you go into you know, if I say today’s an easy day, then I’ve got to stick to it. And I’ve got to, if I’m in that swift ecosystem or whatever, I have to be in control. Don’t let Zwift be in control of me.

 

Chris Case  1:00:52

I’m on Swift, zero times a year, but but I have the temptation of when I’m riding my bike to work in the morning, I have people pass me on their ebikes.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:04

Oh, yeah

 

Chris Case  1:01:04

The temptation is, do I sit on their wheel? Do I try to race these cheaters?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:08

Yeah.

 

Chris Case  1:01:09

With their e bikes, or do I? Do I sit up and just do my thing? So I know what you’re saying.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:14

So that’s the-that is, yeah, but that must be the real world equivalent of Zwift is the-

 

Chris Case  1:01:20

Exactly

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:21

E bike and I and I’ve, I feel your pain because I have been passed by a 45 year old woman sitting upright on an e bike, you know?

 

Chris Case  1:01:33

Yep, with a basket. Small dog sitting in the front, groceries in the back.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:38

And I’m going to be just perfectly honest with an anatomical frame that just is not the picture of athleticism. And yet, she just rides past me. And it is extremely going. But but but I’ve, I’ve come to terms with it.

 

Trevor Connor  1:01:58

But the hard lesson I learned because I did chase somebody on an e bike once is they’re gonna kill you up the hill.

 

Chris Case  1:02:04

Yeah.

 

Trevor Connor  1:02:04

But be careful on the descent, because a lot of them have limiters. So I chase this person, we get to the descent, and all of a sudden I was run into them because other bikes, they went up the hill faster than they went down the other side.

 

Chris Case  1:02:20

Exactly.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:02:20

Yeah.

 

Chris Case  1:02:20

And they have governors, but they also you know, you’re dealing with people that maybe not the best, skilled rider either. But that’s neither here nor there.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:02:29

But all I can say is those batteries are getting really powerful because they’re kicking butt up the hill still.

 

Chris Case  1:02:36

Yeah.

 

How Training has Changed Overtime due to Technology

Trevor Connor  1:02:37

I think you’re pointing out something that that it’s even broader than this, I was thinking about this when I was putting together the outline of back in the 70s and 80s, riders, it was almost entirely feel. Like there are a lot of riders who have a heart rate strap.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:02:54

Yeah.

 

Trevor Connor  1:02:54

And the only gauge you had a performance is when you finally got to that race in the spring. Now there are so many metrics, you can hop in Swift and race people, you people go and rides and watch their TSS, because they want to get a sufficient TSS from that ride, or they’re gonna look at their peak five minute power, or they’re gonna go do a segment on Strava to see if they can PR that particular segment, it is so easy. There’s so many numbers and metrics that you can watch and use that can be both powerful, but also really take you off track. And I’ve noticed the one I struggle with is, back when I was at my best, we weren’t really using TSS, and I had no issues in the winter going out and just doing a long, slow ride. I tried to target around a 123 heart rate. And I look back at my data from 10 years ago and my TSS and those long slow rides would be like 180. Now I go for a long, slow ride and I see I’ve only got 100 TSS, I’m like, well, this is a good training ride. And there’s that temptation to lift the pace. Because I want that 250-300 TSS.

 

What is TSS? Is it Really that Helpful?

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:04:05

I never look at TSS. Of course I’m not on I mean, I my workouts go into training peaks, but I don’t really use it. I have to be honest, but TSS what does it stand for? Training Stress Score. But what’s it measuring? It’s measuring some manifestation of external load. Power relative to so power to relative to an FTP times minutes. And implicit in the TSS score is that every minute is the same. The hundred and 80th minute is the same as the 30th minute. At that low intensity we’re riding at. And the reality is that you and I know that’s not true. That that hundred and 80th or 240th minutes at 65% of heart rate max feels different than the 30th. But they are the exact same score in the algorithm, as far as I can tell. As long as the intensity sustained.

 

Trevor Connor  1:05:13

Yep.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:05:15

So, there’s issues here that, you know, what, what’s the difference between load and stress? And that, for that reason, I just, I don’t get caught up in TSS, because I’m interested in what my body’s telling me about my stress. You know, what was the stress of this session? I don’t need a number. That is inherently it’s not fully arbitrary, but it’s, it’s fairly arbitrary. It’s, you know, it’s because there is there are differences, even the same. Even the same three hour workout me yesterday versus me three days later, can be very different stresses depending on what my status is. I may even have a virus in my body I don’t know about yet. Does that you know what I’m saying? There’s so many things you have that are influencing the translation from load to stress.

 

Trevor Connor  1:06:07

I had that experience this weekend, I’m coming off of a really nasty virus. So on Saturday, I did my first long ride in weeks, I’m, I’m still not 100%. So I was keeping it slow. My TSS total TSS for that ride looks like a recovery ride. But I can tell you at the end of that ride, I was looking at my map, seeing that my car was three kilometers away and going I’m not sure.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:06:33

Yes. Anyway, so I and I know hats off to training peaks. I mean, you know, they’ve got this tool that people love, and they love it so much, they almost become religiously addicted to it. But it’s worthwhile to have a little bit of reflection about the, the arbitrary nature of it. The it is basically we’re playing with math. And the body is not perfectly algebraic in the way that it works. So I would just give people a little bit of caution and how rigidly they interpret and lean on these numbers. I think that is, what I find interesting is that when you talk to the high performance people, they are much less connected to those numbers, then the age groupers as a rule.

 

What Metrics Should Athletes be Using When Training?

Trevor Connor  1:07:29

Well, I’m going to give this away a little bit I’m going to be editing in the next few weeks and episode that I really want to get up. That goes back to we were doing a show on metrics and what metrics you use. So I started reaching out to top pros to find out what metrics did they really rely on? What numbers did they really care about? I interviewed four top pros, and I didn’t get an answer from any one of them. Because they all went, yeah, my coach looks at that stuff. I don’t.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:08:03

Yeah, well, I got a guy, I’m not gonna use his name, because he hasn’t given me explicit permission. But he’s on a pro tour team. He sent me some of his dry data. I said, hey, I need a calibration. I need to know, you know, a decent estimate for your six minute power and your FTP, whichever one you use, and whatever. So he sends me some numbers and, and he had data from 218 and 219. And the numbers he sent me his six minute power was there was a 50 watt difference. You know, it was like 428, and 478, or something like that. And so I just wrote back, I said, you know, hey, can you clue me in what you do different, you know, you’re an established pro rider, and your six minute power went up 50 watts, from year on, you know, year on year. And so then he ends up writing back, he says, you know, what, I noticed that myself, and I looked at it, and he said, I had to look but it turns out that’s just wrong. That’s just some must have been some weird thing and training peaks. And so and so number one he had, he didn’t really have a relationship to the numbers. And number two, he what was happening, of course, is that you can depending on how you’ve been riding in a period, in the soft-, you know, the software will extract the numbers from those rides and assign you a value. But if you haven’t been pushing, then you won’t have a high value, if that makes sense. So So when he sent me he says here, here are the correct numbers and there was zero difference, you know, it was like 10 watts difference over four years. So it was a good case in point for me that number one, he’s not totally connected to these numbers that he’s getting from the software, not nearly as connected as a lot of other people would be and number two, it is easy to Get caught up. If if you are into the metrics, it’s easy to get trapped in a kind of a Paper Chase or a metrics Chase, where you would say, oh, numbers are down by FTP went down? Well, why did it go down? Well, because I haven’t been really doing hard rides right now. Well, then what the numbers you’re developing are the numbers that the software is seeing just based on the kinds of training you’re doing. And so this can create some some, I don’t know, some anxiety for people.

 

What Metrics Dr. Seiler Uses With his Own Daughter and Athletes

Chris Case  1:10:32

If you’re not a fan of TSS, and these metrics, and you talk about the, the, you know, being very aware of the sensations, the feelings you have for a particular workout and the repercussions of that workout. What? So, for instance, going back to your daughter, what metrics do you use with her? Or how do you assess? Is it simply you take her word for it in terms of what she needs? Or you look at the numbers and you estimate the workload of some kind in your own mind? Or are you using something that we’re not aware of?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:11:13

I triangulate, and I triangulate with, you know, the three, basically the three tools that we all have, and one is the external, which is pace power. You know, for her, I’m looking at pace, you know, what are her actual achieve paces for these different runs. And then I’m looking at her heart rate data. Because I’m getting all of that in, you know, she’s downloading her workouts. And then I’m listening to her and listening and reading the words that she uses to describe how she’s feeling. So those are the three ways you have perceived exertion, which is that last one, whether you use a scale, or whether you just listen, or look at how they describe things. And you have the physiological data, which would be heart rate and blood lactate, if you take that. And then you have pace power. Those are the three. And so I always triangulate. I never trust one of those exclusively. Because they each have strengths and weaknesses. So in a way, it’s like a checks and balances system. You know, that’s how government is supposed to work. It doesn’t really work that way anymore. But in theory, you have, you know, the founding fathers, they, yeah, but but but we do have a checks and balances system. When it comes to training monitoring. And it works. If you just mix, if you have respect for the value of each of the three, what should I say arms of the system, or, you know, parts of the trinity. But there is a tendency to get over exuberant about one or the other, depending on your particular, you know, philosophy of training. In general, I think it’s useful to look at all three, at least reasonably, regularly.

 

Trevor Connor  1:13:12

I’m very much a gestaltist, which is that the sum is greater than or the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And what I see a lot in this current era with this, this huge data overload is riders get very obsessed with going after those targets, getting on Zwift and winning a race in February, that’s sign there on form. Hitting that peak five minute power getting that that training peaks FTP higher than they’ve ever seen it and they look for all these metrics to say, oh, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. And I can’t tell you many times, I’ve seen riders do that. And then they have an extraordinarily disappointing season, because they’re looking at all the little parts, not looking at how it all fits together. And what I personally prefer is the gestaltist is to say these are very powerful tools, but what we want to do is look at the overall training plan, build a training plan that has a direction really focus on the purpose of it, and then use all these metrics to see how you’re progressing. And it’s not. Did you hit a peak five minute power, it’s more what’s going on with heart rate, what’s going on with wattage? What’s going on with rp? How does it all fit together to paint a picture of this athlete and quite often when I see athletes have a fantastic season, all through the base season, all building up to that race season, you don’t ever see a peak number or something that you can, you know, I’ve seen a number you can point it and go, wow, you’re stronger than you’ve ever been. But they get into the races and suddenly it shows up.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:14:45

Yeah. And that’s what I’m seeing. I see with myself. I see my daughter, I see what these elite athletes we’ve studied is just this. What should I say this calm security and what they’re doing that. You know, they do not need that confirmation every day that they are, you know, it, my daughter has struggled with it, but she’s learned, you know, because she had that tendency to need confirmation through the training workouts through the, the numbers from a hard session that she was on form. But she is learned her lesson that that, you know, it was too much eating the cake and not enough, you know, making the cake as we, as they say, in Norway, but it’s a bitter lesson, you know, you have to learn it, you have to learn that that these little small victories end up building up to a big disappointment on race day, because you’ve kind of burned yourself out. And you don’t you’re you don’t have a gear to go to on race day. I remember David Martin who used to work with you know, he was at the DAVIS Australian Institute of Sport. He worked with the I think it was the green edge guys and, and the track guys and he, he seemed to slowly convert from being a physiologist to being a psychologist. And one of the things he said is that, you know, these top guys, they were very careful how often they use their, you know, they’re taught their highest gear, in a sense. They, you know, they, they wanted to know that there was another place for them to go on race day, in terms of intensity. So they weren’t going there too often. But they were doing the work. And they were able to go there on race day. But if you’re, if you’re racing the training, then you’ll be you won’t be able to hit the real peaks on race day. I think that’s a typical finding.

 

Trevor Connor  1:16:49

The analogy I always give my athletes is think of a piggy bank. And what I tell them is, when you go out in and hit Zwift, as race really hard in January, are you going to go after a Strava segment. Or even when you jump into a race you’re spending money. I say the purpose of training is to put money in the bank. So when you go out and do that smart ride and skip the strap a segment, or you get on Zwift and do proper intervals and skip the race. You putting money in the bank. And look, it’s fun to spend money every once all you got to pull out $1 and say let’s go have some fun, because you do need some enjoyment.

 

Chris Case  1:17:27

But Trevor’s idea of having fun as costs $1. And a couple-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:17:36

Are you able to buy a beer for $1 in Canada or what?

 

Trevor Connor  1:17:39

No, I do you remember in college having $1 long necks Tuesday night? I used to go their religiously. That’s a whole different conversation. I was not a good cyclist. Yeah.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:17:50

Yeah, you’re right, revealed your age their dude.

 

Trevor Connor  1:17:54

Yeah, I really have. But now we’ve completely lost my analogy. The point here is what I tell athletes is, it is the goal here is to get to the race season with a whole lot of money in the bank, don’t spend it all on the winner.

 

Present Day Research on Aerobic Threshold

Chris Case  1:18:12

And that brings up a question that I have in my mind, which is getting back to this, the sort of the current state of things are the present research. And also, so many of the questions that we’ve gotten from listeners have to do with this, a aerobic threshold point and knowing where it’s at, and how do I find that so that I can do those rides that aren’t very stressful, but over time are really helping me accumulate a solid foundation so that I can go hard on my really hard days. What what are you learning about how people can understand where that aerobic threshold point is? If they can’t get into a lab or what what what, what more? Are you learning about that?

 

Trevor Connor  1:19:01

And you’re doing some research on this?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:19:03

Yeah, we’re gearing up for some stuff, we’re, I’m really excited. Because, you know, we years ago, we built this room where we set up these are ergometers of the day. And, and now they’re, you know, they’re out of date. And we’re gonna we’re gonna reconfigure the room with the with the modern. You know, like, we’re not sure which one it’s going to be yet, but it’ll be probably either one of these wahoo type, fully self contained, wahoo kicker or attacks neo fully self contained, but we’re gonna build up a room that allows us to put these riders all in this environment, and then they can, you know, we can organize a training session for them as a group on Zwift or whatever platform we want to use, and get all the power of the heart rate and so forth. I’m looking at infrared cameras so that we can can monitor their skin temperature, their cooling? You know, are we controlling for that. So all of this is part of a plan for me to be able to make it more convenient and comfortable to study the long sessions. To study 80%, you know, all that training, or sessions that are representative for that, you know, very large majority of total training volume that should be under the first lactate turning point. You know, that green zone training that we talked about. And, and, and then again, that’s one of the things I want to, you know, look at is what, what markers can we use that are not dependent upon laboratory equipment, to help help people of all abilities correctly identify and stay in that low intensity zone when they want to be there. And, you know, one of the tools that I’m trying to look at more precisely is, is this relationship between heart rate, which is the internal load, or a measure of the internal load and power, which is that external load, it could be also pace. And I, you know, I’ve been working with a Felo, we’ve we developed software to more precisely look at this kind of different ways of looking at it, of calibrating cardiac drift or decoupling, as it’s called. And quantifying it further, you know, what we generally see is, if you’re in the green zone, you don’t have decoupling. If you’re reasonably fit, and you’re, you know, and then you’ve got to be ventilating and drinking. But if you’re taking care of your body with the normal, you know, with a good fan, and you’re drinking, then a well trained athlete will show essentially zero decoupling, during a low intensity session, even I now can hit three hours at 210 watts, with no decoupling. You know, and when I get the right files in from the top guys, it’s more like six hours, you know, you win before your flu. That’s where you are.

 

Trevor Connor  1:19:58

Let me tell you on Saturday, a whole lot of decoupling.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:22:32

Right. What it but that’s a very good example, it shows that this is that is an adapt ation. And it can be lost and it can be gained is this durability component. And it is, as you point out, it’s extremely important. It’s part of what lays the foundation for those Zwift wins or real or wins, you know, on the road or whatever. So we’re working on setting up tools for quantifying that. But also for collecting the data, where we want to use a combination of lab and what should I call it crowdfu- crowd sourced data. And I have started, you know, I have some great, fantastic Twitter followers that, that, you know, if I asked for strange stuff, like, hey, I need a, you know, a 30-15 interval session file from you. They like they bring it, they’ve got it. And then I’m looking at these and trying to use this pilot work to develop some tools and develop some research protocols for how we’re going to attack this. But the big the big goal for me in the coming years is to do a better job of understanding what happens below and just above that first threshold, and to help athletes more correctly identify where they are. And and then and with the goal of then, properly executing their intensity distribution goals.

 

The Future of Finding The Lower Threshold, Zone One

Trevor Connor  1:24:10

So we’ve been waiting time at the present state of this huge ability to have a lot of numbers. What you’re talking about, to me is a lot of what the future is about, because going back to all this data we have, I find the data is is very biased towards the top end simply because that stuff is easier to figure out. We’ve talked about figuring out your your MLSS or your your lactate threshold. And there’s certainly arguments to be had over the, do you do 20 minute times a multiplier and there’s a recent study that just came out that basically said no, that doesn’t work. Certainly going out and doing a one hour time trial, you’re gonna get a pretty decent number. But when you get to that lower end, that aerobic threshold that zone one we get that email all the time. I’m sure you get that question probably five times a day. How do you figure that out without going into the lab, and it’s really hard. And you’ve been showing me this tool, and it’s a fantastic tool to actually be able to see, is there cardiac drift is there decoupling going on when I ride? And it’s, it’s more complex finding those numbers, it’s not gotten to a five hour ride as hard as you can, it’s going out and doing a three to five hour ride at the right intensity. So you don’t see a lot of cardiac drift, which is tough. And to me, that’s a lot of the future is is rounding out and developing that lower end.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:25:36

Yeah, I had an example. You know, I use myself as a guinea pig, sometimes. Last Sunday, I did a three hour ride with a group, you know, Zwift group, and they had a good leader, and everything stayed as advertised. So my average power was, it was upper end of my green zone, but it was 212 watts. And I had no drift. I mean, I was, I was where I wanted to be. So I was really pleased, because I had stretched my kind of durability out to the three hour mark. So then, yes, let’s see what’s today. Yeah, yesterday, I did the same group ride, three hours, same group, I’m not gonna say who it was. But anyway, and this time, the first hour was exactly the same power two hour 212. Exactly the same, no decoupling, but then things got messy. And partly because some people in the group apparently started pushing, and partly because I was so enthralled with this audio book that I was listening to, that I wasn’t paying attention. So I’m listening to this wonderful book, called “The Boys in the Boat” is about the some rowers that won in the 1936 Olympics. And anyway, then I said, I looked at him say, oh, crap, you know, I fell off the back of the ten- you know, of the group. And so then you’re stuck with his alright, what do I do? Do I motor hard and try to catch the group? Or do I just give up or what? So after a couple of little surges? I said, no, I’m just gonna chill, you know, I’m gonna stick to my plan. But then I thought, well, this rides kind of messed up. So I think I’m going to go up, just above what I think is my threshold, my first turn point. So I went up to 235 watts. So at 212, three hours, no decoupling. 235-236 watts, for 30 minutes. Nice, clear drift. You know, so. And I’ve seen this consistently, that I can identify very clearly, where my first turn point is, based on how my heart rate responses. Based on decoupling versus no decoupling, you know, but I’ve developed a tool to you know, and I’ve kind of zeroed in I’ve gear, I know what to look for. And I get that not everyone has that tool and is used to that.

 

The Rule of “Talking” to Make Sure Your not Working Yourself too Hard

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:28:04

So what I would do for most people, I would say, look, start with this basic rule that if you are in at low intensity below your first turn point, you should be able to talk as you go, and even if you’re sitting on the bike all alone, in your living room, or in your pain cave, like me, speak some sentences aloud. Along the way, pick pick a favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln, or, you know, whoever. And just say it out loud and say, hey, can I say this? You know, without being totally out of breath? Am I am I comfortable? If you can, that’s a good sign. And that is a poor man’s check. But it turns out to be physiologically founded in the fact that, you know, if you are beginning to hyperventilate, then of course, it’s going to have an impact on how you how you’re able to speak. So there is a it’s not just it’s not silly, there is some basis for this. And it’s been shown to be true in the laboratory. That if you can speak sentences, then in all probability, you’re below your first turn point.

 

Trevor Connor  1:29:24

Now one quick addendum, if you can recite Shakespeare, you’re probably going a little too easy.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:29:30

Well, then you need to play chess. You need it yeah, you need but there’s lots you can find the right senses, but I’ve actually done this with myself recently. I’ve started just checking and saying, is this true? Am I actually talking pace, then there’s this other hack that some people use which is just close your mouth, and breathe through your nose. And and if your if your sinuses are clear, then that can also be a decent check on green zone intensity, you know, first, first below first turn point intensity. Those are, their grow, they’re rough, they’re crude, but that’s a good starting point. And then, you know, if you want to start getting into the details of how close you want to push that, that, you know, up to that turn point, then probably you start, you have to use decoupling, you know, cardiac drift.

 

Trevor Connor  1:30:28

Yeah. And so by the way, I owe you an apology, I never told you about this. But so remember, a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to test your tool. And I had about three hours on the trainer and I said, you know, if I just ride at what I know is below my aerobic threshold, I’m not gonna see any cardiac drift and ask, you asked you for a suggestion. And you said, Oh, we’ll ride 25 minutes right around what you think your aerobic threshold is, and then do a five minute effort right at your anaerobic threshold. And just keep repeating that for about three hours. Yeah, and we’ll definitely get some cardiac drift, because we just want to, I want to put it into your tool, and I want to see the cardiac drift. So I got on my trainer, and I was programming the workout into Zwift while I was pedaling. So I just quickly titled it: Seiler test, and did the workout and on Zwift. As soon as I’m done with the workout, it immediately uploaded to Strava. You wouldn’t believe the number of comments. I got people going, what’s this test? I haven’t seen that before. What’s Seiler trying to do? And I thought he was into the one hour test. This is inconsistent. What are you guys doing? Like I got-? I got all these. So I immediately went into Strava I retitled the right, because I’m like, oh, god, I just gave everybody the wrong idea here. We’re just playing around.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:31:46

That’s funny. Yeah, but but what we were talking about, and you’re onto this other issue, which is they go together. But I’ve we’ve used the term in our conversations, durability, low intensity, durability, which is just this ability to extend those sessions and below the turnpoint. But without decoupling, and then we’ve talked about high intensity repeatability. And you’ve used that term, and I’ve embraced it. And so I’ve been trying to figure out, alright, how do I develop a kind of a standard protocol for testing and quantifying repeatability? So that’s where that’s where this comes in, as we said, well, what if we do kind of like five or six minute hard pushes? Interspersed with 25 minute zone one, and you know, just keep doing this for for several hours, and then see how the responses look. But we’re not you know, we haven’t finished it out. But-but I appreciate you helping me. I’m sorry. Not trying to confuse the whole world.

 

Trevor Connor  1:32:51

That was completely my fault. And I apologize about that. I was waiting for you to email me going, I just got a whole bunch of emails, what’s going on?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:33:00

No, I have to say, I just, I was such a reluctant tweeter. You know, back in the day when I started a few years ago on Twitter, but I find I have this Twitter group that are they’re just fantastic. Because they are, you know, really interested in the training process. And, and, you know, it’s kind of like a bartering system, I try to share what I know. And then when I need help, help is there to find, you know, if I need workouts, or if I need people to even do certain workouts, I say okay, I’ll do it tomorrow, you know, what do you want me to do? So, they’re great. So I have nothing but good things to say about the people that helped me out with some of this stuff, in the form of blood, sweat and tears and data. It’s a it’s a good tool. And I think and I think it’s part of what we’re talking about moving into the future is, for me, the future of doing this kind of sport science is even tighter integration with practice. And this interplay between some big data sources, you know, training peaks is fantastic. They’re collecting over 10 million workouts a month. You know, there’s other other sources. Athletes are, are digitally connected. And so that data is interesting, it’s useful, but it can also be confusing. So we just have to use it correctly, use it judiciously and in helping us to understand and inform the training process. And I think that’s, that’s an exciting, it’s an exciting time to be working as a sports scientist. But I would just, I would just say or caution people and say that, I have not been able to see any, what should I say correlation between the degree of technical complication that people use in their training monitoring process and their success. In fact, I would almost almost hypothesize the opposite. That when I talk, you know, some of the most successful people that I’ve talked about, you know, successful athletes have a remarkably relaxed relationship with all those numbers. So maybe that’s a cautionary tale for us to think about, as we move into, you know, keep moving down this pathway towards just more and more data.

 

How Pro Athletes Train by Feel

Trevor Connor  1:35:34

The way I think of it is every top pro that I talked to, is remarkably connected with their own physiology with their own bodies. They know when they’re having a good day, they know when they have a bad day, they know when something’s off, they know the intensity to ride at, they can do it by feel. And well, I think there are a lot of great advantages to these numbers, especially retrospectively looking at at your progress. The numbers have that danger of getting you disconnected from your body. You stopped listening to yourself and started listening to the numbers.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:36:09

Totally agree. And I think you’re so right. I mean, I, in fact, some of my most happy moments, as a coach with my daughter is just recognizing, experiencing her growth in that connection, you know, that she is able to describe for me things she’s feeling with her body and how she’s responding and, you know, in a very reflected way, a very informed way. And so I think with that, boy, this bodes well for your future, you know, you’re, you’re with this, you know, how carefully you’re listening to your body, this is going to be, you’re going to be an athlete that can experience progress for a long time.  Not because of me, but because of you, because you are embracing this, you know, your self knowledge of understanding how you respond to training. And, and pretty soon, I will be, I won’t be necessary. You know, and that’s kind of should in a way, that should be the goal of the coach. But it doesn’t happen unless the athlete has those characteristics that you’re describing.

 

Trevor Connor  1:37:21

I tell every athlete who hires me, my goal as a coach is to get you to the point where you don’t need me anymore, but you keep paying me because you like me.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:37:29

Yeah, I think it is funny, that sounds funny, and you’re joking a bit. But even if you talk to elite athletes, they will, they’ll kind of say the same thing is hey, I kind of, you know, I’m pretty comfortable with how I train, but I really like having the conversation with my coach. That, you know, continuing to get that confirmation that that we’re on the right track. And we agree. So that seems to be the kind of maturation process that happens. At least particularly I see it here in Norway, because it’s kind of the philosophical model is that the athlete should eventually become, you know, self sufficient, but they still choose to have support around them when they need it. So it’s, it’s, I love-I love seeing that develop, you know that where the athlete just becomes self reliant, but at the same time, appreciates the good conversations with the coach.

 

Chris Case  1:38:31

Trevor only charges $1 an hour

 

Trevor Connor  1:38:33

I get my long necks out of it so I’m happy.

 

Chris Case  1:38:38

My point exactly, so he comes cheap. And he you know, he can tell a good story. So.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:38:44

But I should say, because well enough that I’m coming to Boulder.

 

Trevor Connor  1:38:48

I’m glad you brought that up. Because yes, for our listeners, Dr. Seiler has been gracious enough to say he will come out to Boulder. This is end of April, beginning of May. And he’s going to give a presentation here. So we will have more information about that as we get the details worked out.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:39:06

Didn’t take a whole lot of arm twisting. I’m looking forward to it. I think all three of us are some weird dudes, but we all like to help people figure this stuff out. So that’s why I like hanging around you guys.

 

Trevor Connor  1:39:19

I couldn’t agree more. And it’s nice to hear you say that. And, we will. We will have some fun that week. And-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:39:25

You know what? I’m gonna bring some extra dollars. You know, just $1 bills so that you can get-

 

Trevor Connor  1:39:31

Are we going out for long necks?

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:39:32

Yeah, so that you could have a lot of fun.

 

Chris Case  1:39:36

That’s $3 we’ll do it. Well, Dr. Siler it’s been a pleasure as always, you’ve been on the show many times before so you know that we like to close out with what we’re calling fast takes. I’m just throwing that in. We can. I don’t know if we’re calling that actually.

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:39:53

Did you just make that up on the fly?

 

Chris Case  1:39:55

No, yeah, I just made that up. Well, it’s fast talk. So fast we are giving fast takes. So anyways-

 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:40:01

I get it I hear ya.

 

Chris Case  1:40:02

Yeah. So uh, so you’ve been here many times before, you know that we’d like to close out with our one minute take homes. And so take everything that we’re talking about the past, the present, the future of exercise physiology. Can you condense that into one minute and give everybody out there just one last piece of wisdom?

 

Dr. Seiler’s Take Home Message

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:40:23

Look, technology is going to come and go. Technologies are going to keep developing, but our human genetics our human physiology is moving at a snail’s pace compared to the physical, compared to the technology. So, you know, the training process is going to be the same in five and 10 years, as it has been for 50 years, or 1000 years. So don’t get so wrapped up in the technology. Training, the human body is still pretty much, you know, it’s a pretty straightforward process of getting out there doing the work and occasionally doing the work a bit hard. So I guess my take home message is that is don’t lose the forest for the trees. Don’t let these numbers confuse you to death. Good training comes from listening to your body and using your body regularly, you know, doing the work.

 

Chris Case  1:41:21

Trevor, what do you think?

 

Trevor’s Take Home Message

Trevor Connor  1:41:23

Taking all this and trying to summarize it is that this is the hardest one minute I’ve ever had to do. So I think I’m just gonna say two things. One is, you know, obviously, we have hidden this less and less that all three of us here have this very strong bias towards the polarized training approach. But you notice, when we start at the beginning of this conversation, we did talk about sweetspot, we did talk about the high intensity approach more than any of the others I would say, too much high intensity that’s just been shown to be wrong. But we never said, boy sweet spot’s a stupid idea. Even though it’s not the approach that we believe in, we even just said, Look, here’s the science to back it. So what I am going to say as well, we certainly have a bias, there are different approaches there. I’ve seen success with different approaches. But I think the one thing that commonality are universal, that I think we really got out with the rest of this show is that whatever approach you take, you need to be purposeful with it, you need to look at the big picture, you need to see how it all fits together. And while the numbers can be wonderful, and certainly as a coach really help you to see what’s going on with your athlete, they have that danger of getting you away from the purpose, they have that danger of getting you away from being connected with your own body. So always put that purpose and that connection with what’s going on with you first. And don’t, don’t be the dog going squirrel. Looking in every direction. Chris?

 

Chris’s Take Home Message

Chris Case  1:42:57

Well, I’ll just add some anecdotal points here. Rather than trying to summarize or get too too lofty. I really like to keep in mind that there are certain things about the way professional athletes train that you’d be, you’d be silly to try to mimic if you’re just an amateur athlete, but there are other things that they’ve learned because they know their bodies extremely well, that are greatly beneficial to to mimic. And that is this approach to training, taking this holistic view of their, their career breaking that down into years and months. But, but always keeping in mind the big picture, which is your body can only do so much of this really high intensity very stressful work. And, and keep keep it going. You do need to you do need to rest as hard if not harder than you do your intervals at, if that makes sense. And the proportion of which you can do them each ad is is polarized, and it’s skewed and biased towards one direction. So, you know, going being pro doesn’t necessarily mean going out and thrashing yourself with the types of hard workouts that these, these pro athletes do. But in the big picture, it means skewing your training in one direction versus the other. I think that that is the, the science is becoming ever clear on that. The other thing that I would say is, you know, the the world’s greatest athletes tend to have big egos, but at the same time, they know like we were saying in this episode, they know when to go hard and they know when to check that ego. They, you can’t always do that. So when the e bike passes you on the road and you’re tempted to try to chase them down, if it’s not the day to go hard, check your ego and say, I’m just gonna let that person go sliding by. If you’re on Zwift, and it’s your day to do a long, slow ride, and you see the group going up the road in this virtual reality, crazy thing that I’m on tour with, then just let them go up the road, don’t don’t go chasing them down every at every opportunity. So maybe I’m getting a little long winded here. But those are the two things that really stand out to me.

 

A Final Anecdote from Dr. Seiler

Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:45:34

You know, I was on Zwift one day and I’m doing this four hour ride. And it turns out that one of the guys in the group that I’m riding with is Cadel Evans, Tour de France winner now 42 retired, but obviously still fit. And what you were just saying, Chris reminded me because the guy is just so down to earth, you know, so, I would say humble, even though even now his fitness is just beyond anything that at least in that group that we could, could deal with. But he was magnanimous. You know, he had nothing he needed to prove on that ride. And I think that’s a really fascinating thought is, look, if you’re that good. You know, just why don’t you figure out a way to show how magnanimous you can be that day how you can wave to the woman that goes by on the e bike, you know, when and when say, good job, you know, I think if we can do a bit more of that and, and use and say hey, you know what I was able to be I was able to really cheer on others on my easy day. Let that and I’m saying this to myself, but let that be one of the rewards of the process.

 

Chris Case  1:47:01

That was Episode 100 of Fast Talk. As always, we’d love your feedback. Email us at fasttalk@fastlabs.com or call 719-800-2112 and leave us a voicemail. Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play or wherever you prefer. To find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. Check us out on all social media channels here @realfastlabs. For Dr. Steven Seiler and Coach Connor, I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.

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