Episode Three of The Stephen Seiler Podcast: Inside a Top European Cycling Team

Espen Aareskjold, coach of Uno-X Pro Cycling, talks with Dr. Seiler about how he develops some of the best cyclists in the world.

Stephen Seiler podcast

You’ve heard these suggestions from us, and you’ve heard them from Dr. Stephen Seiler—go slow to be fast, build stamina, don’t overdo interval work, and take a rest when you’re not at your best. But sometimes you still need to hear it from another expert—and on this week’s show we’ve got just that. In this third episode of Dr. Seiler’s podcast, he chats with Espen Aareskjold, the coach of Uno-X Pro Cycling, a top Norwegian cycling development team that has produced many riders for the World Tour. Aareskjold has spent years developing junior and U23 athletes and helping them reach the highest levels of the sport.

RELATED: Episode One of The Stephen Seiler Podcast

In this show, Aareskjold and Dr. Seiler talk about everything from identifying talent to applying psychology to coaching, as well as building resilience and the importance of endurance rides. Aareskjold talks about the value of two workouts a day and indoor training, the need for rest, and he also gives us some insights into how he uses training zones and exactly how much HIIT work his athletes do.

And you might not be surprised to hear that Aareskjold’s secret to developing these athletes isn’t complex or top secret. Instead, it’s a rather simple polarized approach. What might surprise you is just how much their training looks like what the rest of us do.

So, put on your best Norwegian thinking cap, and let’s make you fast!

RELATED: Episode Two of The Stephen Seiler Podcast

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:05

You’ve heard these suggestions from us and you’ve heard them from Dr. Stephen Seiler: go slow to be fast, build stamina, don’t over do interval work, and take a rest when you’re not at your best. But sometimes you still need to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Trevor Connor  00:16

In this third episode of the Stephen Seiler podcast, Dr. Seiler brings in Espen Aareskjold, the coach of a top Norwegian cycling development team that has produced many riders for the World Tour. Aareskjoldgold has spent years developing teenage boys and girls, and new 23 athletes and getting them to the highest level.

Jim Miller  00:32

Hi, this is Jim Miller. I’m Chief of Sport Performance at USA Cycling. It’s been a dream of mine to do more and help develop USA Cycling coaches. Our partnership with Fast Talk Labs means any current licensed USA Cycling coach and join fast talk labs for free and get the craft of coaching with Joe Friel, a whole library of sports science content and networking opportunities with other experienced coaches. The craft of coaching with Joe Friel is an awesome opportunity for coaches to become better, more successful and happier. Learn more at fast talk labs.com.

Trevor Connor  00:32

In this conversation I talk about everything from applying psychology to coaching, to how to identify talent to robustness and the importance of endurance rides, to the need for rest the value of two-a-days, and indoor training, to how to use training zones and exactly how much HIT work athletes have this level do? You may not be surprised to hear that eras gold secret to developing these athletes isn’t complex exercise prescriptions, but using a polarized approach. What may surprise you is how much their training actually looks like what the rest of us do. Some of Aareskjold’s athletes even have to figure out how to balance training, recovery, and raising children. So put on your best Norwegian thinking cap and let’s make you fast.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  01:43

Hello, well this is Stephen Seiler and I have the pleasure of kind of do my own little podcasts business. And I have in the last month met a gentleman and worked with a man named Espen Aareskjold, who is a coach and a logistics guru and a psychological therapist, and many things that you have to be when you’re working with elite athletes. And he and I have met each other we have spent time in a car we spent talking in my office hours and hours, we spent time on WhatsApp, I guess we’ve communicated via about every channel you can right now in this digital age plus the physical, wouldn’t it’s been possible. And so I just learned so much from this interaction. And I thought it would be great for us to have a chat and record it. So welcome Espen Aareskjold.

Espen Aareskjold  02:38

Thank you, Stephen, it’s nice to participate in this discussions on the record.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  02:48

Well, we’ve been off the record for a while, but now we’re on. So now you got to be careful what you say. Or actually you don’t, I’m the one that ends up needing to be careful. But you are the coach or a let’s say a coach because there’s a staff, but you also have a role as a kind of a lead Research and Development Coordinator for this team called, you know, X professional cycling team based in Norway. And for our listeners, they know cycling. And so they know you’ve got this world tour Echelon with 19 teams or so I think it’s 19. And then you have one level below, which is the pro. And you know, x is one of those since 2020. This year.

Espen Aareskjold  03:30

Yeah, well, this was the first year before we started up actually in 2017. And then our goal was to be like a team that filled the gap between the junior category and the leading continental team, which is like a Third Division team on time here in Norway. Since then, it’s grown a lot. From last year, we actually took the staffer continental team and up to the pro continental circus. So for the coming year, we will have a pro team and we also have a continental team that’s more or less our development team. And for 2022. We also starting off with a Women’s World Tour team. So then from from next year or from platitude, are we actually three teams?

Dr. Stephen Seiler  04:17

Well, before we get into this team and developmental role and really get into the specifics of the coaching process, which I think is what we want to talk about the most. I think that process is certainly colored by your background and our interactions are colored by that. And I guess some people would say that you don’t choose to become a coach coaching chooses you. And it seems that that’s in some ways has been your destiny. Because you grew up in this cycling family and so could you just walk us through how you got where you are today because you weren’t always a coach, but it seemed like maybe you were always destined to be one

Espen Aareskjold  04:59

I actually grew up with a father who was a coach in the rock club since mid 70s. I think the era was born in 75, he actually started coaching. And up until then he was like a cyclist themselves. And through alkie is and into the 90s. He was also the national team coach, worked with a continental team that was locally based here that what forced me into cycling, but it made me really natural. And then I was a cyclist, myself, and I was a cyclist, until the end of the juniors, then I got like a, like a knee injury that I could probably work back from, but I didn’t have the motivation or other aspects of life, like with other things caught me if you can say it that way. But I always been interested in the human psyche. So after the high school I’m studying in psychology, then I went to work in a mental hospital worked there for about five, six years in psychiatric ward. And then I was asked to work in an institution where children or adolescents who couldn’t live at home, or the government to care for them ended up running one of the institutions with five to six lessons and a staff of 25 people, maybe.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  06:19

So five or six children, 25 staff. Yeah, that’s a pretty must have been challenging children to work with.

Espen Aareskjold  06:28

Yeah, yeah, we had our days, but they was also very giving, because it’s kind of they live with their backs against the wall. And they struggle with a lot of things. And if you can help them, like, step by step, assess, we think in the team, it gives a lot of motivation. So on the one hand, it was, was really hard at times, but they were also really rewarding, help people to get a grip of their lives. So I even met some saw some of the adolescents like last week out to working with the child. And she come over to me and thanks, man, thanks for the time that we had together and institution. So that pace of the whole life. So yeah, tough times, but great rewards as well. And I

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:19

tend to observe people from a distance, and I’ve observed when I was with you at the national championships, and we were in this competition bubble, and you know, all the cyclists on the team were there, and you have specific responsibility for some of them, not all of them. And I would watch your conversations with them. And it’s not hard to imagine that you pull some of that therapeutic aspect, your way with the athletes, I found, it has to be influenced by some of that background.

Espen Aareskjold  07:51

Spot, Steven, some people can consider this a technique, but for me is a way of being and then that force more naturally. And then as you as we have discussed before, it’s not about you being a coach, but the coach professional chooses you. And then you can be at the coaching for longer term, because it’s a part of the way you are the way you speak and the way you think and everything. Right, so then you can run on the passion.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  08:22

Yeah. But you You alluded to the fact or the the idea that, you know, you said you worked with obviously challenging people with mental illness with different trauma in their lives. And at the same time, you’re linking some of that experience to working with elite performers, who certainly have often had very good background or their family life has been exceptional, they’ve been supported and so forth. But yet, there’s still something you can pull into that relationship. What is the connection between this mental illness experience and then the elite performer?

Espen Aareskjold  08:58

I think the main thing if I should, one is easier to take perspective, it’s easy to go off to the helicopter, and to look at today’s session that probably some other riders, they cracked on a session, for instance, and then putting in to perspective and tell them that it was a shitty experience. But in the long term, you it’s not that important. Now we need to find the balance and, and create a good starting point for for the upcoming workouts. Or just to, to take in long term, to make calls to identify the things that we need to work on and also have the patience and still the urgency to do things about it that you can move on because you need like then, thus adolescents or even in mental illnesses, we need to be your own owner of your own project. And that’s no different from an athlete. If you want to be the best that you can You need to be in control. You need to take the correct actions every day. And then you have to also cope with setbacks and so forth. And also success. You need to, you need to cope with the successes as well. And there’s a lot of mental things that you can tuck into to be better.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  10:20

Right. But I really liked that. I mean, you use two words in the same sentence. One was patience. And the other was urgency, which kind of those seem like, I don’t know, opposites. But yet, you’re saying your athletes have to have some balance between those two? That’s a challenge. Yeah. I find that really challenging.

Espen Aareskjold  10:42

Yeah. That’s a coach. There’s also, if you have several athletes, there’s always those who are patient enough, but they also the ones that are, have too much urgency. So you also always need to balance by whom you speak to. So one is to patient encounters to a surgeon, and then you have these phone calls within three hours, then you’re Yeah, how’s your have some struggles yourself? Then you need perspective?

Dr. Stephen Seiler  11:14

Well, so you’re part psychologist, in part therapist, and I think all coaches can relate to that. And another aspect of our relationship that I’ve found intriguing is that you’re not trained as a scientist or a physiologist, but you seem to be very receptive to absorbing literature, you like to read articles and their latest research, you work with some technology companies on behalf of the team. So where did all that come from?

Espen Aareskjold  11:42

Charis. charis, I like to understand I think it’s, it’s like every human wants to understand what they have around them or what they want to deal with. And if we do, I have this figure of a guy who looks at the black box. And then there’s the scientist. And then there’s the black box. And then at the other end is the adaptation, or what you have reached. And then I saw a picture where a guy opened the box and wanted to look inside what happens in the black box. And that was, for me, quite appealing. I’m probably the guy who, who wants to understand. And the only way to understand is to read articles to talk to scientists, like yourself, Steven, or the coaches, and especially the athletes, I heard several podcasts talking about, trying to understand or looking at adaptations and outcomes and everything. But one of my mantras, and what I help try to help hold my athletes accountable is to teach me stuff. Because something’s in research papers, you see results, and you see correlations and everything. But when you have top top athletes, often the number of persons is one or two or 10, then then you don’t have too many to study on, then the individual response. And thoughts are, for me, especially important, because if it works for one person, it doesn’t mean that the modality of the intensity of the workouts, it’s going to work with the other person. To this, I think,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  13:22

yeah, well, you and I are, you’re the coach, I’m the scientist. But you know, I often was frustrated in my early career, because the scientists had a tendency to look down at the coaches and say, well, the coaches just have no clue. And I think the coach has probably said similar things about the scientists. But what I find is that it’s a continuum. And when you really get into things that coaches are systematic, they use methods that look an awful lot like science, at least, at least the good ones do. And then I think I know a good number of sports scientists that have their feet firmly planted in practice, you know, so I think you and I ride that fence between practice and theory, you’re a bit more, you know, you’re firmly planted in the daily grind. I’m a bit more theoretically whimsical, you know, think but I think we’re both close enough that we get, we’re able to talk really well together. And I really appreciate that, I think, and I guess part of my career has been all about trying to connect coaches and scientists. So it’s been particularly nice to connect with you. Now, you’re working with this team that has a very clear mandate, or a vision around talent development. So I use the term exploitation. You know, in a world tour team that hires the top riders in the world, they wish to exploit their talents. I would say that and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but they need that visibility, whereas you are in A development situation where you don’t expect those athletes to be with you, if you’re successful, they’re going to move on.

Espen Aareskjold  15:07

Every rider in our team have like a word or two clause in their contract. So if they are approached, and they want to go to Welter team, they are free to go, even though they are within a contract here,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  15:21

right? That says a lot about the team and the goals, you know, but I want us to start unpacking that. Because you know, most of the people that are listening are not World Tour level, they are different levels of cycling, that they may have dreamed of going up to some continental team or some club team, but most of us will never conceive of the World Tour level. But many of us have thought about what it is to be a little bit talented, or to try to develop our talent wherever we are to move from where we are to where we wish to be. And so you work with this every day. And I guess the starting point is you try to identify talents, and I’m putting that term in quotes. So what When do they come on your radar? What do you look for, and when age wise, you know,

Espen Aareskjold  16:12

always a small country. And of course, we have our contacts and one of the coaches in the team is also coach and a top school in Norway and his colleagues, they Scout people from 14 1516 actually starting training them before they go into the high school or the top school.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  16:32

And maybe we need to back up and say what is a top school because we don’t have school sport in Norway in the traditional American sense, or maybe the Canadian or British sense. But we do have these schools where at least some of the students are athletes, and they have earned a place in the school based on athletic performance. And then they’re allowed special training considerations, time and so forth. So it’s a different system than what we see in the US in terms of school sport, but it does give these coaches you’re talking about a place to identify talents.

Espen Aareskjold  17:08

Yeah. And also, then there’s not many of them. So other aspects is then leaving from another part of the country at the age of 16. To live alone, or together with with a classmate, stay there for three years, and then how they cope with everything, not only the cycling, and the physical capabilities, but also living alone, making food, keeping the apartment clean, etc, etc. Because in our team, we have also cooperation with with the foundation called courage or more in a weekend, that organization emphasize a lot for you to speak out to, to tell them what they think, and to be to show courage. And these are also really important things for us. Now, in our organization, we would like to have to create robust persons are humans. So if you’re going to be really good cyclists, that’s great. But the most important thing is to create robust movements. And we think the other end that create having a robust human are people who dare to speak out for themselves and speak their mind, they will also be the best cyclists. So on another hand, it goes hand in hand, but we are very aware of our right is also going to live off the cyclic, we’re not going to be cyclists for a whole life, we would like to participate in creating them as a whole human, that’s also a really big thing, you know.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  18:38

So physiology is one thing and we can measure power and or FTP and that but it’s interesting that you bring up this idea my daughter was at one of these sports schools and you know, they have to grow up pretty darn fast when they’re 15 years old, 16 years old, and suddenly move away and they’ve got to make their own dinner every night and get up themselves and be at school at eight o’clock and so you’re saying that alone is kind of a proving ground for whether they are potentially going to be able to do that make this transition as a cyclist because it’s it’s a lonely I guess,

Espen Aareskjold  19:13

and also it helps I don’t say you need to move away a 16th to prove yourself but those who can cope with it and function socially as well as on the bike. I think they could reach further than those who caught it if you have read the All Blacks legacy worn on the tenants there is no decades and swipe the shed because we have to function as a team. So if you if you do your thing clean up after yourself people I say hello to new people bring everyone else into the team and when the new where we have new writers it’s especially responsibility for for the other writers to welcome them into the group. So then that’s that’s really important for us.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  19:58

It’s a big deal. team, I think your current group is what the pro group is 25 If I’m not mistaken 25 riders, mostly from Norway, but perhaps four or so from

Espen Aareskjold  20:11

Denmark, seven days and eight in the regions.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  20:14

Now seven. Okay. Yeah. And if I recall it three of these are world record holders from the Danish pursuit team. Yeah, that’s triple their high level athletes, even though they’re young. And then you have this broad range, you’ve got different kinds of riders. And one of the things the other day you sent me, a screenshot of a whiteboard that you were, you’re kind of working through some issues planning a training camp in New York, where you’re going to have all the riders down there. And one of the terms that was on the board was phenotype, which, you know, those of us who’ve had a little bit of science, we’ve heard of genotypes and phenotypes, and genotypes is just your genetic code and phenotypes is the expression of that. But basically, you’re saying, Hey, I’ve got different kinds of riders on my team. And then, you know, maybe you can unpack that, what are your basic groupings that you think about when you say phenotype,

Espen Aareskjold  21:12

the starting point of it is from where I live, we have a tradition of creating sprinters grading, guys were a good thing criterion. For instance, Christophe is one of the riders from our region. But we have also a lot of other good sprinters. And if you look at the east part of the curve of the country, Lillehammer where the Olympics were 94, they have time trials, typical climbers, always graded. And we have seen when we put all those together in a larger group and training camps, then some drivers would call with all the workouts but others will need to have a rest. And from when we were a small team, we were like 16 riders, so that it was not that easy to divide them up, large block sizes groups. And but now when we are 25, riders from the Pro Cycling Team, and also 10 additional riders from the development team, sorry, so if I write this, so then we need to divide them up.

Julie Young  22:17

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Dr. Stephen Seiler  22:41

Alright, so phenotype they bring to the table differences in fiber type. And you know, some of them are fast switchers and their sprint types. And some of them are these diesel motors. And, you know, that’s kind of the phenotype aspect of it. And then you throw in another term robustness, they have different degrees of robustness. unpack that for us. What do you what are you talking about? And is it trainable,

Espen Aareskjold  23:05

we think is trainable. It’s funny expression that you use in your software durability. For instance, if it takes an example, if you do a four hour ride 200 Watts, then for a guy who have been training a lot of years and have a long background with trading, and is used to the recovery, or peddling, then maybe we can see there’s no drift in his heart rate, to other words of resistance. But other other guys who was doing a lot of work are obviously, like we are to threshold work, but they haven’t done those long endurance miles, they will probably have a trip in heart rate after two, maybe three hours, and then there will be extra stress on the system. And then they will not be as robust as the other ones. We have. We have this right in our team with it. Remember the numbers? Stephen with 50/12 hours, 50 hours?

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:06

It was unbelievable.

Espen Aareskjold  24:09

He’s robust.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:10

He’s a diesel motor. Yeah. But he does. There are other tools he doesn’t have. And that’s the whole beauty of cycling is he’s not going to be the guy that’s going to win the sprint finish the 13 hour diesel guy, but you’ve got some guys on the team, including now people on the team that have been up at the World Tour and have actually come back as far to your team. And it seems that at least in maybe one or two of the cases it has to do with this robustness issue.

Espen Aareskjold  24:39

That’s all thinking it that’s it’s so easy for them when they do it was to dig in to the anaerobic power, almost are not knowing and in addition, they are sprinters. So they have also this mentality to dig deep, but when they dig deep our perception is that they to train other systems, so they’re not probably not be as robust, because the higher the higher the intensity is, the more fatigued or the more recovery you need, and then you can’t train enough regularly, because they have these ups and downs and, and from the training, but it’s, for me, it’s, it looks quite obvious, I don’t know if it’s because I’m looking for it. And I made up my mind, or if it’s if it’s really like this, but this year, we have been doing some adjustments in the base period. And up until now looks really good. Actually, like we discussed even earlier, it’s like, one of the main things in the base period is that we use three workouts per week, with intensity around threshold. Now we have moved to micro cycles up to nine days, and do the same three days, intensity sessions that we get an extra day for to put through all the intensity sessions,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  26:04

some air in the program, I guess, yeah. And

Espen Aareskjold  26:07

then you then you end up with continuity. And another big thing, also, which probably has nothing much to do with this, but we also try to be meticulous with the training sessions. So if we look at the training, so that goes from a to b, we try to stay in the middle. And if you have a good day that they will try to increase the amount or the time and so instead of the intensity in the summer, that we push, you get a bigger Foundation, not to train with a higher intensity.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  26:39

Yeah, I love that it was, you know, I think in terms of this staircase idea of either intensify or extend, you know, you’re either you can either add minutes to intervals to rides, or you can occasionally bump up the intensity. But often we kind of tend to go to the intensification choice too quickly. And it seems like it particularly in the cycling at the level of your athletes or cycling, where the races are so long, that they really have to have the robustness, they can’t hide, if they don’t have it, I mean, they will be revealed.

Espen Aareskjold  27:18

My perception is also there’s a lot of master cyclists that have the intensity in the first hour, the second hour, and when it cracks off for the fourth or the fifth hour, then they are home or go home. That’s that’s the big difference between the master cyclists and the elite, they can repeat it further out in the same session or race or whatever.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  27:42

In that tell me the listener has probably said, Okay, well, how do I train that? Obviously, one aspect is just to do the longer rides to get the hours in the saddle. But would you also recommend to Masters athletes that they, for example, do some high intensity work after three hours in the saddle? In other words, you know, try to do this hybrid workout where he they first drain the tank a bit and then do the intervals? Is that a good strategy?

Espen Aareskjold  28:11

Yeah, we use it. But then you also have to take into consideration when you do the intervals, you’re more fatigued. So you should adjust the intensity accordingly. And also take into consideration that you need to recover because Hamas, the cyclists, life is also happening with kids and jobs and everything. Another way we do it this type of trick is that we may sometimes put the high intensity workout at the start of a longer session, to glycogen, deplete and deplete your carbohydrates and then go really slow to trade on the fat instead. And then to get more trained on getting your fuel or your energy from different resources, then you’re ready to go. Medical really easy. It’s so easy to go over again and and do rely on the carbohydrates.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  29:12

All right, well, you use the term easy here and everything’s relative. You’ve got riders that have I mean, the better riders the best or have an FTP of 400 Watts.

Espen Aareskjold  29:22


Dr. Stephen Seiler  29:25

Yeah, well, I mean, you showed me data from one of your athletes that did five times 15 minutes at first 360 Then 380 Then 400 400 400. So three times 15 minutes at 400 Watts, blood lactate two point, something 234 Which, you know, most of us can’t relate to. So for that athlete, what’s easy, what’s an easy three hour power or four hour power for that?

Espen Aareskjold  29:53

Yeah. 190 To 200 Watts, that’s

Dr. Stephen Seiler  29:58

50% for reais 50% of his 60 minutes, or at least 4050 minute power.

Espen Aareskjold  30:07

And this is also depending on depletion of the carbohydrate source before and then most likely to probably about somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes at CP five and different modalities.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  30:25

Yeah. So five minute power. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s in that’s a robustness and a high intensity repeatability that most athletes cannot relate to. But it’s a long term process these, these riders that you’re working with have already been training rigorously for? What are we talking now most of them are between the protein are between 21 and 24. Mostly 25. Somewhere in there. Yeah,

Espen Aareskjold  30:51

I think they all just want us to put the seven next year 26 Next year.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  30:56

So they’ve all got 10 years under their belt. And it’s important,

Espen Aareskjold  31:02

do do also do in different sports in less than two years, like skiing, running, football, handball, whatever was popular or where they live.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  31:10

And so I guess, because that’s where that urgency versus patience comes in. Because, you know, it’s easy to think, oh, man, my threshold is 320. I need it to be free ad. Well, that’s a pretty damn big jump. And it’s not going to happen in one season. And I guess, you know, how do you What’s the timeframe, and maybe even masters can learn from that the patient’s aspect of it,

Espen Aareskjold  31:34

I think a good rule of thumb is that the lower the wattage, the power, the longer it takes to develop. So it’s easy to develop sprint power, or around threshold or 30 seconds. So that comes fast and goes faster way. But the foundation work that career a quite some time. But I also think that one of the main things that we are talking about that when we expose the riders for workouts, they have to be in in balance. So if you imagine that you have a battery and 100%, and you go to do a session, then it’s probably easier for the whole session, it’s still hard. But then if you start the morning with low sleep, and kids have been crying all night, which I actually have riders on the team that have skates, and sometimes the sleep quality is not good enough. So then we have need to have made this person to water camis because there’s no plan that’s so important that if you feel feel bad today that you should just do to do it. If your battery is at 80%, then there was all there will also be a relative effect. So it’s all about adjusting to where you are at any given time and, and progress, you will you will see more over weeks and months than from a day to day basis.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  33:03

Oh, man, there’s there’s no athlete that doesn’t relate to this to the things you’re talking about now, which is that life happens. And there’s day to days stressors. So when that athlete is scheduled to do a workout, a hard session, but everything tells you that they’re not ready for it, or they’re they’re compromised at some level, whether it’s their 80% of 100. You know, so what is your typical rule of thumb? Is it better for them to do a reduced version of that hard workout? Or do you say no, we just go easy today? Or do you give them rest day? I mean, on that continuum? How do you solve that adjustment? Issue?

Espen Aareskjold  33:48

I’m going to start by saying what you research guys says so your scientist, it depends is

Dr. Stephen Seiler  33:54

the thing?

Espen Aareskjold  33:58

Yeah. But it really does. I think you have to look at the courses, you have to look at the total volume that you had coming up to the session, you have to figure out is there any illnesses of coming in, then you have to look at the days to come. But most of the time, I’m just saying, take a day off, enjoy it, you’re not gonna you’re not going to get many of those and to like, reduce the, like the mental stress of not having done a workout. And then a few as you taught me if you’re going to have a 5% increase during a half a year or a year, how much better do you need to be in each workout? That’s not much. I think it’s we don’t need to have a lot of those workouts, but if they happen Yeah, seldom that then it’s okay. It’s not we have to look at the training program, the practice of activity, so the daily life, sleep, nutrition, or the animal orals with their spouses and they problems with children etc, etc. Because you have the training stress, and then you also have the cognitive stress. And it’s the sum of those who creates the total stress. And if you are have a lot of bad things on your mouth, mind, something that you worry about, then you will go throughout the day in the night and everything to reduce yourself. So your batteries maybe at 60%, then it’s maybe maybe it’s best thing is to go to and do something you like and forget to go to training, be with your friends, go see a movie, go to a pub or whatever.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  35:39

But it’s remarkable even though a lot of our athletes that we work with will trained 500 times in a year 600 Some of them in some sports, they will be so afraid of taking a day off? How do you manage that fear? The fear of you know that I’m missing? Something that someone else that I’m competing against is getting? Because they’re not taking this day off?

Espen Aareskjold  36:04

That’s a good question. I think I think some of the times, I’ll just say maybe it’s my fault, because I put a little training program that’s too ambitious. And then other times, the cause is quite clear, is back to to just putting things into perspective, if we have workout or training session that that’s going to be planned to increase your via to max, then we know you need to be have a status be being like, also in a state of mind could take dig deep enough, because those sessions are really hard. Another thing that we use a lot is we spoke scale. So for instance, if I can take a video to max session, then I say with the first first interval, then you should probably reach 15 on boxcar,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:54

which is hard. If I’m reminding people that the verbal, Edward it’ll be hard.

Espen Aareskjold  37:00

Yeah. And then And then by the end of the session, after you finish the last one, it should be really hard, or 18. If you do if you do subtraction work that we started 12, which is kind of somewhat easy, then we ended up at 15, which is up and then we look at alternate, and then we’ll do power. And so I was also saying before, it’s it’s all about creating training plans are workouts that they just do as robots, they need to participate, they need to learn me if my plants are good enough. So then there’s this discussion and this back and forth is really important for me as a coach, then you also could pick up the end value individual preferences. For instance, one rider might like to go a lot workouts on via to max training others like 3050 ins and the others, they go five by five minutes. And for me, I know that some workers work better than others, but not if the athlete hasn’t bought into it, because they need the ownership. So they trade somewhere between 812 100 hours a year. And then if they don’t participate and own their own projects, about being the best they could be then doing for me or for the team, they need to do it for themselves and then bring it into the team. That’s the reverse.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  38:28

So just giving, you know, I’ve listened to some others, I found it myself as giving an athletes some flexibility in the prescription saying well, I need you to accumulate this many minutes at a, you know, 90%. But you can do it as four times eight minutes, or you can do it as six, you know, eight times four minutes. Do you do that? Do you kind of let them maneuver and within a window?

Espen Aareskjold  38:55

Yeah, I can do like, Okay, we’re going to do four or five hours EC endurance. But within the four hours, I like to have, let’s say 90 minutes of sweetspot work. And then I will like if you can do half of the time climbing and a half of the time slot if you can’t keep it within the third and fourth hour or second and third hour, because then they also can choose their route. A side effect of that is they also need to plan to like get their minds into where they go to do things and but then they also weren’t prepared. And this is also like I think that’s really good when they’re actually on the road competing to get your mind to think about different things but also to set a rider in a position instead of going up and down the same hill all the time. Then you also get cognitive stronger,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  39:53

they’re more cognitively flexible, I guess and that that’s a very different you know, racing and cycling There are more degrees of freedom than there are in a 10,000 meter on the track, or a rower. 2000 meters. So it’s an interesting, you know, the degree of rigidity, the degree of, shall we say the structure of interval sessions or things like that, for rowing for running seemed to be much more square wave type affairs than what you’re describing in cycling.

Espen Aareskjold  40:26

I think it also has a lot to do with the motivation, because then you participate and stuff. But then but I also have really structured workouts now on the trainer. So it’s not either or it’s the mix.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  40:40

Well, let’s, let’s talk about that. Because I was thinking of asking you, you know, the cross country skiing, running rowing, we would see, as the athlete progresses towards elite status, a lot of doubles, they start moving towards they do more twice a day session or two sessions a day, to endurance sessions, but or strengthen an endurance session, but the cycling traditionally has done the one longer session, what is happening, and what are your reflections on that are your team or your athletes starting to do more doubles are more, you know, shorter to two times two hours versus one times four kinds of workouts? For me

Espen Aareskjold  41:19

as a coach, the idea appeals to me, but when I talk to the riders, it’s not that appealing to them. And I think a lot of it has to do with like, where we live, we live in Norway, when you have to go out on a bike, you need three layers of clothes, and you need to wash your bike. So there’s a lot of add ons. It’s not like the you wearing cycling short cycling shirt, and then you’re off to the Off you go. There’s lots of extra things. So I have not actually gained some resistance. When I talked about ID to my riders. Yeah. And then back to them owning the project. I haven’t haven’t pushed it through yet. I have private self worth. Yeah, we haven’t reached a conclusion yet. But we do use rights and strength workout later the evening. So we have some double sessions where we haven’t done double sessions on the bike. But I think it’s intriguing. Yeah,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  42:20

well, and this year that because of the conditions because of some of the constraints, there is at least a lot of riders who have had to shift indoors and do more training indoors. Have you seen that to be positive, negative neutral,

Espen Aareskjold  42:35

I think we have done a false it’s kind of a tradition with having snow outside us. So we have done a lot of work in sight. From my perspective, I think to have it in such a controlled manner. It’s it’s a really positive. There’s also a mental side of it, that the you have to cope with sitting indoors. And for some riders, they they like to train it was outside in a blizzard before they go inside. So that’s as far off the dam if we can get the quality right.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:08

But I should say that, you know, the UCI had the first e cycling championships. What was it last week? The ninth so not too long ago. And I believe I’m correct in saying that there was a you know, X rider in the top 10. And he was one of what was it? Two World Tour riders that were in the top 10. Is that right?

Espen Aareskjold  43:30

That’s correct. You will not see must be read by his name is the current European champion.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  43:36

Yeah, so you’ve got at least some riders that have managed, they seem to do pretty well on Zwift, whether it’s 13 hours at 230 Watts, or these the New World Championship, so you’ve got everything from the people who say I will not go on Zwift before it’s a blizzard, to those who are actually competing at the highest levels on the indoor modality. So that’s pretty fun. This technical side of you. You’re familiar with all the latest technologies you’re interested, we’re I know the team is working with some different technology companies related to EMG to muscle oxygen to sleep, quantification, different tools. So I guess I want to ask you, I think you kind of told me already, but what are your go to tools right now in the daily work of monitoring your athletes? What are the top three the three numbers or measurements or types of feedback that you really look to the most? Right now?

Espen Aareskjold  44:43

The subjective feeling is, number one, how they actually feel as we talked about, are they imbalance. We also use the Insight testing apparatus where we can say something about training Soames and we use I especially use the V w kayo. In training peaks to get guests debates. I don’t follow it strictly, it’s like a range outset together with the insight.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  45:14

What do you get from the WK? Oh, the power duration curve?

Espen Aareskjold  45:17

Yeah, then you can get up approximately how hard for how long. And then you can look at different systems of what you’re going to inflict or improve. And then as I said before, we’d like to extend the time and so on, rather than to increase it. As, like I said, from how they feel. And then a big part of that is just to be in dialogue with that’s the probably the most important monitoring form that we have. Because the athletes actually know, it’s not always that they like to admit what they know. Because it was it was okay. It was not that. Yeah, but if you look at the numbers, maybe you’re starting to get fatigued. Yeah, but this that on the other side, it’s kind of I think, the dialogue and how they actually feel from what we can move, we can like have an English weather we can expect. So when we do these sessions, so we do these kinds of weeks, or nine days or whatever, we will have an expected outcome. And if slight deviation from it, then we need to look into things that can make it better or, or do should we take up some load is that there’s really like you’re from the presentation at summit with the load, stress and strain. Because too many people look at the load. Some people look at the stress, but too few look at the strain over time. If you’ve got to have an adaptation, you need to wait a bit to get it.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  46:55

Right. I actually had to re did that whole lecture so that I could put it on YouTube, because because it ended up behind a paywall. So for me, it’s been very clarifying, once I got it in my head, this idea of of load, stress strain and trying to differentiate those because we do tend to they do tend to kind of run together in the way that we talk about them. So that’s helped me at least as a, both as a old fogy athlete, but also as a scientist. Now, the big goal is to help these athletes make the move make the move to a world tour team. When do you see I know, it doesn’t matter what you think it’s the World Tour team that decides but what do you see? That says, Okay, this athlete is ready to make the jump? Is it all results?

Espen Aareskjold  47:47

For I think traditionally, it’s all the results. But we are now moving away from from looking at the results. But my take is they are ready when they have the contract. And I can only do the things that I can help them with. So what happens down the line? When I’m not there? Or when the team is not? There is Yeah, I would like to concentrate on things they can do. But if I’m going to make an answer to your question is like, I think when they have enough confidence to make their own calls, and to be the best they can do every day and have high enough threshold, or repeatability or durability or whatever expression we would like to then they already because you had development guys, at least in a wheelchair Interesting. Yeah, actually quite.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  48:44

I mean, some of the numbers that these 18 and 19 year olds are producing are world class. Anyway, you cut it, you know when vo two Max is are so, so high is what I’m seeing. So it is a mixed bag, you see certain numbers that are just phenomenal. But yet you have you also see an athlete that is, you know, inherently they’re not ready to be a world tour rider. There’s a mental aspect. You’ve used the term robustness, but also a psychological robustness. And that’s, that’s interesting. It’s not all the numbers. And the other thing I would ask you is, you know, because most of our listeners are not going to be making that transition to World Tour, but we all are making transitions we often are trying to make it up from the club team to the junior national team are from the Masters, you know, the elite to the higher level masters teams on Zwift. I made the transition from Category B to Category A and now I’m getting my butt kicked, you know, so all of us have our transitions that we try to make and often all of us experience that transition is somewhat of a shock. You know, you’ve worked with juniors you’ve worked with national team. How do you manage and help them with these transitions? The level jump you know, you’ve been upgraded I

Espen Aareskjold  50:00

actually had this discussion with a coach and in the club team that I was involved in before, then we’re age groupers. But they were going to go from 20 to 30k time trials, and we had the, like, local competition that the club held. And then they put up with the cap that K timeframes. And then I asked, Why don’t you have a 30k? Now, but they haven’t done it before. Okay, well, what do you have to lose that? Oh, nothing. So so even though even though they haven’t done it before, it will be a personal best anyway. So that’s to bring the thinking into the team, it’s about expectations. So if you haven’t done anything before, you will still be get the best result that you have, because you have never been there before. So I think that the main thing is mentally and for us as a team, we should try to organize them to always or most of the time stretch themselves, but not always stretch. But sometimes when you go from from juniors or into a continental team, then it’s a big stretch. But then it’s more of the the, the mental side that you just have to get through

Dr. Stephen Seiler  51:12

it, actually, yeah, and they go from not understanding what it’s like to lose very often to having to deal with loss, you’re losing pretty much every day. That’s a tough transition.

Espen Aareskjold  51:25

And also have the transition of being result orientated to process oriented, it’s really boring. But if you’re going to do to be the best you can, you have to put in the effort every day. And then and then you get what you would have worked for. It’s not that you can get the top result without working. But it’s the sum of all the work that you’re done before the competition that are most likely to get you the best results possible. So to think too much about results, it would actually move you more away from the results. But I

Dr. Stephen Seiler  52:00

think that’s a lesson that all of us can take home whether it’s even even 55 year olds that are getting beaten on Zwift so I will try to keep that in mind. I know you are busy and I know you are going to be just after the holidays traveling so I really appreciate the time to chat and you and I are going to be working together I hope for a long time to come but I appreciate you coming on to this fast talk environment and best of luck and have a great holiday

Espen Aareskjold  52:30

Thank you for having me!

Trevor Connor  52:34

Listeners, this is a great time of year to expand your training knowledge. Join Fast Talk Laboratories now for the best knowledge base of training signs on topics like: polarized training, intervals, data analysis, sports nutrition, physiology, and more. Join Fast Talk Labs today and push your thinking and your training to all new heights. See more at fasttalklabs.com/join.

Trevor Connor  53:00

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we’d love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at fasttalklabs.com/join. Become a part of our education and coaching community. For Espen Aareskjold and Dr. Stephen Seiler. Thanks for listening!