After learning about Stephen Seiler’s own experience of grilling his future son-in-law over a spicy dinner, hosts Trevor Connor and Rob Pickels, along with Fast Talk veteran Grant Holicky, decided to go all-in with an endurance-themed twist on the YouTube sensation, Hot Ones.
The premise is simple: each participant answers questions about their life or career in endurance sports while eating progressively spicier chicken wings. Of course, the one asking the question has to partake in hot wings as well, making for a chaotic interview process on both sides.
Learn more about our hosts below, and check out our full library of Fast Talk episodes wherever you get your podcasts.
Rob Pickels 0:00
Dr. Stephen Seiler 0:02
I am having some physiological reactions in my head.
Rob Pickels 0:07
Keep going. Don’t stop.
Grant Holicky 0:20
Trevor Connor 0:20
Hi, I’m Trevor Connor with Fast Talk Laboratories, and today we are doing our take on a popular YouTube show by getting spicy with some of our favorite contributors. So here to test their palates we have Grant Holicky of Forever Endurance and, of course, exercise physiologist, Dr. Stephen Seiler.
Both of you have been part of the Fast Talk family for a long time and we couldn’t do this without all the great content that you’ve contributed to us over the years, so really appreciate that. But today, we’re going to pay you back.
Grant Holicky 0:57
I was going to say…
Trevor Connor 0:58
By asking you and allowing you to ask some personal questions to help our audience get to know all of us a little bit better. And of course, we’re going to be doing this while eating some obnoxiously hot wings.
So Dr. Seiler, you’re from Texas. You ready for this?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:21
Oh, I’m ready for this. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for a podcast than this one. I have tapered down even. I am ready.
Living with Health Complications
Rob Pickels 1:36
Let’s eat. Mm. This is good.
Grant Holicky 1:37
Rob Pickels 1:43
You’re gonna like it.
Grant Holicky 1:44
I’m gonna like it? All right.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:45
That is tasty.
Rob Pickels 1:46
It’s finger lickin’ good.
Grant Holicky 1:48
Finger lickin’ good!
Rob Pickels 1:49
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:50
Okay, Rob, since I’ve met you, you know, you’ve divulged to me, and I think I’ve said to you guys, you know, I have some health issues, and you have some significant chronic health issues, Rob. And I guess they can have two impacts. They can maybe make us better as, you know, public servants of informing about the coaching process, the holistic nature of, you know, keeping health and performance in balance, or it can be a big detraction that takes time away because it is energy zapping.
And I guess I would ask you where is that for you? Because I know you have issues you have to deal with every day.
Rob Pickels 2:32
Yeah, I do. I took a second hit, it tasted so good. I wanted more of this in me before I answered.
I think it makes me better. I think that it has to, right? Whenever you’re dealing with things that affect your daily life in manners that you don’t necessarily understand or can’t predict, you have to utilize that to become a stronger person; more empathy, more understanding. And it’s given me insight because my own life can be so unpredictable. It’s given me insight that other people’s lives can be exactly like that as well. At the same time though, it teaches lessons, right? Like grit and resilience. If I gave up every time something went wrong, or my lab values weren’t quite perfect, or whatever else, then I’d be sitting on the couch all the time, right? And so you learn to take everything with a grain of salt.
But no, there’s nothing in my life that I’d want to change. And I feel more fortunate and better off—It’s getting spicy now. For having—it just started. I’m going to finish this one. I feel better off for having complications in my life, right? And I think that’s also why I’ve been really open and vocal about talking about this on the air because everyone in the world is dealing with something. It’s all relative to that person. It might seem minor to somebody else, it might seem minor to you, but it’s that person’s entire world, right? And having that empathy, I think, is super important.
So no, I love the question. I’m glad that you brought it up. Yeah, thank you. I think it’s awesome.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 4:17
And I would also add that I am having, like, extra saliva right now.
Rob Pickels 4:21
It’s not that spicy, but I did have to, yeah.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 4:27
If I spit on the screen, it’s not my fault.
Grant Holicky 4:29
It’s the hot sauce.
Rob Pickels 4:31
Spitting is fine, but drooling is probably a no-no.
Grant Holicky 4:34
Drooling might happen too.
Grant Holicky 4:37
All right, Trevor.
Trevor Connor 4:39
Grant Holicky 4:40
Cheers. Wing toast. All right, so Trevor, my question to you—and I’m really interested—I love asking this question to coaches because I like to hear coaches boil their philosophy down into something small and short, but what is your general coaching philosophy?
Trevor Connor 5:05
So off the cuff, I would say where I have ended up—and it has been a journey, if you had asked me that question 15 years ago would have given you a different answer—is I don’t think our physiology, when you’re dealing with athletes, I don’t think the physiology is that different. Yeah, you got some people who are more sprinters, some people are more endurance. At the end of the day, the fundamentals of how to train are basically the same for everybody.
So to me, it’s having the the good physiological base of how to produce adaptations. And then it’s about getting to know the athlete and what ticks for them. How to get them motivated, how to get them excited, how to get them to do that extra bit of work to look forward to the races, all that. So it’s the foundation of the physiology side and understanding that, and then learning how to make it work for the athlete.
Grant Holicky 6:00
Nice. I like that. I wish I would have paused for about a minute before we forced him to answer that question.
Rob Pickels 6:08
It takes a long time.
Grant Holicky 6:09
Because this one, this one’s got a delay.
Trevor Connor 6:12
It hasn’t hit me yet.
Grant Holicky 6:13
It hasn’t quite hit him yet and I’m with Seiler on the saliva production.
Rob Pickels 6:18
Yeah it does, it happens. [laughs]
Grant Holicky 6:23
Trying to clear the mechanism here?
Rob Pickels 6:26
This is a sneaky one, like you’re eating a basket of wings. And the first six, you’re like, “No big deal,” and you hit the 10th one and you’re…
Grant Holicky 6:33
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Awesome.
The Scientific Research Model
Rob Pickels 6:37
Dr. Stephen Seiler 6:37
Oh, now we’re talking.
Rob Pickels 6:39
You’re getting a little something? All right. I should ask my question quick, then.
Grant Holicky 6:43
Rob Pickels 6:44
So Dr. Seiler, you’re the only one in this room with a doctor in front of your name, the only one here with a PhD. The only one here that’s really doing research, right? We’re consuming research. The current model for research right now, right, is that you go out and you’re looking for funding. Maybe that comes from a grant. You’re conducting the research, but then you’re trying to get it published.
But that—see, it’s a little spicy, it’s harder to think. I know my question, I’m having a hard time getting it out.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 7:18
Because there is something going on in my mouth now. Yeah. I’m finally saying, “Now I remember why we do this.” This is good.
Rob Pickels 7:25
So when you’re trying to get your research published, you’re ultimately paying the publishing house to review it and get it published out there. And then we as consumers, we’re paying to read it, whether individuals or the institution that were—this is going to be hard as it goes on—or the institutions themselves are paying. Is this model of kind of everyone paying into the publisher, is this a healthy, sustainable way for research to continue into the future?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 7:55
Oh no, absolutely not. It’s the dumbest thing. It’s ridiculous. I was in leadership at a university for eight years and I sat in the executive board for the university, and we had external people from the oil industry, from technology, and so forth. And I had to explain to them the model you just described, where we pay to do the research, we do the reviews for free, and then we pay to read our own research. And they looked at me like, “How did they pull that off?
Rob Pickels 8:34
Best business ever.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 8:35
“Man, that’s the best deal I ever heard. If we could pull that off in the offshore industry, we’d be mega giants.” Anyway. So yeah, no other business can understand how the ecosystem can allow itself to be misused in this way, and how public sector funding is misused in this way. So I could go on and on. But no, that model is not sustainable. But that’s my view, you know? It doesn’t—I have to officially say it’s not my university, that it’s me.
How Different Places Influence Coaching Style
Trevor Connor 9:17
Okay, let’s eat. So Grant, all of us here have lived a lot of different places. And every one of them’s got their own culture. How has the different places you’ve lived influenced your coaching style and how you approach your athletes?
Grant Holicky 9:37
That’s interesting. I think it’s interesting being in Colorado now and being an East Coast guy. Growing up in upstate New York, I was pretty—blue collar place. It was like, just sport was just something you did because it was fun. You weren’t trying to get out. You weren’t trying to do something special. You weren’t really trying to achieve. You just, you wanted to do something, right?
And then I moved to D.C. and when I was coaching in D.C. that shift was evident. People in D.C. were, you know, this was to get somewhere. Right? And that’s when I was getting into coaching too, for real. And you started having these conversations that we’re like, “How does my kid swim in college? How does my kid do this?” And I had no clue, all right. Growing up in upstate New York, I, like, qualified for nationals, I think, as a kid. Had no idea. Just didn’t go. And I remember the first time I made a big meet my mom’s like, “It’s where?” “It’s in Richmond.” “Yeah, we can’t go to Richmond. It’s okay, good job, son!”
And then you come out to Colorado and Colorado—especially the Boulder area, right, the Front Range? It’s this pressure cooker to try to get to this next level. I mean, I walked in, I walked into RallySport where I first started personal training and coaching swimming and somebody came up to me and said, “I heard you were a swimmer, you should be a triathlete.” And two weeks later, I’m racing, triathlon. And everybody’s now, “When are you going to turn pro? When are you going to turn pro?” So I think, you know, that for me, that progression from “This is fun, this is just the distraction, this is just what we do to get a little energy out,” to “This is to get somewhere,” that’s the biggest shifts that I’ve seen in the different places I’ve been.
That wing is good. And—
Rob Pickels 11:26
Trevor’s brain locked up as you were talking. Just so you know.
Trevor Connor 11:30
Well, so I gotta say, I first ate that wing and I was like, “What are you guys talking about? This isn’t hot at all.” And then it was like a minute later, I’m like [makes noises].
Grant Holicky 11:36
I will say—
Trevor Connor 11:38
I kind of locked up.
Rob Pickels 11:39
This one stays in your mouth, though. It doesn’t, like, go to your throat.
Grant Holicky 11:42
I will say, whoever said there’s something going on in my mouth. Was that you, Seiler?
Rob Pickels 11:46
It was me.
Grant Holicky 11:47
That’s the perfect quote! I just want to use that the rest of the day. “I don’t know guys, there’s just something going on in my mouth.”
Trevor Connor 11:54
Let me just say, if we do a part two of this video, we’re doing nine brands of maple syrup.
Grant Holicky 11:59
Rob Pickels 12:00
The Value of Coaching
Grant Holicky 12:07
Rob Pickels 12:08
Grant Holicky 12:09
I like that you got your collar popped.
Rob Pickels 12:11
How are you? How are you doing over there, Grant?
Grant Holicky 12:12
I’m doing great.
Rob Pickels 12:13
Do you know why I have my collar popped?
Grant Holicky 12:14
Rob Pickels 12:15
It keeps this towel of a shirt…closer—
Grant Holicky 12:19
You can wipe your mouth.
Rob Pickels 12:20
…closer to my skin. And I’m gonna need it. So I’m gonna ask this quickly. Oh, God. A lot of professions have very obvious value—holy God. A lot of professions have very obvious values. Doctors put people back together.
Grant Holicky 12:40
Rob Pickels 12:41
Plumbers, fix the leak. When you don’t have the knowledge. You need a hairdresser to cut the hair in the back of your head that you can’t see.
Grant Holicky 12:49
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Rob Pickels 12:50
If you are talking to a new graduate in high school looking for their pathway in life, what…what value does coaching and sport science bring to the world?
Grant Holicky 13:03
You know, I went through this. Yeah, this is hot.
I went through this when I switched from coaching age-group swimmers to professional cyclists I was like, “Well, it’s obvious when you coach an age-group swimmer that you can help them with their path in life and some of those other things. But then when you’re dealing with a professional athlete or a masters athlete, you get into this mindset, you’re almost like, “Well, this is indulgent.” Right? Like, am I really helping the world or helping these people? But I think if you’re coaching holistically, and you’re really approaching it from a big picture, you are helping—it gets worse. It just gets worse. I cannot wait. But—
Rob Pickels 13:52
Keep going. Don’t stop.
Grant Holicky 13:52
You get, you get to this place where you’re helping them with all aspects of their life. If they can manage their stress when it comes from a racing point of view, they can manage their stress at work, they can manage their stress in a relationship. My tongue’s not working. [Laughs] You can really get these special things. And so it may not be as obvious but it certainly is important, the effect that you can have on somebody’s life. I’ll leave it there.
Rob Pickels 14:23
Let’s leave it there.
Grant Holicky 14:24
Wow. That’s good stuff.
Rob Pickels 14:26
I just swallowed…
Grant Holicky 14:28
Rob Pickels 14:29
Trevor Connor 14:33
Okay, we’re going up the scale here.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 14:34
Just so we’re clear.
Grant Holicky 14:35
Trevor Connor 14:37
Turning Left Instead of Right
Trevor Connor 14:42
Okay, salud. Oh, wow, that’s nasty.
Rob Pickels 14:50
Trevor Connor 14:51
So Dr. Seiler, was there a time in your life where it didn’t seem like a big event of the time, you just turned left instead of turning right, but it ended up having a huge impact on your life and made you who you are now? And I will tell you that moment for me was eating that wing.
Rob Pickels 15:14
You gotta finish that bite. Just so you know.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 15:18
We are definitely past the second threshold now.
Rob Pickels 15:23
It’s still burning!
Dr. Stephen Seiler 15:25
Oh, yeah, it will continue to.
Grant Holicky 15:26
It’s gonna burn for a while, buddy.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 15:29
Yeah, well, it was moving to Norway, no doubt about it. Well, maybe I could say that it was actually before that. It was, I was 20 years old. I’d never been outside of the United States. It was still the Cold War, but this little break in the ice called “glasnost” happened and I did a study tour in the Soviet Union for two weeks, studying strength training. But I think in some ways that changed my life because it opened my eyes to the world.
And it made so many other things possible so that when the opportunity to move to Norway happened, and I had to just make a decision and move here unseen, you know, no job, I said, “Well, how hard can it be? I’ve been in the Soviet Union,” you know? And so I kind of, it broke the ice for me, it made me feel like I had gotten out of the country, you know, the Arkansas, and I could be—I could survive, I could thrive. And I guess so that I would say, that was a breakthrough moment. I didn’t know it would be but it was.
Rob Pickels 16:38
I’m sweating in my ears.
Trevor Connor 16:39
Rob Pickels 16:40
And I took a drink—
Dr. Stephen Seiler 16:42
It hits you in different ways.
Rob Pickels 16:43
I took a drink of my oat milk that had so much sweat in it, it tasted salty.
Grant Holicky 16:48
Oh my God, slide that over here.
The Next Big Game Changer
Trevor Connor 16:55
So before we ask the next question, we got to give some credit to Dr. Seiler here. With you being in Norway, we couldn’t match up all the sauces here. So now we’re diverging. We’re eating a different sauce from you. But you went a heck of a lot hotter than we’re going. So kudos to you for giving yourself that handicap.
Grant Holicky 17:19
Rob Pickels 17:20
Dr. Stephen Seiler 17:22
Grant Holicky 17:24
All right. So we’re just kind of talking about technology and how it’s adapted sport. So my biggest, my question to you, Dr. Seiler, is, looking down the road, what do you see as the next big influencer in sports science? What’s the next turn? What’s the thing that’s going to really change the game as the way maybe power meters did in the last 20 years?
Rob Pickels 17:53
Either that was a good question, or this is a strong sauce because his eyes were…
Grant Holicky 17:57
Rob Pickels 17:58
I don’t think it was the question.
Grant Holicky 17:59
I think it was.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 18:00
[Laughs] It’s a good question. And I’m having some physiological reactions in my head. Anyway… Oh man, it hits you in different ways.
The question was, what’s the next big game changer? You know, it’s hard not to…breathe. I just had to tell myself to breathe.
Trevor Connor 18:34
What’s your heart rate?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 18:34
It’s…but no it’s hard not to think that we have to say that probably some machine learning or AI kinds of issues of, you know, trying to get at optimization at the individual level is going to be interesting. It’s going to be an area where maybe if we can do enough data aggregation—I’ll let you in on a little thing. I won’t say which teams but I’ve been talking to a couple of biggest World Tour teams along with the team I work with in Norway to talk about and say, “Look, can major competitors cooperate around some data sharing to understand the development process?”
Is…got some saliva building up here.
Trevor Connor 19:31
Glad to see it’s finally affecting.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 19:32
You know, so I—we’re trying to understand how can we help young athletes, these really talented athletes that are trying to take the next step? And you know, because you’re trying to squeeze out the last part of your talent while staying healthy and happy and so forth. And so we are trying to understand how can we aggregate data, create a kind of a “single source of truth” type database that is shared, and then we’ll probably have to interrogate that with some tools like artificial intelligence.
So I think you’re gonna see a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches, some AI that may, that can help, but I don’t think the coach’s eye is going to disappear from the equation. But I do think that, as in medicine, that we will see certain areas where the coach plus maybe AI will be kind of a 1 + 1 = 3 type thing. We’re not there yet, but I think that’s possible.
Grant Holicky 20:35
It is nice to see you, like, struggle a little bit.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 20:37
I probably didn’t have—I only had a little bit on there but it was enough to give me a nice reaction.
Hallmark of an Effective Coach
Rob Pickels 20:53
My sinuses are clear.
Grant Holicky 20:54
You’re ready, you’re ready to go.
Rob Pickels 20:59
Grant Holicky 20:59
Rob Pickels 21:03
Can I just do both of them right away?
Grant Holicky 21:05
Oh we’re gonna, all right. I’ll do that. Ho-ho! Not that hot, it was the taste thing. I just got a little of that smoke on the backside.
Rob Pickels 21:20
I know. It’s garlic reaper.
Grant Holicky 21:23
Rob Pickels 21:24
Grant Holicky 21:25
Yeah. Man, I cannot wait to go home and try to kiss my wife. Okay, so the hall—finish this sentence. And it may take a couple sentences to finish it. But what is the hallmark of an effective coach?
Rob Pickels 21:40
Athletes that are happy.
Grant Holicky 21:42
Rob Pickels 21:43
Right? I mean…
Grant Holicky 21:45
Rob Pickels 21:46
At the end of the day, that’s why the coach is there.
Trevor Connor 21:49
Rob Pickels 21:49
The coach isn’t there for their own purposes. The coach isn’t there to talk with a burning tongue. The coach is there, right, to help athletes achieve their goals. That leads to happiness. To help them lead fulfilled lives. A coach is more than just…the tip of my tongue is numb. Coach isn’t there just to write training plans. The coach is there to think about this athlete’s life and to help and to guide them. And I think that that’s more than just what you put in TrainingPeaks.
Grant Holicky 22:22
Rob Pickels 22:22
Right? That’s to keep them in a good place. So that they can train, so they can work, so they can be with their family, so that they can stop talking and hold it together in the middle of their answer.
Grant Holicky 22:35
[coughs] Hold it together, Rob!
Rob Pickels 22:40
Grant Holicky 22:41
Rob Pickels 22:42
A happy athlete.
Grant Holicky 22:43
I love it. To happiness.
The Best Piece of Advice
Trevor Connor 22:45
Dr. Seiler, this is it. Are you ready? So what is the sauce you’re using here?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 22:59
Culley’s 10X Hot Sauce. It comes in at over a million on the Scoville scale. Ho-ho! Damn.
Trevor Connor 23:14
We’ll end this on a nice note. What, throughout your career, is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Besides, “Don’t ever eat that sauce again.”
Dr. Stephen Seiler 23:29
The best piece of advice I’ve ever… All right, I’ll tell you what it is. That it was, I was probably…oh.
My grandfather was a country preacher. And he had a farm. And on that farm, I was allowed to ride a motorcycle, which I had dearly loved. I loved riding that motorcycle going to the back pasture. And so I do, I’m doing that one day. I’m probably 12, and I ride in, and my grandfather kind of comes towards me as I’m riding in and he kind of gets me to stop and he says, “Carey?” You know, because that’s my first name. He says, “Boy, I can just see that you are getting really good at riding that motorcycle and I can see how focused you are on what’s in front of you.” You know, I’m thinking, “Yeah, thank you, Grandpa.”
And then, ’cause he had created a sandwich, you know, it started positive, but then came the negative. And the negative…the negative was that he says, “But Son, you know, some of your smaller cousins, they’re running around here and I don’t think you saw them because you weren’t looking up. You were just looking straight ahead, right in front of you. And you didn’t see what was happening around you, and you could have hurt somebody.”
And so I never forgot that, you know? I’m 57 now, and this was, this is 45 years later. But I still remember that, and it’s about, you know, being able to combine these two views of the narrow-focus view and then being able to kind of go out broadly and see the bigger picture. And I think that’s important in science and it’s important in coaching. It’s important in most things. So that’s the biggest lesson I ever got, was from my own grandfather out on the farm on a motorcycle.
The Last Wing
Grant Holicky 25:42
I love how deep that answer was. And all I can do is laugh my ass off looking at Rob.
Rob Pickels 25:50
I’m trying to hold it together so I don’t ruin the moment this guy’s having right now!
Grant Holicky 25:54
[Laughs] I know I gotta tell you, Seiler. Rob, is his heart on his sleeve. Everything that’s going on, you see it. And he’s sweating, he’s got tears coming down, he’s all over the place. And then there’s Trevor. Trevor’s got his best game face on. But it is like duck on a pond. Those legs are going nuts underneath there. Inside, stomach’s churning. Everything—he’s like, “Keeping my game face.”
Rob Pickels 26:30
Trevor’s only eaten one of his, not both of them. I think he’s got to finish it up before we’re done.
Grant Holicky 26:35
I agree. He has to finish that wing.
Rob Pickels 26:37
Do it, Trevor.
Trevor Connor 26:38
All right. Well? That has been another episode of Fast Talk. Normally we have our one-minute take homes. Guys?
Grant Holicky 26:47
Just go home.
Trevor Connor 26:48
Is there anything to have learned from having done this?
Rob Pickels 26:53
I’ve learned that shirts made from towels are an essential component to my wardrobe.
Grant Holicky 26:58
What have you learned, Trevor?
Trevor Connor 27:02
I have learned that when somebody, when we are off-mic on an episode, says “Hey, I got this great idea of something we should do.”
Grant Holicky 27:10
Trevor Connor 27:12
Just turn off the show.