Favorite Workouts—Race Season Edition!

We hear from Fast Talk all-star guests like Lachlan Morton and Stephen Hyde about their favorite race season HIIT work.

FT268 Favorite Workouts Race Season Edition

For years now, we’ve been asking our guests—be it coaches, athletes, or scientists—to share their favorite workouts with us when they come on the show. In this episode of our favorite workouts podcast, we asked them what sort of high-intensity workouts they do in the race season to help give their race fitness that extra edge.  

What we found interesting was that coaches and athletes we spoke tended to diverge in two different directions. There was the “old school” approach of the classic 5×5 minute VO2max intervals, and then there was what’s become the more “modern” approach of shorter repeated efforts followed by a sustained threshold effort. We’re not going to try to claim that one is better – only that they both seem to work, and you should pick the one that gets you out the door.  

Explaining their high intensity workouts, we hear from coaches Alec Donahue and Stephen Hyde who both shared their 5×5 minute workout. While going with the newer approach, we heard from Dr. Stephen Cheung, pros Alex Howes and Kiel Reijnen, and our co-hosts Rob Pickels (who shared his Workout of the Week, Hitting the Afterburners) and Grant Holicky. 

We round out the show with Lachlan Morton sharing his unique approach to turning around race legs and coach Alan Couzens tells us about his favorite workout to prep for an Ironman.  

This episode gives you a lot of great workouts to try, but if you want to learn more about what makes interval workouts effective, listen to our recent episode with Dr. Stephen Seiler.  

So, open up your favorite workout-builder app and let’s make you fast! 


Episode Transcript

Rob Pickels  00:04

Hello and Welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of –

Grant Holicky  00:09

Sport, sport!

Rob Pickels  00:13

– your source for the –

Trevor Connor  00:16

I love that Rob was – earlier when I asked him to do the first line, so he was giving me the “daggers of death look” while he’s trying to remember the intro line. Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, let’s leave it there because none of us can remember the line.

Grant Holicky  00:33

Not my job.

Trevor Connor  00:35

Today we are doing a favorites workout episode because we haven’t done one in a while.

Rob Pickels  00:41

– your source for the science of endurance sports performance.

Rob Pickels  00:44

Damn it.

Trevor Connor  00:44

We’ve moved on Rob.

Rob Pickels  00:47

It’s good.

Trevor Connor  00:49

But well done.

Rob Pickels  00:52

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Trevor Connor  01:23

So we are in the middle of the race season. So we thought it would be good to pick some favorite workouts that are in season, get you ready for racing type workouts. And as we were putting this together, there were a couple interesting themes that popped up. One was kind of this compare and contrasting, a really old school but still relevant and a real go to workout which is that five by five vo two Max workouts, it’s such a popular one, we’ve actually got two coaches talking about it. But that’s kind of you go back to the 70s 80s. That was the workout to do. Now it seems there. There’s a newer approach, which is these much shorter, higher intensity 3030s or 4020s are a bunch of different variation type workouts. And we have a bunch of those that seems to be kind of the popular way to do things now. So throwing this to both of you, what do you think do these both work? Have we modernize the need to move away from the old school? What do you think?

Rob Pickels  02:27

Well, first off, I’m happy that you’re referring to the 70s and 80s as old school because that was before my time. And I think that I’m decidedly within the new school category. But I do think that there’s multiple ways to skin a cat, you’re looking at oxygen consumption. And I think that that five by five vo two, as we’ve talked about with some of the Ronstadt studies, great way to get a lot of oxygen and into your body produce a lot of power. But at the same time, the new school that you’re talking about Trevor, with really this variable intensity, I think that maybe from a physiological standpoint, if we talk about just increasing physiological metrics, maybe that’s not the best. But when it comes to simulating what’s happening out on the road, that might be a little bit more sport specific there. I’m the type of person that I wouldn’t say one over the other is is the best, I think you got to pick your poison based on what you need and what your event needs.

Grant Holicky  03:24

So I think that’s a really good point is coming off of what you need and what your event needs. I think one of the things that the, if we call it this, the old school approach always conjures up this mentality of, you know, East Germans and Eastern Bloc countries that get it done. And I think there’s a degree of that. But I also think that for a lot of us and a lot of athletes, that’s hard to do. From a mental standpoint, there’s only so many times you can go out and knock that out of the park. And if you find that day, yeah, go for it, have it have at it. But there’s a lot of days that maybe you’re not going to have five minutes in that place, because that’s a caveman, right? You’re in there deep. And you got to be really mentally prepared for that. So some of these on offs, higher intensity, lower intensity pieces of the puzzle allow you to get time under load, but not in that same dark, dark, dark place and

Rob Pickels  04:15

not with the stress right at a time that you ultimately want to be peaked in hitting best performances. You may not want to carry the fatigue that comes from the longer hard intense effort. That’s pretty hard on the body. Yeah,

Trevor Connor  04:28

I have not contributed at all because I’m still stuck in 70s being old school.

Grant Holicky  04:33

We were born in the 70s. We’re in training and I was born in the 70s I was talking about me and Trevor, I know you Okay, look,

Rob Pickels  04:41

I know. I know. I know YouTube, the worst dig

Trevor Connor  04:45

I ever got. I was visiting my old college and a friend of mine who I knew in college but he was younger than me. He was getting made fun of by a bunch of these current students because they were watching Star Wars and he admitted to them he was born and 77. So they’re making fun of him for this. I walk into the room as they’re doing this. And he just goes, points at me and goes, he remembers the 70s.

Grant Holicky  05:12

Yeah, but speaking of Star Wars, we were watching Star Wars in my house the other day, and my wife turned to me and went, wait, you saw empire in the theater? Yeah, I saw Star Wars in the theater. I was I would have, but I think I was a little young. I feel like that. That’s pretty intense movie for how old? Were you like six? Yeah, different time. That’s what we’re talking about.

Trevor Connor  05:35

So another interesting trend that I just want to point out with these workouts is I noticed the number of people when they were given these newer, modern, shorter, higher intensity intervals. They liked to do kind of 678 minutes of the really high intensity, but then often follow it up with a steady threshold. And the whole idea being this is what you do in races, you attack, you respond to attacks, and then it’s gonna slow down a bit. But you still have to be able to go a pretty, pretty good pace.

Grant Holicky  06:05

Yeah, and I think Rob mentioned this earlier.

Rob Pickels  06:07

Yeah, for me, it’s there’s a big mental component here, as well, Grant, as you pointed out earlier, the more intermittent short, high intensity efforts physically, are a little bit easier. And mentally, they’re a little bit easier. But sometimes, that’s not what I want in the races. And sometimes what I want to tune up is my ability to just hold on, because let’s be honest, we’ve all been in that group, and all you’re doing is holding on. And so it’s a way, in my opinion, to add that mental component, where you have to get comfortable sitting in the burn. And what I often say is the first minute or two of that steady is the hardest. And you just have to get through that minute, three minute four minute five, they get easier and easier. And actually I I begin and I think other athletes as well begin to look at that longer steady, even though it’s oftentimes just around thresholds, maybe just under threshold, it almost feels like recovery. And when it when when you’re going FTP, and it feels like recovery. That’s a good place to be.

Grant Holicky  07:12

Yeah, and this this comes into one of Neil Henderson’s favorite workouts is Batman says that idea of go hard, settle in at threshold. And I always remember settling in a threshold. And for the first minute saying to myself, I can’t do this, no one settled in for this for four minutes. And then somewhere around minute two, it would dawn on me that I was really pretty comfortable. Yep, I can, oh, I can do this. And that’s that learning phase that you’re talking about that really can do wonderful things when you’re racing.

Rob Pickels  07:41


Trevor Connor  07:42

what I always find really interesting when I do those really high intensity intervals, and then followed up with five, six minutes a threshold, and it was Neil who taught me to do this. I remember coming out of the bass season where I was doing threshold intervals. And let’s say I was doing my threshold to like 333 40 watts. It just felt really hard. But then I would do when a Neal’s workouts, and then followed up with five, six minutes at 333 40 watts. I’m like, Oh, this is a recovery. Man. I

Grant Holicky  08:09

got this. Yeah, yeah, it changes your perspective pretty dramatically. And I think that’s one of the reasons you see a lot of this variance in the efforts. So

Trevor Connor  08:16

why don’t we start with these, you know, I hate to call them this because I actually really liked these workouts. But the old school five by fives

Rob Pickels  08:23

he man, you’re old school. It’s embrace the old school. Trevor, you wear it? Well,

Grant Holicky  08:28

just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not still wonderful. That’s what I tell my wife all the time.

Rob Pickels  08:33

Old and golden reason. I are like the same age, right? Just 41


Hey, yeah, yeah,

Trevor Connor  08:39

I remember the cycling team I was riding with up in Canada. I was definitely the oldest guy on the team at Monza, 3738 at the time. And when we play music, if the music was more than a year old, it was old school. Why were you playing old school? Wrote me nuts. I brought in Led Zeppelin into the car one day, they just didn’t know what to do. Alright, so let’s start with Alec Donohue. Rob. Any thoughts on this?

Rob Pickels  09:05

Yeah, well, Alec is a coach that’s been on the show before and if you don’t know Alec out of Massachusetts, and a big name in the cyclocross world, and that might give some insight into his workout, I’m not sure. But this five by five workout that he’s talking about. It’s a standard type of workout, but he does it in my opinion a little bit differently. And that has to do with the intensity and the rest period. So let’s give a listen to Alec and we’ll be back soon.

Alec Donahue  09:36

It’s a five by five that’s about 8% over threshold is that is my go to favorite workout for sure. I usually go for about eight minutes of recovery at solid zone two. So it’s like I want to load the system with lactate and then I want to work on combusting it at a you know at the lack of pyruvate peak ideally. So it’s like you don’t like stop pedaling when you’re done, it’s like, you load up the legs to like an appropriate level where you’re not like, I think the other big thing about everything I believe is I don’t believe in workouts to failure. That is my like, non negotiable is that like, I see people just go backwards so fast and these workouts to failure. I

Trevor Connor  10:19

agree completely. So it’s a five minute effort, then an eight minute recovery, and then a five minute efforts is Am I hearing that Correct? Correct? Yes. And then is does it matter on trainer outside Hill flat? It does.

Alec Donahue  10:32

And that’s so like, you know, you know, where like, essentially, you have to have your like, your trainer zone, your flat zone and your Hill, like, in the hill, I never liked doing over probably 3%. The hill is like, just makes it emotionally easier for riders to complete. In most racing scenarios, a flat would be better, because we get better leg speed out of that. And so it programs for more responsive riders where hills are good, and we can get good numbers, but many riders that don’t have very good responsiveness and change of pace. They further their deficits by always training on hills.

Trevor Connor  11:16

Okay, no, that’s, that’s a good point. What do you feel that this workout is training? What would you use this for?

Alec Donahue  11:22

Well, that’s where it’s like, you know, what, saying it’s only 8% above threshold. So like, is that vo two is there no vo to or map or is actually still just threshold. And so it’s like, you know, classically, I would call that like this A vo to building workout. And so it’s what tends to push up people’s, you know, five minutes like, why I like it is there is a significant amount of, you know, glycolytic activity in it. But it’s not to the point where old old vo to when we’re doing like 15 to 20% over, we go so hard that your glycolytic capacity actually gets worse, which I didn’t fully understand until I started seeing things from inside. And like, I think that’s like, that’s where zone five gets so slippery. And overdoing zone five is one of the worst aspects of training. And so this is one where I really need the athlete to know themselves. And there’s a lot of conversation on what this should feel like where you’re, you know, reaching that kind of stable level that when you ride for eight minutes at Zone Two, you come back and you’re like, you can do it. Again, it’s very challenging, but like, this is where like that kind of like the balance point in the race is where you know how hard you can go and recover. And like, there’s so much that like, self awareness to power duration that comes out of this level. And I think you do get big bumps in glycolytic activity. Whereas the like, very hard five minutes, I see people lose all their capacity for variable power. And so that’s kind of our it’s like, it’s an educational tool and a very good physiological tool as well, because you’re using the switch and using glycolytic at a high rate, but not at a rate that actually diminishes their capacity going forward. What time

Trevor Connor  13:19

of year would you do this? How frequently and how long would you do these intervals for

Alec Donahue  13:23

I came away from regular just like classic periodization a long time ago. And so using some lactate production is like this specific workout I would use in the month or so probably six to eight weeks leading up to a competitive season. I really like this, it’s not really a great in season effort. For me, it’s kind of like building up that every aspect of like good VLA, good combustion, good buffering, a good like balance for all of those things. And so that’s kind of like that six to eight weeks before your competitive season starts. This is where I really liked that. But I will use like, probably like three to four minute efforts similar to this peppered through even aerobic builds, because I don’t like leaving this lactate production side of things untouched. And that’s something that I didn’t quite understand 20 years ago, and we were just like we would do base node just be homogenous zone two. And so I just see a lot better response when I mix a little bit of like, you know, tickling lactate in there.

Trevor Connor  14:33

So the next one, also a five by five. This is talking with Steven Hyde. So grant, what are your thoughts about this?

Grant Holicky  14:40

Well, I think Steven worked with ALC for a long time, I think you’re going to see the similarities and why they both do them. But what you’re going to see a little bit in the nuance and the difference here is how an individual athlete may learn to use these differently. Right, you know, and Steven talks a lot about Learning yourself through this workout. You know, we talked earlier about kind of this old school method of sitting there, it’s really hard to do. It takes a big mental component. But there’s also other pieces of the puzzle that come into that. And Steven talks about a lot of those in his version of the five by five,

Trevor Connor  15:15

right, let’s hear it now.

Stephen Hyde  15:18

I try to punish all of my athletes with workouts. And I try to give as much pleasure to myself with my workouts. So it’s such a different

Trevor Connor  15:27

to saying there’s a little bit of hypocrisy.

Stephen Hyde  15:32

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Oh, that was hard. Oh, wow. Well, you should see what I did. That just had that. So I actually kind of have a foundational workout. That is pretty no frills that I have used for years and years and years, I really feel like it’s a cornerstone workout for me, I can use it just about any time of the season, or of the year, it seems to be pretty applicable. It’s a standard five by five rap or via to workout have never done very much, you know, quote, threshold work, I have always pushed higher intensity and always pushed maximum aerobic power, looking at like 115, but around like 110 to 115% above threshold. And it’s a very difficult workout, because it’s hard. But it’s also a very good workout to recreate. It can be done indoors or outdoors. It gives the athlete an opportunity to play with their approach and see more different results from it, because you’re not throwing a lot of variables at it. So whether you eat between eat more before, you know whether you drink more, whether you’re on a hill or flat, you play with RPMs, whether music or whatever kind of can be involved in that. I think it hits a lot of different energy systems across the board, it tends to be pretty stable in terms of what it does to VLA Max, for most athletes, if done correctly, it doesn’t burn out a lot of fast twitch fibers, in fact that it kind of has the opposite effect on them. And it pushes you I think it has a has a really good deep ability to push someone’s mental strength in terms of like finishing five, five minutes over, over threshold efforts.

Trevor Connor  17:31

So what is your protocol? So obviously, the efforts five minutes, you said about 110% of the actual What’s your recovery length, and any other details of the workout you’d like to share.

Stephen Hyde  17:44

So it depends, I actually can kind of bury the recovery periods between I like to ensure that there’s about a minimum of five the early season, I’ll tend to push it out to like five to eight minutes. And I’ll try to get an athlete or myself to be in that middle to lower zone to to ensure that lactate consumption is maximized. As we get closer to the season, shortening that can or in the season, shortening it down to like three to five minutes, anywhere in that range is pretty acceptable. I do try to keep athletes, legs moving between, you know, just just cutting it off and just letting all that lactate sit and not utilize is a missed opportunity.

Rob Pickels  18:33

So now that we’ve heard about five by five from both Alec and Steven, I think that there’s something really important to point out that I alluded to earlier. And that is our he pulls back a little bit in terms of the intensity, I don’t think 108% Especially with an eight minute if I remember right, an eight minute recovery. That’s a very different philosophy than Steven who’s go out and crush yourself. Right,

Grant Holicky  18:57

right. And I think it’s funny we talked about this that became before we came on air. You can’t really do five by fives at altitude, right? We struggled to do those up here but no well anyway not right. Maybe not five of London but but with Al’s version of that out 108% You probably could do that up at altitude that’s more of like a Supra LT if you want to look at it that way. And that’s a different mentality. That’s a get comfortable in this pretty uncomfortable place. Stephen is looking at it going get comfortable in a really dark place. And so they they they do different things at different times. I also thought what was interesting is how they use them right now using them six to eight weeks before competition. Stephens talking about using them all year round, and really kind of a go to benchmark where am I at type of workout.

Rob Pickels  19:50

So coming out of that let’s shift gears a little bit we had two coaches talking about these longer steadier vo two efforts. The next one is da After Chung have a favorite of fast talk, who is bringing up a workout that’s another favorite of fast talk from researcher Dr. Ben Ronstadt. And in this one Dr. Cheung is talking about Ron Steads, 30 seconds on 15 seconds off, let’s give it a listen.

Dr. Stephen Cheung  20:17

My favorite workout is the good old one from that rawness that that he uses in his studies looking at short, high intensity interval training, and they’re intensely hard one set is 13 reps of 30 seconds all out with 15 seconds, not actually a full recovery of you’re still writing at a moderate pace. And so you’re doing 13 of those. And so it’s about a nine and a half minute, 10 minute workout. And those are just intensely hard. And I really enjoyed doing them because you get a satisfying hard workout. And it’s also a good test of durability, long term, because oftentimes, I know certainly in the Ronstadt studies, they do three sets of those with five to 10 minute recovery in between. And I really liked to see whether I can sustain the same kind of power output and the second one and the third one. So not only is that a hard workout by itself, but also gives me some sense of my durability, whether I can still push hard and at the same level in the third set. So that’s probably my favorite workout. And it’s also relatively short, it takes just a bit over an hour to do out on the road. On an indoor ride, I can do it in under an hour. So it’s a good quality bang for the buck workout, I think and it gives you that satisfying, I’ve really worked hard at the end, too. So it’s great on many levels.

Rob Pickels  21:47

Dr. Channel for clarification, can I ask when you said all out? Are you hitting higher numbers on the first rep than you are on the last rep, like say 1000 watts on the first and then by the end your fatigue? 10 You’re only hitting 300? Or are you trying to hit something that’s quite hard each time like 600, every single rep,

Dr. Stephen Cheung  22:05

I’m trying to pace it so that I can complete all 13 reps of a set. And so yeah, it’s not going to be 1000 watts right out of the gun on the first one and then just barely crawl home. And the last one, I’m trying to keep it pretty steady for the first one, or kind of throughout all 13 reps. And then I don’t really pays for kind of three sets, I pays for one set. And I’ve tried to see whether I can do as much or the same amount of work and hit the same power levels in the second and third set. And that usually tells me again, whether I’m really kind of recovered, whether I’m really highly fit, and whether I have that long term durability, whether I can go back to back to back, so to speak,

Trevor Connor  22:55

what do you think are the benefits of this workout?

Dr. Stephen Cheung  22:57

I think we’ve talked a lot on various episodes about high intensity interval training. And I think it is a really, really good workout in that realm of high intensity intervals. I think it also really benefits crit riders, I think it benefits cross riders because you’re constantly going way above threshold, and then just have that little bit of recovery going way above again, over and over again. So I think it really is a great race simulation during the season. And I think during the time of the winter months when you’re on the trainer, it’s one of those short hard workouts that you can get if you’re following a polarized intensity or polarized training plan and you want to get a couple of hard efforts in I think it fits within that too. And again, I say it’s it’s hard it gives you that satisfying I’ve done a hard workout. But it is something you know that’s not going to kill you for the next day. So you can still incorporate it into your plan as a good quality dose of training without really kind of slamming yourself at the end.

Trevor Connor  24:11

And is it something you would do all year round? Or is there a particular time of year

Dr. Stephen Cheung  24:15

I like to do them all year round just because I tend to be a very on off kind of rider I am not a steady state rider so it kind of fits into my wheelhouse and yeah, so I do them on the trainer in the wintertime and I also do them on the outdoors during the summer because I have wide open roads and quite long stretches of road where I can do these efforts and not have to worry about traffic. And I also use them as my overload training when I do and again this follows the bat Rana stat studies looking at Block Periodization where instead of having to hard workouts a week for four weeks, he front loads them with five hard workouts in in one week and then One hard workout a week and the following three weeks. So I also use them for that in the wintertime when I really want to start building my fitness. And because again, I can do them, you know, really, I know, historically, I can do them kind of five times in a week and not be thrashed by the fourth or fifth one, they are hard, but they’re not again, so crazy hard that I just can’t ride again the next day.

Rob Pickels  25:30

So we just heard Dr. Cheung, talk about the short high intensity intervals. And our next clip includes both Alex house and kill Ryan. And they are discussing I guess, both ends of the spectrum, where Alex and Kiel as well are fans of that short, high intensity effort. But you know, Kiel has to take his second choice, which is a little bit more of a threshold variable intensity, let’s listen to two pros talk about their favorite workouts.

Kiel Reijnen  25:59

My favorite workout on the bike is probably 4020s. It’s also true that we tend to gravitate to what we’re good at. Because then we feel like we’ve done a nice workout and we’ve gotten gains, and we haven’t suffered too much. So I actually tried to limit the amount of times I do that particular workout, but it’s well suited to to my physiology. And and I think it’s also a lot of bang for your buck, you’re getting the load without sort of overtaxing the muscular system. And those vo two workouts, especially when you’re limited on time, which I definitely as a parent am can be a really effective way to gain fitness without having to ride for hours on end.

Trevor Connor  26:39

So what do you feel are the particular benefits of the 4020s you’re sustaining,

Kiel Reijnen  26:43

you know, maybe I generally do a 10 minute effort three or four sets and your your sustaining sort of vO two level heart rate for the duration of that that interval without averaging vo to level power. And so for the 40 seconds on, you know, I’m putting out around four and 50 Watts and sort of vO two level. And then for 20 seconds, I’m backing way off and writing score between 102 100 Watts and repeating that process over and over again. And at the end of the 10 minutes. I feel cardiovascular early like I’ve completed a 10 minute long video to muscularly I’m I’m able to recover and do another set.

Trevor Connor  27:24

And when would you do this workout? Is this something you do all year long? Or is there a particular time of the season?

Kiel Reijnen  27:29

Yeah, generally five, three, I’m on the trainer before the kids are up the I think generally speaking, that’s a workout that I would reserve for when I’m getting closer to a race event, maybe a couple of weeks, three weeks out. However, this year, given the time constraints that I have, and the sort of new calendar I decided to take a different approach and I sort of reverse periodized my my training and so I was actually performing sort of vO two type efforts out of the gate. Oh, and I got training this winter. And that’s something I haven’t done in the past. I’ll let you know if it works out. But again, it’s it’s such an effective workout for maintaining or gaining some fitness when you don’t have the time to do those long base rides. It’s certainly not a replacement for a good bass. But one of the advantages to having done this as a career for a really long time is that we have a lot of that bass in us and so we may not require the sort of standard six to eight weeks of bass miles that someone else who’s only been doing it for a short period of time would would you do the endurance part now in the reverse? periodization Yeah, it would be now now you just reverse periodized and then skip the last few steps. Okay, strictly chain by V oh two Yeah, I’m gonna write a book about it later after it’s wildly successful. It’s basically you know, those commercials for like the you know, the 10 Minute abs and then it got down to you know, the like six minute ABS two minute abs 32nd ABS that’s the version I’m going for 32nd ABS you’re under the genetic ABS

Trevor Connor  29:19

you remember the movie Something About Mary? Yeah with the psycho killer the eight minute AP video and yeah, some so why not submitted abs and the guys like that’s crazy. Why would you do that? You can’t get a good workout in seven minutes. Boy

Kiel Reijnen  29:40

put together an ADHF gravel fitness seven minutes. Well, you stole my answer. Kill me.

Trevor Connor  29:49

Alex now your favorite workouts been stolen. Do you have another one you can give us?

Kiel Reijnen  29:53

Yeah, and like you said, the number one. Go to as far as you know, like the Tabata style workouts for Really do train just about everything. So, alright, let’s think a little bit of a variation on that. One thing I think, is really productive. And I don’t know if I want to say it’s my favorite workout, because it definitely hurts, but sort of tempo threshold level power with spikes sort of sprinkled in there. That’s something I attend towards pretty frequently. So like a 15 minute effort, and you’re sort of oscillating above threshold and tempo. So it’s actually above threshold, it’s like, slightly below vo two ish, I don’t know, it’s kind of super threshold. So you do like, what, like a minute and a half at just above threshold, and then scale it back for probably, maybe a minute, down to tempo, high tempo, and then back up above above threshold there a little bit and repeat that for probably 15 minutes.

Trevor Connor  30:54

That’s a tough workout. So what are the benefits? Do you feel that workout? So

Kiel Reijnen  30:57

for me, when I’m talking about threshold power, up here at pretty high altitude, I need to sort of touch on that that higher power, because it’s basically ended up doing that that super threshold at sea level threshold. So like, let’s say, my threshold here, at 500 feet is like 330, right? When I’m going above, for that minute and a half, I’m going to do it at 350. Because that’s pretty close to sea level power for me, and then bringing it back down just enough to recover and kind of get my head back above water and prevent having an aneurysm. And then as soon as I feel like I can sort of breathe again, I’ll scale it back up.

Trevor Connor  31:42

Right? And when do you do this? Is this something you do all year round, or

Kiel Reijnen  31:46

this is definitely more in race season, as you say it’s, it’s a very hard workout. It’s challenging on multiple levels, to sort of work out that you get done, and you don’t want to look at the bike for the rest of the day, for sure. And the next morning probably hurts as well. So I reserve it mostly for race season, you know, in a couple of weeks leading up to a race, I’ll probably try and do two to three sessions.

Rob Pickels  32:11

Is this something you’re doing out on the road? Are you doing it more in a controlled environment like the trainer?

Kiel Reijnen  32:15

These ones I need to do out on the road? I wish I wish I could do threshold power on the trainer. But for whatever reason I can’t I can do everything else, but not that. I think it’s I think it’s an emotional thing.

Trevor Connor  32:28

And would you do this workout or you’re doing one set? Or do you attempt to get in a couple,

Kiel Reijnen  32:33

I usually try and do three sets. So that’s I mean, it’s you know, a lot of time, I’m still professional, I wouldn’t recommend you know, three sets of 15 for everybody. But scaling it back to something like three by eight potentially would be productive.

Trevor Connor  32:51

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Rob Pickels  34:03

One of my favorite workouts, you know, is is sort of combining some hard anaerobic efforts with some sub threshold suffering. I just love that. I think that it’s so important for your ability, when you’re out there racing, you’re oftentimes in situations that cause you to go much deeper than you want to. And then you got to sit in and you got to hold on and you can’t you can’t give in. So for me, this would be like, say three sets of eight to 1030 30 effort levels. 3030s or, you know, I like to do them closer to 120% of threshold, followed by you know, relatively easy recovery in between. And how long in between 30 seconds. Yeah, yeah. So 30 seconds at 120 30 seconds at, you know, a relatively low workload, I don’t know 150 watts or something. And then immediately after that last 32nd effort to go into say 10 Min. It’s of sub threshold of like 95% threshold, and just sort of sit there and and enjoy the pain, right and to get used to that suffering and to say, Hey, this is actually a recovery effort, I know that the alarm bells in my head are going off, but I need to settle in and I need to get used to that, you know that that would be one set, I’d take, you know, five minutes, maybe and then do a second set and then do a third set. But for me workouts are ultimately are pretty simple. I think that a lot of people, you know, maybe in the effort to sound smart, and knowledgeable, create, like these crazy extensive workouts that just oh my god, like, here’s the thing, we’re looking to train energy systems. Yes. Right. You know, and I don’t care if it’s 30 seconds, or 29 seconds or 31 seconds, whatever, man, that’s all the same. But to go out there and be like, okay, four and a half minutes at 98%, followed by five minutes and two seconds at 99.5%. Come on, man, keep it simple. Keep athletes, you know, able to think, you know, while we’re out there suffering, but yeah, Trevor, that that’s it. For me. I’m good, deep, hard efforts are followed by a nice slow burn.

Trevor Connor  36:08

Right. And so what energy systems do you feel this is really working?

Rob Pickels  36:12

You know, and the 3030 side of things is actually up for debate, right? In terms of, you know, you have somebody like Andy Coggan, who would say that that’s more of a threshold sort of effort, right? If we, if we look at oxygen utilization, and average heart rate throughout that, we’re not going super deep, like we would, in a more vo two type workout, like five minutes at 100 plus percent of your threshold. You know, for me, I do think that there’s definitely anaerobic contribution in there, I think that there’s repeatability. And there’s durability going on, especially when you’re doing these relatively high workload like 120%. That’s not necessarily easy for 3030 sets. But then, ultimately, for me, what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to pump a whole bunch of lactate into the system. And then I’m trying to clear that lactate with that sub threshold, right, right around that point in time, we ought to be clearing lactate as fast as humanly possible. And I love to overload the system to give it a real big challenge. And then to see if it can clear that lactate out use it for fuel, but take it out of my bloodstream and and help me get down the road.

Trevor Connor  37:18

And that’s a really good point. Because it’s been shown that the point where we clear lactate, the best is that 95% a threshold exactly, when when you do this, and how often

Rob Pickels  37:28

Yeah, for me, I’m a big Block Periodization kind of guy, I would do a workout like this, maybe twice a week in an intensity block. And then I probably wouldn’t touch it again until that intensity week comes around, I’ll speak for myself, I won’t speak for other athletes. For me, I typically work off a three week cycle intensity week one, lower my glycogen stores and get that hard work out when I’m fresh. In a volume week, week two, you know, it’s very difficult to continue the intensity, when those glycogen stores are low. When we see you know, the the decrease in the success of exercise, you know, so I like to go base there and keep it in, you know, zone one and a three zone system or, you know, really for me, it’s about one and a half millimoles or below lactate. And then a third week for me is typically recovery before repeating. And I would say I do that training, the majority of the year, I believe it builds terrific general fitness, once I get into a race season, you know, then I’ll switch to a more traditional periodization scheme because I believe that that is sort of the icing on the cake to tell you the truth, then you can work on specific strengths that you need for whatever event it is that you’re training for. But for me, you know doing it in a block situation is just amazing general fitness that I can then mold however I need to later. So I do have to say I think that my workout age to like a fine wine. Because if anybody pays attention to fast talk labs.com and our workout of the week if you don’t you should. This was my workout of the week recently. And Trevor, I can’t believe that you pull this one out of the dusty podcast closet and they’re both lining up. So and I had no idea that was Yeah, I guess in the past five years, I haven’t changed

Trevor Connor  39:19

single new thoughts.

Rob Pickels  39:22

I know. You get it, you get it right the first time. You don’t have to go back and do it again. You know,

Grant Holicky  39:27

for a guy that’s dressed like an influencer. You don’t change with the times that much. Yeah, I’m kidding. I love that workout. And I really, really love that on off into sustained. And I think one of the things you’re watching as we as we cycled through some of these workouts too, and this may get different with mine. I’m not sure what Trevor picked, but we’ve watched this change from super high intensity to the rawness Set version, which is like seven minutes of pretty darn high intensity to keep Elon Alex during workouts more along the lines of threshold or threshold simulation, and that’s certainly true of what you’ve got to. So there’s a lot of different ways to use intensity to play with lots of different energy systems.

Trevor Connor  40:11

I’m not gonna get any for being in Florida, I’m stuck in the 70s.

Grant Holicky  40:16

There were influencers in the 70s, your

Rob Pickels  40:17

suits will come back, Trevor, you just need to grab my leash. Get ready for your day, man. It’s coming eventually. All right, Grant, you have anything to

Trevor Connor  40:25

say about yours?

Grant Holicky  40:26

No, let’s just hear what I have to say. And then maybe I’ll try to defend myself on the backs. So I’m going to tell you two, because one is my favorite workout. What I like to do the best and one of them’s my favorite workout to give to athletes. My favorite workout to do is minute on minute off, okay, that is a Neil Henderson special, I will give him full credit for me learning that but 1516 of them three sets of five or just do it straight through there is nothing I feel like that gets me ready to race ticularly cross like men and on men it off puts me in the box, it trains the system that I love to be in. You know, part of it is just I like that I like that workout. I like being there. But I really feel like it gets me primed and ready to go. And I like using it with athletes too. I think that’s a place that we don’t go that often in training. And it works really well at altitude because you’re not on for that long. Yeah, that’s, that’s my favorite. For me. My favorite for athletes is kind of a modification of 4020s. Mid 20s is something that everybody loves to do. But I’ve taken it and tried to like please everybody with this one. So it’s it’s eight by 5010s into a tempo. So we’re gonna go eight by 5010 This is for my athletes, and a lot of them are pretty high end. So you know, motto,

Trevor Connor  41:54

numbers, 50 seconds on 10 seconds on 10 seconds

Grant Holicky  41:57

off. So you just slightly above threshold for that 50 on. And then your 10 seconds is off, but you do an eight of those. And then you’re rolling into four minutes, five minutes, just at solid sweetspot or tempo. And wham, wham, wham, wham, wham ON, OFF, ON OFF, ON OFF, keep it together. And then take a little break. And then we go to the 4028 by 4020s 40 on 20 seconds off slightly different feel slightly harder on the 40s, then you’re going on the 50s. And then again, right into that tempo hold to like, You got to calm yourself down and hold this because that first minute of that tempo feels awful, right? You’re trying to just you do and deals with the devil during that first minute and then you start to get comfortable, I can Oh, I can do this. And then the last piece is a bi 30 on 30 off. Again, ramping that up changing the metric a little bit, changing the power release a little bit, and then right back into that same tempo piece that holds I like that it’s a really nice race simulation. I have another workout that I love as a race sim that’s called the kitchen sink that you know is extraordinarily complicated and you

Trevor Connor  43:07

got you got to have actually had it on your Neil use that as one of his favorite workouts. And it is truly everything.

Grant Holicky  43:13

It is a little bit of everything. And it’s one of my all time favorites that you know, we came up with specifically for getting a breakaway or do across race, but it’s super complicated. It’s like you got to write it on the top tube and so I don’t I don’t go to that well very often. So I love 50 on 10 off 4020s 3030s I just it’s such a good prime.

Trevor Connor  43:38

So I was fully expecting something brutal for your athletes, which you gave I was waiting for like when you got to your favorite workout. Like three blocks down to the brewery.

Grant Holicky  43:48

No, I really liked to work and if you really want to know how crazy I am, I would rather do that workout on the trainer than outside.

Trevor Connor  43:56

Yeah, that’s pretty brutal.

Rob Pickels  43:57

I agree. Trainers are great for that.

Trevor Connor  43:59

I love the trainer for minute on minute off. Rob does his base training rides on the trainer in ERG mode.

Grant Holicky  44:07

There’s something wrong with that. I mean, I’m crazy. I spent my recover out on the trainer yesterday doing athlete calls, checking my email. I love that that’s like my favorite thing in the world. It was 75 and beautiful and Boulder yesterday and I was on the trainer. But based rides on ERG mode inside do you stare at a wall to

Rob Pickels  44:26

know I do this so that I can watch Netflix or YouTube without paying attention to how hard I’m going? I just let it control me and it oscillates. It’s kind of three minutes at 72% and then it’s like two minutes back at 68% and whatever else I do it so that I can be mindless when I am on the trainer and pay attention to other things because I hate being in Swift and having to shift when you get to like a hill. I hate the people

Grant Holicky  44:54

like swift reason I hate it. Yes, I had I had open water swimmers one time that I was using cycling to help just get some extra aerobic fitness for them. I wanted to keep them out of the water. And the problem with swimmers when they get on a bike is they go too hard. So great story about Maura Abbott years ago when she started racing that, I think it was Jim Miller that said, Oh, man, swimmers make great cyclists, you just have to teach them to go easy. Yep, what I would use to do is I would put them in the training studio, and I had a workout named babysitting the swimmers. And it was that it would kept them right at 65%. They couldn’t go above they couldn’t go below, and they would get so mad, they’d come back from that workout. So frustrated,

Rob Pickels  45:39

mine is called base intervals, base intervals, like base plus intervals. No,

Grant Holicky  45:43

I got

Trevor Connor  45:45

wasn’t good. So can we try to rescue this dumpster fire of a workout description? So we might have completely forgotten the two workouts you describe? But if you can remember them? Why would you use both of these.

Grant Holicky  45:58

So the 50 turns of the 4020s, I think we get really in this mindset of traditional block threshold intervals, right? Eight minutes at this threshold interval. It is very, very rare that you are actually racing up Matt, even when your time trial, unless it’s a dead pancake flat Tee Tee, you’re not doing that you’re you’re oscillating between slightly above slightly below. I think it’s a great way to get the response of threshold type power in a way that is much more race specific and race preparing. So yes, I’ll do those long, steady intervals early in the season. But as we start to come to racing, you’re going to see that change that above and below. And then minute on minute off. Like I said, when I was describing him, we just don’t go there very often. That’s just the asking people who especially endurance athletes, who tend to really like that steady state to go the entire opposite of steady state, and really go way above and then have to learn to recover below. And you know, there’s a reason I like them and I’m a cyclocross racer that’s cross and it really gives you that great opportunity to work. True. VO two, how do I raise my five minute power, you got to do one minute power, you can’t go do five minute power all the time, break it down into a smaller piece that you can really attack. And so that’s why I really like

Trevor Connor  47:24

no these intervals you would use during the season, when would you use them?

Grant Holicky  47:28

I use them year round. Everybody knows that’s listened to me that I like intensity year round. I use them for different reasons. In different points in the season. I’ll use those minute ons minute off early in the season, because people are a little fresher. And I want to see what numbers they can throw out there on those. I’m using them later in the season for race prep. Like let’s get that vo two Max system really racked up, let’s get ready to go. And let’s go, you know, break some souls and rip some legs off. Same thing with the 5010s. I don’t use those very often. I think that’s one that’s a big one. That’s really hard. So that is more when we’re getting ready. Two weeks out three weeks out of a race that we know we want to target that we’re gonna go hit these is a test. We’re gonna see where we’re at. And we’ll go from there.

Trevor Connor  48:16


Grant Holicky  48:18

One thing Rob pointed out, he made a comment of using kitchen sink during rainy season and clarifying I think I would use I use that more as a race season prep, just to kind of get people used to what it feels like to race right, you’re on you’re off. You’re this You’re that man to get kicked in the teeth? Yeah, yeah, I wouldn’t use teeth. But yeah, to get kicked somewhere. But minute on minute offs, I really, really liked that. And this comes back to what we were talking about earlier with a five on five off, breaking that into smaller pieces, getting a similar strain on the body, but probably less total strain. And mentally being able to really hit a mark for a minute, do you that’s brutal. What minute on minute off. But the concept of it think about this five by five is 25 minutes under load. I can do 16 minute on minute offs. And I’m doing less total load. But creating an environment that is as you said, really strenuous and very, very difficult mentally and that’s kind of what I’m looking for in that that place.

Rob Pickels  49:18

I’m glad you don’t coach me.

Grant Holicky  49:19

I’d love to coach you.

Trevor Connor  49:22

Alright, so let’s move on. We’ve got a clip here from Lachlan Morton. Now this is getting into a little bit more or less common in season type workouts. This is something to do to get that final little bit of form right before a key race but it’s something that not a lot of us actually even have the opportunity to do. So Lachlan doesn’t describe it, because there isn’t really much to describe. This is just motor pacing. This is getting somebody on a motorcycle or a moped, and you get behind them and they just go at a really uncomfortable pace and you just try to hold their wheel. But Lachlan talks a lot about why he does this and what he thinks the benefits are So let’s hear from now.


That’s like a workout that if you’re coming closer to a race, and you’re kind of trying to assimilate like your endurance, and whatever intensity you’ve done into like a more specific road racing format. And for me, motor pacing is always a really good way to do it. I think like any I call it, I call it like free training, is when you like, yeah, you’re getting intensity, but it doesn’t require you the same mental strength as if you were to do it yourself. So that kind of combines the like, I guess, more traditional, like, long climbing, like threshold to sub threshold work with like a more really specific finish. And if you do it right, I always feel like you’ve finished that last hour, feeling better than when you started? And yeah, that’s kind of why I like it.

Trevor Connor  50:53

When will you do this workout, what time of year and how often,


probably 10 days to a week out from a big race, when you kind of competent enough of your condition that you know, you can get through it and feel better, having done it, and it’s also sort of more like a icing on the cake workout. That makes sense good for the confidence. It’s like the perfect transition into that era, like you can be like trainings down, you know, like, into a taper or rest or whatever. Like with the climbing, stuff, like the zone three, sort of, I try and do it like, I’m not trying to like hold the number really constant. And like, I’ll kind of look at it, I’m climbing for 20 minutes, I might look at it every two or three minutes, and you sort of understand what the effort is. But if it’s steep, like go harder. And, like do it organically, like you would have in a race. I think you see a lot of people do efforts on a climb, you know, and they’re trying to like, pedal, that one little downhill part is like, because they’re like, oh, no, like, I’m gonna be below them. But it’s like, in my opinion, I think like when you know those things just kind of push harder when it’s steeper and take the recovery, because that’s how it’s going to be in a race. Ultimately, if you’re just sort of achieving somewhere in the ballpark. That’s what you’re after.

Rob Pickels  52:16

So, I think with Lachlan, and I think that we’ve talked about throughout this episode is trying to simulate what’s happening in the race in terms of the demands on your body and the mental demands. And Lachlan, and motor pacing, it’s about as specific as you can get in terms of a workout, right, holding on to that wheel literally, is the whole point of locklin’s workout. But Alan cousins does something similar with his triathletes. And that’s an Ironman simulation, except an Ironman is something that’s really hard to simulate. So instead of doing it in miles, he’s doing it with a little bit shorter and metric, let’s hear him describe that.

Alan Couzens  52:56

The favorite workout that I have for my athletes is the the Ironman simulation that we do so something that I think I stole from Matt Fitzgerald, but um, I stole it from someone anyway. But that the ID is basically you do the full Ironman, but you do it in metric terms. So it’s a 2.4 kilometers swim 112 Kilometer bike and 26 kilometer run. And we do that a few times before the before the Ironman race as a, as a really good solid indication, you know, as part of a big training week of what the athletes output is likely to be for the Ironman and get a lot of data from that, you know, we try and make it as specific in terms of the temperature they’re going to be facing and the conditions and the course and, and all of that that good stuff. And I think it’s a huge confidence builder for the athletes. If they if they put together a good performance there, then I think it really leads to some good confidence count in the race. And of course, you can repeat it if we don’t do a good one, you know, so I think I think that’s probably certainly one of the most important workout so that we do with the Ironman athletes.

Trevor Connor  54:12

When do you do this workout? Is it sometime before like a night 10 weeks before their primary event? Or is there something you do all year round?

Alan Couzens  54:19

Yeah, pretty much immediately before taper. So we’ll try to leave enough space to fit two or three times through the workout maybe even four times. So you’re probably in that sort of three to 10 week period before the race.

Trevor Connor  54:35

And are they racing it? Are they trying to go as hard as they can go? Or is that you give them an intensity to do this at? Yeah, generally

Alan Couzens  54:43

we give them sort of execution goals. So I’ll give them you know, heart rate or idea of sort of a heartrate range to stay in some power caps for the climbs. If there’s climbs, you know, if it’s a situation where they’re likely going to be experienced in court, a lot of a sudden ranges on the race, you know if it’s a flat course where they’re going to be doing a lot of overtaking, or throw that in as kind of a subset within the workout, those sorts of things.

Rob Pickels  55:13

Tis the season for spring knee, as March sunshine and early spring weather inspires us to ramp up our writing mileage, our knees don’t always keep up. If you’ve got knee pain, we have the solution for you. Fast talk lab members can follow our new knee health pathway featuring our new Director of Sports Medicine, Dr. Andy Pruitt, see the introduction to the knee health pathway at fast talk labs.com? Well, Trevor, I think that that was a pretty awesome list of workouts that we have. Something I want to point out is that we heard from a lot of high level athletes, a lot of high level coaches and grant. And it’s obvious that there’s multiple ways to skin the cat so to say, and I think that everybody is they’re putting workouts together really just think about who you are, what your needs are, what your event is, how do you perform the best, and then pick and choose what’s gonna be the most appropriate

Trevor Connor  56:10

for you. And I think something that’s worth pointing out. I think it was just a couple episodes ago, we did an episode with Dr. Sylar talking about how to make intervals effective. And we really talked about the fact that now that we’re understanding better the pathway through which adaptations occur, that really all these high intensity intervals are hitting that pathway. So it’s not as specific as we thought, I think there’s mental components like that, do something really hard, and then go steady. I think that’s as much training and just to deal with the discomfort as training any sort of physiological system. But I do want to call back to the episode to say they’re all kind of doing fairly much the same thing. So pick what works for you.

Grant Holicky  56:52

Yeah. And I think that’s a really important point, you said something about I train my strengths grant. And there’s something to be said for that. You know, we want to hit our weaknesses. But if the one of these workouts really speaks to you, you get excited about it, you’re going to really hit it hard, and you’re going to do something special. Pick that one when you’re getting ready for race season, because you’ll do better with it.

Rob Pickels  57:10

Well, and I will say for me, training my weaknesses keeps me in the game. But my strengths, keep me on the podium. There you go. And if I only trained my weaknesses, I just put him in the game better. If it’s a muddy cyclocross race. Yes, I will crush you. Oh, beyond that. I have no hope.

Grant Holicky  57:27

All right. Next time it rains. I hope you all tune in to me and Rob,

Rob Pickels  57:30

I wish we were the same age so we could race together. That’s true. I’ll race down. Okay.

Trevor Connor  57:34

I’ll race up

Rob Pickels  57:38

and still lose?

Trevor Connor  57:39

Yes, yes. I will. Just ask grant when he saw me after my race on Sunday.

Grant Holicky  57:44

God, you looked good. That’s been another episode of Fast Talk.

Trevor Connor  57:52

Subscribe to Fast Talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. I guess I’m doing it.

Rob Pickels  57:56

The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the individual.

Trevor Connor  58:00

You forgot, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. As always, we’d love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com or tweet us – I don’t tweet – @fasttalklabs. Head to fasttalklabs.com to get access to our endurance sports knowledge base.

Grant Holicky  58:17

We have ways to make you say the word chowder.

Trevor Connor  58:21

It’s chowder ranchi, say chowder. Coach continuing education as well as our in person and remote athletes services. For Grant Holicky who’s back on his phone. Rob Pickels, I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for actually making it this far.