We receive a lot of questions about very specific topics—fasted training, supplements, recovery products, breathing techniques, and so forth. (By the way, we love these questions, so please keep them coming.)
In this episode, however, we step back and discuss what we feel is most important, and frankly what is going to give you the biggest return for your investment of time, sweat, and energy.
If those specific things are the 5 percent, today we make the argument for focusing on the 95 percent.
We are in an age of marginal gains, a time when many athletes have firmly latched onto the idea that seemingly insignificant changes will incrementally add up to substantial gains.
The trend started within the ranks of the pro peloton. The thing is, pro riders are so developed physiologically to win that they have to find these little things to make the difference. In fact, they’ve likely spent 10 years developing the 95 percent and have it dialed.
More importantly, the secret truth is that pros don’t focus on the 5 percent as much as you’d think, and we give several examples of this, from Kristin Armstrong (who you’ll hear from in episode 154 on time trialing), Brent Bookwalter, and others.
So what should you focus on? What comprises that 95 percent? It’s simple:
- Functioning gear
We’ll go into great detail in the episode about what we mean, specifically, about these topics, and the fundamental principles underlying them.
Finally, we close with a cautionary tale: The 5 percent can take up 90 percent of your time and distract you from what’s truly valuable. Because they’re trendy, there is nearly an unlimited number of things that fall into that “5 percent bucket” to explore. They are all debated and based on partial science—forcing you to spend energy asking what works and what doesn’t.
All of this adds up to a whole lot of mental energy and fatigue. Thus, instead of helping you improve, too much focus on the 5 percent can actual hinder your progress and/or performance.
So, forget marginal gains and focus on the fundamentals.
- Bayne, F., Racinais, S., Mileva, K., Hunter, S., & Gaoua, N. (2020). Less Is More—Cyclists-Triathlete’s 30 min Cycling Time-Trial Performance Is Impaired With Multiple Feedback Compared to a Single Feedback. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 608426. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.608426
Chris Case 00:13
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk. I’m your host Chris Case, in the studio today with Coach Trevor Connor and Coach Ryan Kohler. Today we’re going to talk about a big old topic, summarize a lot of things that we’ve been preaching on the show. That’s a strong word, but discussing on the show for quite some time, it’s a underlying philosophy really, to a lot of the things that we do and talk about on the show. We get a lot of specific questions about a lot of interesting topics. And we want those questions to continue. However, it got us thinking that some people might be thinking that these very specific things are the silver bullet that’s going to solve all their problems or fix all of their issues or get them to achieve that next level, we kind of want to take a step back and talk about the bigger picture the night if that silver bullet is the 5%, we want to step back and talk about the fundamentals, the 95%, the bulk, the major bulk of what people should be focusing on, in their training, in their nutrition, in the way that they think about themselves as an athlete, because we’re talking mostly here to amateur athletes and not pros. We’re gonna get into some of the distinction there some of the reasons why I actually even bring that up early on in the program.
Ryan Kohler 01:40
Hey there listeners. I’m Ryan Kohler, Head Coach and Physiologist of Fast Talk Laboratories. As part of my role, I spend time answering your questions on our forum. So, I’m excited to announce our new FORUM Member Level. Our new FORUM Membership unlocks full access to the Fast Talk Labs Forum at an affordable price. You’ll get access to all our active topics like Training Concepts, Physiology, Workout Lab, Nutrition, Races/Rides/Runs, and more.
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So join the conversation, sign up at fasttalklabs.com. Join our Forum Member Level by March 14, and you can try it out free for two weeks. Just use the discount code PODCAST during checkout. See you on the Forum.
Chris Case 02:43
Trevor, did you have some opening remarks you’d like to make as we set the stage for this discussion?
Trevor Connor 02:48
Yeah, we haven’t done a summary episode in a while. So we decided it was time. This is where we kind of look back on the questions we’ve been getting on the episodes we’ve been doing and say, Hey, is there a theme here that we really want to focus on and realized, this is one that we’ve been talking about, particularly in a lot of the comments, we’ve been getting the questions we’ve been getting, and felt it was a good thing to dive deeper into.
Chris Case 03:12
Ryan, I know that you have worked with athletes of all levels. And I’m sure that this is an interesting topic for you to consider given a lot of the things that you’ve probably seen at the Performance Center where people will come in, and they’ll be like, Yeah, I just read this new study, or I read this website or blog or whatever it is about a supplement or a thing that is quote unquote, gonna take them to that next level. And you you probably have had this conversation a lot.
Ryan Kohler 03:41
All those things that come out, are you know, they’re new and cool and exciting. And the stuff that I find myself, you know, preaching, I guess, to use the same word is it’s not as exciting might be a little boring, not as sexy and cool as all the you know, supplements and these little tricks that come out. But yeah, we always have to take that step back.
Marginal Gains in Cycling
Trevor Connor 04:02
We live in an era of marginal gains. I think this has become a very popular term, I think of Team Sky. So Chris, you were saying that was really Dave Brailsford?
Chris Case 04:13
Yeah, Dave Brailsford was the he certainly isn’t the first person to use the term marginal gains. In fact, I googled that and the origin story of that, and I found everything from chess experts in the I think it was the late 1800s, who were using the term marginal gains, all the way back to Japanese philosophy from you know, long, long ago. I don’t know what dynasty but we’re talking long ago, and that was sort of a concept of these, these very small, seemingly insignificant things you could do that cumulatively would add up to a significant effect. Dave Brailsford was the one that essentially came along as a general manager of Team Sky and said, we’re going to apply that to a cycling atmosphere, we’re going to bring mattresses to the Tour de France, we’re going to, you know, so that people will sleep that just that little bit better. We’re going to do things with when it comes to nutrition equipment, physiology, testing, whatever the case may be, in each of those adds a half a percent, maybe, or maybe less than that. And they will add up to 2%, 3%, on the top end of an athlete at that level, which at that level, as we know, is something, and can make the difference between first at the tour and pack fodder at the tour.
Trevor Connor 05:40
What they like to say is that the tour, the difference between the winner and lanterne rouge is 5%, Right? Exactly, it’s a small difference. So if you combine these little things that make a quarter of a percent difference here, a quarter percent difference there, the theory is we’re all kind of coming in on the same footing. So if you can find these little things that’s going to win the race. And what we’re going to really hope to convince you of today is when you’re a Team Sky are not Team Sky anymore,
Chris Case 06:11
Ineos Grenadiers or any of these World Tour teams, exactly.
Trevor Connor 06:15
That approach is probably pretty effective. But for us, Average Joe’s for most of us, the case we’re going to make is, I actually think that can sometimes hurt.
Chris Case 06:28
Yeah, exactly. And I would say that what you will gain by focusing on that 5% is at most 5%. But if you focus on the 95%, frankly, you’re going to get a much bigger return or potentially get a much bigger return for all the investment of time and energy that you’ve put into those activities on and off the bike.
Study: Less is More, Cyclists, Triathletes, 30 minute cycling time, trial performance is impaired with multiple feedback compared to a single feedback
Trevor Connor 06:54
So we just recorded the episode about time trialing, which was a fun episode. While we were getting ready for it, I read a study that just came out that I mentioned in that episode, but wanted to bring over to this episode because it is a really good analogy of what we’re talking about. So this was a study called, sure enough, Less is More, Cyclists, Triathletes, 30 minute cycling time, trial performance is impaired with multiple feedback compared to a single feedback. So let me just give you the story of this study. They they. And there’s a I have a few issues with these studies. But I think for what we’re talking about today, this study is fantastic. So they used experienced triathletes, and cyclists who focus on time trialing, they didn’t use elite they didn’t use best in the world, but they use experience athletes. And they had every one of these athletes perform two 30 minute time trials, so you were going for distance. In one of the tests, all they’d be able to see is time. So they’d know how much time is left in the time trial. In the other test, they would see multiple metrics, they would see time distance, power, cadence, heart rate.
Chris Case 08:19
They we’re facing a barrage of data is what you’re saying basically.
Trevor Connor 08:23
Seeing all the data that a lot of people are going to have on their bike computer when they’re sitting there in a time trial, right going, I need all this data, because it’s going to help right, here was what was jaw dropping about that study. When they took the time trial, where they only had a single metric, the average wattage, so group wattage was about 287.9 watts. So plus or minus. when they had multiple metrics,
Chris Case 08:52
Trevor Connor 08:53
Same people. And this was only like a week or two apart. So there’s no performance gains in it, or fitness gains, anything else like that, when they have multiple metrics. Average wattage was 227.9 watts a massive difference.
Trevor Connor 09:09
So having multiple metrics 60 watt drop.
Chris Case 09:14
Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing to hear.
Trevor Connor 09:17
So this study, now here, you get what at the bias of the of the people who wrote this study, it’s actually was published in frontiers in psychology. And they did a lot, I’m not going to go into all the details, but they did a lot in this study to try to prove that it wasn’t because they came into one of the tests, fatigued, that it wasn’t a motivational thing, and actually did some creative ways to figure all that out. It was truly just having the multiple metrics and their explanation for it is they talked about cognitive load. And there has been a lot of research showing that when you have too much cognitive load which fatigue Your brain that can actually cause you to perform worse, it leads to general fatigue. So we did an episode on this a long time ago talking about his fatigue in the muscles, or is it more central and there is this whole central governor theory. And so they’re leaning into this basically saying you are causing mental fatigue, which your body doesn’t fully differentiate as just general fatigue. And it slows you down. One things I did notice in this study is in when they were doing it with multiple metrics, as they were getting further and further into the time trial and getting tired, they would stop looking at the the numbers, they actually had a whole headgear hooked up to it too, so they could watch or see what each athlete was looking at. So I mean, this sounds like a tangent. But the reason I think this is so relevant is when you’re talking about those extra 5 percents, that’s all these extra things to look at, instead of just focusing on the performance.
Chris Case 11:02
Bit of clutter, you might say,
Trevor Connor 11:04
And this little thing here, this little thing there might gain you .1% and nothing might gain you .2%. So if you stick with this analogy of wattage, the all these little 5% things that you read about might gain you 10 watts, but there costing you 60. So the net is the loss, the net is a big loss. Yeah. And that’s, I hope, the case that we’re going to make today of why actually focusing on this 5% might actually not only not help you, it might actually hurt you. It’s going to distract you, it’s going to fatigue you. We are all, for most of us are not pros. So we have families, we have jobs, we have limited bandwidth, we have limited energy. So it’s a question of where do you want to focus it? And do you want to focus on putting a lot of energy into something that’s just a little gain? Or focus on the big things that are a big game?
Junior Athletes focusing on the Five Percent
Chris Case 12:06
Yeah. This makes me think of the maybe the junior context a little bit, Ryan. I would assume that you’re, you’re not encouraging the junior athletes you work with to focus too much on the data just to go out and ride. Maybe there’s a head unit, but don’t have a lot of data up on it when they’re training or racing. Is that true?
Ryan Kohler 12:28
Yeah. I mean, a lot of them are trying to get the data, they want it, because that’s what you do. Right? Everybody’s got it. But yeah, with juniors, I try to get them to tune into the effort and just get to know their bodies. And that was one thing that stood out from this study was that it immediately made me think of how we can find that flow state when we’re riding. And if we think about a time trial, you just get into that flow state, everything else is tuned out and you just have you the bike and your body, you know, and you’re just riding. And when we start throwing all that data, it seems like every time we look at the computer or look at a different piece of data, it sort of pops us out of that.
Chris Case 13:06
Just distracts us, throws us out of the element.
Ryan Kohler 13:08
Yeah. Yeah. So I think taking them yeah, playing that with juniors. Yeah, I try to just not have them. Yeah, focus on the numbers as much use them secondary, but get them to tune in more with that effort. And, you know, learn your body.
Professional Athletes focusing on the Five Percent
Chris Case 13:21
Okay, so let’s ask one question that might be on a lot of people’s minds. If the 5% is what you say it is. And it’s kind of fatiguing us in it in it might actually hurt us? Why do the pros put so much emphasis on this Trevor?
Trevor Connor 13:36
There are a lot of things that are different about pros from us. And it’s really important to understand this when you’re reading an article and hearing this pro does this or this pro does that. The first one is most pros have 10 plus years of training in their legs. And most of that time was spent focusing on that 95% the big things. By the time they get to that top level, by the time they’re at the Olympics, or the Tour de France, they’ve really peaked out their fitness, their strength, their race experience. So that’s where if they want a little more, they have to focus on the 5%. But I think if you talk to any Pro, and we’ve asked a few pros this question, they will tell you first they had to build the fitness as a matter of fact, in that time trial episode, we talked a little bit about that with Kristin Armstrong. You know, she kind of went well, yeah, you know, the strength is there. You can see kind of her mindset of yeah, that that’s all been figured out. So she was very focused on what are the little things I can do to beat my opponents. But underlying all that was decades of getting to be the best.
Chris Case 14:46
Yeah, you have to build the engine before you can then kind of put the new fancy chip in the car to make it go just a little bit faster or work on this tune up the suspension to make it go a little bit faster. I know some people out there hate the car analogies, but I feel like this is kind of app like the the foundation has to be there, or the engine has to be solid before you can modify it to tune it up to make it just that little bit better. And she spent many, many years as most if not all pros do, in that method of just building and building and building the base, the foundation, to then attach a little bit of this extra stuff to it.
Trevor Connor 15:37
So people don’t like the car analogy, to go with another example using that talking with Kristin. That’s actually what really struck me when she talked about her strategy. So they went well. Yeah, that’s a cool strategy. I’m just sitting there thinking 99.9% of riders, if they did that, sure, they will get that 22nd gap completely blow up and finish five minutes down. Right, right inherent in all of this is you have the fitness.
Chris Case 16:02
Yeah, we actually spoke with Kristin Armstrong and her coach Jim Miller, quite a while back, but that episode will run next week, Episode 154.
How Kristin Armstrong Strategized Against her Opponents
Trevor Connor 16:13
Let’s hear again from three time Olympic gold medalist, Kristin Armstrong, about how she strategized against her opponents, even in a time trial. Just bear in mind, she had to get awfully strong before she could be thinking this way,
Kristin Armstrong 16:26
We approached every race with a different tactics. So I remember in 2015, when I made a comeback I hadn’t raised since 2000, since London, and basically, we ended up at nationals and the tactic at Nationals was two laps. And this tactic this time around was, these girls haven’t seen you race for several years. And our goal on lap one, is we’re going to mentally get in their heads, you are going to go out as hard as you can for lap one. And you’re just going to hang on for dear life and thought to and hope we just gonna pray you make it. But we think that people will get time checks because it’s the exact two laps, that a lap one when they’re seeing that they’re down by 20 seconds. They’re gonna freak out because they hadn’t seen me for years. And so it worked. I won.
Trevor Connor 17:27
So another important thing to remember with pros is yes, they they work in that 5%, but its not really them. They have managers, they have nutritionists, they have mechanics, who are the ones figuring out that 5%. And really the pros are generally just being told, do this ride that, I’m still gonna say most of the time the pros are just focused on, let’s get the training done.
Resources and Support of Professional Athletes
Ryan Kohler 17:56
Yeah, we just talked about this in one of our nutrition webinars, you know, where I think we use the example of when I was crewing for a guy doing western states. And he you know, he was competing for a top spot, he was competing for the win. And he had his whole team around him. And I remember, you know, my job was to handle his nutrition. And the whole time all he had to do was run. And every time he got to support or, you know, aid station, you know, I had his nutrition, we would communicate on what he needed. And then he would just continue to run but all of that planning was done. You know, we work together on it beforehand. But once he was in the event, like that was it he just ran and all the all the mental energy spent on nutrition, that was my job. So his Yeah, he didn’t have to think about it.
Chris Case 18:42
Yeah, if we could only all have that luxury of just sitting back doing our workout and then having people bring us food and the you know, wipe us down with towels and have this one year there to do the massage.
Trevor Connor 18:59
It’s been a bit since we’ve heard for many time guests on the show and pro cyclists with Team bike exchange, Brent Bookwalter. But of all the guests we’ve had on the show, there’s no one who’s pushed more for this whole idea of balance. Brent talks about how they as pros really do get taken care of and don’t have to worry about so much. But then goes into the fact that if you have a family and and a job, it’s a different story. So let’s hear what he has to say.
Brent Bookwalter 19:26
We are at the highest level of the sport and the World Tour. Most of us have incredible access to resources and support and we do go through periods of our seasons, where we are babied and nurtured and taken care of and you know, every minute of every day is outlined for us and it’s just plug and play we show up and get after it. Someone looks after us every step of the way. On the opposite side of that is since those days and those periods are so looked after and so micromanaged and so far removed from quote, normal life, that sort of normal life outside of the sport and outside of competition does get neglected. And that requires a need and attention, and a deserved focus when we come back to that, that is maybe you know, even higher than if we had been just sort of in and out of that through a whole week or through a whole month or through a whole year. So, no matter who you are, it’s important to define that balance is maybe elusive, elusive goal or dream, but balance of family and balance with other work balance with some travel and just keeping that sort of a holistic, all encompassing outlook on everything that is part of life.
How to Prepare for Races
Trevor Connor 20:40
I still remember my first couple years doing the whole NRC circuit, In the US, I would tend to go solo. So I had to take care of my own registration, I had to take care of my own food, I had to do all my prep, I had to take care of all these things, and it was fatiguing. And I remember when I had a year racing on a team, it was great, but it was almost confusing, just almost boring. What do I do? Exactly. I go the race. And I’d be like, wait, I don’t have to run around and do this and do that. And I want to go to the grocery store, pick this up. I don’t have to prepare that. I’m like, wow, hey, this is so much easier, and I have so much more energy. It was actually that it was like, it’s kind of boring.
Chris Case 21:26
This is why as a slight tangent, as a journalist, you go to races, big races, and good luck if you’re trying to use the WiFi because every athlete in the hotel is watching movies with their feet up because they have nothing to do. Yeah, quote, unquote, nothing to do. They’re preparing for their race, and they’re sucking up all the WiFi. And journalists can’t get any work done. You know, in an ideal situation, yeah, that’s exactly what you should do to prepare for a race, relax.
Trevor Connor 22:00
I still noticed this when I go to Tobago, so I’ll, that’s a UCI race, you have to be on a team. So always find a team to ride with. And you just see the difference. Like we finished the stage, I hop in the the ocean really quick, enjoy some water, then quickly grab my computer, I’m going over by the pool where they’ve got good Wi Fi and spending the rest of the day working and then have to come back, get ready for the next day’s race and everything. But I’d watch my teammates, they get back from the race, they’ll hop in the water with me, then they go and quite literally just lie in bed for eight hours, close the curtains Keep the room dark, and that is their day.
Chris Case 22:41
Yeah, it is boring life. If you can do it, right.
Ryan Kohler 22:48
And that’s, you know, going back to the junior point, that’s another thing that juniors need to be taught, you know, we would get done. I mean, using mountain bike nationals as an example, that’s a good one where we would go out and ride the course. And then, you know, it’s not a challenging ride. But we’d get back to the house. And you know, they want to go you know, they’re running around, they want to go ride the bikes more and do all this stuff. And and but you have to get them to say no, no, this is where you just get bored, get a book, hang out and just put your feet up,
Chris Case 23:18
whatever a book is,
Ryan Kohler 23:20
yeah. Or they can get their their e-reader, whatever. But, but yeah, just tell them to be bored for a little while and sit around. And that’s your recovery, take a nap, whatever, you know, and so they need to learn that too.
Trevor Connor 23:34
Yeah, the the other point I will make about pros is, remember, this is all they focus on. So using that example, those athletes that I ride with Tobago, they they do focus a little bit on those five percents, but we finished the stage at one o’clock from one o’clock until they go to bed, they’re gonna put a little time into their bike, they might put a little time into a few other things. But all that adds up to two hours. They got nothing else to do. That’s easy. I didn’t do as many of these things as they would do. Because like I said, I had to quickly hop in the ocean, then go try to get eight hours of work in, and then come back in at 10 o’clock at night when they’re all sleeping. I’m trying to clean off my bike, get ready for the next stage and everything else. And you’d always see by the final day of the race, they’re all still fresh and ready to go and I’m tired. So in summary, yes, pros do focus on the 5%
Chris Case 24:31
but they have the luxury to do so
Trevor Connor 24:32
they have the luxury and they have a whole team of people that are doing a lot of it for them. So really important to remember that is different. And if you don’t have that team, if you have a life, you have a job, you have a family, that’s going to wear on you.
Chris Case 24:48
It’s interesting too. We talked about this as if it’s the realm of where the the pros live in this 5% they’re looking for these these little things, these little tweaks to help them along the way. But honestly, and kind of in conflict with what we’ve just said, a lot of these things might hatch in the pro world, and pros might try them. And then they’ll kind of move on. And it’s the amateurs that are trying to do what the pros do or do what they think the pros are doing that latch on to these things. And are like, oh, I must do that. I think it’d be cool to walk through a few examples of the things that people I think they have this notion that pros are doing it, but they’re actually not. And we’ve been able to, to hear from them that they’re not. So let’s walk through some, Trevor.
Trevor Connor 25:37
Yeah. And I think that’s a really important point is I think there’s a lot of belief in these 5% things that pros really focus on. And at least our conversation with the pros there, t they were like, I don’t know, I’ve heard about that. I don’t, I don’t do it. Right. Right. So that’s a bit of what motivated this episode. We’ve done a couple recent episodes on things that are considered part of that. 5%. And we’re quite surprised when we talk to people very high level of their responses. Yeah, not really. Right. So I think the first one that we keep hearing about that we get a lot of questions about is the whole fasting, training, fasting and keto. And I really liked that we just recently had Dr. Jeukendrup, has done some of the original research on fasted training. At the end of it, you asked him, So how do you apply it with your athletes? And his response was, I really don’t.
Chris Case 26:31
Yeah, it was a pretty lukewarm response. When it came to the the different protocols or methods that we walked through in that episode. He does some of this, but it’s not a major focus, you know, I think if you were to really pinpoint what they do, when it comes to nutrition, it’s just solid, fundamental nutritional practice. And this other stuff is maybe a little bit here a little bit there, maybe it’s in the bases and a little bit. And if it’s not for a particular athlete, just skip it, don’t do it.
Dr. Jeukendrup and Diet
Trevor Connor 27:07
We just talked about how renowned sports nutritionist and researcher Dr. Jeukendrup, doesn’t really employ fascinating approaches with his athletes, even though he did some of the research around it, let’s hear what he has to say.
Asker Jeukendrup 27:19
What is clear is that whatever diet you give to humans, they will they will adapt to it. Some diets, you adapt very quickly, some diets like a high fat diet, that takes a little bit longer to really adapt to it. But ultimately, you will adapt to it. And you will be able to do similar types of things with a completely different fuel mix Now, if we if we then look at like performance, then there are some things of physiology that do not change whether you’re adapted or not. If intensity is really high, you need glycolysis there like that, that is just physiology, whether you can adapt for as many years as you like, you’re still if the intensity is high enough, you’re still going to need glycolysis with high intensity exercise, you’re still going to need carbohydrate as the as the main fuel. So this is why I think a diet, any diet, where that that is the one solution for all problems doesn’t exist. A high carbohydrate diet is not a solution to all problems. A high fat diet or a keto diet is not a solution to all problems. And I think if you want to train your carbohydrate and your fat metabolism, because I think I read a lot about the keto diet and metabolic flexibility, well, you’re actually making your body very inflexible. Because your body becomes really good at using fat, and really poor at using carbohydrate. Same thing that would happen if you if you always were on a high carb diet, you become pretty inflexible. We said earlier, when you become very dependent on carbohydrate. So the the only way to, to stay sort of metabolically flexible is to give different challenges to the body at different times. And when it comes to training, we find this very normal, we find it very normal that we don’t train the same every day. And we we break up the training as much as we can, we give different stimuli, And I think we should do the same with with nutrition. Not not everyday the same some days, high carb, some days low carb, and if you really want to get to the the effects that we are talking about here. I think you have to really push this to two extremes sometimes not every day. But sometimes.
Trevor Connor 29:56
The other one that really struck me is we’ve had lots of questions about breathing techniques and focusing on your breathing and training. So we said, let’s do an episode on this. And we found a top expert who works with some some top teams to talk with him about breathing. And by takeaway that basically he said at the very end of it is, if you’re aware of your breathing, I mean, something’s wrong. Your body’s really good at breathing, just let it do it.
Chris Case 30:23
Yeah, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And with practice, it could be a benefit to them. But I think the this particular doctor’s advice was if you are feeling comfortable, why bother trying to metal with something that evolution has made work pretty well.
Trevor Connor 30:46
Here’s Dr. James Hall, a researcher on breathing, who was recently on the show and basically said, don’t focus on it.
Dr. James Hull 30:53
It’s been great to talk to you about how highly evolved their spiritual system is and what a fantastic system is when it works well. So I would suggest to athletes, if it’s working well for you, and you have no problems. Don’t tinker with it, it’s not going to cause you problems. Having said that, there are a number of conditions which can cause you to breathe, have difficulties with your breathing, and you know, you need to think about that and make sure you get the diagnosis, right. So if you think you’re getting wheezing, you’re getting breathlessness, think about the conditions that we’ve talked about, particularly exercise induced laryngeal obstruction. Take a selfie video on your phone or get somebody to do that, so they can see what the wheeze is like when you take it to your coach or practitioner. And also think about times outside exercise. So make sure you avoid getting infection, make sure you treat hay fever properly, so your nose works, make sure you’ve got good levels of hydration on board, so you’re always in nice and moist and well conditioned. But otherwise, I would try and avoid anything else that tinker with it if it’s working well for you.
Trevor Connor 31:53
So another one that gets talked about a lot. And look, we have been very supportive of some really good recovery tools. I think Normatec is a great tool, I think Whoop, and I know Ryan has some things to say here. But I think Route Whoop can be really good at helping you with recovery. But again, I can’t remember who was that we recently had on the show. I certainly recently had Dr. Pruitt say this to me that 80-90% of recovery is sleep.
Chris Case 32:29
Yeah. And we had Dr. Halson on here, I think during the sleep episode, and she obviously you might say she has a bias because she researches sleep. But you could also say she has a great understanding of the powers of sleep. And she said the exact same thing. recovery, recovery, recovery, equals Sleep, sleep, sleep, if you can get it. And there’s there’s a little bit more that you can do. And in some ways, but yeah, the fundamentals again, it comes back to the fundamentals and sleep is that fundamental when it comes to recovery? Yeah.
Trevor Connor 33:05
Here’s Dr. Shona Halson.
Dr. Shona Halson 33:06
Yeah, the way that I think of it, the way that I try to explain to people and the athletes that I work with is, you know, I think of recovery as a pyramid. And, you know, you’ve got to get the base of your pyramid right first, before you add all the fancy things to the top. And, you know, things like your sleep, and, you know, nutrition and training, you know, that’s the foundation of your pyramid. But what I see a lot of a lot of athletes do and what a lot of people want to do is just take the quick, easy, simple fix, that will often isn’t really a fix, it’s just something that they think is that ticking the box or doing their recovery, when and if you think about it, we’re supposed to spend a third of our lives asleep. And you know, that’s a significant period of time in comparison to say, you know, I am an advocate for ice bath in the right setting in the right situation. But you know, you might be talking 15 minutes of your day, in comparison to sleep that should be, you know, for athletes, maybe around nine hours. So I think it’s one of the you know, we call them the big rocks, I think it’s one of the key aspects, it’s, for most people, it’s not that difficult to do. It’s just a matter of getting the behaviors, right. And I think that focusing on that, rather than focusing on the really small things that may have less of an impact when you don’t have your sleep nailed, and you’re not doing that properly. I think that doesn’t, that doesn’t make sense to me.
Ryan Kohler 34:29
I’ve used Whoop, also. And, I mean, I love the metrics you get, you know, it’s it’s, it gives you a lot of great information, the reports you can generate are really helpful. But what I found is that I kept getting bad scores, and I knew I wasn’t recovering well, I knew I wasn’t sleeping well. And I ended up having to unplug from it because I just didn’t want to see it anymore. So I just didn’t I just stopped wearing it for a while, and you know and really was able to just focus on really go back to the that 95%. Because I said, Well, I know what it’s gonna tell me. I know, my I know, my HRV is, you know, in the bucket right now. I know my sleep is down. So I just took it off, and then instead of having that data drive it, it was back to the basics and just say, Alright, what do I need to do to get sleep, you know, and then get back in tune with the body and say, Oh, I feel better today, oh, I performed well, on this on this workout, things are moving in the right direction. So while the data is great, I think in some cases, it’s, you know, maybe useful to start with it. But also, you have to unplug from it once in a while.
Chris Case 35:35
And I think that that goes to the point where some people are natural experimenters. So they want to try some of these things. But I think the mistake that can be made is that they then try to force the issue. And they’re like, this is going to work for me, or this is going to make a difference. And they stick with it too long. Even though, your example is a good one in that you noticed that it was actually hindering something about you or affecting your mental state. And you said, I’m going to set it this, set it aside. It’s not doing what it’s intended to do. It’s in fact hurting what it’s intending to do. So I’m going to set it aside, go back to baseline, reset some things. I don’t need this data. No one needs the data. It can help in certain cases, but no one needs it. So I’m going to set it aside. And that’s a good lesson.
Trevor Connor 36:26
But I also think this is a great example of the where’s the value of the 5%? Or the 95%?I’ve had people reach out to me at the same question. So you even said it yourself. You’re like, well, I looked at my Whoop, I know it wasn’t sleeping well. I know it wasn’t recovering well, my HRV was low. It was affecting me mentally. But then I’m glad you said so I disconnected but then I tried to get some sleep. Right. What I’ve seen from some of the emails I’ve gotten is, well, I’m not sleeping well, you know, HRVs through the floor, I’m not riding very well. What are some good recovery tools, like what’s a good recovery mix? What are some other things I could use, I use this foam roller versus that foam roller? And my response tends to be the stop focusing on those five percents. Take a couple days off the bike and get some sleep.
Chris Case 37:17
It’s like adding more band aids to the issue, right. But those things are all adding up to band aids, upon band aids, upon band aids, it is not fixing the underlying problem, which is to just go back to the basics.
Trevor Connor 37:29
And I I experienced that myself last week, I was actually really tired. Ryan tortured me with a 7am VO to max workout that I wasn’t ready for, and it just had me off my game for days.
Chris Case 37:43
Trevor Connor 37:44
And I finally I think it was Thursday, after just unsuccessful right after unsuccessful ride said, well, I’ve got the plan a couple hours on the bike, or I get skip a couple hours on the bike, get my work done and get to bed early.
Chris Case 37:59
Trevor Connor 38:00
And that’s what I did and got a great night of sleep. And it made a huge difference. So I wasn’t sitting there going, Oh, I haven’t been doing my recovery drink mixes.
Chris Case 38:10
Trevor Connor 38:11
I gotta do that that’s gonna make the difference. It was like, No, I need to stop ride my bike and I need to sleep.
Ryan Kohler 38:17
Yeah, I think to your point of, you know, when you have that data, what do you what’s the next step? You know? And you probably get these two, a lot of questions from athletes about Yeah, what do I What do I do? What is this HRV metric mean? And how can I change it? Rather than just stepping back at times? I feel like sometimes the you know, the athletes can dive into the data a lot more than we might, you know, where we might just say, Oh, yeah, just put the bike down and go to sleep. But they’ll dive into this deeper and deeper, and it just takes you down this rabbit hole. And I always go back to just keep it simple. And bring it back and just try to figure out just that 30,000 foot view. You know, what is it if it’s recovery, okay, yeah, find that thing in your lifestyle that that’s going to help you achieve recovery. And if it’s sleep, then let’s start with that. And then build in those 5% things way down the road if you ever need them. But right now focus on the big picture.
Chris Case 39:12
I guess the question I would have to give people try to give people some practical advice here is because they seem to be blinded by the data, they get sucked into it. They’re trying to find a problem that maybe doesn’t even exist if they or it exists, but if they were to step back with a different lens, they’d be able to identify it, but instead they go deeper and deeper. So how, how do you avoid that? I mean, is it sometimes it’s hard to see those things? Maybe the obvious answer here is that’s why you work with a coach because they can help you see that.
Ryan Kohler 39:46
Yeah, that was the first thing that came to mind is you know, you have your data, you’re looking at it, you’re gonna look at it in a certain light. But then when you can’t seem to get out of that, that spiral of digging deeper and deeper than Yeah, that’s where you have that Third person who has who’s going to look at it a little bit differently. And yeah, it could be a coach, a teammate, family member. And to them, it’s it’s simple, you know, but when you’re looking at it, and you’re so buried in the data, you might not see that. And so it takes, you know, takes that that team essentially a new perspective. Yeah, yeah.
Focusing on the Five Percent
Trevor Connor 40:20
I’m hesitant to bring this up. I’m certainly not going to use names. But Ryan and I were going through an email that we received from a dad of a junior athlete, that was actually a little concerning to us. And this is again, that what Ryan’s talking about that focusing on the data, focusing on the 5%, and not seeing the 95%. So very quickly started this email with, well, she she’s going through a very tough school that’s very demanding. So again, Junior, so she’s in high school, she’s training 20 hours a week, she’s been she’s had two bad injuries in the last year, which were more overuse injuries. One was a concussion. Yeah. And and was upset that two months later, she was still feeling the effects of that concussion. And then really wanted to dive into the well, What’s the right type of interval work? What’s the right type of intensity? What are the little tricks to balance all this and Ryan and I both read it and said, You got to back down.
Chris Case 41:20
Push the pause button here, let’s let’s stop for a second,
Trevor Connor 41:23
right. This is too much training for both her age and for everything else she has going on in her life. 20 hours per week is insane. And there’s no little tricks, there’s no little 5% that’s going to fix this, you have to look at this big picture of repeated injuries struggling, fatigued. This is off course.
Chris Case 41:44
Yeah. And you gotta wonder what is going on inside that athletes mind too? And how close she is to a breaking point of some kind.
Ryan Kohler 41:53
Right? Yeah. And they, they’re not going to typically bring that up because they want to they want to seem, you know, strong and keep pushing.
Chris Case 42:02
he’s someone out there that’s putting the pressure on them.
Ryan Kohler 42:05
Yeah, yeah. But I’ve seen it over and over with Junior athletes, that the timing of it, you know, when we would start training in the Spring, we would see, okay, as you know, around Spring Break, things change a little bit. But then as they get towards the end of the school year, and they have finals coming up, the mentality always changed. And they’re, willing to push, but you can see that they’re not performing. So, you know, you have to end with this athlete. Yeah, being at a very challenging school, it sounds like it takes even maybe more time or more mental energy to, to perform at this school. So this is one of those times where Yeah, it just makes sense to just back down, you know, and think about the long term where do you you know, you’re in high school. Now, where do you want to be as you 23? Where do you want to be when you’re 24, 25? Do you still want to race bikes? Or is this just like a flash in the pan? And you win Junior NATS now and then you burn out? I mean, you know, you think about that long term.
The three tiers of the Ninty-Five Percent
Chris Case 42:57
That’s such a hard thing for a person of that age. They’re not equipped to make those decisions. They’re not thinking in those terms. Yeah. So the onus is on somebody else. Okay, now, the crux of the episode, the 95%. Let’s talk about that, shall we? We have touched upon it in so many ways, but let’s really get into it. What is the 95%? Ryan, I’ll start with you. What in your mind, constitutes the 95%? The bulk of what people should really focus on?
Ryan Kohler 43:33
Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, to go back to the basics of I mean, when I was learning this stuff in school, it was, you know, we had frequency, intensity and timing. You know, are three basic things that we talked about for workouts, you know, how often do you do it? How long do you do it? How hard do you go? And it’s so simple, but it’s not, because then you try to build off of it. And I think that’s where we can easily make it overly complex. But yeah, I mean, the goal is, you know, for athletes is we want to apply a, you know, a training stress, we want to have it, you know, be an overload, and then we need to recover from it. And it’s, you know, this basic give and take.
Chris Case 44:14
It was interesting. You began some threads on the forum that we have. And there was a series of questions that you were asking, essentially, they all came down to, what do I wish I knew when I started out cycling, and a lot of the stuff that is in there is exactly what we’re talking about, because it is the fundamentals. It’s hard to see it sometimes when you’re first starting out, if you don’t have the right coach, or the right mentor, or the right teammates, or whoever, where you’re actually learning the craft of training and learning the craft of cycling, then you might get either bogged down or distracted by all the fancy stuff and do it quote unquote, the wrong way. But those threads really revealed a lot of interesting tips from members and the coaching staff here, as to what people should be focusing on. I thought yours, Trevor was really good. It goes back to a conversation you had with your one of your mentors long ago.
Trevor Connor 45:13
So I was a classic example of somebody who was looking for all those five percents at the start of my career, and hearing all these things on the group rides and going, Oh, I should do that, and I should try that. And I mentioned this in that thread and then said, you know, at first I said, hearing all these stupid things on the group, ride, and I went, actually, you know, what, probably what I was hearing was good stuff. I just had so little understanding of training, I probably wasn’t applying it right. But the thing that made the big difference in my cycling career, in my career in general, was the day, So I think I’ve talked about this on the show before my original mentor, Glen Swan, I finally just went to him and said, you know, you’ve told me about the principles before I’ve ignored you, I paid the price for that. So teach me how to train and he said, treat me to a slice of pizza, and I’ll give you give you an hour or two. So I still say it’s the best three dollars I’ve ever spent in my life, we went to the pizza place, because he’s a pizza fanatic. Got him two slices of pizza, and we talked for a while. All he did was teach me the principles of training. Didn’t give me any workouts or anything like that didn’t tell me how to map out the week, just said here are the principles of training. So it taught me about overload, taught me about the law of diminishing returns, taught me about a few of the other concepts. And what’s more important, he had told me all this stuff before. This time, I really tried to listen and spent the whole year trying to fully understand these basic principles that he taught me. And this was over 20 years ago, and since then, I’ve gotten my exercise physiology degree. I’ve been coaching for how many years, i’ve raced for decades, and I have learned so much since. But the core of everything I know about exercise physiology about training, still comes down to those basic principles that he taught me over a slice of pizza. None of that has changed. That is still the core of all my understanding.
Chris Case 47:22
It’s great to hear that those principles are the foundation like we’ve been saying of everything that has come after it. It’s also great to hear that pizza is still really good.
Trevor Connor 47:34
Now this was
Trevor Connor 47:36
I was waiting for you to go wait a minute, two slices of pizza three dollars? How old are you?
Chris Case 47:42
That too. It certainly doesn’t cost that little on Pearl Street does it?
Trevor Connor 47:48
No, so our office is above a pizza place. This gets really tough.
Chris Case 47:52
That’s tempting. Every day, it’s tempting. Because I’m a fanatic to just like Glen Swan. So let’s be very clear. The training is a big component of the 95%. Ryan mentioned the word recovery is a big component of this 95% the other third tier or third pillar, I guess you could call it of the 95% is
Trevor Connor 48:16
Chris Case 48:17
Trevor Connor 48:18
I personally say with hesitation but that’s for Chris’s benefit.
Chris Case 48:21
Yes, if only I could tell some stories about Trevor’s non functioning gear, and broken stuff that dangles from his bike occasionally.
Trevor Connor 48:30
Functioning gear is that oddity for me. Every once in a while I have it I don’t know what happened to make it function, but it doesn’t last long. But yes, to me that 95% is three simple things, effective training, effective recovery, functioning gear. And notice I didn’t say best gear.
Chris Case 48:51
Trevor Connor 48:51
I didn’t say most expensive gear. functioning gear.
Chris Case 48:56
Yeah. You can do a lot with the basics there, too. So let’s start with that first pillar training. Ryan.
Ryan Kohler 49:07
Yeah, I mentioned that you know, this principle earlier about that KISS, you know, the KISS approach, and I learned this way back in the day when I was ski instructing and overthinking things and the more it
Chris Case 49:19
Keep it simple, stupid, for people out there that aren’t familiar with the acronym.
Ryan Kohler 49:24
I wasn’t gonna say it but, at least I try not to use the last F but we can say.
Chris Case 49:30
Keep it simple
Ryan Kohler 49:31
Chris Case 49:33
Keep it simple
Ryan Kohler 49:35
Yeah, so I mentioned this principle earlier, briefly, but the KISS right, the keep it simple, stupid. Maybe we don’t.
Trevor Connor 49:43
Ryan. Ryan is struggling with saying that last word, such a nice guy.
Chris Case 49:48
Trevor Connor 49:48
I’m gonna tell you what Chris would say.
Ryan Kohler 49:52
Can’t offend anybody. Right. All right. All right. But No, keep well, when I first heard of this, when I was ski instructing learned of this, the other instructors had no qualms about telling me keep it simple, stupid. So that’s how I learned it. Yeah, yeah. But yeah, the goal with this is Yeah, I mean, it really is just what it says keep it simple. And I think it’s the physiology, the training everything, we can make it as complex as we want to. And I think the athletes, you know, they want to keep, you know, a lot of them want to learn, and they, they dig in deep to the data, there’s a lot of research coming out around all sorts of training, modalities and everything. But, you know, in the end, we need to just always keep bringing it back. So I think the forum post that you mentioned earlier, was actually a good practice for all of us. Because when I put that out there, and then immediately started thinking about, okay, what are these? What are some beginner tips that I would come up with? And what are mistakes I made? It took a few minutes to really think back and sort of reactivate that, that area of the brain, and think about the things that we’ve been through many years ago. And now we might forget. So that’s, I think, yeah, as coaches the benefit, we have to keep that in mind, because that’s where we can help bring people back, you know, it’s easy to see all of the new like the supplements and the equipment and everything out there, that’s gonna help get us that 5%. But we can always remember, no, there’s something more and it’s, we need to step back to see it.
Trevor Connor 51:20
We did, so our last summary episode was, I think, titled the physiology is complex, but keep the training simple. Where we really talked about this, that Yeah, when you, you know, sometimes we oversimplify the physiology, and then over complexify, the training really should be the other way around. And this is, as you know, I’m a personal proponent of really simple interval work, five by five minutes, four by eight minutes. Even when I have high intensity, something like tabatas, which is just 20 on 10 seconds off. And some people find that overly simple, but what I actually really enjoyed is, here’s a good example of this last week, when we did that workout that Ryan set up, he prefaced it at the beginning with, I don’t like this, because these are kind of steady state intervals. And I’m a mountain biker, but we’re gonna do four by four minute intervals. So it’s four minutes at above threshold, and I think it was what three minute recoveries? Ryan? Yep. So he did them. I did them. Dr. Chung did them. As I mentioned earlier, I was completely cooked, I had no business being on the bike, let alone doing intervals. So at the end of it, we all posted screenshots of our workouts on our discussion forum. And it led to this really long, really enjoyable conversation, where we’re looking at all the nuances. So you could look at my heart rate, and really see that yes, even though I was putting out the power, I was hitting the power that I would want to hit in these intervals. You can see by my heart rate response, I was not ready, I had no business doing these, you looked at at Ryan’s, you saw a bit of a slower heart rate come up, because he’s more of that explosive, big FRC type guy. Other people started posting, and we’re looking at these nuances in these intervals of, you know, the power was steady, you look at the power, it was pretty boring. But the nuances in heart rate and cadence to really be able to start to analyze, you know, here’s what there’s athletes at, here’s what they can work on, here’s how they should execute these intervals, if heart rate slow to come up because their aerobic system. So for example, with me, I’m pure time traveler, we’ve talked about this on pure aerobic, I posted intervals that I did, effectively a set of four by eights. And you can see my heart rate just comes right up to threshold, right, beginning intervals flattens out at the end of intervals, just comes right back down. So that’s called oxygen deficit and oxygen debt. And when you have somebody who’s generating most of their power aerobically, there’s very little oxygen deficit, very little oxygen debt, somebody who’s a much more anaerobic beast, you’re gonna see a lot more of that oxygen debt.
Trevor Connor 54:08
So we’re going into all these nuances and discussions and what that means and how you can adjust these intervals. Accordingly, in this discussion, at the end of it, I had to kind of make the point of what I love about this is people have said, you know, why do you do such simple intervals. But here, we had one of our best discussions about an incredibly simple interval. So we talked about four by fours and four by eights, which people think of is really boring. But had we done an interval workout of one minute of this, and then 45 seconds of this, and then 20 seconds at this, and then four minutes of this, we couldn’t have had this conversation because heart rate and power would have been all over the place. And all you could do is look at that and go well, you went really hard. Mm hmm. But we couldn’t say anything about the response. So the thing I found fascinating that I mentioned at the end of this discussion was be able to do the simple intervals, actually revealed all these amazing nuances about the athlete. And if we had done complex intervals, you wouldn’t see any of the nuances.
Chris Case 55:08
Yeah, they would have it would have been hidden in all of that clutter. The right, the simple stuff is revealing in terms of the relationship between heart rate and power in terms of some of these other connectivities within systems and things like that. Whereas the other stuff, it’s just too convoluted.
Trevor Connor 55:26
Yep. So definitely Ryan want to hear your take on this. But when I think about the 95% of training, it’s not all this amazing complexity. As a matter of fact, I’ve said to my athletes all the time, there’s a whole lot of ways to skin, the cat. Meaning to get to your peak fitness, there’s a lot of different ways to get there, that all get you to about the same place. The only thing I tell them is if you try to do all of them, you end up with a very butchered cat, which is a horrible analogy. So for me, that 95% the when you’re talking about training is really simple. It’s about the right balance of intensities. So that gets into the are you polarized, are you sweetspot, but have a direction, the right balance of volume and rest is your rest proportional to the amount of time you’re putting on the bike. Are you executing the work effectively. So again, find the intervals that you can do really well, again, doesn’t have to be complex, sometimes complex is hard to execute. So you want effective execution. And then finally the the bigger picture of timing and periodization. And even there, I keep it simple. I am not one of those coaches who gives my athlete a different workout every single day, I am much more that we go into a block I go, here’s the one interval workout, you’re doing this entire six weeks. And then the next block will change. I’m not a let’s change it up every single day.
Chris Case 57:02
The word formulaic comes to mind and maybe that people are turned off by that. But I feel like when done correctly, having the formula is a good thing because it helps you to understand how close to the target you’re getting. For one, it also when it comes to particular workout, if you’re able to repeat it, you can get better at doing it, which people might be thrown off by, but there is an art and a science component to executing intervals properly. And they have to both be dialed in for you to get the most out of that workout. If you’re just doing one one week and a different thing, and next week and a different thing the next week, you haven’t practiced the intervals, and you won’t get as much out of them potentially. So that’s why I use this word formulaic. And obviously, you have to respond to other things in life that might throw you off that formula and adjust accordingly. But if you’re able to stick to the formula, and things are going according to the formula, it helps.
Ryan Kohler 58:09
Well, we just talked about all the nuances in something as simple as four by eight minute intervals, or four by four minute intervals. So the first time you do an interval workout, there’s no nuances, you’re just trying to figure out how to do it, you have to do it a few times before you can get the execution down and start seeing those nuances and really get into those things that can make a really big difference in the execution. If you are changing up the interval work you’re doing every time, then you’re always in that figuring out how to do the intervals and you never get to the nuances that actually do make a big difference.
Ryan Kohler 58:43
Yeah, I think that for by for example, it’s really a fundamental thing to learn. It’s a skill that you need to learn how to execute those. I think your example of the workouts that are meant to be more fun, like more indoor cycling style, where it’s a minute here, 30 seconds there, and you just go hard the whole time, it reminds me of teaching bike skills to people to where we focus heavily on those basics. And what happens is people start to hop on the bike, maybe they don’t practice how to unclip or how to corner or steer the bike very well they don’t do it at slow speeds they just immediately jump into group rides. What happens is all of those basic balancing skills tipping skills of leaning the bike those all get masked under high speed so then we can think about it this way, is like learning to do something like a four by four is a critical fundamental concept that you want to do well before, because then if you if you go into say a spin class and you’re all over the place, now you’re masking all of those skills of learning how your body feels learning how to pace yourself with essentially just a hard effort
Ryan Kohler 59:52
This to me, i’ve been asked this before what is the difference between training and something like peloton? Look I think peloton is great, But that is the difference. Peloton is about fitness and enjoyment. So it has a lot of those kind of fun workouts where you’re changing it up all the time with somebody who’s encouraging you and pushing you hard and all that sort of stuff. Peloton is not designed to make competitive, strong athletes. It is designed to make you fit, make use have a really enjoyable hour, and feel like you accomplish something which I think is great. But if that’s all you’re looking for, do Peloton, do these crazy interval workouts that are fun, if you are trying to hit your best. So this and this whole conversation is the 95% versus a 5%. So this whole episode is directed towards maximizing your gains if you are trying to maximize your gains. Sticking with something that’s a little more tried and true, maybe a little more boring, but then you can execute very effectively. That’s the 95%.
Chris Case 1:00:59
Great. Let’s move on to the next pillar. Recovery.
Ryan Kohler 1:01:03
Yeah, this one immediately makes me think of one of our forum posts where we had a little discussion about this. And it was the comment about sometimes just putting down the Excel spreadsheet or that three week build phase that you had, and just giving the body essentially giving the body what it needs at that time. So not, you know, being stuck to have to do this workout right now, or this is what I need to do. But it’s being flexible, and listening to the body. So I think that that one comment that one of our members made was great, because it really I think was a good summary point.
Chris Case 1:01:39
How do you do that?
Ryan Kohler 1:01:42
Chris Case 1:01:43
I mean, that takes experience, right? There’s that is a skill in itself, being able to listen to your body, being able to pick up on the signals, it’s giving you. Not ignore them, notice them and then know what to do with those signals. Right?
Ryan Kohler 1:01:58
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s where I mean, we mentioned it earlier, you know, like, this is where coaching comes in, or having someone that has your interests, your best interest in mind, it might be Yeah, coach, a family member, again, a friend, teammate, whatever. But you can work with that person to get their point of view, they’ll be looking at things differently. And then hopefully, yeah, you can learn over time, like you’re going to miss things. And that’s part of getting dialed in with this 95% is there should be failure as you develop in the process, because then you can remember next time, make a different decision. You know, and and i think that ultimately gets you to help become, you know, just more well rounded and, and listen to your body a little bit better when it comes down to the recovery piece.
Chris Case 1:02:43
Yeah, and we’ve we’ve talked about this on episodes long ago, when it came to the indicative nature of mood, when it comes to how well recovered you are and the things you can, you can take a questionnaire that’ll tell you what your mood is, and you can say, based on that I probably need more recovery or less or whatever. I think another way to do that is notice when your spouse or family member or other people around, you’re like, Man, you’re really grumpy. And then you take note of that. And you say maybe that is because I haven’t been getting enough sleep, or I haven’t been doing my recovery properly, or I should be because this is a big block of training right now, and I kind of expected to be grumpy. And when I’m done with it, that’s when I’m going to recover. Would you agree with that, Trevor?
Trevor Connor 1:03:38
Oh, absolutely. I have every week my athletes give me an assessment of their recovery. And I want it to be a self assessment. I’ve certainly had athletes who started working and then go, Well, what metrics do I use for this? I’m like, No, this is your assessment of your recovery. And I have been given feedback multiple times that this is what my athletes feel is the hardest thing to do. And it’s a self awareness thing. And I see all the time where I’ll read their descriptions of the workouts through the week, it’ll be things like, started the intervals. It wasn’t in the legs, I couldn’t do them. Got in the next day’s ride got up legs were barely moving but got on the bike. They started to get up and running. Did an OK workout, The next day, really struggling, this whole ride just wasn’t feeling it. And then their assessment of the recovery for the week is feeling pretty recovered this week. I’m like, Are you sure? You didn’t have a single successful ride? You were feeling pretty lousy every ride. How’s that showing that you’re feeling pretty recovered? and they look back and go oh, I didn’t really notice that. Assessing where you’re at and how recovered you’re feeling is a really hard thing to do. And we want to fool ourselves, we always just want to tell ourselves, yeah, I’m feeling normal, and ignore the signs. And, again, we can go into all those little one, two and three percents for recovery. And you know, here’s the best recovery mix, and all these other things that you can do. But at the end of the day, the 95% of recovery is just that ability to recognize, as Ryan is saying, where you are, and then adjust your training and your recovery time accordingly. When you’re dragging your feet like that going, maybe it’s time to get some sleep.
Chris Case 1:05:35
It’s interesting to me, because I feel like in the words, you’re you’re saying, based on the experiences you’ve had with athletes, that they bring the competitive mindset to recovery. And essentially, they’re like, I’m going to nail this recovery, even if it’s wrong, just, you know, and that is only hurting themselves. Whereas they should just say, recovery, when done right, Is what my body is craving, and I gotta give it what it’s craving to maximize the training that came before it otherwise, you know, they’re kind of cancelling each other out in a way.
Trevor Connor 1:06:18
You know, actually, yes or no, they they do bring that competitive mindset of assessing the recovery is like a measure of themselves. And they have to give themselves a high score. Where they don’t bring it is in the execution.
Chris Case 1:06:33
Trevor Connor 1:06:34
So here’s something that I see all the time where I will give athletes a dedicated recovery Week and go, I want you taking naps, I want you stretching, I want you going to bed earlier and getting more sleep. At the end of the week, they’ll go I didn’t recover as much as I wanted to. And I go, Well, how much sleep do you get? I couldn’t get more sleep this week. I go why, and I didn’t have time. And then I’ll go. So for example, normally you train 12 to 13 hours per week. This week, you got four hours on the bike. So by my math, that gave you an extra nine hours. So why didn’t you have time to rest? Let us have things going on like, but if I told you to go and do a two hour ride, you would have find this, you would have found the time.
Chris Case 1:07:20
Trevor Connor 1:07:20
But when I tell you to go and do an hour nap, you don’t have the time. And I’ve had that conversation a bunch of times. And I see a lot of athletes struggle with that. Because like, I need to train. I’ll make the sacrifices to get time on the bikes, I feel like that’s beneficial. But I can’t take a nap. I can’t dedicate an hour to take a nap.
Chris Case 1:07:41
Yeah, that is an interesting mindset that is brought to athletics in general, I think endurance sports specifically. Such a hard thing for people to let go of sometimes like if I’m not on the bike, or if I’m not in the weight room or whatever, if I’m not doing something, then I’m losing something. Right? And they just kind of flip that around. Because only in the relaxation and recovery process, are you actually gaining what you are trying to gain? Yep.
Trevor Connor 1:08:13
So I actually did this a couple months ago with an athlete who was really struggling with this where we got to the recovery Week, and I said, Okay, we’re gonna map out this week together. And I just went through so Monday, how much time do you have to ride? Tuesday? How much time do you have to ride? So we put in all these rides, and I said, Can you do this? And they went, yeah. And then went back and went, Okay, this ride for two hours on Tuesday. That’s now an nap. Like, you could hear them hesitating or like, nope, you just told me you had two hours on Tuesday. I know you have the time. That’s an nap. And you could just hear the stress coming over the phone. But no, I can’t do that.
Chris Case 1:08:54
That’s so interesting. I think that another major topic within this recovery bucket is something that Ryan and I talked about briefly recently, which is this notion of comes down to nutrition and people. Again, it’s a I think sometimes a mindset thing where they’re not adequately fueling themselves because they think that if they eat less in some way, they’re going to gain more sometimes they have this reverse or backwards opinion on the matter frankly.
Ryan Kohler 1:09:32
it is it’s a mindset thing. And I think Trevor’s example of the recovery week is perfect because yeah, it’s you know, we do all this work and and particularly here we live in in Boulder, which is a very fit town. And you know, people are very concerned about health and wellness and everything like that. And I think with nutrition, we see these same hurdles come up where everyone’s so focused on finding the perfect thing to eat, they forget about just eating.
Chris Case 1:10:03
Right, right, exactly.
Ryan Kohler 1:10:04
Just eat just get, you just need energy. And I see it time and time again with athletes that they have low energy and all, you know, the solution is really simple. You know, it’s eat more. So it’s so easy, it’s 95%. But then it’s the same thing. When I talk to them on the phone or in person I hear just like Trevor does, you can hear the stress of, you know, well, my salads, like they might have just salads all the time, because they’re concerned about the nutrients in the salad or maintaining a certain energy intake, so they can maintain their weight. And they have these these other things that they’re interested in. But what they’re missing is this huge component of actually just giving your body fuel, right, we talked about the car as an example, and there’s a lot of ways we can kind of give examples of ourselves as athletes, but it’s really you have this engine that you need to fuel, and if you don’t give it what it needs, it’ll stop functioning at that level. So yeah, many times it’s just just eat, you know, but it’s getting past that point of, well, I can’t access this, or I don’t have that available, or I don’t want to eat that. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked an athlete if they have ice cream at home. And and if they’re, you know, if they have kids in particular, do you guys have ice cream? And like Well, yeah, like good, you know, ice cream, eat it, because they won’t eat certain things. And I know Trevor is probably ready to push me off the chair.
Chris Case 1:11:28
I think I think I don’t want to speak for you, but sometimes the eating, the act of eating almost almost to a point, almost anything is what you need to be encouraging people to do. You’re not actively encouraging people to just eat that all the time. Right?
Ryan Kohler 1:11:45
Chris Case 1:11:45
But sometimes it’s just about calories, they need some calories, and the better the calories can be, the better, the the the outcome, I guess you could say. But sometimes it’s just about raw calories, no matter what, and just actively encouraging people to consume.
Ryan Kohler 1:12:01
Yeah, and we have so many, you know, there’s one of the things that I run into is that people are very aware of what’s coming in, and they’ll reach this limit with the foods that they’re sort of allowing themselves to eat because they’re very focused on only quote unquote, healthy foods, right. And there’s so many other terms that get thrown around that I won’t get into now. But they really limit their options. So yeah, it is it’s really we go through, make an assessment of like, Okay, tell me what’s in your fridge right now, walk over to it and tell me what’s in there. Tell me what’s in the pantry. And then I’ll ask I’ll look at sometimes it’s just okay, we’re finding the most energy dense foods and fuels. What do you see in there? And then I’ll call it out and ask if they eat that, and sometimes it’s a very simple Oh, no, you know, and they might have a reason for it, but then I’ll encourage them. Well, let’s just eat that. You know, it’s pretty straightforward.
Chris Case 1:12:52
Oh, yeah. I, it’s, that’s a very interesting glimpse into the mindset. Again, this comes back to psychology and perhaps some, some hangups that people have when they enter this world and take it a little too far. I would say
Ryan Kohler 1:13:11
we experienced it. I mean, we have two kids. And you know, they’re small for their age, but it’s I heard it over and over, where, you know, the doctors, yeah, they need to gain weight. Do they like ice cream? That’s how many times have I heard that. But if I had a nickel for every time, I’ve been asked that question from a physician, like, of course they do. And then it’s funny, because we wouldn’t think of a physician as like, Oh, just eat ice cream. But they that’s literally what they say, because they want to gain weight, they want to increase energy. So it is really that, it’s kind of silly, but it’s that simple. If it doesn’t have to be ice cream, but it’s got to be something to increase your energy intake.
Trevor Connor 1:13:48
The only thing I’m gonna say is yes, if there’s a healthy alternative, always favor the healthy alternative. But I do fully agree that there are times to just say what’s available and eat it. And the story that always resonated with me, this was many years ago, a friend of mine, Erin Willock, is back when she was racing professionally, her team, right before a race, I believe,they had just flown in there had been some issues they they’re plane got in late, they’re all in the van trying to get to the race and they need to stop for food. And the only thing available is McDonald’s, and half of the team refused to eat. She complained to me and said, I found that really unprofessional. And I asked her why she felt that way, and she said look, none of us wanted McDonald’s but that was what was available. You we have a race the next day, skipping dinner is not going to help you with the race. You do what you got to do.
Chris Case 1:14:43
You’re driving in a remote area and you come across a gas station. I’m using another car analogy. And you get to the gas station and you’re in a maybe you’re in a Porsche, but they only have like the really low octane Fuel. Are you going to just sit there in your Porsche and put any gas in it? Or are you going to put the low quality stuff in it, get to high quality at some point and then put the high quality stuff in it right?
Trevor Connor 1:15:12
I will say, when we’re talking about nutrition related to recovery, that is a mistake I see people make where they’re trying to find all these secret supplements, you know, supplements are part of that 5% that I see take athletes off course more than it helps them. Where I see these athletes focusing on supplements, focusing on all these recovery mixes and everything else. And then you look at their diet and their diet is atrocious. And you just say you could get a lot further just focusing on eating a better diet and eliminating all the supplements.
Chris Case 1:15:50
All right. Do we want to move on to the third pillar?
Chris Case 1:15:54
Well, I’ll let you take this one Chris.
Chris Case 1:15:56
Functioning gear. Yes, Trevor? Trevor, this is the one bucket where our pillar where I feel like Trevor, you do as he says not as he does a little bit, because I can’t, I can’t say you take great care of your bikes, especially in the winter,
Trevor Connor 1:16:16
When your derailleur explodes in the middle of the race, and you’re stuck in your 5311, It just makes the race more exciting.
Chris Case 1:16:22
I guess. So I guess so. Yeah, sure. I think that functioning gear, like you mentioned earlier, is a practical, it’s a practical term, it’s not the fancy stuff, necessarily, It’s not the shiny stuff, necessarily, it’s not the glitzy, sexy, newest stuff, either. But it has to be functioning, it has to be working properly. It doesn’t have to cost as much as you know, a used car, a good used car, to sit under you and serve its purpose well.
Trevor Connor 1:17:02
I still remember my first year in Victoria, I arrived on a 1,200 dollar Fuji. It was the bottom of their race line of bikes. And I certainly got hell for riding on that bike. You know, why aren’t you on something much better? Why aren’t you on something much more expensive? Now mind you, I had bought that bike from my friend Glen Swan, And he gave me one of my favorite quotes, which was I said, if you had 4,500 dollars to spend on a bike, what would you buy? And he goes three 1,500 dollar bikes. And I was like, Okay, why is that? And he’s like, because you break bikes and crits, and I don’t want to race on a bike that I’m worried about walking away from. It’s like, that’s actually a really good point. So I bought a 1,200 dollar Fuji from him. Got made fun of for this a little bit. So I got some sponsorship the following year, and this is actually when I went and asked him if he had 4,500 because I had 4,500 in sponsorship money. I’m like, What would you buy? And he told me that and I went No, I’m gonna buy the really nice bike. So I bought from him a really nice Orbea, and came back, we had this hill climb that we would do about once every six weeks to kind of test where our form was. So I just like I’m gonna go out to this hill, I’m gonna crush it. And it’s about a 10 minute hill climb. And I did set my PR, Now, mind you this was in the Summer, the height of my fitness. I set my PR on that climb, do you know by how much?
Chris Case 1:18:37
Trevor Connor 1:18:39
Close. One second.
Chris Case 1:18:40
Trevor Connor 1:18:41
It was one second faster. So, 4,500 dollars bought me one second. So yeah, I mean, I was probably under doing it on the 1,200 dollar bike certainly show up on a 400 dollar bike at a race, you’re going to be in trouble. But you’d be surprised how quickly the extra expense is just that extra expense, that that doesn’t help you. And again, here’s that that 5% I have been in crits with people who are really scared to race hard because they’re on an 8,000 dollar bike, and they don’t want to crash it.
Trevor Connor 1:19:15
Trevor Connor 1:19:16
And that hurts performance.
Chris Case 1:19:17
Yep. And I want to be very clear, because as a lover of bikes, I have many of them and they are shiny, and they’re awesome. I’m not discouraging anybody if they want to buy a really nice bike, do it. Because sometimes that’s awesome. And it makes you feel faster. And it’s a psychological boost. And all that wouldn’t certainly would never discourage somebody, but don’t expect it to change performance necessarily in radical ways.
Trevor Connor 1:19:42
They are a beautiful ride. I won’t deny that if you have all the money and you want a really comfortable ride. Go for it. They don’t make you faster.
Ryan Kohler 1:19:52
Yeah, I think that was it, especially with the gear piece of it, I think that was my sort of, you know, the devil’s advocate moment for the 5% Is Yeah, sometimes it’s just it’s just fun to get something cool like that, because it’s motivating. And I mean, I’ve been training on road bikes now for 20 years, and I just this year, put carbon rims on my road bike have been an alloy for so long, and it was one of those purchases that I definitely didn’t need. But it was fun. And it’s now it’s exciting to go ride the bike, you know, and it looks cool. And there’s some motivation to it. And you know, but But yeah, that took, you know, 19 years roughly, to get there. Yep.
The Hidden Dangers of Focusing on the 5%
Chris Case 1:20:34
Alright, so we’ve talked about training, we’ve talked about recovery, we’ve talked about functioning gear, the three pillars, let’s wrap up the episode to talk about, loop back to those that 5% and talk about the hidden dangers of focusing on that, because, again, people are attracted to it. And we’re, we’re telling them right here and now disregard it, effectively disregard most of that stuff. Don’t let it clutter your brain, don’t let it distract from the main focus of your training and your recovery and your gear. Why, Trevor? What are the dangers here?
Trevor Connor 1:21:10
The dangers is this overwhelms and becomes your focus at the cost of what really makes a difference. If you want to focus on those 5%, those little marginal gains, go to a search on the web, you will not find a lack of them, there’s always some new products, some little thing that if you use it’s going to make all the difference. And you know, my favorite is still this drink mix. I wish I could remember the name of it, it was out a long time ago that contained lactic acid, because if you drink lactic acid, it’s going to train your body to handle it. And then you’ll be able to time trial that much better. So you can keep finding all these little things, all these little claims of marginal gains, the problem is: A, it takes a lot of time to look into these things, to order them to try them, you have to try them, you then have to see whether they are beneficial for you or not, they might, some of them are going to hurt you. Some of them are going to have no benefits, some might have benefits, but you have to try. And it means you’re constantly adjusting what you are doing, to see if this fits into your overall training program. This can a hurt you. If it’s not a beneficial thing for you B, take all your time to experiment with this stuff. And we as we said, we’re all we all work, we all have families, we only have so much mental bandwidth to commit to this. And if you’re committed to all these little marginal gain things, how much energy do you have left to focus on the big things? And that’s the danger that the 5% becomes the 95%.
Chris Case 1:22:49
Of your attention.
Trevor Connor 1:22:50
Yeah. And all you have is is a few little marginal gains at the cost of things that are big gains.
Ryan Kohler 1:22:57
I mean, as coaches, I think we have to be aware of all the 5% things out there. And yeah, we’re bombarded with them. We all are, so and it takes energy. But yeah, that’s really part of what we do is help to find that balance. And like you said, you have to test it on yourself and know that sometimes it may maybe help, it may do nothing, or it may actually hinder your performance. I think that’s where as coaches, we can really help to wade through some of that, and just, if anything, the time that someone might be spending focusing on that 5% we can at least help try to bring that down a little bit help direct it. Some people enjoy doing the research, I think, and they just like looking at that stuff and you know, trying to figure out if there’s some hacks that they can work out, does it matter? Probably not in the big picture, but some people think it’s worth acknowledging that people do enjoy that part too. But, you know, pair that up with someone who has the experience and then I think you have a recipe to continue learning and developing without getting bogged down in the 5%
Chris Case 1:24:03
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts and be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we 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 and become a part of our education coaching community. For Trevor Connor and Ryan Kohler. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening