The History of Endurance Sports Coaching with Joe Friel

Legendary coach and endurance sports author Joe Friel sits down with us to discuss the history of coaching and his role in that history, from being one of the first freelance coaches to publishing his ground-breaking book The Cyclist’s Training Bible.

The History of Endurance Coaching with Joe Friel

When looking at the history of endurance sports coaching, there’s no better guide than coach Joe Friel. Quite simply, Joe Friel is the most trusted endurance sports coach in the world. He has trained endurance athletes since 1980 in triathlon, duathlon, road cycling, and mountain biking. Joe has trained national champions, world championship contenders, and Olympic athletes. And he has coached scores of amateur athletes of all ability levels. 

Friel’s philosophy and methodology for training athletes was developed over more than 40 years. They are based on his strong interest in sport science research and his experience training hundreds of athletes with a wide range of abilities. 

Friel is cofounder of TrainingPeaks and the best-selling author of many books. These include The Triathlete’s Training Bible, The Cyclist’s Training Bible, Fast After 50, Going Long, Your Best Triathlon, The Power Meter Handbook, and Your First Triathlon. His cycling and triathlon coaching platform, Joe Friel Training, is among the most successful and respected in endurance sports. 

We are privileged to have him on the show today to discuss the craft of coaching. And by that I mean both his personal views on what it takes to become an effective coach, as well as his new body of work entitled The Craft of Coaching, which is a multimedia guide to becoming a better, more successful, and happier coach. Drawing from his 40-year career, Joe shares the lessons he learned about athlete performance, the athlete-coach relationship, mastering the business side—and how to make coaching more rewarding. 

Joining Joe on today’s episode are a group of coaches who have also had their impact on coaching as we now know it. This includes Dr. Andy Pruitt, the creator of the BG Fit system; Frank Overton, owner of FasCat Coaching; Chris Carmichael, the founder of Carmichael Training Systems; and Kristen Legan, who has been both a coach and a professional cyclist.  

Let’s dive into the history of coaching!

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 0:11
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of fast talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Chris case. Quite simply, Joe Friel is the most trusted endurance sports coach in the world. He’s trained endurance athletes since 1980, including national champions, World Championship contenders and Olympic athletes in triathlon, do athalon road cycling and mountain biking, not to mention scores of amateur athletes of all ability levels, frills philosophy and methodology for training athletes was developed over more than 40 years and is based on his strong interest in sport science research and his experience training hundreds of athletes with a wide range of abilities. Friel is co founder of training peaks and the best selling author of the triathletes training Bible, the cyclists training Bible fast after 50 going long, your best triathlon, the power meter handbook, and your first triathlon among other titles, his cycling and triathlon coaching platforms Jophiel training and training Bible coaching are among the most successful and respected in endurance sports. That’s why we are privileged to have Joe on the show today to discuss the craft of coaching. And by that I mean both his personal views on what it takes to become an effective coach, as well as his introduction to a new body of work entitled The craft of coaching, which is a multimedia guide to becoming a better more successful and happier coach that he launches with us here at fast talk labs. He draws from his 40 year career and shares the lessons he learned about athlete performance, the athlete coach relationship, mastering the business side and how to make coaching more rewarding. Joining Joe on today’s episode are a group of coaches who have also had their impact on coaching as we now know it. This includes Dr. Andy Pruitt, the creator of the body geometry Fit System, owner of fast cat coaching Frank Overton, the founder of Carmichael training systems Chris Carmichael and Kristin leagan, who has been both a coach and a professional cyclist. Let’s dive into the history of coaching now, and let’s make you fast.

Trevor Connor 2:24
listeners. During this episode of fast talk, we hear from one of my personal sports heroes coach Joe Friel, back when Joe got his start in coaching all the coaches were affiliated with schools, national teams or clubs. Joe Friel was really the first personal coach in cycling. He was one of the first to quit his day job and become a full time professional coach. That was over 40 years ago. Now with the help of Joe Friel fast talk labs announces a new program to support coaches. Our coaching essential membership offers Joe Freels new online guide, the craft of coaching, plus our coaches only forum and upcoming networking opportunities with other experienced coaches. Fast doc Labs is ready to help Coaches find success. Learn more fast, Doc

Introduction to This Episode

Chris Case 3:13
Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of fast talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m Chris case, sitting down today with Coach Trevor Connor and coach Joe Friel. Welcome, Joe.

Joe Friel 3:25
Thank you very much, Chris. Glad to be here.

Chris Case 3:27
It’s a I believe your fourth time on fast talk. Today we’re going to kind of take a deep dive on you. Not not a particular subject, but you as a coach, what you’ve learned the arc of your career and all the lessons that have come from that long experience. You’ve been coaching for how long? Yeah.

Joe Friel 3:48
Well, it kinda depends what you call coaching. I officially started coaching as a high school coach, back in 1966. So it’s been a long time in my 4565 60 some years. So it’s, I’ve been around, been around the block, but it’s been a fun time. I’ve enjoyed it.

Trevor Connor 4:08
So here’s the thing that I absolutely love to hear from you because I kind of get this every once a while people say okay, you’ve studied the science and you’ve been a coach for how long and they go. So what do you study in college and I’m like, American history major, of course, which has absolutely nothing to do with what I’ve discussed on this show. But I remember the last time you were in town talking with you and you were an American history teachers so you didn’t start as a coach.

Joe Friel 4:34
Excess dives, doing both at the same time. I was coaching High School, track and field and helping out in other sports but that was my primary focus. But yeah, I had I had a double major my undergraduate years I was a physical education and American history were my two majors. And I wound up teaching American history because that was the job that had open they didn’t have a physical education position open. I taught American history for Like, what about eight years? I think I school. At the same time I was coaching track and field. So I was actually doing both things, but I wasn’t teaching physical education.

Trevor Connor 5:12
Okay. And that’s what brought you out to Colorado. Right? It was,

Joe Friel 5:15
yeah, it’s a good. It’s a long complex story. But it’s a lot of stuff that I was in, I was in Vietnam. And when I got back, my wife not to say we’ve, part of my Air Force experience had been living in Boulder in Denver, Colorado. And so when we decided to move back, or when I came back from Vietnam, we decided to move back to Colorado because we liked it so much out here. So I came out of teaching high school back in Indiana that came out on spring break 1971, to see if I could find a teaching job. And I was I came away having been offered two jobs, different schools. And so I made a decision between the two schools and wound up teaching in a small town called Berthoud, Colorado, which is kind of south of Boulder aways, and had a great time teaching there. And I was there for six years, I believe. And then from there to Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain High School, and I was there for a couple of years before I finally decided to move on from teaching and do something else.

Trevor Connor 6:21
And so that’s when you open the running shop, right?

Joe Friel 6:26
Yeah, 1980, I had I opened a running store, we were probably in the first 10 or so running stores, the United States or weren’t really any at all back then. And so that was my first day. And I thought, it’s retail, what can be hard about retail, from a teacher’s perspective. You know, you just you sell the shoes at retail, and you buy them at wholesale, and you put the difference in your pocket that sound pretty simple to me, turned out was much more complex than that. And for the amount of money I lost in my first year in that retail store, I could have gotten a degree from Harvard Business. So it was it was I learned a lot, and that has influenced the rest of my life is what I learned in that first year.

Trevor Connor 7:09
So what was it that you learned? Well, I

Joe Friel 7:12
learned first of all, that isn’t simple. Running a business is extremely difficult. People just don’t hand you money for fun. They, they want something in return. And they want a lot in return. And so I had to figure out what that meant. Basically, we I started making changes in the second year of my business to satisfy what customers were wanting from from Iranian store. And some of those were just good decisions. Some are bad decisions. So I learned basically how to how to deal with people. And that is really the key to being a good in business is people skills. In teaching, you don’t have to have people skills, because you’re just kind of like back then anyway, 1960s, early 1970s. It was an authoritarian way of dealing with the world. So people skills weren’t required. You just had to be able to give orders and then and then reinforce your orders. And I began to discover once I get into retail that the world isn’t that simple, that you’ve got to do things that are beneficial to your customers. biggest lesson.

Trevor Connor 8:15
Now that’s a great lesson. So I still remember I mean, I went to CSU, that was up in Fort Collins. And so Dr. Cordain, who you know, was my advisor, and I still remember one day talking with him. And he said, Oh, yeah, there used to be this great running store over on I think it was Elizabeth is very, yeah, there’s great running store. Over on Elizabeth, you might have heard of this guy. It was owned by this guy Joe Friel.

Joe Friel 8:38
Yeah, Lauren and I met out on a run one time a long time ago. We’ve known each other for decades. And the store was on Elizabeth, we were like half a block from the campus from Moby Jim. And CSU. And I met Lauren and not in the in any university setting at all but out running trails in the mountains of Fort Collins. And we became good friends and started just kind of chatting with each other. And I learned a lot from him. Brilliant individual knows his stuff, and walked away a much better person from having known him. And to this day is still impacted my life. So he’s a tremendous resource.

Trevor Connor 9:20
So stay here. But so I guess the question The reason we’re asking you about all this is, you are one of the most known cycling coaches triathlon coaches and Durn sports coaches in the world. But you certainly didn’t have a direct linear path as when you described all this to me when we were talking a couple months ago, you really said there were three stages of your career. And so you’ve now been a history teacher, you’ve run a running store. How did you eventually get into the coaching?

Joe Friel 9:53
Yeah, well, in the running store, I mentioned this in the second year began to figure out what people wanted from me from the store. And one of the things I discovered was when I’m surprised and figured out much sooner than this is what they really want is they want to know how to train, they want to know how to have run faster. And later on, by the way, I had a bike store and so became one bike faster. And so it was the same thing. And I had a master’s in exercise science. And so they were coming to me asking questions, and at first I tried to in the first try, just tried to like shoo them away, leaving him on Thursday to sell shoes, not to give away information on how to get faster. And I came to the realization the second year that that was the main thing they wanted from me, they could get us anywhere. But nobody, nobody else is there is going to be able to help them understand how to use those shoes or that bike which later on to become faster and be able to achieve race goals they had. So I began to simply tell people, you know, when they’re buying a pair of shoes, or a bike from me, what they could be doing to, to achieve their their goal, whatever that goal may be finished a marathon, get on the podium in a race, whatever it may be. And so I started at telling how to do that sort of stuff, and what the little bit I knew about a sport science or exercise science. So I began to realize that this was much more effective in terms of having a business than was retail retail was extremely difficult. But coaching was telling people how to train was a piece of cake. That’s the sort of stuff I thought about all the time, as always in front of my mind, and whereas how to run a business very seldom crossed my mind, but how to how to run a fast marathon or how to hang on in a group in a criterium, you know, was stuff that that I thought about all the time. So it’s just kind like a natural pathway for me. Because I’ve been a high school coach and I so I knew something about coaching. And in my college years, and in my high school years, my coaches always took me on as kind of like an assistant coach, I was always the guy that was that was there to help them out if they needed anything along the lines of helping other, you know, helping their teammates. And so I kind of always saw myself in that realm is being a coach. And so it wasn’t anything new to me to be doing this is the only thing that was new was that I realized I came to realize what retail was all about. For the business, I was in the running store, the bike store, I came to realize that that was all about that was the eye opener for me. The other stuff is already there, I just began to realize that these people really what they want from me is they want coaching. And so went from me giving away information to them, how yours here’s how to finish a marathon, do these three things, and you’re going to be okay. To eventually people come in and say can you write out a training plan for me so I could follow the daily plan. So sure. All right that out for and so after a while I realized, man, this is there’s something going on here that I need to pay attention to. And maybe I need to do is charge a fee for this. Just giving away information all the time. So I started charging a fee is like $5. You know, I’ll give you a training plan for a month for $5. And I soon realized that that was not enough money, and more people kept coming in. So I kept getting overwhelmed that people come in asking for information and ideas on how to do these things. And the fees kept going up and up and up and up and up until I was making more money off the coaching then I was off the retail store. And that’s when I realized this, I had this moment where I realized maybe what she should do is sell the retail store and just coach. But at the time now talking 19, mid 1970s Nobody was making money as a as a freelance coach. The only coaches work for schools, high schools, universities, junior high schools. Nobody is freelancing. And so it was kind of like a weird thought to be doing something that was going to be outside the realm of what everybody else was doing. But I’d say you know, I think I’ll give this a try. And so I had a long conversation with my wife and bless her heart. She was right there behind me say yeah, go ahead and do it. We’ll figure it out. And so I started coaching people. And at first it wasn’t enough money. So long story, I eventually made it into a business and began to make a living off of coaching people.

Chris Case 14:16
Could you flash back with us to the mid 1970s. And describe what you mean by coaching back then? Because I think it’s considerably different, unless I mistake and then what coaching how you would define coaching today. The tools were different perhaps the the plans were different. The interactions were different. Could you describe that?

Joe Friel 14:37
Yeah. And when I first started, this is again early 70s. It remained this way until Gosh until early 90s I guess so maybe 20 years. You know, it was mostly face to face. I wasn’t dealing with people long distance. I eventually will start taking on people who were farther away meaning like 40 to 50 miles away. Wasn’t a gigantic difference. But I couldn’t meet with them face to face as I could with people who live in the same tower my store was. So I would write their plan out on a piece of paper stick in envelopes and mail it to them. And that was just the way I dealt with them distance problem. But primarily it was face to face, I was meeting with people that would come into my store, and we would sit down and I would chat with them about how they’re doing and what the training is all about. And you know, that sort of stuff, just prying information out of them. And from that, I would deduce what I thought they need to do to achieve their goals, whatever those goals may be. So it was kind of a long process that began to change very, very slowly, when the first heartrate monitor came out. In 1977, for Heart Rate Monitor came out, I got my first one, I think was 1982. And began to follow what does heart rate mean? Once data backs that up to this point, there’s no data, no data was the future Cushing a runner, and they were running intervals on the track, you’d get times. Quite honestly, that didn’t come out until 1971. Because until 1971, the athletes didn’t have watches, only the coach had a watch board on a lanyard around his neck is a big old thing, because palm of your hand. And the athletes had no idea what their times splits were or anything else until early 70s. Then watches came out with a stopwatch built in. And so now that was that was the first data but it was not big data, because it mostly just did an interval workout to get you to see the interval data from them how many, but there are times where for 400, or whatever it may be, then in 77 power or the heart rate monitor came out. And that began to change, things begin to realize, gosh, there’s more to this than just their time, there’s something physiological going on here. So that began to produce data, which impacted the way I dealt with my athletes, because now I’m looking at not only running data, the bike, there was no other data there, all you had was RPE. On the bike, there was no speed meant nothing. So RPE data and how that felt perceived exertions. And then 1987, the power meter came out. And that didn’t start to catch on until the early 90s. And that began to produce a lot more data. And so this whole thing of data began to overtake coaching. It started out being no data or almost zero data. And within a 20 years, 25 years, I was being overwhelmed with data. It went from knowing your athlete on a personal basis, to knowing that not only on a personal basis, but also based on what kind of numbers they produce, which was something that was unique to endurance sports back in those days. And now of course, that’s grown to something which is overwhelming. Now we’ve got so much data. And sometimes I think we have too much data, but somehow we need to make sure we keep a balance between knowing the athlete and paying attention to their numbers. And that can be a challenge sometimes for a coach, I know.

Unknown Speaker 18:01
I think Joe was the really one of the first coaches who was able to take kind of complex scientific explanations for the training process or physiology for you know, you name it in regards to various aspects that affect performance. And he was able to break them down into really digestible, easy to understand and actionable ways for an athlete to implement them into training. And I think ultimately, that’s what a coach needs to be able to do. So, you know, his cyclists training Bible, I, I’ve probably read that cover to cover maybe two or three times and and still reach back to it at various times. And you know, it’s just remarkable when somebody can put together a body of knowledge like that, and have it still be pertinent today as it was 20 years ago, 20 plus years ago, when he wrote it, what

Chris Case 19:05
would you say, are the biggest changes as we talk about this relatively new approach and its place in the art of coaching?

Unknown Speaker 19:15
Well, I’ve been started bike racing when I was nine years old. I’m 61. Now, and I’ve been coaching for over 30 years now. And, and I look back, and coaching in in itself hasn’t changed. You know, I mean, that that is still a athlete defines the goal. Coach helps assist athlete reach the goal that that still remains relatively the same. That hasn’t changed what I do think, some observations that I have, there’s kind of two observations that I see and and one is when I started coaching, we had very few ways to actually measure what was going On when an athlete was training now we have so many devices, and we have so much data that we can collect. And an observation that I have is that some coaches are focusing more on the data and the technology, and they’re losing touch with the fact that it’s really, it all has to be that about the athlete, you know, it’s a, I’ll give you a, for example, when I just had a hip replacement, and got to have a knee replacement coming up. And I looked at a lot of different orthopedic surgeons I could go to, and I eventually settled on one that this is all he does his hips, and he does hips, he does hundreds of hips a year. And he’s seen it all. And so he’s not surprised when something happens, because he’s seen it before, as opposed to an orthopedic surgeon who does some hips does few knees does some, you know, but doesn’t do as as many. And consequently, his experience is significantly lower he or she’s experiences significantly lower, I wanted somebody who had a lot of experience, so he wouldn’t be surprised by anything and changing out my knee. And so I relate that back to coaching and an observation that look you to be a coach, you’ve got to coach and you got to be coaching a lot of athletes, I mean, not a lot, but you got to be coaching often. And the more you do that, the more you hone down the craft of coaching. And ultimately, it’s about inspiring an athlete to do something that they never thought that they could do before. And I think that’s really an important aspect of coaching. And the data and technology are the tools in which we utilize, help that athlete do something that they’ve never even thought that they could do. And so I just I think that’s a, I wouldn’t say it’s a it’s, it’s just an observation that I see out there. That’s starting to occur in coaching. And ultimately, I encourage coaches to go back, make sure you’re putting the athlete first. And you’re coaching as much as you can, because you want to really what you don’t want to be as surprised you want to have experienced situations before and either made a mistake, and you learn from that mistake. So you’re better with an athlete, when you see that same spirit experience rise again.

Chris Case 22:33
When you first started to see this data coming in, I would assume that you maybe didn’t know what to do with it right away. How did you deal with that back then?

Joe Friel 22:44
Yeah, the data started coming in. And the way the data came in back in the early days of my coaching was by fax machines, everybody would send me their training diary, a copy of their training diary every Monday morning, for the previous week. And so I’d walk into my office on Monday, late morning, after my own personal workout. And my desk in my office would just be covered with rolls of paper, if you ever remember the old fax machines, so I’d have all these rolls of paper and then you’d have to figure out which ones went together, you know, you have to put all the times together and you find all the bills, put them together and so forth. So it was kind of like working the jigsaw puzzle, but you put it all together. And then you have to go through all this data and decide what’s what’s important here. And at first, it wasn’t that difficult, because it wasn’t that much data, it was mostly mostly reading. But the athlete said, you know, there’ll be a portion innervated, right, how it felt. And that was the most important thing I was looking at. How do you workout feel? And they would describe that and along with that I would have heart rate data. And then later on, as I mentioned, there would be power data along with that. But first thing I always looked at was how did you feel the athlete was explaining this sort of stuff. Some athletes are very good at it. They’ve been tell you too much. You ask how they feel. And if the workout took an hour, they didn’t spend two hours telling you how it felt extremely long, you know, paragraphs about how it felt. And so I had to start restricting some people to the space, I gave them on the forum to answer your question entirely within this space. And other people wouldn’t tell you anything at all, you know, how’s your workout go? Fine. How are you? Did the intervals go on that hill you were you were working on? Well, they went alright. So some people you had to pull the information out of because you didn’t really have much data to look at. He had to know how they felt. And other athletes would overwhelm you with information. And you kind of like try to figure it out a pair of them down. So there was always this balancing act that went on but it was always the issue always was. I’m trying to figure out what to do with this athlete for the coming days and weeks to make sure we’re moving the right direction. So I’ve got to gather information. Now we’ve got too much information now we’re just overwhelmed the data but the most important thing always I believe is how the app I felt during the workout.

Trevor Connor 25:02
That scription is so critical. And yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve had some athletes I will just constant go please write a description, please write a description and read one for months, he argued. And then finally he would write like three word descriptions just make a point. Or I have another other athletes that are the essay writers, they’re gonna describe to you the scenery they saw on the ride and

Joe Friel 25:25
everything I understand, yeah, I’ve seen those two, I’m sure you’ve seen it all I have my wife, my wife is one of those guys, who will be in a race will get done. And she said, you see that White House with their the way they decorate for Christmas or something along that line? I didn’t see any houses at all, or the houses on the cars. So everybody’s unique in those regards and how they see the world of training and racing.

Chris Case 25:48
Yeah, you touched upon, or you started to touch upon what I think is coming with this next question, which is the things that have actually improved and the things that have been lost as coaching has evolved? I know that’s a big question.

Joe Friel 26:03
Well, we know the things that have been gained is mostly along the lines of data, and also communications possibilities. Now we can talk with people around the world, you know, on Zoom real time with athletes, whereas that was not available. When I was in my earlier days of coaching and all you had to meet with him face to face, or you shared a piece of paper back and forth, like a letter, or fax. So those were, those were things that that’s something that’s changed, which is really very valuable to us today, being able to see the athlete. But in those days, you know, when I can meet face to face with my athletes, and there’s still coaches that do this, who meet face to face with their athletes, it’s not like this has gone away. But it’s certainly no longer the majority in the role of coaching coaches who can meet with our athletes face to face, what you get is this, you get a different sense of what’s going on with the athlete than if you’re talking on Zoom, for example, or Skype or whatever it may be. It’s a different relationship you have with the athlete, you can see body postures, you can see reactions to things that are going on around them. There’s so many things are happening when you have a face to face, real time with a person in the same room, over a cup of coffee or just chatting, that is so much more valuable, and really was the key to my coaching back in those days. Today, even though I and I can talk to somebody in South Africa today, real time and see them, it’s not quite the same thing, you don’t get that interaction like you have when it’s your face to face in the same room together. That’s different. And that’s something we’ve kind of lost along the line. I think, not again, the not all coaches I know coaches who, who only coach face to face, they only coach local athletes. And they do quite well with it. And it’s and I really, you know, I envy them, because they’ve now got the best of both worlds. In the end. The challenge, of course, is in coaching, you’ve got to have the clientele enough athletes to make enough income to be profitable to pay the bills. And that’s hard to do. If you only work with local athletes, that becomes a big challenge. So coaches who have figured out how to do this are probably a lot smarter than I am they’ve they figured out how to make money off this without going reaching out outside of their small world, into a different continent, for example, to define clients. So it’s not a lot of respect for them today. But you know that that’s something that most coaches have lost? Is that, that face to face.

Trevor Connor 28:29
So getting back to your history, so you became a full time coach in the 70s believe your first edition of the cyclist training Bible was what 9294 or 94. So what led from the coaching full time to becoming an author?

Joe Friel 28:47
Yeah, that was that was another one that’s just one of those things, just a dry place at the right time. The first I coached had been a photographer for VeloNews magazine, and I was coaching her. She was a cyclist. This is early 90s, late 80s, early 90s. And she told me one time she had talked to whoever was running VeloNews back in those days, that I would be a good person to have write a column for the magazine. So they asked me to one day just to try it out, just write something and see how worked. They liked it. And so they asked me to start writing a normal column, a regular monthly column for them, which I started doing. And they of course, had a sister business which is Velo press, a publishing house, owned by the same company. And they liked what I was writing for the Vela news, though the press did. And so velour press asked if I’d be interested in writing a book and this is about 1993 are right around there. And I said I really don’t have the time in AI. I’m thinking to myself, you know, I got a C and writing in college. This is not my strength anyway, so I’m not all that good at writing. They have to edit my stuff very heavily. So writing a book would really wouldn’t be a good idea and besides I just don’t have time coaching or coaching 72 athletes at the time, and I was working two other jobs to help pay the bills besides the coaching. So I was up to my ears and work and hardly any time at all with my family. And so I just turned them down. I’ve got haven’t got time, but I was first I was concerned, it wasn’t turning down anything that was real, great opportunity, because I did wasn’t going to be all that good at anyway. And then lo and behold, I go to what was it 1993 I think it was my qualified to go to the World Championship and do athalon, which is a run bike run sport, not as popular today as it was back then. And the World Championship was going to be held in Hobart, Tasmania and Australia. My wife qualified also. So we we went down there. And we stayed around for a week after the race was over just to see Australia. And I don’t know to this day exactly what happened. But I think I know what happened. We were staying in a remote Treehouse, if you will. It was a hotel situation where you could, your hotel room was up in a tree. And you had to climb up in the tree to get it to your your room when the day was over.

Chris Case 31:10
This is leading to you writing a book, this is a good story.

Joe Friel 31:14
I’m sorry, it’s kind of convoluted, that this part, this is important to the story. So I’m staying there with my wife for a week. And what I discovered was there were these exotic looking birds that were very friendly if you in fact, if you’ve crumbled up some bread or crackers in your hand and held it out, they would come down to land in your hand. And they would eat the crackers, the crumbs out of your hand, less than or I started doing that every day while I was there that you know, feeding these birds. And toward the end of that week, I was catching a cold and didn’t know why. But it was a chest cold. And it was I was had a lot of the symptoms in normal booth cold, especially kind of a coughing sensation. Little bit of tightness in my chest, but not a big deal. Just thought it was just the coughing. That was in like October and November of 1993. I go back home now. And now we’re getting around to the spring of 1994. And I still got this cold. still coughing is going on. But I’m stupid as I always was I decided to do a half marathon just to try out to see how I could what kind of shape I was in. So I did the race and just as a workout. It wasn’t really racing hard. And when I got done, I realized my heart rate was highest ever seen my heart rate in a race, which seemed weird, I couldn’t figure out why this is happening. And I’m starting to feel these funny sensations in my chest that went along with this thing, this high heart rate in the race. And so I told my wife and the race is over. She had done the race also that I did think I ought to see a doctor about this. Something’s not right. And so I saw my family physician, he said you need to talk to a cardiologist. So I went to see a cardiologist, they ran some tests. And he said, You’ve got myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart muscle. So I began to research on myocarditis. And typically what was causing it, for me was probably a virus. Where does this virus come from? Well, one of the causes of this is birds, they carry the virus. And so the world began to come together for me. It all went back to that week I spent out in the boonies in Australia, feeding birds out of my hand is damn bird near there. The doctor said, Well, you know what you need to do. Now if you did take like, some time off. You don’t, I can’t you should not exercise anymore. This is dangerous. You could you could damage your heart for the rest of your life if you keep on exercising. So I didn’t have anything to do until the symptoms went away. And he said that could be months, I had no idea how long it would be. And so I contacted Vela presses. Hey, guess what? All of a sudden, I’ve got like 15 hours more every week. I’m not training and I can write a book. I said, what what do I got to lose? You know, they’re not like I got to putting money into this. I got it. I got 15 hours a week to spend How am I gonna spend it? So I thought well, maybe this book will sell over seven years, maybe it’ll sell 1000 copies. And at least it’ll be for me kind of like trying to describe my coaching methodology and how I do it. Which at the time didn’t seem like a real big deal, but it’s better than nothing. So that was going to be my how it’s going to come out of this whole thing was having written a book that will sell a few copies and Avital figured out how to explain myself or defend my, my coaching long term in this book. And so the first month the book was out cyclist training Bible, first month that was out it sold like 5000 copies or something like universe something ridiculous and I thought I was blown away but as book doing this, and they were already going into the second printing just a few months later, and it took off. And that led to another book and so forth. So just kept mushroomy now I’m on my I’ve had 17 I’ve written 17 books and it all came Because of those damn birds back in Australia, have you improved this as a writer? Since they’ll definitely. I’m still on. I think I could get maybe a bee in my college course now. So

Chris Case 35:13
hey, that’s me.

Joe Friel 35:15
But I’d like to talk to my professor I’d like she had, I’m sure she’s gone. Now. This is long time ago. 1960s. I’d like to ask her my book she wrote, she gave me a C. And somehow I managed to write 17 books on a very, you know, low grade for colleges lowest grade ever got in high school or college. So she didn’t like me all that well. And I wasn’t a great writer anyway. So but I learned more about it.

Chris Case 35:40
Yeah, that’s a good one, though. Good one.

Trevor Connor 35:43
So I guess the the question I want to ask you is you just told us what the 70s were like, now we’re getting into the 90s. What was both coaching and training like then? And your book obviously had an impact. What do you feel was the impact that you had?

Joe Friel 35:59
Yeah, there were probably a few things that one of the things that I think stands out the most, I suspect, most people will agree with me because they don’t see it, the same way I do was that I began to study periodization. Back in the 1970s. It didn’t really catch on the there was a runner back in 1972, who won gold medals. The Olympics in Germany, in 5000 10,000 meters, lost the Viren Fen from Finland. And he was reported to be the first western athlete, Western culture athlete to begin to use something called periodization, which at the time was really unknown, the Russians were doing it Romanians, East Germans, but nobody ever talked about, it never really kind of got out, it was kind of like a state secret. In effect. Nobody really talked about how it came to be or what it really meant. But by the late 70s, I’d read so much about I was beginning to catch on to what they were doing and what the what the value of this was, is this idea of being able to design a training plan long term for the athlete, based on the process, you want to go through with the athlete to bring them to a peak of performance on a given point in time. Rather than simply just training and doing whatever you think needs to be done, you’re around randomly, and then hoping and keeping your fingers crossed and race day that works. That was kind of the way it was up until periodization came around. But what I discovered by the early 90s, hardly anybody up to this point knew about periodization. I felt like it was something that should be well known by this point. But I realized talking with coaches and athletes, that nobody really understood what’s going on with periodization. Whereas whereas I’d spent quite a bit of time reading everything I could find on the subject, which in those days is difficult to do. You couldn’t Google things like I couldn’t google like periodization and find 1000 topics or pieces on it, it’s the sort of thing you had to go out and dig out for yourself by talking to people and reading books, and whatever you could do, just just try to gather information. So I wrote about that in the book that was really the heart of the book. It’s the middle chapters of the book. first few chapters are kind of like preparation for that it talks about intensity of training that this duration of workouts, things that all have to do with periodization if this like introductory stuff, to get you to the middle part of the book where I talked about periodization. So here’s how you organize your season planned out. In the first edition, I used invitation or fake athletes, I made up names based on people I knew. I made up names for them and described how I would train this person if they were one of my athletes. And I won’t go into details. There were some funny situations that came out of that, but about people that I later on, realize that they figured out it was them in the book. But at the time, it’s a great secret. So I wrote about that in the book. And that was the thing I thought that caught people’s attention was they could actually think ahead. It wasn’t just seat of your pants, you know, going out and doing whatever you feel like doing that day for a workout. There was a plan, there was a reason there was a purpose in the training, which is what periodization is really at the heart of periodization is there’s a purpose for this. There’s a reason why we’re doing this at this point in time. And up until that point, I don’t think athletes or had been introduced to this idea there was view other people like me who were perhaps involved in coaching or in sports science that knew what was going on with that. But the athletes didn’t really know what was going on with this kind of stuff. So I think it was that was the the key thing that opened people athlete’s eyes to training. And in the first book I only wrote, I only introduced one way of using periodization the most basic way. Here’s here’s a periodization plan, here’s how to do it. By the time I had written the fifth version, which only came out like what three years ago or so. The fifth edition of the book. You know, I had by that time I think I had four or five different ways to paradise your training. So I was trying to show the clip because now by this point, by the time I write the fifth edition, which is just a few years ago, athletes now understood periodization, I was no longer introducing it to them. In in the first book, I was introducing them to the concept of periodization. They didn’t, athletes didn’t know what it was all about, it was crucial to their performance down the road, but they didn’t know what it was. So I was trying to give a new idea to the sport. And I think that’s the reason I really caught on is because of the planning portion of my book, as opposed to just saying, Here’s workouts to do with, you know, doing whatever you want just sort of thing, which has been most books had been before that point.

Trevor Connor 40:41
So what do you feel his big impact was?

Frank Overton 40:44
Well, certainly putting it out there. First and foremost, I mean, he didn’t have to do that, you know, putting, you know, the psychos training Bible was, you know, it, that’s like, he just put out all his knowledge, like competitive intelligence to all all the other coaches. And so I think that’s a major contribution just to the the coaching industry, or whatever you want to call it. So the his contribution to share his knowledge is, is huge. And, you know, Joe, he just has an enormous amount of experience at this point. And so when Lau is just perusing his blog before we, we came on here, and, you know, he’s writing about, you know, some really complicated subjects, and people will write to him and he’ll he’ll publish, you know, what they were asking about, and you just don’t get that from, you know, get that good advice doesn’t come from, you know, a coach has been doing it a couple years. It he’s seen it all, I think, I don’t know how long he’s been coaching, but I would do you it’s, it’s got to be over 25 years, I think.

Trevor Connor 41:45
So he said he started at some point in the 80s.

Frank Overton 41:49
Yeah, so that’s, that’s over 30 years. And I mean, coaching, he just has a lot of experience. And with that experience, you know, he’s seen a lot of things and he knows how to give great advice based on on that experience. So I think that’s, you know, one of his biggest things, and I got a gather that from listening to his keynote address last summer.

Trevor Connor 42:10
That’s great. So you mentioned that you bought version one back in 1997. I don’t know if you’ve ever revisited the book sense. But if you have is, or at least comparing that book to what you’ve heard him say, sense it. Have you noticed any changes? Is there ever seen any sort of evolution?

Frank Overton 42:28
Well, yes or no, you know, that my biggest takeaway from Joe was periodization, that he was the guy that introduced periodization to me, and honestly, the the way I got keyed in on that was through His Son dark and dirt one year got seventh at US Pro, I think he was the second American. And I was you know, hearing all these stories about Dirk had appeared as his training and he paid for it. And that really sparked my interest. And I and I read up on periodization from Friel and at the time, when we got his book, it was all heart rate based, and Joe’s very much, you know, hurray based coach, and I was interested in math, and the evolution, you know, since then has been into power. And then the evolution from powers been power and heart rate, and then the evolution from power and high res maybe I haven’t read his latest edition. So I don’t know what the new tidbits are. I’d be willing to bet, though, that there’s a mention of heart rate variability. And then everyone these days, it seems like the kind of the thing to really stress is recovery and lifestyle and nutrition, because we’ve kind of beat the power thing, like a dead horse, you know. And so it’s just new information. And so I would be interested in checking out the new edition, which I haven’t yet.

Trevor Connor 43:48
Yeah, no, there’s definitely some some newer philosophies in it. He’s a little more for lack of a better word holistic in the new book. Yeah, he starts out with the mental side, the attitude talks about a lot of things that that doesn’t show up in a training file, which to me is one of those signs of a coach with a lot of experience understanding that you can’t get everything out of the numbers.

Frank Overton 44:10
Yeah, exactly. Like he’s putting his years of experience to us there and trying to, you know, come at it in, you know, more than just coaching by numbers.

Trevor Connor 44:20
So I had the same experience as you I actually also back in the 90s bought the first book, I had no idea what I was talking about, or how to train or anything myself, and my first experience was the same as yours that the book was very complex. And I’m sure that would still be the case for somebody very new reading even his newest addition, do you have any thoughts or suggestions to listeners who are new and want to pick up the book and how to take on this complexity?

Frank Overton 44:48
That’s a good question. I would say Well, first of all, I take the time to read it and maybe process it because at the time, you know, it’s unlike a blog or a or an article these days in the media, it’s just we just want to grab what we can get from it and move on to the next, you know, bit of information. So I think we as a population just scour, you know, our trusted sources for information that we can just take away. When you’re reading a book like that you need to kind of take your time with it, digest it, let it let the concepts and maybe the big picture come through. And I mean, you can always ask questions, I think, one of the things Joe’s done, over the years, he’s been incredibly open and sharing, that’s what his blog is all about. You can you can literally write email him, and he may answer your question, and I guess, don’t like, you know, pick up the book and expect to, you know, get everything you can from it in, like in, you know, in a short sitting, you’re going to need to like, you know, maybe spend a week or two with it.

Trevor Connor 45:55
Yeah, that was actually my feeling as well, going through it. I remember, there was so much in the first book, I didn’t understand until I’d had several years of racing in my legs, and then I could look back at and go, Oh, that’s what he meant.

Frank Overton 46:07
Yeah, you know, I mean, I don’t think you need to treat it like a textbook. But, you know, maybe treat it like a, like a, you know, a couple of weeks journey. And you know, a deep dive into your training because it’s incredibly detailed. So it’s got all that and then some if you really want to dive in into the details.

Trevor Connor 46:27
Yeah, remember that section of the book, actually, remember, photocopying that page, where you can build out the whole season, and what systems you are going to focus on at what point and me not being a particularly bright cyclist at the time, I was like, Well, I’m just gonna focus on everything at all times. So I just kind of filled in the whole thing. Yeah, you you had that whole template that’s still medium. If you go into training peaks today, there you can see the the influence,

Joe Friel 46:54
and the training peaks grew out of the book. That was how that came about. That was, that was like about five years, four years after the book was written. We came out with training peaks, that was simply just the online version of my book, the training Bible for cyclists, and later on for triathletes. So it kind of evolved into an online tool to help people Yeah, to help you if I will, I won’t tell my publisher that you’re making copies of my, my book,

Trevor Connor 47:25
no, sorry. When I got my start as a coach, I ran into all the problems, new coaches experience, getting certified, dealing with the insurance not knowing how to find athletes or even how to set up a business. And of course, I had those challenges on top of just figuring out how to be a coach and coaching athletes. We understand these challenges. This is something that we’ve really wanted to help other coaches with here at fast talk labs. So now with the hope of Joe Friel, we’re really pleased to announce the craft of coaching a new online learning series for Joe Friel, that will help you accelerate your practice to become a better, more successful and happier coach. Craft a coaching is available now at fast talk

Chris Case 48:11
Let’s back up just a second and sort of dive deeper into this evolution. You know, at a certain point, there was basically no information for athletes to use, except for a coach or maybe some buddies on a ride. And you could judge the value or the accuracy of the information you were getting from your friends on on any given ride. And then books. And then as you mentioned, training peaks comes along, and there’s a development of more training tools, maybe take us inside that evolution a little bit more and how that influenced you as a coach and also how it may be improved athletes performances in the end, I think that’s probably the ultimate goal. Yeah,

Joe Friel 48:51
training peaks was the I’m not sure the combination is the white right word to use there. But the extension of the book itself, the cyclist training Bible, and later the triathletes training Bible, the mountain bikers training Bible and other books, basically, they’re all the same book just written for different sports. So what came out of that was training peaks. It came about because I was coaching athletes now who are no longer living in my neighborhood, you know, I couldn’t meet with them face to face. I recall when I got my first foreign athlete, a guy in the Cayman Islands contacts me once in a while coaching. And I think it all about the Cayman Islands had to look it up on a map to find out where thick is this place. And I realized it was not close enough, I could chat with a guy over a cup of coffee a bit further away than that. So I had to figure out a way to communicate with him and other athletes like that who were scattered around the country or even outside the country. And about that same time and this was all been done, as I mentioned earlier by paper, fax machines and originally postal service letters. And then later on about 1997 My son went to work for me as an assistant coach he’d been racing Pro was road cyclists back in the late 80s and early 90s. So he started coaching with me and he was much smarter than me. And he realized immediately that the biggest problem we have is communication with the athletes. And so after putting up with my fax machines and all the stuff, he had to deal with it trying to coach people came to realization, we had to do something, it had to be online, it had to be easily accessible by people. So he had a good buddy, who had been the best man in his wedding a couple of years earlier than this guy was, what he did for a living was he wrote copy, he wrote code for websites, fortune 500 websites, he worked for a company that that produce their online presence. And so my son asked him if he would get involved in this project, is there anything we could do to move this hole online, and the guy said, Sure, we can do that and simply just took what I’ve been doing on paper and made it onto put it online. So it was a calendar online is all it was, and it’s just going to be for our clients. So you know, I had my son was coaching with them. By this time, I had four or five other coaches also joined us. So we had this new tool in 1999, which he called the training Bible. And it was just a tool to communicate with, with our athletes. And about a few months into this, we realized, man, this thing is really pretty good. In fact, the guy who designed it, he really got into it and started tweaking it in ways that we could be produced more information than, than what we were had been doing on paper in a much more streamlined way. And maybe be able to analyze the data, which just blew me away to be able to go online and look at data and be able to actually analyze it without me to do all the math myself with a calculator. And so, about that time, this is now early 2000, my son and this other guy who was did that the work his name was gear Fisher, by the way, my son in gear and I all decided, well, let’s let’s take this off off just outside of our my organization of coaches, and open this up to the public. See what happens. There are a few coaches out there, maybe there’ll be interested in using this thing. There’s been mostly athletes, there’s lots more athletes and coaches. So we opened it up to both athletes and coaches, and people started paying to use it, which blew me away. And I’m still back to my retail days, you know that trying to figure out what the heck is it that people want out of me. And what I discovered they’re wanting was this whole thing on on online as opposed to just in a book. And so I just began to grow. And you know, it was it’s been a long story. But bottom line is, I didn’t really do anything, all I did was produced the book, and then my son and his friend gear Fisher did all the work of putting together and overseen the business side of it, I’ve never been involved in the business side of it. All I’ve ever done is you smile and shake hands and stay out of the way. And they’ve done all the heavy lifting. And today it’s become worldwide, we’ve had we have professional teams use it. And they have lead athletes at all levels in all sports sports, I’ve never even heard of quite honestly, until a few years ago that they use it. And so it’s become this, this tool, which is just an extension of what I did back in 1994. With a book. So it’s been a lot of fun to see the thing grow. But I could never have predicted this would have been an outgrowth, none of this could have been predicted before 1994 Amazing stuff.

Trevor Connor 53:13
So I’m kind of interested in hearing your opinion on this, because you’ve taken us through the a lot of this history from when it was just people coming into your running shop and asking you to write up a training plan and and reporting tools or fax machines to now having the software but you did at one point comment, we’re probably getting overwhelmed with the data. So thinking as a coach, what do you see as the the optimal mix? You know, are you seeing the way coaching is done right now as it’s as good as it’s ever been? Are there things that you feel that we’ve lost?

Joe Friel 53:48
Well, it’s certainly true that data now has become overwhelming. If you just take a power meter by itself without even looking at heart rate, other data pieces, like splits, you know, on the track for runner, if you just like a power meter and the data that’s produced there, you could spend if the athlete did a two hour ride, you could spend two hours just going over the data from the power meter. It’s just amazing. When I first got a power meter back in like night, when was it 1994? I think it was something like that. I got a power meter to use. At the time, it was just one number it was what’s my instantaneous power right now, when I look at my handlebar device, what’s my power, that was the end of it. There was no other data that went beyond that instantaneous data. Now, it’s to the point that the data is overwhelming just from the power meter. And that’s not including other sources of data vendors, vendors floss, lots more. Now you got your Garmin on your wrist, your loop on your other wrist, you’ve got a heart rate monitor, you’ve got devices counting, you’re keeping track of your sleep at night, and the list just goes on and on and on. And all this data is being collected. And what today’s coach has to do is to figure out what is important. That’s the biggest challenge facing a coach of all this data was It’s important, not all the data is important, much of it is entirely useless for what you’re doing with a given athlete. So we have to you have to decide what’s, what’s the critical things are, what do I have to watch? This is kind of the one of the things I I’ve always developed in my own way of coaching athletes is that I have to develop how I see the world is there have been held back by something, they come to me because they have a goal they want to achieve. It could be to podium in a race or could be to qualify for a national championship or whatever it may be. People have very high goals that come to me. And what I see is I’ve got to figure out what’s stopping them from achieving that goal right now what’s what’s standing between them and success. There’s something there if it wasn’t, if it wasn’t for something stand between them and success, they wouldn’t need me they could just go do it, it’d be done wouldn’t be a goal anymore be accomplished fact. So what is that thing I’m always trying to figure that out when I coach athletes is what is holding them back? And how can I measure that thing that can be measured in some way. Most of those measurables come from things like power meters, heart rate monitors, sleep recorders, and all these other things we have going on, that we’re looking at is total overwhelming data right now, we’ve got to narrow down. And that’s what the coach’s job is about right now, is narrowing down. So we’ve got to get it down to the point where I can say there are, for example, three things, keeping this athlete from achieving their goal right now. And these things can be measured, what are they and so that now I started watching for those three things, I don’t look at all the data for every athlete, for every workout, I look at those three things, that’s the things I’m interested in, because that’s the key to their success. And that becomes the focus of my coaching for that athletes making sure that we’re making progress on those three things, or whatever the number may be, whatever is holding them back, I’m looking for those things. And it’s not always data that comes out a power meter or a heartrate monitor, it could be data that comes out of their sleep patterns, maybe they’re just not getting asleep. And so I’ve got to do something about that. And maybe that’s what’s holding them back. Or maybe it’s nutrition. Maybe they’re just not getting enough protein in their diet and eating far too much sugar and carbohydrate. So I’ve got to figure out what this thing is. And then watch that data as opposed to just look at all data and try to make sense of it. If you try to look at all data, you’ll never make sense of all of it. It’s too overwhelming. To get to narrow it down to what’s important. That’s, as I see, the key to my coaching is always having tried to do that with with the athletes I’ve coached.

Chris Case 57:29
It sounds like you’re describing a detective role, almost you are sifting through all that noise to figure out the clues that are most important to solve the problem in a way

Joe Friel 57:39
true, I see it as being an engineering problem. My goal as a kid when I was growing up was to be an avionics engineer. And so I got very interested in math, the sciences. And that stuff always interested me. I won’t tell the story there but had to do with one of the changes in my my undergraduate work was I went from math to physical education. Because I discovered I wasn’t nearly as sharp in math as I thought I was. But it still persisted with me, I still continue to be very interested in math and numbers I’m very intrigued by numbers always have been when I’m out for a ride. On my own bike, I spent all my time running through the numbers in my head, what’s going on right now with, you know, what’s the most important numbers for me? And what am I saying? Am I achieving my goal? Am I trying to keep workout easy are the numbers easy. If I’m trying to do aerobic capacity intervals on a hill or something? Am I achieving those numbers. So I’m always thinking about the numbers, it’s always been a driving force for me in my own training, my power meter went dead the other day on me. And I was like, I’m like I’m taking a college course without getting credit for it here today, I’m just going for a ride, there’s really no reason for doing nothing to measure here. So I’m always very much into measuring things. And that’s kind of a burden to have when you do want to measure everything all the time. But I see it as the same way an engineer sees the role an engineer sees the world as problems to be solved. We’ve got to make this road. So it lasts for 50 years. Or we’ve got to build this building. So it will house X number of people and meets all the specifics of the city and county and state and all that kind of stuff. So that’s what engineers do. And I always see my life as being kind of like an engineer. That’s just the way I’ve always been all my life, I guess, an athletic

Chris Case 59:17
engineer, kind of

Trevor Connor 59:21
as a coach, and somebody is better coach and an athlete. And seeing a lot of this evolution. What do you think are over the last three, four decades, the most significant changes you’ve seen in coaching,

Kristen Legan 59:35
I mean, it’s an easy one to go to. And certainly more like reason is just all of the data that we have and being able to really analyze that in a meaningful way and also in a systematic way. It’s not just getting the information from athletes and trying to manipulate that on your own having some tools that actually you know does it the same way each time for every athlete, I think has been helpful as coaches but also just as a general cycling as growing the size tackling knowledge, because we have more data to compare against. And so I think that’s a huge part of it.

Trevor Connor 1:00:06
Let me ask you another question. So, when we talk to Joe, he brought up the fact that he decided to become a freelance coach and said back when he did that, that almost didn’t exist. Yeah, no, that’s how most coaches work.

Kristen Legan 1:00:23
Yeah, well, I think it did. That’s really interesting thing, because there maybe wasn’t as clear literature or he, you know, he has become a mentor to a lot of those freelance coaches. And he’s having the the resources that we can use, you know, you don’t necessarily need somebody that you can go to and ask questions, or, you know, a mentor coach, that you can go and ask questions to all the time, as you’re developing, you can use the, you know, the books and the articles and the research that’s out there to kind of make those decisions for yourself, which I think is really good. And I think it’s helped spur a lot of those, the freelance coach side, I’ve been lucky enough to work under some really, really great coaches, Neil Henderson was the first one that really kind of, you know, taught me the ropes of everything. And I still think that that’s, you know, going to be the best opportunity to learn. But we’re not always able to have that relationship. And so I think having somebody who’s so knowledgeable and to be able to explain things through his his writing, and his books and articles is been huge in helping a lot of coaches become better coaches.

Chris Case 1:01:26
Having had several conversations with you over the years, Joe, I know that you have this engineers mind this methodical mind, you’ve described the method that you use, when you’re writing books, there’s a lot of index cards involved. There’s a lot of organization, and I know that you are observant, whether it’s with an athlete, whether it’s with a study that you’ve read, whether it’s some lesson that’s out there in material you that you’ve consumed in some way. And I know that you also have a goal of educating people. That’s why you’ve written books. That’s why you continue to do what you do you lecture and all of that. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s why you decided to partner with us on a new body of work. It’s not a book, but in some ways it is. It’s the craft of coaching. It’s a multimedia book project with us. And it’s to give back, if you will express some of those lessons that you’ve learned over the years. Do I have that right? Take it away? Tell me more about this?

Joe Friel 1:02:26
Yeah, Chris, I think you’re right on there. From where you started. Let’s go back there. Basically, I’m I’m a very boring person.

That’s the challenge I face my entire life is I go to a party and I just sit in the corner, read a book is party, everybody else. If you want to have a lecture, I’ll be happy to talk with you. And we’ll figure out how to get your training, right. So my life is kind of like built around this thing of always wondering how I could improve whatever the situation may be whatever the thing is, is there anything I could do to make it better in some way? So that that’s how this whole thing is evolved? For me this engineering way of life, as you suggested a while ago is is right on. That’s what I’m interested in doing. In the back of my mind, I’ve written all these all these books for athletes in one book, I’ve always had in the back of my mind, since they always probably goes back at least 10 years, maybe 12 years is a book for coaches. I’ve always thought since I started coaching, that there really wasn’t much out there for coaches, stuff for athletes, arguably too much for athletes, right? There’s lots of stuff, lots of stuff for athletes. Yeah. And there’s lots of stuff also for power, sports, football, baseball, basketball, and so forth. There’s lots of books on those. There’s lots of books on the psychology of coaching, which are interesting, but there really are no books out there are no there’s nothing out there for the coach for the endurance coach. And that’s, that’s been the back of my mind for a long time. So I’m, I’m intrigued by putting together something that will that will help the profession of coaching help become if you will, more professional so that we can grow this, this whole concept of being an endurance coach, to something well beyond what we’ve accomplished so far. And I think that’s possible, I think we can do things along that line that will grow the sport. And so now, I’ve gotten involved with you guys at fest talk labs about doing this putting together this multimedia project that is reaching out to coaches on things that they can do to improve their coaching in many different ways. It’s not just the methodology of coaching, which is what we tend to think it is it’s just, you know, a coach is somebody who comes up with a method, giving workouts periodization over maybe we tend to think of that as being what it’s all about. But that’s really just a piece of the pie. There’s really a lot more to it than that. And that’s the stuff I want to talk about also is certainly involves methodology. I wouldn’t rule that out as a part of this project. But it’s also it’s like, another big topic is the business of coaching. I’ve learned to trust nothing at all, for insurance coaches who want to start a business in coaching when I did it, it was entirely by the seat of my pants I had to learn Hardway made lots and lots of mistakes I learned along the way to do things that worked out better. And I’ve talked to other coaches who have seen the world differently than I did when they first started their businesses, they came up with a new plan, a new way of reaching out to clients and a new way of organizing their their coaching business. And so I’m trying, I’m trying to draw all these things together into one product that can be used by by coaches, down the road, well beyond what we’ve done so far with somebody looking at methodology like myself, my training Bible books, moving well beyond that the things that coaches can do, to become much more effective as coaches and there’s more to it than simply the business of coaching. Also, that’s just a piece of it. That’s a small piece. So there’s all these pieces that we all know about in coaching, what what’s the history of, of coaching? How do we get to this point, who have been endurance coaches in the in the world before us? And how did they operate? How did they do things I’ve always thought because I’ve got this double major, one major in History, another major physical education in my undergraduate years, that the history of things is very important, you need to understand how you got to this point, because that has a lot to do with with where we go in the future. We if we can see the trend, we can continue the trend or alter the trend. But we’d see to see the trend. First of all, we’re seeing things taken out of perspective, time perspective, and looked at right now is just being events that have happened in the world of coaching right now. We’re going no place. And so in the book, I’m trying to take us back into the history of coaching, how did we get to this point, looking back at coaches who’ve been doing did this long before we were even born? And how did they do it? What were how are they seeing the world. And this has been a process of evolution, it’s been going on now for decades and decades and decades spent a lot of ground for a long time, it’s not over yet, we still got a long ways to go, we’re still learning, we’re still putting together all the pieces. And what I want to do is be a part of that process. So that we come up with something that helps the the profession of coaching, become more professional, that we have something can look back on and say yeah, I recall the days back in the, you know, the 2000 20s. And we were doing this and look what we’re doing now, because this this is going to keep on changing. It’s not, we’re not at the pivotal point, we’re not at the at the key point right now, or this is all coming to an end, we’ve reached the pinnacle, this is going to keep on going. And by looking at the history, you can see how we got to this point. And what that tells us about the future. So the book, this process, this this whole thing, even though it didn’t turn out to be a book is turned out to be a multimedia project, where we’re using lots of stuff to describe what coaching is all about and what it can become. So I’m very involved in having a great time, put it together with the fast talk people. And looking forward to see what the finished product eventually comes out to be.

Trevor Connor 1:07:51
I think we’re all looking forward to it. And I just want to emphasize part of what you were saying there, what I got really excited about is when you sent us the outline, this isn’t just here’s how to put together a training plan. Because I think that is has been covered. I’m not sure there’s that much more to offer there. But I can say as a coach, I was very lucky, I started at a national center and had an opportunity to coach there. And having all these opportunities that most coaches don’t get, I still struggled for years to figure out how to pay the rent while doing this. And there was so much involved in a coaching business, you think coaching is building training plans. But to me the when I got to actually build into training plan that was like the the break the reward for dealing with all the other stuff. And I really love that that’s what you’re trying to teach her is all those other sides of coaching. Yeah,

Joe Friel 1:08:38
the coaching is, is much more than as you suggested much more than a training plan. Basically what it is, is things like people skills, you’re working with people, you’re not working with data, you’re working with people. And that’s the key to success as a coach is knowing how to work with people and not not everybody’s the same are each unique in some ways, you’re going to have clients that are unique in their own ways. And you’ve got to be able to figure out how do I will work with this client to achieve this client’s goal. Because that’s what you’re there for. You’re there to help them achieve a goal. You’re not doing they’re not doing this for you. You’re doing this for them, you’re selling your services. And in this project, for example, one of things I talk about is in the opening portions of this project is how to be a good coach. What is a good coach? How do we define good coaching? What’s it all about? And we go and then to push our extension of that is successful coaching, how do we become a successful coach? And the third part of that is how do you become a happy coach? How do you go through this process of becoming all these things? Good coach, successful coach, happy coach. And that’s where we’re starting from we’re not starting from how to write a training plan. I’m starting from how to be a good coach how to achieve things in your profession that are meaningful in life, not just workouts but having real meaning for people and that’s where we start the whole process going is from in which is really as people skills for starting with people skills in and building from there into the whole process of becoming a successful good and happy coach.

Trevor Connor 1:10:06
So I don’t want to give too much away but I do want to ask you the question you have now coached for over 45 years you’ve seen all sorts of changes in the whole history of coaching as you said, What do you really want to show is the history here? What are some of the greatest wisdoms that you have learned that you would love to share?

Joe Friel 1:10:27
Yeah, interesting question for go back in history. If you could just take give you example, one coach, let’s go back to a guy by the name of Franz Stoffel sta M PFL fron Stoffel I suspect that nobody listening in has ever heard of fron Stoffel. He was Roger Bannister’s coach. Everybody’s heard of Roger Bannister. Almost nobody has heard of this. Coach. stotfold is an interesting guy. Very interesting life. He was born in Austria grew up in Austria. He was there when the German the Nazis over took Austria he managed to escape long story but he was on a boat. His boat was sunk by the Nazis in the Atlantic. He makes it to Australia on another boat where he all he wants to do is coach people. So he’s coaching soccer players who are all prisoners. He’s coaching all these prisoners and how to play soccer. Because he enjoys coaching. It’s what he wants to do. He was a coach back in Austria before the Nazis came along. And so after the war, he comes back to moves to England. And he starts coaching runners. He’s got a background in running starts coaching runners and long behold one of the first runners he gets is this guy by the name of Roger Bannister and banisters buddies who go on to help him when he eventually breaks the the four minute barrier for the mile. He has two other guys who are there’s pacers with his rabbits and Stoffel coaches them also. But he had interesting philosophy, he was very into his stopwatch. But he wasn’t just involved in the stopwatch, he spent more time with Bannister and these other these other athletes at the bar. And at restaurants after workouts that he did on the track. He spent much more time talking to them about their lives than he did about their time. So when it all came down to what he was trying to do with Bannister and these other guys was to convince them that could be successful because they were starting to talk about this sub four minute. And at this point in time, we have a hard time believing this today. But at this point in time, scientists were saying it was impossible. You could not run faster than four minutes for a mile. Humans could not do it. It was outside the realm of possibilities. He is trying to convince these two guys, especially Bannister whose goal was to break the four minute barrier that they could do it. And he knew he couldn’t do that on the track. He had to do it in their heads when he talked with him. So he would meet with them. They’d have a beer together a glass of wine or they would meet together over dinner after the workout. And they would just talk about goals, lifestyles, things they’re doing in life. He just wanted to get into their heads and he pulled it off what he did. I wouldn’t I suspect convinced is too strong a word. But he made an impression on Bannister that yes, I can do this. And it wasn’t because of the numbers he was producing on the track. It was because what Bannister came to see as being doable in his head because of conversations with his coach. That was for me. That was an eye opener to see what a coach was doing. This is back now 1953 54 When he’s doing this and it was in those days, this was unheard of coaches were basically autocrats. They told people what to do. And if they didn’t do it, they fired them. That was the end of their athlete. They’re gone from stuff like different way of seeing the world. He saw the world from different perspective because he had been through a very difficult world himself. And he didn’t want to make the world difficult for more people. He wanted to make it achievable for people because he did achieve things in his life as he saw were things that happened in his head. And he knew that was banisters. biggest hurdle was his head. Very interesting, very interesting guy to read about.

Trevor Connor 1:14:02
Now that’s a fascinating story. And actually remember you you’re sharing that earlier. So great coaching wisdom there any other stuff you’d like to share as a bit of a preview here.

Joe Friel 1:14:13
Yeah, there there are coaches again that people have never heard of in sports we think of mostly when insurance you know, running in triathlon and cycling and mountain biking, so forth. There. There are coaches who’ve done amazing things outside of those sports that we can learn from still probably one of the most successful coaches that ever existed in the world of sport is the guy the name of Councilman James doc Councilman Doc as DLC. And it was just a nickname, because he got a doctorate in Sport Science James Councilman grew up in the 1940s and 50s began coaching in the 1960s and 70s. And he saw the world differently than other coaches did. He was a swim coach. Swimming Coaches aren’t known for having done anything to really change the world. Someone did. He’s probably the most successful coach in any sport that’s ever existed on the planet. Him He became the swim coach at Indiana University, I you became the top swim teams in the world. In fact, today’s even today, swim coaches will tell you that if, if you had to pick out the best swim teams of all time, they all came out of councilman in, in the 1970s. He produced people like Mark Spitz, who went on to win I forgotten how many medals six or seven medals at the Olympics in whatever year that was 1980 or right around there. I forget the exact date for him. But that was you know, that’s the kind of people he produced. He produced these things. He produced them like a factory production line. He spitting out world class athletes, like there’s nothing to it agree most coaches agree to this swim coaches agree. Any one of his teams could have beaten the entire world if you took the best best athletes best swimmers in the entire world and put them into one team. The Indiana team could beat them any of those teams. During the years Councilman was there an amazing guy and I forgotten the numbers now but he’s he produced something like I forgot again numbers it’s off top my head. He’s something like 60 or 80 medalist in the Olympics he produced unknown no other coach has ever done anything like that at all. But he had a special way of seeing coaching his athletes and he did from the from a different perspective in front Stoffel. His is very scientific, he measured everything, he wanted to see exactly what produced speed. So he took his science background. And he looked at things like the Bernoulli principle, how many coaches could you find that ever even heard the Bernoulli principle, and he’s using this produce world class athletes this principle. And what it is, is it’s basically the wing on an airplane, what makes an airplane fly is the Bernoulli principle, there’s lower pressure on above the wing than there is below the wing because the shape of the wing. Because of that lift, the airplane can fly. That’s what produces movement of an airplane. It just so happens the same thing happens in the water as in the air. And when you put your arm in that same position, that wing shaped position, we call it a catch in swimming, you put your arm in that position, you create a wing, and you get lift on the upper side of your arm, and you get dragged in the lower side. And he was teaching this to his athletes and the other coaches in the world didn’t even know what it was he was teaching us as athletes. And they could tell the other coaches was Bernoulli principle was because they practiced it. So he was very scientific. He took videos of all his swimmers underwater videos, especially a video camera on the bottom, the pool looking straight up as a swimmer swam over, trying to see exactly how good swimmers do it. He’s always learning from his best numbers. Mark Spitz, what made Mark Spitz so fast? He’s trying to figure out why is he so good at almost always came down to something about how they moved in water deficiency of their movement. That was the key. And he was always trying to improve that efficiency. And because of that, he became perhaps the greatest coach of all time. And yet most people in the world of sports so never heard of him amazing person.

Chris Case 1:17:59
But when you learn of these particular coaches, and did you apply what you learned from their methods to use with your athletes?

Joe Friel 1:18:09
Yeah, I knew about doc Houseman way back because I grew up in Indiana. And so you know, he was coaching in Bloomington, Indiana, which was, which is where IU is in, back in the 60s and 70s. And I was in high school in college in the 60s, and began coaching in the 70s and in Indiana, and so I was not too far from where he was doing so every everybody Indiana knew about counseling, he was like a already a legend in in Indiana. Outside of Indiana, he wasn’t all that well known unless you weren’t swimming. So he from for me, was one of the early examples I had of somebody who was a coach who was very successful. And I never really gave it a lot of thought as to what was he doing with his athletes, but I knew he was doing something that was unique and had to do with science. That was something I knew that was going on because there was the newspapers, magazines would have articles about how the Indiana University’s swim team was doing it, it always came down to what he was teaching his athletes to do using science. And so I was kind of into math and science myself. And so it’s kind of like cool to think about you know, could this apply to what I do with my coaching my athletes back in the 70s and I was working with athletes soon. What could I do with for science, so I began to try things also just learning from my athletes. You know, like back then it was unique for interest as a coach track and field coach Fosbury flop came about about 1970 which is you go over the high jump bar with your back facing down instead of up. When I was in high school in college you went over the bar was your belly facing down not your back. So why did that work? So I was a track coach. So I began to try to explore why does this work and other things. So with all the stuff that was going on, we were experimenting with like again in the in the field events, the shotput back in those days is called the glide. So if the athlete did was they they put their back facing the the field they’re trying to throw the shot into, and they slid across the circle backwards, and then turn at the last second and through the shot. Well, we started experimenting with, this wasn’t my idea to somebody else’s idea. But we began to explore. But that also, which is using a circular pattern to throw the shot says sliding across the circle backwards to throw the shot, make it circular, go across the pad in a circular pattern, and then throw the shot at the very end. And we discovered that was actually better, more distance doing that. And so there’s all these things are doing or trying things, you know, I can recall doing stupid things like hooking up a pulley to the back end of a car, and having, you know, put a rope through the pulley to the bumper and this pulley was hooked on to the bumper, and then having a long rope with a handle on each end that through that pulley and have the runners run behind holding on to the pulley. So they had to run to their arms moving like this, but we’re giving them assistance as they’re running. So would that work to make them faster runners and could be run down hills and become faster runners. So always experimenting, the so that was something I learned from Councilman was experiment, try things, you know, science is your friend make it a part of your coaching. So I recall doing these things a long, long, long time ago, most of which were stupid, some of which worked out to be really good ideas and weren’t my ideas like the circular shotput wasn’t my idea, nor the Fosbury flop. But those were all things were being tried in those days. And so we tried it all. So we tried all kinds of stuff just to see what we could do with our athletes to help their performance and it needs to continue on we need to keep on doing these things. And arrow bars for the time trial, you know, that grew out of athletes in using arrow bars versus science. Athletes did it. Science later on, figured out why it works. And the same thing with the Fosbury flop. You know, it wasn’t scientists figured it out it was the athletes who figured it out, then the light scientists later on figured out why it worked. Same thing with the spin shotput it wasn’t science that was athletes experimenting, and trying things out. So we need to keep the same idea alive, that don’t settle in on what you are coached to do or what others around you have been coached to do. experiment, try things, see what works because there’s all kinds of things to be learned. Yeah, we’re not at the end of the road. This is not the pinnacle of coaching, or athletics, we’re still learning all this stuff. And we can learn from each other. We can learn from athletes, but don’t stop learning. It’s always that’s the path that we should always be on is becoming better coaches as we move on.

Chris Case 1:22:27
Uh, you just gave two really good examples of two coaches, not many people know of them. But they they certainly took coaching beyond just numbers or data, or here’s the plan, go do it. They got to know their athletes, they studied their athletes. And I would assume they looked at all aspects of their life. I think that that’s probably a very important part of coaching.

Joe Friel 1:22:51
Yeah, is that you’ve hit the nail on the head. This is I mentioned earlier that I’m always trying to find the limiters and athlete to help them achieve their goal. One of the most common limiters is their lifestyle. I don’t know about most coaches, but the athletes who’ve came to me over the last several decades of coaching, I’ve always had high goals, I never got the person that we wanted simply to finish a local five kg race, you know, in a half hour or something like that. That person was never one of my clients, I always got people who wanted to be on the podium were at Worlds or wanting to qualify for Kona in the triathlon or wanted to win a criterium or, you know, there’s always stuff that is very high performance, the athlete is pushing themselves to their limit, and they want me to help them achieve that goal. And so that’s how this whole idea of mine of making sure we find the was holding the athlete back working on that thing, how that came about. One of those things, which, which I’m afraid we don’t always give enough attention to is lifestyle. Well, I saw it plays a gigantic role in in in the athlete’s performance. So for example, if an athlete came to me and said, You know, I’ve got this high goal, you know, what I’d like to do is I would like to podium at Nationals high goal, this is not going to be easy. We got to get everything right. So one of the things I say to this athlete is I’ll tell you what, that that is going to be difficult to do. We’ve got a lot to achieve to get there. So let me tell you this, there can only be three things in your life, the next year, three things that’s it, you can have your family, we’re not going to give up your family to achieve to get a podium, you can have your job, your career, we’re not going to get your career to get a podium, and you can train. That’s it. Nothing else. So if you come to me and say, Hey, I’d like to be on the board of directors for this nonprofit agency that helps children. I would say that’s a great idea. Why don’t you wait till after you podium then do it not until then why? Why do I do this to athletes? Because I know what happens is if I say to them, okay, yeah, let’s go ahead and go ahead and sign up to be on that board of directors of this children’s organization, which is a great thing to be doing. That becomes the fourth thing in your life. Then you say to me, Well, I think What I something else I’d like to do is serve on the on the board of directors for my homeowner’s association, that becomes the fifth thing in your life. And after a while, we get so many things in our lives, that something’s got to give. And so what gives sleep, that’s always the place, we find more time. So we’re going to bed at 11 o’clock at night, because it gets so many things we got to pack into our day plus our family plus dinner, let’s get a workout in after after work or whatever it may be. So we get to bed at 11 o’clock at night. And we get up the next morning at five o’clock, to make sure we make it to work out, or whatever it is we got in our life to get to get done that morning. So we get six hours of sleep. Well guess what, if you keep trying to train six hours of sleep every night, you are not going to be on the podium and nationals, it’s not going to happen. So we’ve got to get this narrowed down. And the way to do that is you have only three things in your life until we achieve this goal, then you can let all hell break loose and you can do anything you want to do. But until then, just three things. And I know that sounds like I’m trying to be very bossy, and very dictatorial, autocratic. But quite honestly, that’s the key. If this athlete really wants to achieve that goal, that is the key for them to achieving that goal. The other stuff is easy. The workouts they have to do, the amount of volume they have to do. The intensity is the power numbers, all these things can be accomplished. But the the big piece that is usually missing for athletes is lifestyle. And that’s the piece that you’ve got to get right. Otherwise, all this other stuff is a waste of time. Very good.

Dr. Andy Pruitt 1:26:32
Joe Friel made coaching a legitimate profession. That’s what I think Joe has done. One of his major milestones is truly making coaching of non collegiate non Olympic athletes. They all had coaches, right. So he gave all of the wannabes out there, some of the very high level wannabes, the access to professional coaching. So I think he really made coaching a profession outside of the traditional locker room setting. The advances are really based in science and technology, which Joe embraced both of those. I think he was probably a little slow to come on to technology. But once he did, he embraced it wholeheartedly. So yeah, that’s that’s, we all look to Joe as although he and I have the same age. We all look to Joe as this is this mentor or father of coaching. Most people don’t think of me as a coach. Back in the early days. I coached a lot of folks, coach, the team I was on. I coached Marianne Martin for her Tour de France when I helped coach Connie for her gold medal. Carpenter, her gold medal. So I really had a lot of interest in that side of the sport in my early days, but had to make a decision. And Joe was way better at it and way more famous at coaching. I was so that Lane was taken. So I moved on my sports medicine lane.

Chris Case 1:28:23
Well, I think it’s that time, we usually close out every episode with one minute take homes, we’ve got this five minute timer, sitting here in our studio. It’s been here for a really long time, and we’ve never really used it. But since we’re talking about Joe’s almost entire career here, we’re going to give you a full five minutes if you want it to give us you know that take home message the most important things that people should know from our conversation today. Yeah,

Joe Friel 1:28:52
I this is a gigantic topic and you go send me directions with this limit. Let me just say this, and I’ll keep it short. I won’t take the full five minutes. The most important thing we can do if we’re talking about being becoming a better coach is to have better skills, dealing with people. That is most important thing. I know I’ve said that before and I keep emphasizing this. But that is the key to success, not only in coaching, but in life if you want to be successful, learn how to treat people how to be how to be a friend, how to be somebody who’s who is there to assist. And I learned this very deep lesson from one of my closest buddies we met in 1971. We coached together back in the 70s He is still very close friend of mine, his cyclists we get together he lives in Colorado. I live in Arizona. We get together periodically when one of us goes to the other place. And we go for rides and he is the most has has the best people skills and anybody I’ve ever met in my life. And that that is a lot because I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve met a lot of people. His name is Bill Cofer bill is amazing individual. He’s a genius. In fact, I would say but one of the things that he has developed in his own life is this people skill when I met him in 1971. He did not have people skills. He’s progress. He’s a genius. He was a genius, then I won’t tell you the stories how I know all that he was he was a genius, there still is a genius smartest person I’ve ever known in my life. He’ll tell me things about sports science I’ve never heard about, for example, his background is in physics, of all things. So but he’s tells me about physiology. But what he taught himself over the decades was how to have people skills. So I watched him evolve from some of the worst people skills I’ve ever seen a great scientist, but no, no people skills to becoming one of the most popular people I’ve ever met. Because of how he gets along with people. He has developed this into a science, how to get along with people. And I just observe him when I’m around him, because I can learn so many lessons from him to this day, because I’ve watched him evolve over the years. So the number one thing I would say that’s important for you as a coach, number one, people skills, you must have people skills, observe people around you who have good people skills. Like I said, I did not have I don’t consider myself to be somebody who’s got great people skills, but I’m always trying to learn how to do it. And I’ve got mentors. He’s one of my mentors. He’s one of the people I observe. And I observe other people. When I see people with good people skills, I watch them, I pay attention to what they say. I pay attention to how they ask questions, I pay attention to their body language, I pay attention to a lot of things because I can learn from this person and have better people skills. And that will make me not only a better person, but a better coach because coaching is people skills. That’s what it comes down to bottom line. You can have all the methodology in the world. You can understand all the data. If you have no people skills, you have no chance of being a good coach. So people skills are the underlines key to the best coaching in the

Chris Case 1:31:43
world. Perfect. Joe, thanks for joining us today.

Joe Friel 1:31:47
Thank you glad to be here. Had a good time. It’s always fun to talk.

Trevor Connor 1:31:49
Great having you on the show.

Chris Case 1:31:51
That was another episode of fast talk. Subscribe fast off 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 talker are those of the individual as always, we love your feedback. So join the conversation at forums dot fast talk to discuss each and every episode, become a member of fast doc laboratories at fast Doc and become a part of our education and coaching community for Joe Friel and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening

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