How to Create Multi-Year Development Plans, with Dr. Stephen Seiler and Sondre Skarli

Certain physiological gains only happen after years of development. We discuss how to design training plans that look two or more years ahead.

A cyclist rides near Niwot, Colorado. Sepia.
Photo: Chris Case

What a strange and chaotic year it’s been. Despite the disruption to our lives, times like these afford us an opportunity to look farther ahead. It just may be that, from a training and racing point of view, this is just what some of us have needed.

That’s because, sometimes, you can see greater gains by looking not just at next year, but by gazing two or three years up the road. Whether you’re just starting in endurance sports, or unsure of what 2021 holds, looking through a telescope rather than a microscope can help you develop in new and powerful ways.

There are certain physiological gains that take mere weeks to develop. We’ve touched upon those elsewhere. On the other hand, some very important changes will only take place over the course of years: your aerobic engine or stamina, for example, which involves structural changes.

So if you have the opportunity to look farther ahead than ever before, how do you create the right training plan? Must you give up racing? How do you measure progress on this timescale? How big a role does trust in the plan play in proper execution? How much volume can you safely add over the course of two or three seasons? Those questions and so much more on today’s episode.

Our guests are the renowned Dr. Stephen Seiler and one of his Norwegian colleagues, Sondre Skarli. You’ve heard Dr. Seiler on the program many times before, but Sondre will be new to this audience.

Formerly an elite speed skater and one of Dr. Seiler’s students, Sondre is now a sports scientist consultant at the Norwegian Olympic Committee and Federation of Sports—basically he’s a great coach on the Norwegian national team, working with a diverse set of endurance athletes. Of note, he became the head coach of the Norwegian speed skating team at the age of 28.

This episode is very conversational; we’ll take our tangents. But there are a great number of important points throughout the show. And with that, let’s make you fast!

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 00:12
Hey, everyone, welcome to Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance. I’m your host, Chris Case.

What a strange and chaotic year it’s been, despite the disruption to our lives, it’s times like these that afford us an opportunity to look a bit farther ahead. It just may be that from a training and a racing point of view, this is just what some of us had needed. That’s because sometimes you can see greater gains by looking not just at next year, but by gazing two or three years up the road. Whether you’re just starting in endurance sports, or unsure of what 2021 holds. Looking through the proverbial telescope, rather than a microscope can help you develop a new and powerful ways. There are certain physiological gains that take mere weeks to develop, and we’ve touched upon those elsewhere. On the other hand, some very important changes will only take place over the course of years. Your aerobic engine or stamina, for example, which involves structural changes. So if you have the opportunity to look farther ahead than ever before, how do you create the right training plan? Must you give up racing? How do you measure progress on this timescale? How big a role does trust in the plan play in proper execution? And how much volume can you safely add over the course of two or three seasons?

Those questions and many more on today’s episode, today’s guests are the renowned Dr. Stephen Siler and one of his Norwegian colleagues. Sondre Skarli. You’ve heard Dr. Seiler on the program many times before. But Sondre will be new to this audience. Formerly an elite speedskater, Sondre is now a sports scientist and consultant at the Norwegian Olympic Committee and federation of sports, basically, is a great coach on the Norwegian national team, working with a diverse set of endurance athletes, many of whom are on that four year Olympic cycle. Of note, he became the head coach of the Norwegian speed skating team at the age of 28. This episode is very conversational. We’ll take our tangents, but there are a great number of important points throughout the show. And with that, let’s make it fast.

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The Longest Ride on the Shortest Day

Hey everyone, this is your host Chris Case with a personal request. In just a few days on the winter solstice, I will undertake a personal challenge to help combat climate change. On the shortest day of the year. I will do my longest ride of the year, ride from sunrise to sunset. My ride will benefit the Rocky Mountain Institute whose mission is to transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure low carbon future. If you’d like to support my cause, just visit It’s all one word longrideshortday where you will be redirected to my GoFundMe charity page. You can learn more about the ride and make a donation in whatever amount you like, or to share my fundraiser page with your friends.

Well, we have a great episode today it’s on a slightly different topic than what we normally discuss because it’s about this multi year training concept. Not something that you think too much about but taking that step back saying are there gains to be had if I think long term here two, three years out. That’s the the discussion we’d like to have today. We have two great guests today. Dr. Seiler, Dr. Steven Siler. We all know and love Dr. Steven Siler over in Norway and he’s brought a colleague with him Sondre Skarli.

I want Trevor to say that as many times as You can, throughout this episode, see how good he gets at that pronunciation. So welcome, guys. Welcome Steven, welcome Sondre.

Trevor Connor 05:08
So give you the Canadian Sondre.

Chris Case 05:11

Dr. Stephen Seiler 05:12
Oh, man, what a great start, you’re off to a great start.

Thank you, by the way the Canadian can mock someone else. I’ve listened to a lot of these shows. And always it’s a Canadian who gets mocked. But now it can be done.

Chris Case 05:26
Yeah, there you go. So let’s dive into this topic. Can you see greater gains by looking further ahead, and it’s in its appropriate topic to discuss right now. Because in some ways, we’re living through a time when maybe you can’t race maybe looking ahead, it seems unlikely you’ll be racing again until maybe it’s the summer of 2021. Or maybe it’s not until 2022. So this pandemic has really allowed maybe for some people to look farther and farther ahead than they normally have. And think about this as a time of development other other than just, you know, going out and doing their intervals. Again, this they can take a broader view of what’s going on in, in their training,

Trevor Connor 06:13
actually had an athlete a week ago asked me just about this, he said he kind of regrets 2021 because he kept training, hoping that ratio was going to start the next month. Mm hmm. And so there was no long term plan to his training he which is always trying to stay on form. So it was never on great farm. He

Dr. Stephen Seiler 06:31
was never really building and basically said 2020 was always burned a lot of matches, and kind of just he was he was eating in Norwegian. And so he was eating the cake the whole time, you know, where he’s, he’s trying to stay on form, right? Instead of backing it down and thinking long game.

Trevor Connor 06:47
Exactly. And so he was talking to me about 2021, he said, The rumor is, a lot of races are gonna be canceled in the spring, as Chris said, it might not be till the summer until there’s racing. So he was considering a different approach of Should I just turned 2021 into a development here, and really focus on 2022. And my guess is, is a lot of people are starting to think that way.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 07:12
You’re kind of describing what saundra worked with. And I guess what all of us work with that work with Olympic athletes because the Olympiad is this four year cycle. So just almost by definition, these these elite athletes, and their coaches are in that long game of trying to figure out, okay, you know, if they’re already on top, how do we stay on top? If they’re not on top? You know, is there what’s our pathway to metal contention, then in three years or so. So it’s interesting because that that perspective, probably learning from that maybe is going to be useful for people who now are dealing with something they’re not that they’re not used to, which is having to think long term and hop over maybe a season or something like that. Does that

Chris Case 08:02
sort of brings up the big question of, why would you need to do this? Why can’t you get everything out of, you know, the training that you’re doing right now? Are there things that take three years to develop, and maybe we should discuss those things that take a short time, versus those things that take quite a long time?

Dr. Stephen Seiler 08:23
I guess one way to think about it is, you know, if you go back to the endurance model, you know, or you say, Well, you’ve got your maximum oxygen consumption, you know, you can’t produce more than your vo two max over time, then you have your threshold, you know, however you define it, your, what percentage of that can you work at for a long time, without fatiguing, and then you have this issue of economy or efficiency, which both involves technical development, but also some props, long term gains in the metabolic system in the muscular system that make you able to do more for less oxygen. So that’s those big three, and then you’ve got anaerobic capacity, that you spit in when it’s when it’s short, and, and so forth. And so so let’s say those for now, a timeframe for the development of those that vo two Max is we think, fairly much limited by cardiac cardiac function by the heart by the vasculature, you know how much blood volume you have and things like that. It seems like you know, we’ve tested so many young, talented athletes. VO two Max is one of the first physiological parameters for the endurance athlete that actually peaks. So in the career of an athlete, you may already see that they’re really high for this value at age 1819. We just tested a couple of guys in our lab last week and both of them were 88 emails per kg, you know, and I said, Look, these guys this is already world class. But they they’re not world class as cyclists, they’re their lactate power, you know, their threshold power is not high enough, their durability is not good enough, but they’ve got the big engine, and then now they’re going to have to build that out. So vo two max tends to peak pretty early. And people tend to overtrain it, they you know, that’s where we get into all this interval training. They do a lot of work to keep trying to pound that vo two Max, but it’s just not going to keep climbing. Then you go to these threshold type developments and those take longer, because you’re building mitochondria, you’re building capillaries and so forth. efficiency, it seems from the literature, some from case studies and so forth, perhaps takes even longer meaning that we see slow gains in efficiency over time. You know, over several years of training, there’s a case study involving Paula Radcliffe, the marathoner, where it looks like that was one of her big changes that led to her world record was she just became more economical as a runner her vo two max stabilized or threshold stabilized, but she got more efficient. So that’s that seems to be the time course vo two max peaks threshold in peaks pretty soon. And then you get into these durability and efficiency developments and you know, on in cycling, those are really important because the races are so long. So what you see is the athletes slowly extend their you know, the duration that they can be competitive. You know, we’ve talked about this stuff before. And those that takes longer, you know, saundra, Sunday you live in in grid aren’t all right, or grimstone. Yeah, so he the neighbor community. But between the two cities where we live is a city called grimstone. And that’s where this former world champion named Tor who sold lives. He was a very good cyclist, he won the world title in 210, I believe it was down in Australia. And tour was called the ox of the North, you know, because he was a reasonably big cyclist at 80, maybe 81 kilos or something like that. And he struggled with the longest races. It took him a long time years before he was really competitive in the classics. Because they they’re that extra hour longer. You know, and he had a huge vo two Max, he won the U 23. World Championship as a time trial list. In 97, I guess it was, then he you know, so he’s got the engine really early. But then it takes him years to build he struggled in the heat at Athens Olympics. He couldn’t, you know, he was just too big. So again, he, by the time he finally wins the World Championship as a cyclist is 2010 You know, when that’s 13 years after he was a utopian world champion. So and I think he would argue that he you know, he got better. At some things over time.

Trevor Connor 13:01
We are talking to the perfect person here because when you look at traditional research, as you know, it is hard to find 10 subjects to do a three to six month study, to try to find enough subjects to say let’s do a five to eight year study on your progression in a traditional study format is next to impossible. So there isn’t a ton of research on this and what research there is has to find more unique ways to get at this.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 13:34
So under did kind of an experiment, not really as a scientist, but Sondra was my student as a master student. And he had already been a junior coach. He had already worked with some of the best junior level ski skaters in Norway. Meaning that you know, the Norwegians, they they literally I didn’t Sondra Didn’t they go 123 in one of the Junior World Championships. Yeah, yeah. So he did his master’s project was looking at that developmental process for these Junior athletes that he had worked at. And then he ends up going, many, several of them go on to be senior level athletes, and he becomes their senior national team coach. So I think saundra is a good person to kind of dive into this and that you he actually was doing one of these five to seven year experiments.

Trevor Connor 14:28
It’s quite interesting what you started with Stephen, because what we saw on those athletes was that their view to Max was really high at early age at 1718. They peaked and later, like 789 10 years later, then they went from the best Junior skaters in the world to the best senior skaters in the world. But their vo two max didn’t increase at all. If anything, it went maybe even slightly down. So but we didn’t see Other games. So it’s like you said the efficiency threshold technique. But also the thing about racing, we were talking about first of maybe taking a year off without competing, there might be some benefits to taking a year off. Without competing, you can train more, which can be good. But there is also a lot of learning in competing. So by having a year where you don’t focus on the competitions, but you focus on the long term, then you can develop and also get the benefits from competing. Because it’s quite few athletes that can just show up in a race and haven’t raced for a long time. And then suddenly, you can win the race, a lot of learning by doing a lot of competitions as well. But it is interesting. The thing about to be able to maximize this so stable, we also have a lot of not unpublished studies on different athletes. So where I work in the Norwegian Olympic Training Center for everything from rowers, cyclists, runners, speed skaters, cross country skiers, hikers, and we have a lot of data from the development from there were young, like 10 1112 years, up to the age of 30. And more, it is really interesting to see how they work with multi-year plans and how they gradually increase their training loads. And also what we see here on their vo two max doesn’t change that much. And another aspect of this is the relative cost of achieving certain adaptations, both in terms of time and effort. So, you know, if

Dr. Stephen Seiler 16:41
we go back to that, I often talk about fresh fruit and you know, software hardware, a lot of athletes are interested in their anaerobic capacity, you know, their lactate tolerance, and they do these super high-intensity intervals. And you can you do get adaptations if you haven’t been doing these, you know, 30 fifteens, or some kind of a high really high-intensity interval training, then a little bit of that will improve your anaerobic capacity. It’s, it’s, I know it will, and the thing about it is though, it only takes a few weeks, you can get a big improvement, a 10% improvement or so in a few in like four workouts. If they’re well, well executed, but they’re costly. And they’re fresh fruit because that adaptation is what I would call a soft, a soft adaptation, it’s it’s some proteins in your, in your blood and in your in the in the intracellular space, it’s some changes in buffering, it’s, it’s stuff that both comes pretty fast, but it goes away pretty fast. And it’s really costly to maintain, you know, because you have to do these really high intensity efforts that crawl cause a big stress response in order to get those soft adaptations. So we’re going to time that training, we’re not going to do that, at times of the season, when we don’t need that little turbo, if that makes sense. And so this is this is about being the chess player and knowing when to play your, you know, put your players in different position on the board, and when to emphasize your basics and when to bring in a little bit of that top in or that is costly. But that results in relatively fast adaptations, but also say they will also deteriorate more rapidly, or is that that long haul stuff that long and the low intensity, the volume, there tends those adaptations research shows us that with the training, they may or maintain longer capillary density and so forth like that, it seems it’s like it’s infrastructure that’s been built, the lattice work in the sales has been built, and it doesn’t decay as quickly as those soft adaptations. Yeah, does that make sense?

Trevor Connor 19:03
Yep, that’s exactly what I was gonna bring up. So I like the way you put it I discovered my athletes as structural versus biochemical changes. And exactly as you’re saying, so the those biochemical they come quickly they disappear quickly. So that was the point I was going to make is if you’re doing a development year, really focusing on that stuff, saying I’m gonna I’m gonna just get that top end that much stronger. To me is a little bit of a waste of development here because you’re going to bring that around pretty quick. But you’re not going to get any really big long term adaptations. I would be focusing more on that aerobic engine the sides as you said they take a long time to develop once you have them they seem to stick around.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 19:49
Yeah, and if it was like like in the case of my daughter I are going to I’m goal is to be a marathon or be a half marathon or the high level but she needs more speed. Her she needs you know, front top end speed. So this next six months, she’s going to train like a middle distance athlete, not because I think she’s going to be a good middle distance runner, in fact, I know she’s pretty, pretty certain she’s not. But we’re not going to use that narrative, we’re going to say, Hey, we can get better at this, get faster. But it takes a long term investment, it takes, you know, a cycle of several, couple months of dedicated string training to kind of help tweak push up that foundation that normally maybe she wouldn’t do, if it was a normal season where we’re preparing for a half marathon in March, but we’re going to drop that half marathon in March, because probably, it’s not going to happen anyway. So no sense planning on it, because of the pandemic. So we know that competitive schedule in the early months of this year is probably going to be curtailed. So let’s just, let’s instead of being upset about that, let’s plan it in and use that to build the build the foundation more. So that’s, that’s our mentality is just kind of getting on the front end of this and anticipating things, and then using it to our advantage, instead of being reactive, and disappointed. You know, we kind of know what, what’s the writing on the wall looks like.

And I think a lot of athletes has a lot to learn here, because earlier this week, I had a conversation with a national team, female cyclists, and she wanted some tips for how to improve, I want to be in best shape as soon as possible. I said, you want to be in best shape as soon as possible, like in December, or you won’t be really good in June, July, August and September, because that’s probably not the same approach. And then you have to decide what you want. Of course, she said, I want to be fast in summer, okay, but then there’s a different approach. Because there is, you can always do some short term gains, those are not necessarily the same stuff you would do if you want the long term games. And then you have to decide what you what you want what’s right in front of you, or you want to think in the long term. And if you’re going to make a huge progress, or do something you’ve never done before, you probably have to do something that you haven’t done before, or to kind of go a more not dramatic way approach for it. And I think a lot of athletes has a lot to learn there.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 22:42
Yeah, I mean, you’re not going to do in, in the competition, which you haven’t done in training, you’re not going to you know, that’s what I always say to my daughter, there’s no magic, there’s not going to be magic on race day. You know, and often we say training, the training is tougher than the races if you’ve prepared well, because you will have prepared your body with these different ask different kinds of sessions, and then it’s all gonna come together on race day. But yeah, there’s no magic. So if you say, Well, I, you know, I, I just don’t make it to the finish line with enough watts I fall apart, you know, the three hour races are too long or whatever, well, fella, I’m sorry, but that’s not going to change. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, it’s not going to suddenly get better, you’re going to have to change your training and change your you know, the machinery, which probably means you’re going to have to do more bass, you’re going to have to extend your durability, you’re going to have to get better at you know, sparing glycogen, it’s staying in the pack it being efficient, being technically efficient, and so forth, to get to the finish line with something to give. That’s a that’s going to take a kind of a reframing of your training. But but it’s really important for us to understand that that doing the same thing I’ve always done harder, is not gonna be the answer. If you’re not satisfied with where you’re at, you know, you’re gonna have to rethink and rebuild your engine or your your machinery

for a court, but that was the old Eastern blocks the East Germans when they had evaluation after the season. Then there had the athletes and the coaches together. And they asked, so what’s the next year’s plan? And the coach, he took the plans from last year, put them on the table, bam, this plan plus 10% in everything. So that was the plan. So what about next year, and probably the same thing, plus 10% of everything.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 24:54
I have to add to that anecdote with the same Eastern Bloc, you know, back In the United States, for a while there was a rowing Training Center in I think it was in Virginia. It’s mostly in San Diego now but but at any rate, this the, the Russians came over some Russian athletes came over and join the Americans. And they were doing a one of the most gruesome tests and rowing, which is a 10,000 meter on the rowing machine. And this big Russian guy, he’s looking and some of the female athletes are doing the tests. And he goes over and finds a dictionary and an English dictionary and looks up some words. And then he walks over and just read in bends over into the ear of this woman who’s right in the middle of this hard 10,000, about a 3538 minute test, you know, and he just says, suffer. And that was his. That was his contribution.

You know, it’s

Dr. Stephen Seiler 25:56
not always about suffering. It’s not always about suffer more makes me better. There’s, there’s enough of that. But I do think that we have to also just do the grind, be smarter build. And now’s the time, now’s the time, and you talked about doing five months versus two months. And that I would, if I were going to think in terms of stretching a mesocycle or stretching a planning phase during this, you know, let’s face it, probably not going to be a lot happening on the International Circuit, not a lot of group races and so forth coming this spring, I think it’s fair to say looking at the COVID-19 issues, both in Europe and the United States, Canada, this spring is not going to be normal. We’re in you know, I think just the writing’s on the wall. So let’s go ahead and really plan on stretching that, that that build phase out. But I would probably, you know, instead of saying, well, it’s going to instead of being eight weeks, it’s going to be 16, I would break it up into at least two blocks are two with a little bit different, you know, some sub goals and some testing on both of those. Does that make sense? I am always like Sondra said earlier, I think you always have to break up the big goal into smaller milestones. And, and, and give them multiple opportunities for success, but also to help to be focused for a certain number of weeks on something and then have a little crescendo and then get back to work. But, you know, break up this this six month path into three. What is it going to be, you know, six weeks or whatever, or, you know, four or five different little blocks with different tests, different milestones, different races, whether it’s on swift or at home, or a time trial around a block or whatever, in order to, you know, kind of give yourself some motivation along the way.

Chris Case 28:11
Here’s Robert Poulter, an athlete who has worked with Trevor for years, and someone who decided to look farther ahead and expand the schedule at which he developed, building over several seasons instead of a single year. Robert, tell me a little bit about what brought you to the point where you wanted to sit down with your coach, who happens to be coach Connor, Trevor Connor, and map out something that was maybe a little less traditional, little unorthodox looking two years and three years ahead,

I’d like to say it was actually me that came to travel with that suggestion, but it was actually the other way around. Trevor and I have been working together for about four years now. And it’s, I can tell you the story at some other point how we got to meet each other. But when I reached out to him to potentially be a coach for me, he actually interviewed me more and told me more about his approach to training athletes and how he thought about cycling, and basically asked whether I was prepared to do it the way he thought about it, as opposed to what I actually wanted to do. He said, Look, we’re going to go on a journey together. And you’re not going to like the first two years of this journey, because I’m going to force you to do things that you don’t actually think are going to make you fitter. And he said one day, you will wake up probably two, two and a half years after we start working together, and he will call me and say something magical happened on my bicycle, I actually did something that I didn’t think was possible. That’s kind of how it started. And Trevor was very clear with me from the outset that this was a long journey. And that fitness and improving one’s fitness actually takes an awful lot of time and has to be done in a structure methodical way. And thinking about doing as you said at the start of this interview, just a series of intervals to make you faster isn’t actually going to produce the results that you want. On a sustaining basis

Chris Case 30:01
seems like there must have been to two key elements here, patience on your part and trust on your part. Do I have that right?

There was a third, which is maybe it’s related to trust, which is recognizing that I actually am a terrible cyclist. And I don’t know what I was doing. And after having ridden bikes for probably six or seven years and not getting any faster, I had to recognize that there were potentially people who knew something that I did, and it could be helpful to me. So maybe that’s related to trust. But I had had a coach before Trevor, who actually made me go slow or not.

Chris Case 30:34
Well, that’s one.

So I think it was probably a combination of myself, self awareness that actually was getting worse, not better. The second was Trevor articulating a vision that I frankly, hadn’t ever really heard before. Knowing his history and the results that I had produced for him. I think that’s what actually led us to a place where we could we could actually go on this journey together. And the trust came over time, to be honest with you the trust, the trust was not out of the gate, it came over time.

Chris Case 31:05
Tell me a little bit more about what that vision was, I would assume that there was a goal at the end of this what what was the goal? And how did you get there?

First of all, I think we need to acknowledge that I’m a middle aged fellow, with two children, two grown children a full time career. And for me, riding my bicycle was the way to stay healthy. And also fulfill my unfulfilled athletic dreams from from my youth. Sure, I had a group of colleagues who were my age and similar situation that I ride with every weekend, like probably a lot of people who listened to your podcast, and I was just frustrated that I was getting drops. And I just said to Trevor, I said I don’t I don’t want to get drops. And he said, Well, that’s kind of vague. And we talked about what that actually means and took it apart. And you know, what Trevor explained to me that I didn’t I didn’t really understand was the nature of cycling in Toronto versus the nature of cycling elsewhere. And what I’m about to say is not intended to impugn cyclists in Toronto, it’s just the the nature of living in a city of 6 million people where you got to ride your bike, an hour to find any stretch of road that isn’t interrupted by a stoplight or stop sign. And Trevor explained to me, he said, Look, the writing that you do in Toronto, is you write very, very slowly, and then you go very hard for 45 minutes, and then you write very, very slowly, that is a challenge for people like you, because what you don’t actually get is you don’t actually get the base fitness to support the kind of efforts you need to do for 45 minutes. He said, on top of that, cycling, when done kind of properly is not really a 45 minute exercise, it’s a three to five hour event, and you have to build a very different level of fitness. And he said, if you want to work with me, he said, I’m going to help you build base fitness, he said, I’m not, I’m not going to help you materially improve your five minute power, your two minute power, I said, because that’s not really going to be the differentiator, he said, what the differentiator is going to be is that you can go out and sustain medium to high levels of power, hour after hour after hour. And that you can insert good efforts in the middle of it, and do it again and again. And again. So he said my model of fitness is sustained. As you know, I like to talk about base power. And then the ability to put out repeated sustained efforts that you just kind of grind people down. If you like that model, he said, I can get you that model. And he said, you’ll be really pleasantly surprised when you actually go and do a real bike race, not the you know, Saturday morning World Championships, I was prepared to do that. Because you know, I do have the opportunity of riding with people in my circles, some who’ve been on the national Canadian National cycling team and that in their youth. So they actually really know and I’ve observed this about them, which is they just even in middle age, they still put out sustaining power and they fail at four hours. So they don’t feel after 45 minutes. Right. And so I admired that. And that was that was the process we started on that was kind of the mental image that Trevor painted for me. And that’s what we started working on.

Chris Case 34:16
And how long ago was that?

Four years ago, okay. And the first two years, the first two years were the first few years were painful for me personally. And because I had to learn a lot. And and I, what I learned from Trevor, which was really, really hard to do, was when you go slowly, you go slowly. And when he goes hard, you go really hard. Right? I know that sounds pretty simple when I articulate it. But you know, when you’re new to cycling, and it’s a social thing for you and it’s not your profession. You go on a ride with your buddies, and we’re all competitive. So you just want to push the pace and It took me a very, very long time to internalize and learn what slo was and what it looks like, and what hard is what it looks like. And as I say it, he said here is a very simple concept. But for I think many amateur cyclists like me, it’s an incredibly difficult concept to internalize.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 35:19
There’s something interesting to think about the stimuli that you need to, you know, we talked about maximize that cardiovascular component, you want to drive huge, you know, venous returns to the heart, you want to get huge filling, so you stretch the heart. So you expand stroke volume slowly, then it seems to respond by number one, adding volume of blood and into it increases the muscle, the literally you get a cardiac hypertrophy. But those stimuli are kind of unit dimensional, you can do it in it, it only can go so far. But what’s interesting is if you go over to that, if that more peripheral peripheral adaptations part, it’s kind of a positive cycle that you go into, because as the athlete develops more mitochondria, as they tolerate more volume, then they further develop the ability to, you know, work over longer periods. So it’s a positive cycle. But one of the big things in Norway and in other countries is how rapidly Can you increase training volume over time, because that’s a double edged sword. more volume creates more stimuli, but more volume also can lead to more stress and breakdown. So, you know, we have these rules of thumb in Norway that Sondra knows better than me about, you know, how many hours of training per year do they add? Maybe 100 hours a year,

depends on sports, but from 50 to 100 hours a week for younger athletes is kind of a rule of thumb.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 36:58
Yeah, so Sondra, what’s a 15 year old 16 year old cyclist? skate speedskater. What kind of volumes are they doing? If they’re pretty good if they’re competitive in at that age?

Yeah, about 750 to 800 hours a year. One of the guys I coached when he was 12 years old, he did 900 hours of training. Wow, that’s a lot. Yeah. No, but that was an organized trading there was he went hiking in the mountains, he went skiing by himself, he went playing soccer with his friends, he went on the trampoline ended all kinds of stuff. So and that’s what you see, when you look back to the best senior athletes, they did a lot of training and young edge was not that much organized, maybe just three 400 hours of training than they did additional four or five 600 hours of unorganized training.

Trevor Connor 37:56
So a question for both of you. And I certainly have my opinion on this. But I really want to hear what both of you have to say about this as you’re adding that that volume. So if you’re adding, let’s say 100 hours every every year, what’s the distribution of that increasing volume, I’m assuming, as you add more, you’re not going to be adding the same. Same distribution, my guess is you’re probably gonna become a little more polarized as you’re getting more and more and more volume. What do you how do you approach it, what do you generally see,

you have to add off the volume, you make longer workouts, what you do in intensity do, you do increase more. And of course, when you get older, you also in a lot of sports, you do double or even three workouts a day, but mostly two times a day, then a lot of younger kids, they can’t do twice in a day. So you increase the volume and and the hard session should count increase that much because it just gets too hard. And you don’t necessarily need to have that many hard workouts. But if you do, there’s a lot of sports now more and more with a Norway they do twice hard workouts in one day. So in a week, you may only have two days with high intensity training, then you can have them on the same days. So then you kind of polarize in the week. So we don’t get that hard, many hard days, you can get slightly less on each workout. But then the total amount of volume kind of adds a bit more up without stressing the body too much. gives better space for easy endurance training. It gets for strength training, and it also gets kind of the same physiological stress during the day. So I think that’s an approach to this growing.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 39:49
And that’s music to my ears because that’s how I understand the whole training process is that the body You know, I think it’s reasonable to think of is a training day. How much Have a stress because once you turn on that big stress response, it’s kind of turned on. We see this, you know, an anecdotal example is, you know, the the ingebrigtsen. Brothers, they literally have done times where they’ve raced. And then after the race, which, in Norway, they often win pretty pretty easily, then they’ve continued doing more interval training, just because their dad says, Well, we’ve already you know, we’re not going to waste this day, we’ve already started this day as a hot, you know, it’s a hard day. So let’s just get the most out of it. And so that’s kind of goes along with that idea of categorizing training days, not training, minutes, from your, from your watch.

And I think what you said, there, Steven is really important within the exact same thing in speedskating. After every competition, especially in the, in the season, you don’t, if you compete every weekend, in a row, that you don’t have that many days, you can really train the system. So we also all wested into training after the races. And it’s that once you just you start kind of pumping out some hormonal stress, then you kind of want an effect from it, not just having it, but you want it to actually mean something. So then it makes sense to do it the same day. And then you can have a recovery day afterwards and then start up training again.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 41:29
And we gotta remember, Sondra and I are talking about sports where the, the competition duration is minutes, you know, so they’re, they’re warming up for an hour, and then doing a 1500 meter race or a 5000 meter race or a 2000 meter row, you know, these kind of scenarios or even for me, swifting I if I do a 20 minute race, and you know, I, if I recover for five or 10 minutes, and I can keep keep going after it, as long as I didn’t all go all the way to throw it up, you know. So I’ve even done that myself as a 50 plus guys is to do a race and then try to kind of get a little more out of that workout. The same day,

Trevor Connor 42:08
I was reviewing some of the long term athlete development program research last night, because that’s something that really looks at this long term looked at development, though, it’s very much focused on on youth. And I found it interesting that some of the research behind that basically said, when you’re dealing with really young kids just starting in the sport, you know, they’re very big on it should be mostly fun. And they’re saying volume is so low, they can pretty much be doing mostly just racing buddies doing races on the weekend, it can be a whole lot of high intensity. But then as you got to later stages, they’re saying, as you’re increasing the volume, now they have to worry about actually making sure they’re recovered for next sessions. So it seemed like it really promoted not increasing the intensity, but just adding volume. And a lot of that volume is going to be lower intensity, and then learning how to effectively recover so that you can adapt.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 43:10
Yeah, my only fear on that model, which is, you know, it’s kind of I’m from United States and it’s an intensity model. And unfortunately, it’s driven also by there are a lot of competitions in the in the coaches who are also the dads and the moms want to see their kids win and, and so there’s a big focus on effort, intensity, and so forth. And then not necessarily enough focus on technical development. You know, if you’re a skater, a rower, and so forth, there’s a lot of technique in these in these sports, and actually, they the technical development drive learning those motor pathways happens best at lower cadences lower frequencies initially, that you need to kind of put that, you know, in rowing, we all we would do tons of rowing at a frequency or a cadence, it was like half or less than half of race cadence, which you can do in rowing. You know, you can go down that and I think it’s in speedskating, you would see the same as they’re doing a lot of, you know, where they’re really rhythmic. And they’re really work, you know, and that, that technical aspect, which then will they’ll be able to reproduce it high powers and paces in races. But if you’re always just floundering at high frequency and highs, high, you know, race pace, often the technical development is not good enough.

I agree totally. Because you just can’t do the enough amount of time in the specific position or training wise, if you want to do a high intensity training. And for a young athletes, especially if young athletes want to have a big goal as a senior athlete, they want to get on national team or to the Olympics, and so on, then you have to learn how to train as the young kid. It just you have to learn how to live like an athlete, and then doing this gradually. And then the low intensity training is really a big part of it. Because you have to learn how to control your body how to listen to your body, and and how it responds to training. Yeah, learning young kids to do the easy long sessions is really important as well,

Dr. Stephen Seiler 45:28
you talked about these Junior World Champions that you trained, then made the transition to senior level? Well, how many years did it go before they were senior world champions

10 years, on one of them. Eight on other other one, and the third guy was seven. So it’s, it’s normally a lot of years or never Yeah, most people never do it. Of course, because there is on the senior There is, of course, bigger competitions. And in junior, it’s only an age group or two years, and seniors is all grown ups. It’s tough to make it.

Chris Case 46:06
Now maybe we turn this back to our discussion about the the bulk of our audience out there, I think which would be amateurs who may be in two different situations. they’re new to the sport. And they want to find what their top form might be. And they have some years to play with, or some people that have maybe stagnated by doing what they’ve been doing for year after year. And they want to explore something else and see if there’s more to tap into by this long term planning concept. What does what how do we apply all the things we’ve been talking about for the last section here to that situation?

Trevor Connor 46:48
And I think to answer those two questions, there is a an important underlying question we need to answer which is, can you just focus on each individual year and assume that the each subsequent year is going to build on the form of the previous year? Or is there a benefit the same, I might sacrifice a year or two, to reach a higher level two, three years from now

Chris Case 47:13
Yeah, and get worse before you get better, so to speak,

definitely, you would have a lot of against by looking at it long term in several years. First of all, because if you start a sport and you want to be good at it, but you haven’t done that much training, then you should have a gradual approach. Because if you start too hard, even though if it’s low intensity training, then it’s a big impact on the body. So you need time to recover, and you need to learn, you need to train a lot to be able to train a lot if you know what I mean. So you have to increase gradually. And as we said, In the beginning, here, it’s you shouldn’t increase more than maybe up to 100 hours a year, because then the risk of getting injured, or getting overtrained or sick increases too much. So by having a long term plan, I think it prevents you maybe you can prevent it totally, but it increases the chance of doing something wrong. And if you look at long term careers, then injuries is often what takes the total volume down. If you get a lot of sick, if you get injured a week there a week here a month there, then suddenly you lose hundreds of hours of training. So that also helps to keep the volume up, even though you don’t increase it too fast. And you end up with a higher volume anyway, I normally say is you have to always start with a goal. And if you start with the goal, it’s like getting in a car and putting on the GPS, then you kind of know where to drive. Because you can follow the directions. And probably you can go from A to B faster. stuff can happen a long road, of course, like in sports, but it’s way faster than if you just get in the car and you’re trying to figure out the way as you go along. Same thing goes for sports. So you should always invest time in a good plan. Even if it’s just people want to make a good race, even though it’s not elite level then the more time you invest in planning, the better you are fleets, they do what we say Norwegian they think from hand to mouth. They only see what’s right in front of them.

Trevor Connor 49:43
Do you think you bring up a fantastic point when you say somebody who’s new to this, making sure that your body can handle the increases way before I was any sort of a serious cyclist but it was something that always struck me when I I was a freshman in college, we had a woman in our dorm who was a Olympic hopeful skier. And she used to bike the classes like I did. And one day bike in the class, she got absolutely nailed by a car, like flipped over the car, and was a little banged up and bruised, but she basically walked away from it. You know, she obviously went to the hospital to get checked out. And what she was told by the doctor is, most people, if that had happened to them, they’d be in the hospital for a month, but she was so fit that developed her body so well that she could handle it in a way that most people couldn’t. And that always had an impact on me and was something that I remember when I got into cycling, which is to be able to handle the sort of the ultimate the ultimate training load that you want to be able to handle your you have to get your body to a place where it is tough enough, fit enough, strong enough to do that. And that isn’t always just more time on the bike, that’s time in the weight room that’s doing all the other stuff, to build your body to handle it.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 51:04
Or Absolutely, and I love that example, the athlete group that has always impressed me most here in Norway, when you talk about that, just that robust trainability. And that’s Alpine skiers. And they’re exactly the same kind of, you know, you they get hit, you know, they crash, they go flying through the air through 30 meters, you know, land in the snow or whatever. And then they walk away from it very often. And a good part of it is just because of their true, you know, how much motor training how much string training, how much just general training they do. So they have just a great deal of what’s to say robust, they’re there they are, their bodies are just made for the battle. And I think there is something to that I i’ve I was with my daughter, the skinny runner yesterday in the weight room, and she’s doing you know, benchpress and in rows, and she wants to get her upper body or I want her to get her upper body a bit stronger, I want her to get her whole frame a bit more robust, that I think that’s going to help us down the road to increase her her maximum speed, which is then going to later down the road improve her half marathon and marathon which is the ultimate goal. So that that sounds like a convoluted path. But it’s the long game. And we think it’s important and I think a lot of athletes do as well that you know, they have to think about. And that’s a that’s a COVID-19 issue right now is right now this is the time if you have said Well, you know what, I’ve always had a left riding balance between my legs, I pedal more with the ride, well, good grief, now’s the time my friend, now’s your chance to do some focused work on correcting that imbalance. Or you say, my low back is always you know, I’ve got this thing, now’s the time friend. This is when you can make these these changes to your body to your technique. Sondra could probably exemplify this on the technical aspects if you’re going to fundamentally change some technical aspect. And usually you have to break things down and take me gets worse before it gets better. For example, that may not be such a big deal in cycling, but in a lot of other sports it is.

Yeah, definitely. And I also think, with this COVID situation is kind of a unique situation for a lot of people, and you can develop some stuff you normally don’t. For instance, there are a lot of amateur cyclists, I’m cycling bit myself and then with a guy, some training with many of them, they’re afraid of strength training, because my legs feel so bad The next day, so I don’t want to do weights, then again, you have to think for long term, it’s really good for you, if you maybe if you did once a week, at least in certain times of the year, even though it doesn’t help you short term, it will probably help you long term both by technical aspects. And also injury prevention and also bone mass density which important for cyclists, runners swimmers was not that big are not as strong. So there is a lot of benefits. You can use the situation now where it’s not that many competitions. So maybe you can actually invest that extra time in stuffing in don’t prioritize normally.

Trevor Connor 54:26
I’ve seen that a lot with athletes that they’re doing well they’re getting into the sport so they do exactly what you just said which is each year they they up their volume, take their training a little more seriously and they think oh I’m on this great path and then they hit that year where now their knees are bugging them. Now they’re back is bugging them they started having all these issues and they get really upset go. You know, I was the most serious I’ve ever been this year and this was going to be my year this was going to be great. And I’m getting hampered by all this bad luck. Well actually, it’s sometimes not bad luck. It’s it’s that we’re talking about Do the preparation, the other work that they needed to have their body at the point where it could handle the sort of volume, the sort of training they want to throw out. And Steven, I agree with you completely that this would be a really good year if there’s no racing coming up, and we have to adjust to do that sort of work. But one of my personal zwift Heroes is is Lionel Sanders, you know, he’s

Dr. Stephen Seiler 55:25
actually a Ironman triathlete, but, you know, there haven’t been that many Ironman triathlons. So that, you know, that kind of racing has been fairly limited in 2020. And so what is Lionel do what he says Well, I’m gonna you know, I’m going to try to increase my short game I’m going to try to get better at you know, the five k better at one hour of cycling. So he both breaks his own personal record in the five k any any breaks the Canadian record in the hour on the track and cycling in the same week, which I found pretty impressive. That’s peak, yeah, but but but he chose to go into the individual components of his triathlon machinery, and improve his upper his, his upper power his, you know, his short game, and, and try to make himself maybe more like a typical itu, you know, Olympic distance triathlete. And he knew that he had to get a faster five k a faster, you know, our type cycling Time Trial power. So he’s used that year to work on that, you know, and then and then try to be ready and extend it when the when the racing comes back. So I think there are examples of even at the highest levels, athletes that have kind of gone into the workshop, as you will and looked at how can I reframe, rebuild, adjust tweak my, my body in a positive direction. We had an example here in Norway, and I think it’s I don’t have the whole picture in front of me, but we have a distance runner named carlina, grubbed all that has been for several years, the best distance runner in Norway on the women’s side. 31 inch change. 10 k runner, 10,000 meter Olympian World Championship athlete, but still not quite at the top, you know, and she’s had some disappointments, he’s had some injuries. And then this COVID year, she also got hurt. And she was forced to train alternatively drain, it seems like a lot of string training or a lot of alternative stuff. And then she was able to get back into normal training only about blade July, August. And then she had the national championships in cross country. And she had a singular kind of invitation level 10th 10,000 or 10 k road race. And she just I watched her I was at both races. And she was absolutely phenomenal. In the 10 k road race, she ran the second fastest 10 k by a European runner ever and top 16 all time, only behind Paula Radcliffe in Europe with a 30 minutes 32 seconds. So she took almost a minute off her pr at an age of 30. You know by re kind of rebuilding and in maybe even benefited from not having so many competitions. I really not sure but all I know is she saw under you you’re here you’ve seen it in she looked fantastic, just strong in more almost more muscular than I’ve ever seen her as a distance runner

actually passed or as she talked about it. And as she said she did have a lot of alternative training and she did hiking, she did some cycling, long Hill tempos and easy rides and a lot of alternative training. And this should be really motivating for a lot of both amateur athletes and elite athletes because every time one door closes, another door opens and should always be curious on what can be open on the other door. Injury doesn’t necessarily need it need to be a bad thing often. Of course it will. But you can use that as an investment for something else. You see a lot of athletes coming back after injury stronger than ever in alpine skiing as Steven mentioned earlier, you see that so often, then they really build on what they need to and they get back stronger never

Dr. Stephen Seiler 59:44
win. Also, a lot of female athletes after childbirth have come back better than ever for various reasons, I think but again a gap year or unloading year or whatever does not need to be Negative.

My colleague with Canadian, we were coaches together in the Norwegian national team in Pyongyang Olympics. He was the best sprinter in the world and speedskating Jeremy water spoon, it was at the top for many years, and then he took the year off and trained different than normal, and then one more year, and then they go back better than ever, and just crushed your own records, you trend this same thing, year after year after year, you kind of get good at that. But then, after a certain amount of time, you need to do something else to get a stimulus, either in a physical or a technical or a mental stimulus. All those things is really important at some time. Just need to do something else. Trevor,

Chris Case 1:00:45
I’ve recently talked to one of the athletes you coached, Robert, and I got his perspective on what it was like to be the one on the receiving end of the coaching, hey, I want to take my cycling to the next level. How do I get there? And you were the one that you the two of you work together to be like, okay, let’s take a step back. This is the goal. Here’s how we’re going to get there. So on and so forth. Could you maybe talk about how you identified what it was that you wanted to get him to? And then how you mapped it out to bring this back to, you know, sort of the I’ve got two years to play with her. I’ve got three years to play with, I want to I want to increase attribute x about my cycling ability. And how do I get there,

Trevor Connor 1:01:38
in Roberts case, which is actually pretty common that you’ll see with a lot of masters athletes. So you when you have athletes who are fortunate enough to go through the sort of program that saundra runs, they’re going to be developed correctly from the start. Mm. And they’re going to be developed, looking long term, a lot of athletes who get into it on their own, especially when they get into it as a Master’s, where there really isn’t a ton of institutional support for them. Sure, you tend to see similar trends, and one of them is, it’s a lot of high intensity, they don’t have a ton of time, the way to get stronger is more intensity, then they start doing the local races or they go on the weekend group ride. And they’re discovering they’re suffering on the one two minute climb. So they go I need more intensity, because right, I need to get over that one two minute Hill, not realizing the reason they couldn’t get over that one minute, two minute Hill is because for the 40 minutes before that they were at threshold where their tongue hanging out trying to hang on with the field. Exactly. And when they got to that hill, they just had nothing left. When I encounter an athlete like that, which is quite frequent, what you just see is they don’t have that aerobic system. They haven’t built the endurance, the repeatability, the stamina. They’re just all top band. So you basically have to transition them, which means so with Robert, we started doing a lot less intensity started doing when I told him I wanted to go out and do a four hour ride. He was like, What? What are you talking about? He’s like, and how hard should I go? And I’m like, this hard, then even first one he went out and did He’s like, I think I did pretty well. And I’m like, No, that was way, way too hard. But he’s like, if I do it the way you want, I’m gonna fall over.

Chris Case 1:03:28
Right? This and this gets back into that conversation. We’ve had many times on the program before about the the debt the true definition of slow, right, right?

Trevor Connor 1:03:38
Well, when you don’t have that aerobic system, when you don’t have that endurance, and you tell somebody to go out and ride at a 140 heart rate. And I prescribe that that sort of work by heart rate, it is painfully slow. Mm hmm. Like his first few rides, he was doing 20 to 23 kilometers an hour. So what’s that 1314 miles an hour? Yeah, that’s slow, which is the slowest he’s probably ever gone in his life on a bike. So that first year doing that, because we were transitioning him was not a good year, he got weaker because we weren’t we he lost some of that top in, which is what he was relying on. I find that endurance that aerobic system takes a while to develop. I think that’s one of the things that takes a couple years to develop. So he had no assets that year and he was getting killed. But to his credit, he was patient and then when we built his endurance, built his aerobic systems, and then brought back that top end work. He was an entirely different rider.

Chris Case 1:04:41
I don’t want if this to turn into the conversation about Robert but it’s a great case study and I wonder how do you get an athlete to trust you in that situation?

Trevor Connor 1:04:50
Well, I’ll give you my short answer. And then I would love to hear from Sondra and Dr. Seiler but it’s a lot of conversation. It’s a lot of you need to explain to While you’re doing this, you need to prepare them ahead of time saying, this is what’s going to happen. I’ve had this speech many or talk many times with athletes where else I’ll tell them, you’re gonna kill yourself this winter, this bass season is gonna be the hardest bass season you’ve ever had. At the end of it, you’re going to be performing worse than you did last year, I want you to be ready for that.

Chris Case 1:05:22
setting expectations is a big part

Trevor Connor 1:05:24
of this. It’s explaining the plan and Sondra, I mean, I’m jumping into you said there were things you want to talk about. One is the importance of talking to your athlete about their plans. So why don’t I leave it there, and you jump on this?

Yeah, as you said, the communication part is crucial here, it sounds pretty easy, but it’s actually not that easy. Because there’s so many different ways you can and should communicate with athletes, some athletes like that one kind of a communication and others totally different approach. So you have to learn each individual as a person, and how they respond and kind of what they what they like and prefer, takes a lot of time. But when you kind of get to know the athlete, then it just gets easier and easier each time. So you have to make them trust you. And to make them trust you you have to invest a lot of time in them, you have to be open, you have to be honest, you have to say, what what your plan is you have to involve them in the plan. A lot of coaches and athletes, I think sometimes there is kind of a misconception of the fun goal. athletes can have one goal, and the coach can have another goal. And if those two aren’t connected, then the path that you’re going into is it’s not going to be that easy. So you have to make sure that you’re on the same page that you’re talking the same language. And then you have to kind of see what you want to do to make sure you reach those goals. And then you have to invest a lot of time on discussing how you should do it. Because if you have an approach, that athlete believes in something completely different, like there’s a lot of athletes that, like we’re talking about the high intensity part, I think that’s the only thing that matters are the technical workouts or is sprinting, let’s say for a cyclist, which is a sprinter, it doesn’t help to have peak power of 2000 watts. If you’re not there, when the sprint is going because you got dropped two hours earlier, you have to make sure that you’re in agreement, and that you work on the right parts of the training, right physiology. As I said, I think that to invest time in a plan and long term planets, it’s the best investment you can do with so many athletes that kind of they invested a lot of time and training. But they’re not that interested in investing time in training, planning or trading writing a trading diary execution of how the workout felt, maybe someone can just upload their trainings to training peaks. And then you don’t write comments, you don’t write how you felt you don’t write out your daily shape was or how we are perceived exertion was and stuff like that. And then kind of what you get is just half of the story. You can do exact same athletes doing one workout and they can respond very different. And you have you have to get to know the athlete because stress is stress. And if athlete has problems at home, work, girlfriend, school, stuff like that, then that will also impact the result and the training for athletes. So again, everything boils down to use a lot of time communicating with athletes.

Chris Case 1:09:02
What about the fact that you’re looking maybe three years down the road to become that different rider but somebody might need a little bit of a win in year one are a little bit of a win in year two, how do you get that? How do you infuse that into the plan? Is that having some goals that are a little bit unorthodox or testing or how does that look?

No, it can be done just like you said, but I I would never recommend a long term plan with only a goal for long term. You should always have short term goals as well. And you should have a short term girl goals in physical development in test results in competition results in training results, maybe in nutrition or sleep patterns, and stuff like that. So there is a lot of ways an athlete can develop and if you reach some of those goals, Then that is a success. An athlete normally doesn’t make all of their goals. But if you make some of them, then you can look back and see, well, I actually gained something for this period, I didn’t reach my goal. My goal was to have a podium this year, I want to go fourth or fifth. But then again, I saw I got better at intensity distribution, I got better at nutrition, sleeping, I got better, preparing for big competitions are trained more than ever. And then when you go to evaluate this season, and you look for the nest next season, then you can do small adjustments, and then you’re one step closer to reaching that goal. And that’s kind of what we saw in the 2017. Season. We didn’t perform that well as we wanted to, then we did a really big evaluation with a staff with athletes with did a lot of big discussions, what are we going to do to get this bronze medal to become a gold medal. And by investing that time, then we ended up getting the gold medal in the Olympics. But I don’t think we would ever gotten that gold medal. If we had a crazy amount of success the year before, maybe we could, but then I think we would have lost that evaluation part. And sometimes you get on your toes more, if you get some downs, you’re forced to reflect more force to think more on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how to do it and stuff like that. And that is a process that’s really important in all kinds of sports,

Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:11:46
there was an evaluation, Norwegian sport, in metals and all this and how it all works. And, and I can’t remember exactly the title, but the ultimate finding by this external evaluation was is that it was success through intelligent failures over time, meaning that, you know, the make putting the 18 year old or putting the young athlete into a new situation, they don’t get on the podium, they make mistakes, they crash out, but they learn. And you’re preparing them through small failures through, you know, letting them meet some resistance, because a lot of these top talents, these juniors, they haven’t made any resistance, everything has just gone from from from when the waiting for them, and then they become seniors, and then they meet some resistance, and how do you turn that into a positive and so I think that’s part of this long term aspect for the coach is to find that balance between, you know, making sure they’re meeting some resistance, and, and then also giving them some wins along the way, so that they don’t lose the faith, you know, lose the, the feeling my daughter, you know, I this COVID season is also done and work done a job on her. And, you know, she had lots of good results early. But then she kind of got strict into thinking she was gonna, you know, keep riding the wave and training through and she didn’t give herself a break during the middle of the season. And she got really tired in August and September. Well, you know, so she met some resistance or body didn’t respond in the way she was used to. But my goodness, she learned from that. And now she has such an a better understanding of what it what it takes to be an athlete that can get through an entire season, and be at a peak at the end of that season, as well as you know, in April, and so forth. So I just think that those we have to allow athletes to fail, but fail intelligently if you know what I’m saying that the failures are not devastating. They are learning or teaching moments through the way you use races, the way you use training, use alternative training, there’s lots of ways that you can, can do that.

Trevor Connor 1:14:07
I think you brought up one of the really important points, especially if you’re looking long term, which is to have a plan for it. So talking a little more to our audience where I know not everybody’s working with a coach or coach certainly helps. But even if you have to develop yourself, you have a plan for what you want to do for this long these long term goals. And then it’s really about trusting that plan. Because when you’re looking way ahead, there are gonna be plenty of points where you are going to wonder Am I on track? Am I doing the right thing here? You’re gonna go to that group right and get killed and go. Wait a minute. Like no matter even if you tell yourself beforehand. This is the way it’s going to be. I’m training differently. I’m not going to be on good form. You still go to that group, right? You get dropped and everything you do Hold yourself everything your coach told you kind of goes out the window and you’re just like, I just got killed? What’s going on? What are some of the tricks that you have found for? When they’re looking long term when they’re at that point where they aren’t seeing any of the payout yet? How do you keep them on track? How do you keep them motivated?

I think by doing some testing on the road on tests that mean something for sport, so it kind of has to have a value, it has to be valid. And if you do some testing, and you do competitions, and you do communication, and including the athletes, then I think you’re on the right path. But, uh, what is kind of ironic here is, I think you have to stay true to the plan. But then again, there’s always some times where you shouldn’t do that, because sometimes athletes get injured, sick, or other stuff happens. And then you have to be willing to adjust the plan. And that was something I was not that good. In, in my earlier days, as a coach, because I spent so much time and investment in the plan, I fell in love with it. And I thought, This is what we need to do to reach our goals. And then I wouldn’t want to change it. Even though things happen along the road, that should, should make me change my mind. And that was something I learned the hard way. But, uh, when you do that, and you have to be, you have to be true to the plan. But the plan is never better than execution of the plan, it’s better to have a bad plan with good execution than a good plan with a bad execution. Of course, the best thing is to have good or really good at both. But But you have to always be willing to make some adjustments and listen to the body. Because this is not machines, it’s human beings. And there are so many factors that comes to matter. And I think a lot of coaches doesn’t spend enough time to actually listen to the athletes and make those small adjustments. And it should be just a small amounts here and there. And because then you don’t need to be big changes. But if you wait and wait and wait and never do the small changes, then at one point, you probably have to do the big changes. That’s the ones you don’t want to do. It’s better to do a small change here and there, and just a few tweaks and adjustments, and then stick to the big picture. Because it’s the big picture, that makes a difference in the long term. It’s not the this workout, I was supposed to have five times 10 minutes at 400 watts, but then I felt really bad today. So I can only do five times a day at 380. Well, so it doesn’t matter. We just stare makes a few unjust adjustments the next days, and then we’re back on track.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:18:29
Yeah, I’m listening, and I’m thinking about how maybe, and I would almost use the term framework, you know, the team, the coach, the athletes have a framework or a philosophy that’s guiding them in terms of that big picture. And then they are comfortable with the small adjustments, and they don’t let those become become sources of panic or frustration. So that there’s this, you know, the big, big scale and small scale. And, and I think coaches have to be comfortable in their own skin enough to make those small changes and know that that that those aren’t going to rock the boat, because they have a framework that is sustainable, that is, you know, moving them in the right direction. So that’s one little input, I would say. And then the other is is that, you know, let’s, let’s say you’ve got this big goal, you’re an age group, and you’re going to do some fondo or some, you know, let’s, let’s say it’s a fondo. And so there’s different components of that it’s going to be a hell of a an event in terms of it’s longer than you’re used to. There’s going to be climbing there’s going to be issues with heat and drinking. So there’s a bunch of puzzle pieces that are going to have to come together that are going to ultimately lead to you either feeling good about your results in this fondo or not. So now we can unpack that. And along the way, you’re gonna do some races and I’m not quite as good in this criteria or I’m not as good as in my climbing as I usually am on a short climb. But along the way, you’re picking out different aspects of this, these puzzle pieces and you’re giving yourself goals, you might say, well, I need to lose a couple of kilos, I’m carrying some body fat, that’s gonna help me Alright, that’s a, that’s just a goal that you can have, I need to learn how to eat better or drink better during the rides, because I tend to get dehydrated, okay, there’s a goal, that’s a specific goal that you can measure, I can, you could handle more fluid intake. Okay, I need to increase my threshold power. Because I know I’m going to have several big climbs data data. So okay, and now we have another specific goal. So I would break that big event into some pieces that along the way I can experience success and I’m, I’m building myself, even though not all the races are going to be you know, if I’m used to doing short high intensity races, and I’m trying to expand my durability to handle this five hour font or whatever, then I’m going to accept that because I’m I’m seeing success in parts of this that I know are going to be important like you know, the drinking the the body maintenance things and so forth. So that’s how I would pursue it. That’s how I do it with a runner or with a cyclist is let’s, let’s think about your total machine. What are the components we need to build? Do you need more muscle mass? What’s your topping power? You know, are you not handling drinking? Are you not you know, your diet issues. There’s lots of things to improve. You know, I can even put a heart rate monitor on an athlete like a rower. And, and say Alright, today, you’re going to grow at 18 strokes a minute, which means you’re going to roll definitely slow, in terms of cadence, but you’re not allowed to have your heart rate over 140. Now, I want you to race, I want you to go as fast as you can. You three guys are lined up each of you, we plugged in, you know a certain percentage or maximum heart rate that that is properly calibrated. And you guys can race you just can’t race above that heart rate. So now what are they doing? Well, they’re developing technical efficiency. Okay, so there’s lots of ways to give them your athletes, goals and metrics and things to be get better at, without messing up the big plan, you know, which means in that case, I don’t want these athletes working too hard that day.

Now, let’s hear from houzhang amuri, head coach of the Pacific cycling center, on the physiological adaptations that take place over the course of years, it seems you don’t look just at individual years with your athletes, you are always looking several years ahead. And even it seems like there are certain attributes that in order to

Trevor Connor 1:22:59
to improve them you in some ways have to make short term sacrifices is that the case

is pretty much every athletes needs are different, right? When we work on an alternate plan or yearly plan YTP all those plans that are part of quadrennial plan is part of four year plan, which goes from Olympic cycle to Olympic cycle. We know some of the areas he won’t develop in one or two years is going to take even more than that. And definitely those years that development years, the focus is going to be on building the base. And can I get him to look at different band performance plan.

Trevor Connor 1:23:46
Can you describe in a minute what a more bass focused plan versus a performance plan would look like?

Yes, when we work on development plan, ideally development plan, General preparation is much longer than a specific preparation or competitive competitive face. And then we work on performance. That general preparation is much shorter, but has longer a specific preparatory face, and also much longer competitive face. That’s just building all the pieces in those phases. It makes a difference between development and performance.

Trevor Connor 1:24:39
So how long would the general preparation phase be in each in

general for development? I would say minimum of 10 to 14 weeks compared to performance can be somewhere between five to seven weeks.

Trevor Connor 1:25:00
So really short, is very short,

because those are that is already proven, they can perform, and they don’t need that much general preparation. After five to seven weeks, they move into a specific preparatory phase that they work on what they need for the season or for races.

Trevor Connor 1:25:25
And how long would that phase be for each,

that can be summer between, again, six to 10 weeks. And, and that’s also can include some of the key competition faces,

Trevor Connor 1:25:43
are there attributes that you feel take more than more than a year to develop?

Yes, I like to pay payments to explain to you know, when I work with athletes, and is just I run some identify these athletes Chronicle age versus biological age, and also test the results. Yeah, also understanding and readiness for next level. And when I have all this information, you can start building the plan. So an alternate plan or yearly plan, as I said, it’s part of four year cycle, right? So we know it is athletes planning to be a pro, and he has to be able to write six watts per kilo for half an hour. And right now, he’s at 4.9 watt per kilo, that’s example. So this is not going to happen over one year. This is two or three years development training to get him or her to that position, again, comes to annual training plan, or four year plan, displays our life plan there another plan, do you build it on stone and said, done, go for it, they need to be modified in a regular basis, at least every block of the training can be somewhere between six to nine weeks, and make a modification to it.

Chris Case 1:27:30
Trevor, to turn this back again to Robert, or not even to Robert, but somebody that says to themselves, I have this goal. And it’s three years away, whether that’s a specific event or specific attribute, in terms of mapping out that three year time period, this may be a silly question. But do you just take the traditional components of a training plan, like a base period, a build period, and multiply those by x and extend them, so to speak like you instead of the base period being two months, it’s five months? And instead of a build period being two months? It’s five months? So on? Is that really too simplistic way of looking at this?

Trevor Connor 1:28:16
Will you beat me to the punch? Because there’s about as a very similar question of saundra and Dr. Seiler, and we’ll I’ll finish by asking them the question I was going to ask but yeah, if I’m developing an athlete, like a lot of the Masters athletes I’ve encountered where they’re described as being very top heavy, video, lots of high intensity work, they haven’t really built that aerobic machinery, I am going to that first year is going to be a lot of base work really focused on there’s almost just that dealing with that resistance. Getting them to accept I gotta go do some long, slow volume. So I might do less intensity, a little more of that and just train them. It’s almost training the mindset of this is a different way of training. Every year, you’re going back to the goals I would even though I would love to do it and just say let’s just have a whole year doing nothing but base a I think that just turns you into a tank. And be it’s no fun. Yeah, boring. And you You are probably going to see a loss of assets that you need to develop. So I’m still going to have a period where they can race where we’re going to really focus on trying to see what form we can get them to just to have that sort of enjoyment, but it’s as you said, and you also you heard from my coach Shang that as you go down these these years, you start to do less of that base work, get more into that specific preparation phase and then just have longer and longer race phases where they’re really honing those skills. But Sondre, Dr. Sadler, I’ll throw that question to you. So let’s make this really specific to right now, if you had an athlete, not an Olympian, but let’s talk about a masters or categorized rider who’s been racing a few years, and they said 2021, I think is going to be a write off. So I really want to use this as a development year, build my my overall level, so I can be even stronger for 2022. What suggest and I know, there’s always individuals, you want to individualize this. But are there any sort of general suggestions that you could give of? Well, if you’re gonna do that, here’s how I would change 2021, I would do more of x, I would do less of y. Are there any recommendations you’d have,

I would say, invest more time in trading. What we’re seeing from where I work at the Olympic Training Center in Norway, best athletes in the different endurance sports are often those who have trained the most. It’s not necessarily always like this, of course, but because you reach kind of a top for some sports is might be 1400 hours, and for others takes 100 hours a year. But a increased more time. And just to learn the journey, and just appreciate the small gains each day. You don’t necessarily have to set the PB on every workout. But if you just keep on grinding this, those small steps and enjoying the ride, then you get closer every day. And it’s fascinating. It’s watch the Netflix documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger, when I was a bodybuilder, and it was always happy. And they said, Why are you always smiling? Because every day and one day closer to my goal, and that was kind of a fun way to look at it. But I think the best athletes, that’s how they look at it, they like to train, they like to do the work. And then they’re always one step closer. And when it comes to the pandemic, and stuff like that, I think you just have to find new, new goals, if you lost the big competition of the year. Okay, maybe next year, but then you have one more year to develop and improve. So I think you should always look for opportunities or and I think that’s what separates the best athletes from those who are not that great is they don’t see things. black and white. they they they can they can find good stuff in bad situations and work from those. I think that’s something amateur athletes can learn from the best ones. But you can always find something good from each situation. And if you’re having that mindset, then you’re kind of on the right path.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:33:15
And I have to say, since a lot of our people were listening to our cyclists, cyclists are lucky as heck right now. I mean, if there is a sport, a lot of sports have been just fundamentally crushed by this, this pandemic, in terms of competition schedule. You know, swimming has been outgrowing a lot of things, but cycling, because cycling has both an indoor, you know, there’s indoor possibilities, outdoor possibilities, long, short game, there’s lots of different ways to improve yourself. I think, you know, we’re those of us who are cycling have probably the least reason to be upset in this situation, because everyone else a lot of other athletes are having, they’re not even able to do what they normally do. Or at least there have been periods in this year that they haven’t even been able to get in the water, for example is swimmers. So let’s keep let’s give that some perspective. But particularly in cycling, I think it often comes down to this issue of intensify versus extend in we tend to go to the intensification you know because that’s that’s what feels easier. Let’s just go short and hard and call it a day. And I think you know, saundra is talking about all these big our counts and that but but I would, I would operationalize it for the masters and say, hey, let’s see if we can add an hour to our long ride. He said, Well, I’m not doing so many long rides outdoors. All right, well, let’s see how you can do indoors. Yeah, I never ride more than 90 minutes indoors that just kills me. Okay, well, then I’ve got a I’ve got the thing for you because we’re going to work on your this is mental training to to get inside your own head and stretch that duration. And then if you want to, we’ll put an interval we’ll put an interval about at the end of that two hours. And let’s see how you handle that, because that’s going to help prepare you for reality and racing. He’s been able to intensify high intensity repeatability at the end of a race and not just at the beginning. So there’s lots of things we can work on. In this environment, indoor outdoor, we can, you know, use the indoors, whiffed and whatever for what it’s good at. And then we can get back out on the road, and so forth. So I think, you know, this door closed door open is a great metaphor right now, because there are some really cool open doors for all of us. Right now, if we use them, we have the forums, the ability to learn from each other in different ways, get inside our own heads, on some issues, maybe learn how to extend. And I would also say that, like, in my case, my own physiology, I, you know, I know I’m a kind of a fast which are and I’m not, I don’t have the natural endurance, and I’ve had to really work and, and I know that the toughest workout for me are, those workouts are those kind of two hour two and a half hour threshold type sessions with surges and that those just kicked my butt, because I guess because of my fiber distribution, and just general wimp Enos But anyway, they, they, that’s given me a goal to really work on those and extend, you know, extend myself in that direction. Even though I you know, because my six minute power is kind of what it is. And I’m happy with that my peak power. But But I’ve gotten kind of that mid range, I’m trying to extend. So I think we can all find, you know, what is my work and I get the most bang for my buck in terms of some giving it some extra attention. That aspect of my fit my body at my age or whatever?

Trevor Connor 1:36:56
Well, so that brings brings us to the other question, I want to ask you, which I think, Tyler, you’ve answered, if you are going to use a year as a development year focusing more on the future, should you be focusing on weaknesses? Or should you just be taking a generalized approach of saying, here are the the aspects of our physiology that take longer to develop, so I’m just going to focus on those

depending on the sport, because in some sports, if you choose the right sport, then you’re, you’re, then you should work on your strengths, especially if it’s a technical sport, that you should work on your strengths to be even better, because that’s where you can make the biggest difference. But it is different in cycling than any, you just had to have to have that capacity to be. The one who crosses the finish line. First is the one have most what’s left in the tank, so to speak. So I think in cycling, you should probably emphasize both, of course you need work on your weaknesses, but you should, you shouldn’t forget your strengths. Because if you forget working on your strengths, that’s what’s going to make you or that’s where you can really make a difference. So I think you should emphasize both, but in more technical sports, then I think often you should focus slightly more on the on your strengths. I’m curious to hear your thoughts here, Stephen.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:38:43
Yeah, I’ve got a couple of examples and a couple of thoughts on it. The I think we don’t want to tell the audience that this is an either or scenario because it’s it’s an emphasis issue. It’s a slight shift in emphasis, you know, in when we’re working with elite athletes like Sondra does, and I do to certain extent, we have to remember, they’re training a lot of hours. And they’re putting together a puzzle, where they’re doing some string training, they’re doing some low, high low intensity long sessions, they’re doing some technical work, they’re doing high intensity intervals. So they’re putting together this package that may be 25 hours a week or something, you know, and and so in periods, we may shift those hours, we reduce them slightly, so they tolerate strength training a bit better. So let’s just keep in mind that we’re not talking about dropping all in interval training or dropping all of anything. It’s It’s It’s about emphasis, okay. And if I when I worked with Dutch speed skaters, which was back in 2003, to 2006 in that interim Olympic cycle, leading up to terino, I was working with a group of athletes that included some very good 1000 meter types like yawn boss. And which in 1000 meters in speedskating is what is it’s only about a minute and eight seconds or so. Like that, you know, a minute and 10. So there they are high power athletes, you know, huge lag dates, huge emphasis on getting off the off the start the first 300 of the 1500, the first 200 of the 1000. You know, it’s just, it’s basically all out. So then I come in here, and I’m this endurance physiology guy, and I’m telling this already gold medalist yawn boss from 98. I said, john, we’re going to do more, you know, long and long stuff, we’re going to get your endurance up. And he’s like, huh? And I said, Yeah, because biomechanically aerodynamically, it will cost you less to get a second faster at the end of the 1000, or the end of the 1500 meter than it does to get a second faster at the front, you’re not going to be able to increase your top end power very much. But if we can improve your endurance, then you can sustain in your last lap, and in gain that second there at a lower physiological cost. And then, you know, and then slowly, he says, Yeah, but I don’t want to lose my start. And then I said, well, you won’t, because we will do very specific sessions to maintain that, that part of your technical and muscular, you know, assets. So eventually, they started saying, Well, okay, this actually is working, you know, and he ended up winning at the Dutch national championships, the 500,000, and the 1500, which he had never done before, in 2005. So, but it took by, and it took the understanding that I, you know, I, the coach, we’re not going to, you’re not going to lose your top end, but we’re not going to try to keep making it better. It’s already world class, but what is keeping you from being your best is some other weakness. So you have to really do a careful analysis of, you know, my sport, the the issues, the technique that the different aspects and say, Where, where can I change his, you know, it’s a tweaking of his or her set of assets that they bring to the storyline. And that will add up over the three hour race or the six hour race or the three minute race add up to a better performance. So I think it’s really important that we don’t scare people and think, oh, they’re talking about me just stopping doing what I’m good at. No, we’re talking about emphasis.

Chris Case 1:42:30
Sondre, you’re new to the program. So we like to end with our take home messages, what is the most important thing in your mind for people to to keep in mind when they’re thinking long term like this?

First of all, you have to set goals. And you have to think about those goals. And then you have to do a plan for how to reach those goals, then you have to do a capacity analysis test, you have to get done a gap test to see where you need to improve to reach those goals. And this, when this is done, you need to make a plan. And you need to stick to the plan as much as possible. And you should never take tough decisions alone, you should having someone to talk to a coach, or a fellow training partner or someone else you trust. And you should do regularly testing to see if you’re on the right path. Or if you have to do adjustments, you should always write a trading diary. So you can both see what you’re done. And that should also be guidance for what you’re going to do in a time to come. And lastly, you should be really, really, really patient, because it takes a long time to develop big scales. And if you want big scales, you have to invest a lot of time.

Chris Case 1:44:03
Very good. Trevor, what would you say?

Trevor Connor 1:44:07
I guess I would say if you are thinking about making next year development year to see if you can raise your level and really thinking to the following year, and this is the first time you’ve done something like that. Just remember that some of these long term games are exactly that they’re long term. So you’re going to be doing a lot of work without really seeing improvements for a long period of time. And I love that Dr. Seiler said set some give yourself these these points where you just go and target something or do something just to keep yourself motivated. But don’t be discouraged when you don’t see the improvement right away. keep reminding yourself of that. Have the goals have the benchmarks. But just bear in mind that you might actually get worse before you get better

Chris Case 1:44:59
than final few points I would make is, I love the fact that it’s been mentioned in some way multiple times throughout the show. And that is sort of embracing the process here. And loving the process. Taking that Arnold Schwarzenegger mentality of day by day, it builds it builds, it builds, it gets you to that final place, but you have to enjoy it in the moment, too. You can’t always just be focused three years down the road, or whatever it is, you have to enjoy the method to get you there. And then within the context of the pandemic and things and what we were closing with there, it’s, you know, kind of summed up, I guess, with a cliche, which is to train smarter, not harder. It’s not about taking what you have done in some aspects and just adding a multiplier to it. It’s thinking about things in a new way, opening one other door and hopefully that you can have that resiliency to turn it into a positive. So that’s what I would add.

Trevor Connor 1:46:13
Okay, and, Dr. Sadler, we’ll finish out with you.

Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:46:19
Oh, well, first of all, I just say it’s been one it’s been great. Chatting with all three of you and I love this topic. And I would say that it really does come down to enjoying the process. Find beauty, find rhythm, find flow in the daily workouts in you know, that long, that two hour boring ride indoors on the train or when it’s pouring rain outside and it’s 40 degrees. Think about breathing. Think about rhythm, you know, there’s always something we can get into. I find but but enjoy that we are so lucky. So let’s you know let’s enjoy the aesthetic of the rhythms that we create as athletes and you know that that’s the grind and it is a it’s a it’s a wonderful thing that we get to do so if we embrace the grind embrace the you know the what is it the CEO say embrace the sucker. But I don’t see it that way. I think you know, I do think that there is something special about the fatigue about feeling that it Let’s enjoy it. Let’s Let’s get inside of it. And I really think that’s going to give pay dividends down the road.

Chris Case 1:47:50
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast and be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback and questions. Join the conversation at forums dot Fast Talk to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk laboratories at Fast Talk slash join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Dr. Steven Siler sundress garley houzhang Amiri Robert Poulter and Trevor Connor I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.