Should You Build the Best Engine Or Focus on Specificity? With Jim Miller

What's better: a bigger engine or one that's tuned for a specific goal race? USA Cycling's performance director Jim Miller shares his training philosophy.

Jim Miller USA Cycling Coach Fast Talk Podcast

I’ll set the stage for today’s episode with an analogy. And apologies to those of you who don’t enjoy our car engine analogies; alas, we’re sticking with it on this episode. We ask the simple question: Which has the greatest chance of consistently producing the best performances: a powerful, finely-tuned, race-inspired engine—take your pick from Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and especially if you’re an F1 fan, Mercedes—or a heavily modified Honda Civic that you hope can compete at that goal race you’ve been preparing for?

Bringing it back to cycling terms, is it more beneficial to build a robust, complete physiological engine and then apply it to, or activate it for, different race situations, or is it better to work on specific attributes of your engine given the specific demands of a particular race? The answer, it turns out, has as much to do with training philosophy as it does to physiological principles. In today’s episode, we analyze which is more appropriate for you, and which leads to the best performances, and the best athletes. It’ll likely become pretty clear where Coach Connor and our main guest, Jim Miller, stand on the matter.

Jim, as Chief of Sports Performance, leads USA Cycling’s Athlete Development programs. In his previous role with USA Cycling, after a two-year hiatus took him to TrainingPeaks, Miller helped the United States earn 14 Olympic medals and numerous world championship titles since 2001. The list of athletes Jim has coached over the years is too long to read here, but notably includes Tejay van Garderen, Kate Courtney, Kristin Armstrong, and Lawson Craddock, to name a few.

His coaching experience isn’t solely focused on the elite of the elite, however. Jim also works with athletes whose backgrounds or goals are unique, and they’re often from the amateur or master’s ranks. Not surprisingly, Jim has found the most success with the amateurs he coaches by applying the same principles he does to world champions. We’ll hear about those successes today. We’ll also take a compelling tangent into the importance of psychology and mental capacity to success.

On today’s episode, we’ll also hear from American pro Kiel Reijnen, data analyst and coach Tim Cusick, and WorldTour physiologist Dr. Iñigo San Millán. All that and much more, today on Fast Talk.

Let’s make you fast!

Jim Miller, USA Cycling Coach at the UCI Women's time trial
Jim Miller, USA Cycling Coach at the UCI Women’s time trial

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Episode Transcript

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