Q&A on Cardiac Arrhythmias, Ultra Endurance Training, Cramping in Juniors, Low Cadence Effects, and Workout Analysis Tools

We asked for your questions on our 200th anniversary episode and we got so many of them that we decided to dedicate another episode to answer them.

Cyclist on mountain road in Norway

We asked for your questions on our 200th anniversary episode. And we got so many of them that we decided to dedicate another episode to answer them!

What Tools Do You Use

This first question comes from Jago vander Most:

I re-started as a trainer/coach of a cycling team after having been my own coach for the last 20 years. I’ve noticed a lot has changed—specifically in the way we register and analyze our workouts. I’m familiar with Xert, Intervals.icu, and the main platforms I use for keeping track of my own progress. But what do you as coaches recommend to track your athletes, and what are the reasons behind your choices? 

Cardiac Arrhythmias

This next question comes from Paul Sill in the UK:

Nearly all my life l have trained or competed in sports. I am now 52, and my main sport for the last 13 years has been cycling. After some recent investigations by an assigned cardiologist at our local hospital, I’ve learned that I have at least two heart conditions. 

The investigations started after I reported extremely high heart rates of up to 260 bpm to my doctor. These occurrences happened about 7 times over a period of 6 years, mostly while riding a bike or indoor trainer. After some research and listening to podcasts like Fast Talk, I suspected I had infrequent Atrial Fibrillation brought on by being occasionally over-stressed. 

Research into my condition has included ECGs, wearing monitors, echocardiograms, and having a cardiac MRI. The hospital’s monitors didn’t pick up any occurrences of high heart rate, but I was able to send them screenshots of activities where they had recorded. 

The MRI found left ventricular hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which in my case is not suspected to be serious, and also left and right ventricle dilation. The cardiologist’s report has stated that these conditions are related to having an “athletically trained heart.” 

My cardiologist says that I will have to go through a period of “de-training.” I am disappointed with this outcome and also confused. What will “de-training” involve with respect to which sports I can do and the limitations on duration and intensity? 

Are the origins of these conditions mainly from years of doing long aerobic rides or sustained VO2 efforts? If I continue to do activities at either of these levels, which would be more dangerous? 

For my exercise needs going forward, would it be safer to concentrate on weight training and just use my Wattbike or rower for short, intense intervals to supplement the weightlifting? I need to have exercise in my life. I still want to ride my bike. And I recently bought a gravel bike, which I was also going to use for touring. Can I still do this? 

Great podcasts and website, gents. I look forward to every episode. Keep up the good work! 

Cramping in a Junior

This next question comes from Matthew Thatcher:

Hello, I have a question for your 200th podcast.

Using ultra-cycling as the context for the following question (multiple days of 20 hours per day of riding), what physiological adaptations need to take place to increase cycling resilience and robustness? By resilience, I mean the ability to maintain a selected power for an extended time. And by robustness, I mean the ability to ride a high power duration (for example, threshold), recover from it, and do it again many times. What are the types of training processes that increase resilience and robustness? Also, how would you quantify these two aspects of performance (i.e., which metrics would you track)? 

Metabolic Changes from Low Cadence Work

This next question comes from Vlad Georgevich:

Say a person takes a metabolic cart test and the test determines that the aerobic threshold occurs at 200 Watts and at a cadence of 90 rpm. Will there be a different metabolic state if the exercise was performed at 200 Watts but at a cadence of 45? This will require double the force and double the time under tension. Could performing this exercise at a substantially lower cadence result in muscles working in a different metabolic regime (i.e., going from a mostly fat-burning regime (aerobic) to sugar-burning mode)? 

Low Cadence Work, Part 2

This next question comes from Jack Burke:

Hey Trevor,  

Love the show! I know you guys have talked about this a bit in other episodes, but I’d love a deeper dive into ideas around high and low cadence training for the well-trained athlete where finding gains becomes harder.



(Beneke & Alkhatib, 2015; Coyle, 1999; Hansen & Rønnestad, 2017; K et al., 2015; Kusy et al., 2021; Paton, Hopkins, & Cook, 2009; Petek, Groezinger, Pedlar, & Baggish, 2022; Rønnestad, Hansen, & Raastad, 2012; Sanchis-Gomar, Guía-Galipienso, & Lavie, 2021; Schwellnus, Drew, & Collins, 2011; Shang, Collins, & Schwellnus, 2011) 

Beneke, R., & Alkhatib, A. (2015). High cycling cadence reduces carbohydrate oxidation at given low intensity metabolic rate. Biology of Sport, 32(1), 27–33. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.5604/20831862.1126325 

Coyle, E. F. (1999). Physiological determinants of endurance exercise performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 2(3), 181–189. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/s1440-2440(99)80172-8 

Hansen, E. A., & Rønnestad, B. R. (2017). Effects of Cycling Training at Imposed Low Cadences: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 12(9), 1127–1136. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2016-0574 

K, M., Md, T., C, G., Md, F., Md, P. V., Md, S. V., … Md, A. (2015). Atrial Fibrillation In Athletes: Pathophysiology, Clinical Presentation, Evaluation and Management. Journal of Atrial Fibrillation, 8(4), 1309. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4022/jafib.1309 

Kusy, K., Błażejewski, J., Gilewski, W., Karasek, D., Banach, J., Bujak, R., … Grześk, G. (2021). Aging Athlete’s Heart: An Echocardiographic Evaluation of Competitive Sprint- versus Endurance-Trained Master Athletes. Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, 34(11), 1160–1169. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.echo.2021.06.009 

Paton, C. D., Hopkins, W. G., & Cook, C. (2009). Effects of Low- vs. High-Cadence Interval Training on Cycling Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(6), 1758–1763. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181b3f1d3 

Petek, B. J., Groezinger, E. Y., Pedlar, C. R., & Baggish, A. L. (2022). Cardiac effects of detraining in athletes: A narrative review. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, 65(4), 101581. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rehab.2021.101581 

Rønnestad, B. R., Hansen, E. A., & Raastad, T. (2012). High volume of endurance training impairs adaptations to 12 weeks of strength training in well-trained endurance athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 112(4), 1457–1466. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2112-z 

Sanchis-Gomar, F., Guía-Galipienso, F. de la, & Lavie, C. J. (2021). Atrial fibrillation in athletes and non-athletes: evidence of different causative mechanisms. European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Imaging, 22(6), 723–723. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/ehjci/jeab018 

Schwellnus, M. P., Drew, N., & Collins, M. (2011). Increased running speed and previous cramps rather than dehydration or serum sodium changes predict exercise-associated muscle cramping: a prospective cohort study in 210 Ironman triathletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45(8), 650. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2010.078535 

Shang, G., Collins, M., & Schwellnus, M. P. (2011). Factors Associated With a Self-Reported History of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps in Ironman Triathletes: A Case–Control Study. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 21(3), 204–210. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1097/jsm.0b013e31820bcbfd 

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 0:11
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of fast talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m Chris case. And today we’ve got questions. These questions are, were intended for our 200th episode. We had so many. We’re doing a q&a today to answer all those questions and we have coach Trevor Connor, Coach Ryan Kohler and Rob pickles. Are you coach?

Rob Pickels 0:37
Now let’s just call me physiologist, physiologist

Chris Case 0:38
Rob pickles.

Jim Miller 0:43
Hi, this is Jim Miller. I’m chief of sport performance at USA Cycling. It’s been a dream of mine to do more and help develop USA Cycling coaches. Our partnership with phastar Labs means any current licensed USA Cycling coach can join fast talk labs for free and get the craft of coaching with Joe Friel, a whole library of sports science content and networking opportunities with other experienced coaches. The craft of coaching with Joe Friel is an awesome opportunity for coaches to become better, more successful and happier. Learn more at fast talk labs.com.

Chris Case 1:14
All right. So, as I said, these came from many listeners around the world for our 200th episode, we did not get to answer them. But let’s dive right in to these questions. This first one comes from Jago Vander most who probably has the most awesome name I’ve ever heard. He has a question about tools. And what tools do you use? He’s restarting as a trainer and a coach. I’ll read the question. Now. As I restart as a trainer coach of a cycling team, after having been my own coach for the last 20 years, a lot has changed specifically in the way we register and analyze our workouts exert intervals dot ICU and the main platforms I use for keeping track of my own programs. But what do you use as coaches? What do you recommend to track and administer your athletes? And what are the reasons behind your choices? And to note, the team he’s training and coaching is 15 to 18 year olds? Brian, you coach Jr. I’ll start with you what what would you have to say?

Ryan Kohler 2:15
Well, I like his question. I like that he mentioned intervals dot ICU, because that’s the one I use also, and I’m getting my juniors into that. And it’s nice, it’s it gives us the ability to kind of get the structure, we need to give them some of that training, training structure, really just let them see what’s coming up. But I really like how it allows you to put notes in there. And you can basically put notes anywhere. So I actually find myself with them using more of those notes of just putting in like a weekly note or a daily note to communicate different things to them outside of just like, hey, here’s a here’s a structured workout, you need to focus on this thing. It gives us the ability to focus on all the other things that impact their ability to ride and progress.

Chris Case 2:55
Trevor, I know that we’ve fielded a question similar to this previously, I think you have your own method to describe that for people or how would you answer Yago? His question here?

Trevor Connor 3:07
Well, I use a variety of tools, and probably would be better to just get it all into one system. But I’ve kind of evolved the way I evolved. And this is where I’ve ended up. I don’t use any of these tools for providing plans. I have something that I built in Excel. And I really like and I’ve just stuck with that. Yeah, I think a lot of these tools have good training plan builders, they just don’t work the way that I want them to work. So I’ve just stuck with my Excel sheet. And that was you know, I put in my notes here. That was my answers. I’m not going to promote one tool over another. I think it’s as a coach, you need to figure out how do you coach? What’s your focus and and what tool works best with you. For data analysis. I love Wk Oh, you can completely geek out on that program. For interacting with my athletes, I tend to use training peaks and similar to Ryan, what I like most is just that ability to communicate. You can add notes, you can put notes in every workout, you can put notes on days. And I really want that communication back and forth moreso than the particulars of the data. Glad to hear enrols ICU does that that like said that’s kind of why I stick with training peaks. I think when you’re dealing with athletes of this age, I do think that communication, hearing how they’re feeling, hearing what’s going on with them and be able to write things to them to be able to communicate with them is really important.

Chris Case 4:29
Mm hmm. I’m curious, maybe for all of you to how much flexibility you have like if an athlete comes to you and they want to use a certain platform because they’re familiar with it. Or, alternatively, you’re really into using something like training peaks and they’re just not into it. Do you say I’m maybe not the coach for you or do you try to be flexible and work with what they’re interested in using? Or is it a case by case thing?

Ryan Kohler 4:56
I mean, I know with juniors particularly they a lot of them don’t have the experience of knowing what to even look at. And what’s up with whether it’s training peaks intervals exert, they just either don’t have the power meter or the heart rate monitor, they’re just maybe getting into it. So I’m really flexible with them. And if they don’t use that, then I’ll still use it for myself just for planning. But then we might just do more phone calls more texts. And like Trevor said, the communication piece, I think, is the really the overarching one. So whatever they want to do, you know, we can kind of flex to, to their needs. But yeah, the communication is key, it really doesn’t come down to the platform. It’s more just need the communication with them. Yeah. Yeah.

Rob Pickels 5:37
Ryan, I think that you make a really good point there, right working with juniors, they might be tied to their phones, they might be tied to their computers, but for some reason, they seem like they can’t really be tied to training peaks or any of these other softwares. And getting that adherence is oftentimes really hard. So I like your technique of maybe using it for yourself and planning, but then only really utilizing that in regard to the athlete for communication. It’s a really important thing that we’re communicating with the athletes in a manner that works for them, and not necessarily trying to force something on to them that isn’t appropriate.

Chris Case 6:11
Alright, let’s move on to our next question here. This one comes from Paul Syl. He’s in the UK and it has to do with cardiac arrhythmias. He writes nearly all my life I have trained or competed in sports. I’m now 52 And my main sport for the last 13 years has been cycling. After some recent investigations by an assigned cardiologist at our local hospital. It has been recognized I have at least two heart conditions. The investigation started after I reported extremely high heart rates of up to 260 beats per minute to my doctor. These occurrences happened only maybe seven times over a period of six years, mostly whilst riding a bike or indoor trainer. After some research and listening to podcasts like fast talk, I suspected I had infrequent atrial fibrillation brought on by being occasionally overstressed investigations on my heart have included ECGs wearing monitors, echocardiograms and having a cardiac MRI. No occurrence of high heart rates have been picked up by the hospital’s monitors, but I was able to send them screenshots of activities where they had recorded however, the MRI found left ventricle hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which in my case is not suspected as serious and also left and right ventricular dilation. The cardiologist report has stated that these conditions are related to having in, quote, athletically trained heart. In conclusion, my cardiologist has said that I will have to go through a period of D training of which we are yet to speak about, I’m disappointed with this outcome and also feel confused. What will quote detraining involve with respect to which sports I can do and what will be the limitations on duration and intensity? Are the origins of these conditions, mainly from years of doing long aerobic rides, or sustained vo two efforts? If I continue to do activities at either of these levels, which would be more dangerous for my exercise needs going forward? Would it be safer to concentrate on weight training, and just use my walk bike or rower for short, intense intervals to supplement the weight training? I still need to have exercise in my life. I still want to ride my bike. I have not long since bought a gravel bike which I was going to use for touring. Can I still do this? A lot of questions here. I can literally feel the frustration and concern that Paul feels here. I’ve heard these questions many times before from people that have developed heart arrhythmias. None of us here is doctors, but we have experienced with this in some form or another. Let’s try to pick apart this question or these many questions from Paul and try to give him some good advice. And I’m certain there are other listeners out there that can benefit from this advice. Trevor, I’ll start with you. What would you have to say to start with for Paul,

Trevor Connor 9:04
there’s a lot of things to dissect here. And I think a lot of our listeners are actually dealing with this because it’s becoming more and more common in athletes who have been training in endurance sports for a long time. I think one of the really important things to understand is that for a long time, I think a fib was treated as kind of a monolith, you know, it’s the same for everybody. And what you’re seeing more and more now is this recognition that a fib and athletes is very different from a fib and a sedentary population. As a matter of fact, I’ve got this discussion article published in a in the European Heart Journal called atrial fibrillation and athletes and non athletes evidence of different causative mechanisms. Found a whole bunch of very recent studies that kind of the same thing that are getting out the this is different. So here’s another one that’s called atrial fibrillation and athletes pathophysiology, clinical presentation, evaluation and management. And as you saw in the description from Paul, a fib and athletes, often what you’re seeing is some sort of cardiac remodeling, we actually just did an episode on that that stood out to be really popular. So I think there’s a lot of people who are wondering about this and struggling with this. The general belief in the research is, in endurance athletes, you see in enlarge the name of the chamber of the ventricles, particularly the left ventricle, but you don’t see any sort of thickening of the wall, you also can see the same thing in the atrium. So and you get this very large chamber, but you don’t have a very thick wall, some of the belief is that just makes it harder for the heart to keep pumping. Another part of this belief, or what we see in a lot of the past researches is different in strength athletes, when you do strength work, you don’t see in a large union, the chamber but you see thickening of the chamber walls. In that study that I just mentioned, the atrial fibrillation and athletes pathophysiology, clinical presentations, evaluation and management. They basically pointed to three potential causes for a fib. One is this cardiac remodeling. Another one is essentially scarring. So fibrosis. And the third one is inflammation. And certainly, when you see athletes working hard and training hard, you can see inflammation around the heart. So those are the three potential causes. But we’re still really early in the research of looking at a fib, just an athlete’s, seeing what’s causing it, seeing how we address it, and seeing the long term impacts of it. I’ll stop, there’s a ton more we can talk about, but I certainly want to let Ryan and Rob jump into this one.

Rob Pickels 11:39
Yeah, I, Trevor, I think that you did a great job of talking about remodeling changes that are going to occur naturally in an athlete, you know, and that’s why as referenced in here in athletically trained hard is in some regard, something that we would expect those changes, or some of the changes associated with that might also be associated with a fib. The thing I’d like to do, however, is is really to take a step back. And what I’m reading from this is that Paul doesn’t necessarily have a diagnosed condition of a fib, is that he is inferring this from the research that he’s been doing. And I’m very happy. I think it’s great when patients and when individuals are involved sort of in managing their own care, because sometimes you’re your own best advocate. At the same time, I am a little bit concerned with that, because high heart rates of 260 beats a minute are a bit high than we would expect for an afib. And I only say that to say I don’t think that we can proceed with necessarily giving recommendations on a specific condition that’s occurring here. You know, 260 is really the upper end of what we would expect for a ventricular tachycardia. And that’s a very different situation from a fib. I think the thing that we know and we can understand from this right is that stresses on your body, emotional stress, physical stress from exercise, all of those can have specific short term and long term effects on the heart. Due to things like as Trevor said, remodeling fibrosis, increase cortisol release, all of that can have some deleterious effects. So for me, the biggest thing for Paul or for anyone else is to take any symptoms that people have, especially if they feel a fluttering. If people are feeling a lightheadedness or fainting, those are all very serious signs. Don’t take any of this stuff lightly. And I encourage Paul and anyone else to really follow up with the cardiologist, the hard thing about the healthcare system is that you can go in for all of these studies like he’s done ECGs monitors echoes cardiac MRI, and you don’t necessarily find anything. But in my opinion, after working in phase two, and Phase Three cardiac rehab, after doing diagnostic stress testing both pulmonary and cardiac, you kind of need to keep looking, you need to keep digging, you have to keep going back to the monitors, because we do need to capture this to fully understand what it is. And until we understand what it is, there’s really no good recommendations that can be given other than the one that the doctor has given at this point in time, which is, it might be time to sort of back off, slow down a little bit, let’s remove some of that stress. Let’s remove hopefully, some of that inflammation, let’s remove some of potentially these causes, and put the cardiac tissue back in a place where maybe it can be a little bit more healthy. So that that’s my biggest thing. And unfortunately, I’m putting on my medical hat at this point in time, you know, but as Trevor mentioned, we’re not doctors, we are knowledgeable in this area. But a doctor is really the person you know, and I don’t want that to sound like a cop out. But a doctor is the person that needs to be giving the advice here. If you do notice that you’re having these high heart rates, you look down at your heart rate monitor and you’re at 120 beats a minute a second ago, and now you’re at 200 beats a minute. One technique that you can try to help get yourself out of that arrhythmia is the valsalva maneuver. Right and that’s sort of to close off your throat to bear down to increase the pressure in your thoracic cavity. And that can actually reset sort of your vagal nerve to hopefully bring that heart rate back down. It doesn’t work all the time. But it literally I have seen it pull people out of arrhythmias before. And that can be sort of a difference between keeping you safe and having an event that’s, you know, tough to come back from.

Trevor Connor 15:17
But I think the message that we want to leave this on in general, when you’re talking about cardiac arrhythmias in athletes is this whole concept that it might be potentially different in athletes is very new. And this this research is in the early phases. So we don’t know a lot. And I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do future episodes with some experts on this, who can come in and give you a little more information on it. But as Rob said, right now, we can’t really do you. A lot of the doctors couldn’t even do diagnosis right now. We certainly can’t. And unfortunately, this isn’t one that we can we can give you a lot of questions. We can’t give you a lot of answers.

Chris Case 15:53
Hey, we could talk forever about this. I would note that we did an episode long ago, it’s now almost four years old, too much of a good thing, question mark heart arrhythmias in endurance athletes that was recorded with Leonard Zinn, who was the co author on a book that I wrote about heart arrhythmias in endurance athletes. I note that it’s four years ago, because there’s been so much research in the last four years that some of the things we said in that episode might not actually hold true. But I think you’ll hear Leonard’s story will will resonate with a lot of people who might have recently been diagnosed or felt some weird things going on with their hearts because he went through a quite a journey, trying to figure out the denial stage, the frustration stage, the depression stage, all of that until he he found some amount of resolution, so it might be helpful for people. So that was episode 40. Wow, that far back? Yeah. Yeah.

Trevor Connor 16:46
I mean, the one positive I will give us back when you were writing that book, and you asked me to look it over. I looked for research on afib. And athletes, and there just wasn’t a lot. Yeah. The pace at which is coming out now is extraordinarily, this is really something that’s becoming a focus. And if there’s any positive, we don’t have any answers. But we’re, they’re they’re really looking for him right now.

Chris Case 17:07
Right, right. Well, on that last note, it’s interesting talking about the large volume and how that can elicit some issues. Let’s turn our attention to a question from flawed Georgiyevich. I hope I have that pronunciation correct. He has a question about building stamina. He is an ultra cyclist? Here’s his question, using ultra cycling as the context for the following question, what physiological adaptations need to take place to increase cycling, resilience and robustness, which he describes as multiple days of 20 hours per day of riding? By resilience? I mean, the ability to maintain a selected power for extended time in robustness is the ability to ride a high power duration, for example, threshold, recover from it and do it again and many times. What are the types of training processes that increase resilience and robustness? And also, how would you quantify these two aspects of performance? IE, which metrics would you track? We

Trevor Connor 18:09
have talked about this before. And as you know, from our conversations with Dr. Seiler, this is something he’s looking into, because there really aren’t metrics for this. And there needs to be a metric to look at what your stamina is like. And one of the things that he’s been looking at, and we certainly talked with him about is looking at cardiac drift, which is that rise in your heart rate relative to your power. And as long as you’re staying well hydrated, that can actually be a pretty good indicator of what so he’s been referring to his stamina, what your stamina is, like, the thing that actually really caught my attention in this is he said, ability to maintain selected power for extended time and robustness is the ability to ride a high power duration, for example, threshold, recover from it and do it again, many times, if he’s talking about 20 hours per day, you’re not writing that threshold? No,

Chris Case 19:00
I would think not. I mean,

Trevor Connor 19:02
to give you an example, you if you talk about marathon runners, Marathon is three hours. So by by these standards, that’s pretty short, and he’s talking 20 hours a day, and marathon runners will tend to run pretty close to that aerobic threshold, nowhere near anaerobic threshold. So if you’re doing long events like this, that’s not what you should be focusing on, you’re going to be riding at much lower intensities, right? The question

Rob Pickels 19:28
about robustness or the ability to repeat taxing efforts day after day. That’s where things get interesting. And I want to tackle this in a few ways because I think that there are multiple points of failure. Some of the ones to note, low energy availability, which can lead to both acute and chronic decreases in performance as well as endocrine system changes due to the increased systemic stress. I think that we have to consider endocrine hormonal system changes that are well documented from overtraining research. from people like Dr. Brooks, Dr. mucin, and others, I also think that we need to consider autonomic system recovery. Basically what heart rate variability is doing and then also micro trauma to the muscle fibers, because that can result in inflammation and decrease contractility. So for the general endocrine system changes those that are associated with overtraining, they can be reduced for a particularly long or arduous event, by minimizing the difference between a rider standard workload and that of the event. If you like to ride a lot for consecutive days, your body needs to be accustomed to riding a lot. However, for most individuals, this alone can induce overtraining. And as such careful attention needs to be paid to recovery techniques feeding exercise intensity, emotional stress, and other factors that help avoid overtraining in day to day training. However, if a rider is able to pull off this large volume of lower intensity training, then they’re likely going to be strong at oxidizing fat for fuel, which is beneficial when we bring up energy availability. Now, the beginning of that answer probably hasn’t been too controversial. But the next part may be I think the key to robustness is strength in plyometric training before anyone gets too upset. I want to preface this by saying that as discovered by Dr. Onstad, in his paper, high volume of endurance training impairs adaptations to 12 weeks of strength training and well trained endurance athletes, that’s a mouthful. Train, cyclists will not get swole right, everybody repeat that?

Chris Case 21:28
Somebody’s saying that I’m not buddy riding

Rob Pickels 21:30
their bike, a lot cannot get bulky from there, lifting is just not going to happen. And we don’t necessarily see weight gain in any of these strength studies. However, dozens of studies have correlated strength and plyometric training with improvements in cycling economy and endurance performance. But I’m gonna highlight one from a different Norwegian group, which is the Sunday paper about maximal strength training, improved cycling economy and competitive cyclists. Their subjects completed four sets of four half squats for eight weeks, and they did this three times a week, in addition to their standard endurance training. They had no change in body mouse, but they saw a 17% improvement in time to exhaustion. This indicates a performance improvement. But they also saw a 5% improvement in cycling economy, which is significant in the reduction of caloric expenditure and also intake that a rider needs to have that gets to the low energy availability side of this. All they did were half squats, he said half squats, you know, not even the full they copped out early. With various studies, a lot of mechanisms are cited, we can have improve contractility, we can have alterations in fiber properties. But one of the most compelling ones, in my opinion, is the increase in stiffness of the musculotendinous unit, even in the absence of strength gains, because some studies actually don’t see a large rise in strength, but they still see an increase in economy. It’s been attributed to the increase energy return of that muscle and tendon stiffness. This is especially apparent in the sister sport of running as compared to cycling. So the improvements in muscle structure are also beneficial to the decrease in micro trauma that can be associated with the high rep work that a rider is going to experience over these multiple long days. This would maintain the fibers contractility, it would decrease inflammation that would otherwise hamper performance. We see this because we know that markers of muscle damage decrease with chronic lifting things like creatine kinase. And then also we feel this because well, frankly, you get less sore as you continue strength training. So for the aspect of robustness, I wouldn’t necessarily track a particular metric. I’d look at consistently and thoughtfully increasing writing volume and weight training volume throughout the course of a build toward an event like this. The events that are most similar to the nature of your question are the Grand Tours, and Dr. Alejandro Lucia has basically made a career of studying Tour de France riders, I think this model is great. I think that we need to convince Trevor that a trip to the tour is warranted for fast talk labs this year. So I’d definitely check out his research. If you want to know a little bit more here.

Trevor Connor 24:09
Ryan, I know you’ve had some talks with lad.

Ryan Kohler 24:11
Yeah, yeah, we’ve talked about this, I think, well, to your point we’ve we’ve that’s come up about just how high of a power can you actually ride for this? And what we ended up going toward is really trying to consider Yeah, just how much time are you spending on the bike? And it’s really less about the focus on what kind of metric or what kind of power can I put out and more about what are all of those 10,000 Other things that will affect your ability to recover, and ride day after day that you need to think about? So like when Rob mentioned the profile of mood state? That’s yeah, hugely useful thing to look at. And just getting an you know, not that you have to measure that every day or take that and assess it, but just to get an idea of your mood. That’s going to I feel like have a bigger determinant on getting through the second They have 20 hours per day, let alone multiple days of trying to ride that threshold and come back. So, yeah, I think it’s I think he tied it up. Well, Rob, in the end, when you’re just kind of like we have all these things, we need to be thoughtful and consistent with what we do the strength piece. Yeah, that should be a piece of it. And I think just we need to really not focus as much on specific metrics as like, what are all the other things that we’re doing around here that allow us to just get on the bike the next day and keep moving, because with any, any Ultra athletes that I’ve worked with over the years, a lot of the a lot of it came back to like constant forward progress. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter what your FTP is, where your critical power is, it’s just you need to keep moving. And if you do that, you’re going to be in good shape.

Rob Pickels 25:42
Can I ask you guys what you think when we come to limitations in an event like this, how much of it is physiological and how much of it is psychological,

Chris Case 25:53
but I was going to jump in from personal experience, it wasn’t a race, but my adventure, if you will, would like to call it that around Iceland last summer, was maybe 12 to 14 hours a day. So you know, half of what Vlad is talking about minuscule, minuscule amount in comparison, all these things that you’re talking about are interesting. And for the for certain athletes would be critical to making huge, a huge difference in how they performed. But for me, I think the biggest factor was the mindset you brought to it from the beginning. Like I’m doing this because I want to I’m doing this because, um, I know, it’s gonna be hard, and it’s gonna be huge. And, and for me, it was, I know, it’s something I’ve never experienced before, physically, mentally, emotionally. Maybe the Lord has done this before. And he’s just trying to improve, I was just doing it for the first time. That mindset you bring to it from the beginning, but also the mindset you wake up with every day, if you can turn that into a positive thing, like, like Ryan was saying, at some point, you’re basically cracked in some way, but you still have to do it. So be positive about that, well, today, I’m going to see this or I’m going to do that, or I’m going to ride you know, I’m going to take over a mileage that I’ve never completed in a in a certain number of days today, or whatever it is create those miniature goals within this gigantic goal because it’s really hard to to wrap your head around 20 hours per day for X number of days. That’s, that’s crazy in some ways. So I really do think that the psychology here is far more important than it is in a lot of other aspects of cycling.

Trevor Connor 27:40
I also I would not separate the mental side from the physiological side. I know a fair number of coaches that like to use the palms test and that’s that’s basically a mental states test, literally on the title. You can see signs of overreach and overtraining appear on that test before you’re ever going to see it in the numbers. So I do think the two are very closely linked and you really can’t separate them.

Chris Case 28:03
Alright, well, we could talk about ultra endurance events, ultra cycling a lot more, but we’ll leave it there for now. Thank you for all of the great tips and information.

Trevor Connor 28:18
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Chris Case 29:11
Let’s turn our attention to a question about cramping in junior athlete. This one comes from Matthew Thatcher, and he’s writing to us about his 15 year old son. My son races cyclocross and mountain biking in the French a coupes French cup. For him. It’s 40 to 60 minutes sometimes toward the end of the race, he starts to get cramps, what to do. He drinks an electrolyte drink before the race and water during the race and sometimes the gel halfway through. Interestingly, he has just completed a cyclocross season with no cramps. Who wants to take this one, Brian

Ryan Kohler 29:45
Yeah, this one’s kind of fun and you know that the fact that he just completed the cross season with no cramps gives a little bit of credence to my gut feeling was was that he’s a junior juniors have very little ability to regulate their effort and they can just go do so much more than maybe what their bodies can handle. So part of it is I look at this and like, I’ve seen this before with juniors where Yeah, they just can do so much work that they end up paying for it later, you know, but it’s also something where I feel like they grow out of this as they start to develop, and they become more aerobically fit and they develop that capacity. And as the seasons go by, I feel like this is something that they eventually sort of work out of just as they develop as part of that process. It is interesting, because our initial go to is always well, what can we do nutritionally? And you know, they’re talking about the electrolyte drinks and having water during and the gel for such a short event? It’s, you know, the nutrition generally isn’t the problem, especially in this case, I would, I would say, it’s more about like, this is probably a junior, that’s, that can do a lot of work, and is probably going to grow out of this too. You know, the one strategy I would talk about is okay, what how do you how are you starting? How can we approach this? Are you starting extraordinarily hard, where you’re just digging this huge hole early on, and then kind of paying for it later? Maybe we can talk about that look at some power files if they have them. But this is something where I would look at and say, yeah, if you’ve completed the cross season, with no real issues, maybe you’re sort of working out of that.

Chris Case 31:19
Very good. Rob.

Rob Pickels 31:20
Yeah, in a lot of regards. I agree with Ryan, I do think that we can see these sort of unspecified cramps in juniors, it sort of happens, a kid pulls up at the end, and he’s like, Oh, my legs are so cramped, and you don’t quite understand why it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen that. One interesting point that I sort of latched on to is that it happened presumably during the mountain bike season, but not necessarily during cyclocross. And so I began to wonder, is there a temperature or an environmental difference? Between the two of these, I know that the rider is been taking electrolyte drinks before the race in a lot of times, a junior rider is chronically dehydrated, because they’re just not good at staying hydrated in general, is something like the heat of mountain bike exacerbating a situation like this? With the question that we have, it’s ultimately really difficult to know, because oftentimes, how it presents itself can give you some insight into why that athlete is cramping. Is it localized? Is it generalized, so on and so forth? Without that information, it’s very hard to say, but ultimately, yeah, pacing might be one of the first things that I would lean on on this one.

Trevor Connor 32:31
I’m gonna go at just the experience level. So we did an episode of cramping. This is episode 26. Now we’re really going back we should do an update on that episode and see what the what new research has come out since then, but I’m, I’m a big believer in the research of Dr. Seuss wellness that promotes this altered neuromuscular control hypothesis, he really looked at the research and this whole belief that electrolytes is the cause of cramping just hasn’t panned out. And I know people struggle with this, we say this, and we still get questions all the time saying, Well, I cramped I don’t think I was taking enough electrolytes and I keep responding going. Well, the research really is showing, sorry, electrolytes don’t contribute. So this this, you can listen to the whole episode, but this hypothesis, very quickly, is what causes cramping is an imbalance between your muscle spindles and your Gogi tendons which are control whether your muscles relax or tighten. And basically, it causes an imbalance towards just causing your muscles to tighten up, what contributes to that muscle damage and fatigue in the muscles. So when you have a new athlete who’s fairly new to the sport, and they’re doing something like mountain biking, where you’re gonna have to hit a lot of little short climbs and power through and you can potentially do some damage, you’re definitely going to fatigue those muscles doesn’t surprise me at all that you’re seeing cramping, their their muscles just aren’t doesn’t have going back to the the word that we just heard doesn’t have that robustness or that ability to resist that damage and fatigue. But you can very quickly develop that. So I look at this and go one of the things I’m potentially seeing as he was going through it. I see a lot of new athletes he was getting that cramping early because his muscles just didn’t have that that ability to resist fatigue and damage and cross which is a little bit shorter by then he’s probably adapted a little bit and his muscles are just better able to resist that and I always get the gold attendance and the muscle spindles mixed up which is the one that cause I think it’s called the tendons that cause of muscles too tight.

Rob Pickels 34:31
I know it’s muscle spindle damage.

Trevor Connor 34:33
I was crying. You had a family and you’re jacked it up. So I got a 50% chance and I get it right like 1% of the time. So it’s basically the the muscle spindles become over etc. Excited.

Rob Pickels 34:45
Yeah. When I did Belgian waffle ride San Diego, gosh, I don’t know three four years ago at this point. That was the longest hardest event I had done to date. You know, I had done rides that long I had done that intensity but never at the same time. And I thought that cramping might be an issue for me. And so I took a new to the market thing called Hot Shot along with me. And now I don’t know if anybody’s used hot shot, but I hadn’t used it prior to that, which is always a terrible idea. So the event was going really, really well for me and I was beginning to feel some twinges of cramps in my quads, nothing major, nothing that was stopping me from writing, but also something that I didn’t want to get worse and so I downed that hot shot you the Hot Shot prophylactic hot shot at this point in time, which in and of itself, like I like spicy things, it burned a little bit on the way down. But but that was quite fine. About 30 minutes later, however, the hot shot was really working its effects on McColgan.

Chris Case 35:54
You are about to have a hunch I had

Rob Pickels 35:56
a hot shot. Somewhere on the side of the road outside of San Marcos, California, I lost a nice cycling love to that course. That is somewhere about 100 feet off the side of the road. It was a very liberating experience and life was gray and from there to the finish line. But it was a bit harrowing for a few miles before that. So be careful when you deal with some of these anti cramp things like hot shots that are bringing back the vagal nerve that we talked about before they’re supposed to, I believe stimulate the vagal nerve and help induce the relaxation for decreasing cramping there. But try try before you buy maybe before you try the hot shot, maybe supposedly that works too.

Trevor Connor 36:41
So while you were given that story, I looked I went to act actually Dr. wellness as a traveler being

Chris Case 36:47
here. Yeah, trying to ignore the poor.

Rob Pickels 36:49
Just buying them something to know I

Trevor Connor 36:51
always ignore your poopoo stories is poopoo story. Well, Rob, I’m gonna ignore yours as well. But you won’t listen to my poopoo story. Why am I here? So I’m just gonna read two sentences that are that are highlighted out of this study. And this was this was kind of the groundbreaking study that he wrote. So one is fatigue increases the muscle spindle after an activity and decreases the Golgi tendon organ. So you’re correct. And I’m keep getting it wrong. So it says, decreases the Golgi tendon organ afferent activity, which may result in increased Alpha neuron activity. So that’s what leads to the cramping. And then he goes on to say and this is what I personally based on the very little information we have would would point towards with this junior athlete, athletes who compete at a pace that is faster in their usual training pace may develop muscle fatigue early during the race, and this may be a risk factor for ei MC, which is cramping.

Rob Pickels 37:48
Yeah, and I think that that makes sense. As a theory, if we talk about localized cramping and working muscles, I don’t necessarily know that that’s going to explain more of a generalized cramping, where

Trevor Connor 37:59
we’re talking about localized and that’s we talked about that in the episode if you are dealing with body wide cramping, so systemic cramping, that’s very different. And that usually indicates an underlying health issue. And that’s where you should go to your doctor,

Rob Pickels 38:12
the moral of the story is, go see your doctor. That is what we’re

Trevor Connor 38:17
going to get into today as

Chris Case 38:19
well this next subject matter probably doesn’t involve physicians. We have two questions here on the subject, general subject of cadence. So I’m going to read both of them and we can try to give a single answer. First one comes from our friend blood Giorgio vich, he writes, so, a person takes a metabolic cart test and the test determined that the aerobic threshold occurs at 200 Watts and at a cadence of 90 RPM, will there be a different metabolic state if the exercise was performed at 200 Watts but at a cadence of 45 this will require a doubling of the force and double the time under tension. Could performing this exercise at substantially lower cadence result in muscles working in a different metabolic regime, ie going from mostly fat burning regime aerobic to sugar burning mode. Hold that thought. Now I’ll read the second part this or the second question. This one comes from Jack Burke,

Trevor Connor 39:20
who is an athlete from Toronto who I used to ride with back when he was a junior and he’s now Pro.

Chris Case 39:26
Awesome. Alright, so he has a bunch of thoughts here around high and low cadence training for the well trained athlete, we’re finding gains becomes harder. So he’s writing, I’d like you to discuss the idea around high cadence being placing higher stresses on the heart and central system to improve vo to max and also improve efficiency so you can save your muscles for the race deciding moves at the end of a race. Also the idea behind lower cadence to improve muscular endurance. And finally, to keep it simple for a TT most People think the optimal cadence is around 90 RPM to put out the most power. But I’m curious about what you guys think about training above 110 RPM, for example, and below 70 RPM to improve both the central and peripheral systems and how best to mesh the two together. So you’re putting out the most power at the optimal cadence on race day. Trevor, I’m picking on you since you know Jack and I know you love your cadence.

Trevor Connor 40:25
Well, I do know Jack finally admitted to you literally no,

Chris Case 40:29
Jack. Alright, take it away.

Trevor Connor 40:32
There is a ton to dissect here. I’m not even exactly sure where to start. Yeah, as you know, I’m a big fan of locating straining. There’s certainly mixed science on this. And again, we did an episode on this back with, with Neil Henderson. I do want to address one thing that Jack brought up, which is he’s really seeing the low cadence trains the the peripheral system or high cadence trains the the central system, I haven’t seen any evidence to indicate that. So that’s goes back to this old belief of central adaptation versus peripheral adaptation. And a lot of that, while yes, you have those peripheral and central adaptations, this belief that one type of training works one in another type of training works the other, we’ve really moved away from that. So I wouldn’t necessarily look at it that way. There was a fascinating review, if you want to read some good science on this by going back to you mentioned Dr. Ron instead. So he addressed this because he’s been doing a lot of research on strength training, and one to see his low cadence work like strength training. And his conclusion was, no, it you know, you think of it as being like strength training, but really even just doing 40 RPM is like going into the weight room picking up a three pound weight and trying to do bicep curls, you’re going to be there a real long time. So it’s not quite the same, you shouldn’t think about it that way. In the study, they pointed out and then I’ll throw this to Ryan, but in the study, they pointed out that there are U shaped relationships with efficiency, and VO two, so it’s a, it has a U shaped relationship with co2, which means that when you’re between about 50 and 80 RPM, you have lower oxygen consumption. And on the either side, when you’re doing very low cadence or very high cadence, you’re gonna see higher oxygen consumption. You see an inverted U with efficiency. So again, 50 to 80 RPM, you’re going to be more efficient. When you start getting below 50. And above 80, you start to see that drop in efficiency. But what they didn’t address in this review, but I’ve seen in previous studies is, in untrained athletes, the most efficient cadence is actually quite low, it’s about 60 RPM,

Rob Pickels 42:44
that’s a really important thing to point out. Because a lot of the beginning research on this subject was done with just University, right gym class students who were not habituated cyclists.

Trevor Connor 42:55
But they continued that research and discovered that in highly trained cyclists, the most efficient cadence is actually much higher up up towards 90 even 100. And that’s something that they train. So that’s important to keep in mind. With that, Ryan or Rob, any any further thoughts on this?

Rob Pickels 43:12
Yeah, I can pick apart the first part on here. And when I was thinking about it, I did it. I broke it into two questions. The first is, is there a change in metabolism when cycling at a steady workload at different cadences? And the second is, does that potentially influence a metabolic event, I’m going to say like, like a threshold of VT one, v two, so on and so forth. As I pointed out, you know, I’m answering this from the perspective of a train cyclists not not from the beginner on habituated. The other caveat that we need to know is that any of the research that looks at varying cadence, oftentimes, what we see is a decrease in measures like economy, as somebody utilizes a technique that’s new to them that they’re not habituated to, but then oftentimes economy can improve back to baseline or even improve beyond baseline once the cyclists had some time, pedaling with that new cadence or that new technique. So if we go beyond that, and really into the science of this now, back in 1975, right, this is some basic science has been happening for a long time, Dr. geyser and Brooks, they were looking at muscular efficiency during steady state exercise, the effective speed and work rate. And it was really clear that even cycling with no load and I’m really confining my recommendations to general cadences we would expect from a cyclist so as Trevor said, there’s a U shaped, but really, that only involves a really low cadences as well. And so if we’re looking at say cadences in the 50 to 60 range versus cadences in the 90 to 100 range, what we see is that pedaling at that faster speed 90 to 100 instead of 50 to 60. Just the movement alone is going to cause more oxygen consumption. We’re gonna see increases in heart rate, we’re gonna To see increases in lactate concentration, simply because we’re moving our body faster. Right? So yes, 100% there are going to be metabolic changes that you see with the faster pedaling rate. The opposite side of that is, does it matter in 2014 Benaki. In his paper, high cycling cadence reduces carbohydrate oxidation at a given low intensity metabolic rate really tackled this question on, they confirmed that at 50 RPM, oxygen utilization, lactate, carbohydrate utilization, all of that was lower at 51st 100 rpm. Now if we tackle that second question of whether or not this affects a medical event like threshold, as a continuation to that Benaki study above, the increase in VCO, two that they saw during that study with the faster cadence would likely have caused an increase in their ventilatory threshold sooner in an incremental test. That parallels an increase in lactate concentration that they saw at the higher cadences for the same workload. So that would suggest that any measured threshold or break point is going to occur at a lower absolute workload when you’re pedaling faster. Meaning 90 to 100 verse when you’re pedaling slower in the 50 to 60 range. One study that really highlighted the effect on cadence of threshold was a paper in 2006 by I believe it’s a Spanish researcher Denon de i butchering that my apologies, but we’ll get the reference up, where they looked at maximal lactate steady state concentration being independent of pedal cadence in active individuals. What’s really interesting about that title is it’s somewhat misleading because they’re correct in that the maximal lactate steady state concentration was the same regardless of the cadence it was about 4.8 millimoles in both of the groups. However, the workload at MLSs was dramatically different. The 50 RPM test actually achieved maximal lactate steady state at 186 Watts, for 148 for the 100 RPM group.

Trevor Connor 47:07
So we’re gonna have a study off here. Oh, back at you. I got a 2016 stuff WiDi bring it started already. Yeah, just to this one is Heikkinen seem to improve efficiency, but located and seem to improve Time Trial power. I didn’t go too much into the explanation here. But going back to Ron instead, I think this is getting back to the question of what are the benefits of doing low cadence versus high cadence? Dr. Ron has have basically said we can’t conclude that it’s beneficial just yet. But said the potential effects are increased activation of the quadriceps, more fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment when you’re doing low cadence. And this is a big one for me more neural stimulus. I’ve talked about this before. I am a big believer in neuromuscular training, I think it’s a way of getting gains without having to have your tongue hanging out and you’d be surprised at the sort of gains. And what you do see is both low cadence training and high cadence training are very effective at training that neuromuscular side so I’m very big with my athletes on not only polarizing their their intensity, but polarizing their cadence, so don’t have to just sit there and write a race cadence all the time. I have them do some dedicated low cadence work. I also have them do some dedicated high cadence work. So right now we’re in the winter, when I have them do threshold work on on the trainer, I want them to have their cadence 100 Plus RPM, which is a struggle, but it just gives that little bit of extra neuromuscular work, and can improve that efficiency. Whoa, whoa, look at that the

Chris Case 48:42
science off. Who sung who’s battleship here

Rob Pickels 48:46
isn’t even a nerd lab episode. Trevor and I are, are being a little spicy,

Chris Case 48:51
but good answers. I think we’ve given both Jack and Vlad and the rest of the listeners out there a lot to think about. 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. Join the conversation at forums fast talk labs.com to discuss each and every episode, become a member of fast talk laboratories Fs talk labs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Trevor Connor Ryan Kohler and Rob pickles. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening