Q&A on Nordic Skiing, Recovery, and Mixing Training Modalities, with Adam St. Pierre

Physiologist and coach Adam St. Pierre helps us explore questions on Nordic ski training, signs of recovery, and mixing various training modalities.

Adam St. Pierre preparing skis

Adam St. Pierre, the head coach of the Nordic ski team at Montana St. University, and a former physiologist and jack-of-all-trades at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, joins Fast Talk to discuss nordic skiing and how it fits into endurance training, oxygen debt versus deficit, muscle recovery, and mixing running and cycling training modalities effectively.

Nordic ski training

This first question comes from Ashley Masen in California:

“Since cross country skiing is full-body and pushes higher stroke volume than cycling can, could there be a really beneficial way to do VO2max training in the early season, then focus on extending threshold and adding specificity on the bike as you get closer to your race?”

Oxygen debt versus deficit

This question comes from Rodney Simpson in North Carolina. He writes:

“What is your explanation of oxygen debt and oxygen deficit? Is the latency heart rate at the beginning of applying power for a zone 3 interval due to O2 debt or O2 deficit? Also, the duration to return to pre zone 3 interval heart rate due to fitness or fatigue?”

Muscle recovery

This question comes from Kjeld Bontenbal in the Netherlands. He writes:

“Where resting HR and HRV seem to be proper guidelines for cardiovascular recovery, how about muscle recovery?

As a speed skater I often find my rest HR and HRV ‘at rest’, while my legs still feel sore. The soreness translates itself into lower power output in both the aerobic and anaerobic area. It makes me wonder:

What is a good measure to determine the recovery state of the muscles? When the legs feel sore, should I give them more rest for optimal super-compensation?”

Mixing training modalities

This question comes from James Cooper in Alameda, California. In response to episode 185 of Fast Talk, in which we discussed different training methods across different endurance sports with Dr. Stephen Seiler, he asks:

“I have a question about mixing two sports in a single workout. As it was discussed in the episode, running frequently beyond 90 minutes or so will start to accumulate considerable stress on the joints/muscles, which in part explains why runners don’t do 3-4 hour long, slow runs. I’m curious, though, if doing something like a 90-minute easy Z1 (in a three-zone model) ride on the trainer to jump start some muscle fatigue and then doing a 60-minute Z1 run would be of any benefit?

Conversely would a 60-minute run prior to a 90-minute Z1 ride allow a cyclist to get some of the gains normally seen on longer 4-hour-plus LSD rides? As a father of three young children, these 4-hour endurance sessions are really not in the cards.”


  • Chazaud, B. (2016). Inflammation during skeletal muscle regeneration and tissue remodeling: application to exercise‐induced muscle damage management. Immunology and Cell Biology, 94(2), 140–145. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1038/icb.2015.97
  • Demarle, A. P., Slawinski, J. J., Laffite, L. P., Bocquet, V. G., Koralsztein, J. P., & Billat, V. L. (2001). Decrease of O2 deficit is a potential factor in increased time to exhaustion after specific endurance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 90(3), 947–953. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.2001.90.3.947
  • Howatson, G., & Someren, K. A. van. (2008). The Prevention and Treatment of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage. Sports Medicine, 38(6), 483–503. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200838060-00004
  • Minett, G. M., & Duffield, R. (2014). Is recovery driven by central or peripheral factors? A role for the brain in recovery following intermittent-sprint exercise. Frontiers in Physiology, 5, 24. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2014.00024
  • Mizumura, K., & Taguchi, T. (2016). Delayed onset muscle soreness: Involvement of neurotrophic factors. The Journal of Physiological Sciences, 66(1), 43–52. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s12576-015-0397-0
  • Peake, J. M., Neubauer, O., Gatta, P. A. D., & Nosaka, K. (2017). Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 122(3), 559–570. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00971.2016

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor, Chris Case, Adam St. Pierre


Chris Case 00:11
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m Chris Case and we are joined today by of course coach Trevor Connor and Adam St. Pierre. Adam, welcome to the program.

Adam St. Pierre 00:25
Thanks for having me on Chris.

Chris Case 00:27
And Adam is the current head coach of the Nordic Ski Team up at Montana State University, but has plenty of experience in the cycling world in the running world. He’s a former physiologist and jack of all trades at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, which those in Colorado listening will know that name, hopefully and it kind of evolved into what became the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. So a lot of diverse experience and we want to hit you today with some questions that have to do with both skiing and cycling and sort of general physiology, if that’s okay with you Adam.

Adam St. Pierre 01:05
Yeah, that’s what you asked me to do, so I am prepared to do that.

Chris Case 01:08

Chris Case 01:14
Hey listeners, we’re pleased to announce the release of our eighth pathway. Our newest pathway is focused on exercise in the cold. Just in time for the chill of winter exercise. Members of Fast Talk Labs can explore the best ways to train in cold weather, and how colder temps affect our performance. The exercise in the cold pathway features Dr. Stephen Chung, one of the world’s leading environmental physiologist, as well as Dr. Iñigo San Millán, our Canadian CEO and coach Trevor Connor, and Dr. Andy Pruitt. Winter training isn’t as simple as just adding another layer follow our exercise in the cold pathway to learn more.

How do you Benifit with High Vo2Max in Early Training Seasons?

Chris Case 01:55
Let’s start off with a question that pertains to your current profession as head coach up at the Montana State with the Nordic Ski Team. This question comes to us from an Ashley Mason, he’s in California, he writes, since cross country skiing is full body and pushes higher stroke volume than cycling can, could there be a really beneficial way to do VO2max training in the early season, then focus on extending threshold and adding specificity on the bike as you get closer to your race? Adam, what would you say here?

Adam St. Pierre 02:30
So I think Ashley is on an interesting track, you know, it’s certainly correct that the cross country skiing utilizes a greater percentage of the total musculature of the body than cycling, cross country skiing utilizes, you know, not just the legs, but also significant core contribution as well as upper body shoulders, triceps, lats. So, purely because of a greater amount of muscle mass being used, you know, you will see higher VO2 utilization in cross country skiing than cycling. Often that correlates with with a higher heart rate at a similar effort. So, you know, your Z1 or your L1 endurance ride may be 5 or 10 beats per minute lower than a Z1 or an L1 endurance ski. So important to kind of adjust your training zones or your expectations of what will feel easy, you know based on that knowledge, and then you add into the fact that that skiing has a large technique component may may further elevate that discrepancy between cycling and skiing. Now, what I found interesting about this question is trying to use skiing, not just as you know, a way to get some endurance work off the trainer during the winter months, but actually to get a specific physiological gain from skiing that you certainly could get from cycling, but maybe you could get it, not necessarily easier but to a larger extent skiing.

Trevor Connor 03:52
So that was the question that I want to ask, or that I was thinking about and I couldn’t find any research on this is how much does the adaptations from skiing transfer over to cycling?

Adam St. Pierre 04:04
That would be my exact thought is, you know, I think incorporating ski training is likely to increase VO2max purely because you’re getting, you know, some training of the upper body and core musculature that you’re not getting on a bike. So it may increase, you know, the number and lab testing, you know, push you from a 60 to a 62 or whatever. But whether that correlates with improved cycling performance, I can’t really say I don’t think that’s been been shown or proven. What I can say though, is that you take a cross country skier, you haven’t do an uphill Time Trial, whether it’s running or on a bike, typically what we are feeling is that our legs are screaming at us, and we’re hardly out of breath. So by that anecdote, you know, I would think that incorporating cross country ski training and trying to improve VO2Max through cross country skiing would have some measurable performance improvement in cycling. One possible mechanism there is that, you know, the the upper body musculature is is that taking, you know, lactate and other metabolic byproducts out of the blood, you know, recycling them for energy and allowing the legs to perhaps work slightly more anaerobically without going into a full body, you know, acidosis kind of state. So I would tell Ashley, get on skis and do some VO2Max work on skis in the winter and hopefully that would provide not only a nice break from from trainer riding, but also a plausible mechanism for improvement in your cycling.

How does Oxygen Deficits Affect your Workouts?

Chris Case 05:29
Very good. Well, let’s move on to another question here. This one comes from Rodney Simpson. He’s in North Carolina and he writes, what is your explanation of oxygen debt and oxygen deficit? Is the latency heart rate at the beginning of applying power for a zone three interval do O2 debt or O2 deficit? Also, the duration to return to pre zone three intervals heart rate due to fitness, or fatigue? Trevor, I’ll start here with you on this one.

Trevor Connor 06:02
So why don’t I start by I will quickly define oxygen deficit and oxygen debt. And then Adam, you can take it from there and talk about training effects and what it means. But these are terms that are thrown around a lot. And I admit I’ve often use them without really explaining what they are. So here’s a good opportunity. Oxygen deficit is what you see, at the start of an effort. So you’re riding along slow, you do some intervals. If you are hooked up to a metabolic cart, and we were recording your oxygen uptake, even though your power just shot up dramatically, you would see a slow rise in oxygen consumption. And that is your oxygen deficit, you can also see it in heart rate. So that’s why when you start intervals, you don’t immediately see heart rate go up to where you would expect for that given power can take time, oxygen debt is on the flip side. So you finish an interval and you drop down to say 80 Watts, your oxygen consumption doesn’t immediately go down to what you would expect for 80 watts. Likewise, heart rate doesn’t immediately come down. So there’s there’s a slow drop and that’s called the the oxygen debt because think of it as you have a debt that you have to pay, and you’re still paying it even though the intervals are done. That’s how I always think about it, because you can easily get debt and deficit mixed up. So always remember debt is your pain afterwards. So that’s the start. Adam, do you want to take it from there and say what all this means for training?

Adam St. Pierre 07:35
Yeah, sure. It’s funny, I started the same way, you know, deficit is the sort of the dynamic, you know, ongoing level of sort of oxygen, oxygen deficit, and then the debt is what you you pay back at the end, try to remember that in terms of the federal government.

Trevor Connor 07:53
Except that dead never ends.

How does Fatigue Fit into the Equation with Oxygen Deficiency and Debt?

Adam St. Pierre 07:56
So I think it’s an interesting thing to think about, whether fatigue or fitness contribute to oxygen deficit and oxygen debt. And I guess the, the answer is, you know, is it fatigue? Or is it fitness? And the answer is, yes, it’s a little bit of both. And you can’t really discern which it is, I think, often the the initial oxygen deficit is related to warm up, you know, if you don’t do a good warm up, and you just start jamming your intervals, typically, you get that larger bit of oxygen deficit. Whereas if you’re well warmed up, you know, you do some intensity within the warm up. Once you start the main set of the workout, you know, hopefully you see a pretty pretty quick rise in you know, VO2 use oxygen kinetics, as well as a quicker rise in heart rate to the expected heart rate value for whatever your your workload is. Here’s where cycling is easily the most convenient sport to utilize because you have such a nice clean power output measurement compared to you know, running, swimming and cross country skiing. So I think in a warm up can decrease that initial oxygen deficit, probably, you know, more than fitness, or fatigue. Often, you’ll see people in a fatigue state who, you know, they warm up, they begin to work out and they just they can’t get their heart rate up or their heart rate won’t go up despite them feeling like they’re working in an appropriate workload. So I don’t know if that’s necessarily related to oxygen deficit. But as a coach, if you’re unable to elevate your heart rate at the start of an intensity workout, that’s typically a sign to me that we need to incorporate more rest into the program. So rarely is it a good idea to just crank through the rest of that workout. Often, it’s best to either shift gears and make it a recovery workout or go home and take a nap if that’s an option.

Trevor Connor 09:39
Yep, no, I agree with that. The thing I will add here that I think is really important to understand is when you’re seeing oxygen deficit and oxygen debt, you are seeing the body compensating with anaerobic metabolism. So so let me explain that. So let’s say you’re doing intervals and those intervals They’re still within your aerobic range. So let’s say your your threshold power is 300. And you’re doing intervals to 80 to 90. So your body’s capable of producing pretty well all that energy aerobically doesn’t mean that as soon as you jump up to that to 90, you’re instantly producing all the energy aerobically. That’s the deficit, it takes time for that whole aerobic machinery to kick into gear. And so your body’s going to compensate and say, Well, I can only right now produce, say, 210 Watts aerobically. So that extra 7080 Watts, we’re actually going to produce with anaerobic metabolism until that aerobic system kicks up. One of the major factors in that, and this is what I studied in my exercise physiology courses is mitochondrial density. The more mitochondria you have in the cell, the more sensitive they are to a buildup of ATP, which is basically your cells way of saying I’m running out of energy here, do something. So the quicker the aerobic machinery of the cells going to respond, and the less oxygen deficit you have. So I always look at the oxygen deficit of I see a huge oxygen deficit, and an athlete, that tells me their robic machinery is probably not as strong as it could be. And they’re being very reliant on anaerobic machinery, where if you take a very aerobic animal, you know, like a time trial, as you’re gonna see, they’ll go up to that threshold power and their heart rates gonna come up almost as quickly, there’s going to be very little oxygen deficit.

Adam St. Pierre 11:32
I think, Trevor nailed that with the mitochondrial density and could almost use mitochondrial density as a synonym for for fitness, at least when you’re thinking about endurance based sports. So yeah, definitely a more fit person will will see a lower oxygen deficit most of the time, you know, when I, when I started thinking about this question, I was reminded of some workouts that I’ve utilized in the past, we actually track the time for heart rate to return to a baseline or to a level one after a heart effort. And then you have a cut off where, you know, once that recovery time increases significantly, I like for instance, when that recovery time doubles, than the workouts over. So I’ve used it with, with athletes on the track, you know, you run a flat out 400. As soon as your heart rate dips down to level one, you hit another 400. And the goal of the workout is to do as many 400 as you can in a set amount of time, you know whether that’s 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, and you’ll see that the the athletes who are just generally fitter, it takes longer for their recovery time to really jump up and they’re able to do more 400 not because they’re running each individual 400 faster. But because their recovery time stays, you know, in the one to two minute realm, instead of creeping up into the three year or four even five minute realm. That’s the kind of workout I’ve often used sort of early season late season as a marker of fitness. So, you know, if an individual does 12 for hundreds and 30 minutes, early season, and they do 18 for hundreds and 30 minutes late season, you know, that’s the sign that they are overall getting fitter, even if their time for each individual 400 hasn’t changed.

Trevor Connor 13:09
Yeah. And actually, you bring up a really good point there the importance of training this and that goes back to the the question about is it fatigue or not, I’m actually looking at an older study here that’s called decrease of oxygen deficit as a potential factor in increased time to exhaustion after specific endurance training, which is a mouthful, but it’s basically saying, if you can decrease that oxygen deficit, your time to exhaustion is actually going to extend out you can do more efforts before you fatigue. And it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, because if that oxygen deficits bad, and you’re being reliant on those anaerobic energy pathways, they’re limited. For all intents and purposes, your aerobic pathways are not. So if you are, say, in a race and doing these constant hard efforts, do you have to really rely on anaerobic metabolism for that even though you’re at a power level that that you could produce a radically, that’s going to fatigue you.

How does Soreness Affect Fatigue?

Chris Case 14:05
Alright, very good. Let’s move on to another question here, shall we? This one comes from a killed Bonton ball. He’s in the Netherlands. I hope I pronounced his name correctly. And he writes, were resting heart rate and HRV Heart Rate Variability seemed to be proper guidelines for cardiovascular recovery. How about muscle recovery? As a speedskater, I often find my resting heart rate and HRV quote, unquote at rest, while my legs still feel sore. The soreness translates itself into lower power output in both the aerobic and anaerobic area. It makes me wonder, what is a good measure to determine the recovery state of the muscles when the legs feel sore? Should I give them more rest for optimal super compensation? Trevor, shall I start with you here a little bit. I know this is another question that you spent some time time answering on our forum.

Trevor Connor 15:01
Yeah. And actually, this was a question that I started by saying I only have a minute to answer and then spent 45. But they’re both really good question. I

Chris Case 15:08
bet you do that a lot, don’t you? Yes. You do that

Trevor Connor 15:11
a lot. I try to get myself a little out of I only have two minutes again, and give you a quick answer. And then I just get into writing the answer. And suddenly, it’s 45.

Chris Case 15:20
Well give us the Cliff Notes of that, of that research that you did.

Trevor Connor 15:25
There’s no actual Cliff Notes. Because basically, my whole answer is this is a really complicated question. And even Ryan responded first, and basically said he had to think about it for a while to come up with anything because it’s a tough question. So Adam, maybe we can go back and forth on this. But I’ll start by basically confusing everybody. By saying generally, so he’s talking about soreness. The first thing we need to figure out is what is causing that soreness. So generally, when you have muscle soreness, you’re dealing with Dom’s, which is delayed onset muscle soreness. Now the theory behind Dom’s is that it is caused by muscle damage, muscle tearing, that’s a result of eccentric activity. There’s not a lot of eccentric activity in cycling. I don’t believe there’s a lot in speedskating either. So that’s why you don’t tend to get a lot of soreness.

Adam St. Pierre 16:18
I’m imagining speed skaters do a fair amount of plyometric training and I’m guessing, you know, either their strength training or their plyometric training is probably at the root of much of the muscle soreness he’s experiencing.

Trevor Connor 16:29
Yep. And I still think that initial contact on the ice with their skate even though you’re trying to be smooth, there is a breaking motion. So I do think there’s gonna be some eccentric activity, but I’m not a skating expert have ever analyzed that motion. The point being Dom’s is usually caused by your centric activity, there was a belief that it’s muscle damage. But now there’s a new theory that no it’s not muscle damage, it’s actually inflammation. So that then brings in something called EIMD, which is exercise induced muscle damage, which depending on what you believe, is the same thing as Dom’s or something slightly different, but also again, generally caused by eccentric activity. And then the point that Ryan raised is muscle soreness can also be caused by bloodflow collusion, which ends up looking a lot like Dom’s. So a whole lot of potential explanations here and theories and I hope I’ve just absolutely baffled and confused everybody.

Adam St. Pierre 17:27
Yeah, I think there’s lots of theories as to why, you know, the muscles themselves are sore. But I haven’t seen any research on how muscle soreness would be related to heart rate or to heart rate variability. I do know, that was some apps, I’ve used HRV for training in the past, it was it was years ago. But at that time, there was both a measurement of HRV as well as a quick questionnaire and one of the questions was like, Are your muscles sore on the zero to 10 scale? So I know a lot of the I don’t know for sure about whoop and other things but I think many algorithms that attempt to use a heart rate variability in a larger scale to guide training decisions, often they have a perceptive measure, or a perceptual measure where they’re asking simple questions like Do you feel tired? Are your muscles sore? So even if muscle soreness doesn’t factor in directly into you know, heart rate response or heart rate variability, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on as you plan your daily training. And from a coaching perspective, you know, it is, it’s pretty rare that I would recommend someone do a hard workout, you know, with sore muscles. You know, if you’re sore from the workout the day before, then easy endurance training is probably fine. A distance ride or a long run, but it’s pretty rare. I would encourage someone to go out and push you know, intervals or race on sore legs if it’s avoidable.

Trevor Connor 18:52

An Important Message…

Trevor Connor 18:52
Listeners, Chris and I are excited about an upcoming milestone here at Fast Talk. On January 27, we will release our 200th Fast Talk episode, we’re proud to have brought you 200 episodes featuring the world’s most respected and influential experts in training, physiology, sports nutrition, bike fit, recovery, sports medicine, plus some bad jokes about Canada. So we have a very special 200th episode plan for you and we’d like you to be a part of it. Record your best questions on your smartphone Recorder App and email them to info@fasttalklabs.com by January 1. Any topic is fair game, but we are especially excited to hear your questions about the future of endurance sports. So again, record your questions and send them to info@fasttalklabs.com.

Trevor Connor 19:48
So to go back to your point about heart rate variability and heart rate, the only theory I have here is I think the sort of activity that you would do that causes this sort of muscle soreness as always gonna cause some autonomic stress. I know autonomic stress can blunt, parasympathetic nervous system, I think it can also blunt the sympathetic. So my guess would be if you’re causing some of that autonomic stress, you’re going to see your your heart rate variability tank a bit. I don’t think the soreness is causing that directly, I think it’s just coincides. And this is why it didn’t take me 45 minutes to answer those because I went back and found some old research I hadn’t read in a while that it reminded me of and I got kind of excited about, there’s a really good study called is recovery driven by Central or Peripheral factors? a role for the brain and recovering following intermittent sprint exercise. And it’s actually a really complicated study. And it’s a it’s a good read, it’s, it’s really interesting. But the gist of it is to basically say that the soreness and recovery have both a peripheral and a central component. And they don’t always line up. So you can feel recovered when you’re actually not recovered. So the soreness isn’t always a good indicator is basically the gist of what the study says. And likewise, it goes on to say a lot of these markers, including they did blood test markers, I don’t think they specifically looked at heart rate variability and heart rate. But the point they were trying to make in the study is a lot of these markers you’d use actually don’t correlate well with recovery, they might get back to normal and say, Oh, you’re good to train, when you’re actually not good to train to make it even more complicated. So the suggestion I gave here and Adam I’m interest in hearing your reaction to this, the one thing that was common in all these studies, whether you’re talking about muscle damage, or inflammation, or Central or Peripheral factors, is that A, Eccentric activity is key and B, all this damage and inflammation as in fast twitch muscle fibers. So, I think the best way and this is what I use with my athletes to see if they’re not recovered yet, is to look at top end kind of Sprint or Neuromuscular efforts. Because those are sort of efforts, when you have that sort of muscle damage that you just can’t put out the same effort. You can’t put out the same power and I think whether you’re feeling sore or not, if you go and do a sprint, and suddenly, you’re 200 Watts below what you’d normally expect or just you really struggling to sprint, that’s probably a good indicator that you’re still not recovered. What’s your thoughts?

Adam St. Pierre 22:27
Yeah, I think you nailed that the best sign that you’re not recovered is an inability to perform normal training, right? So if you’re used to sprinting at 700 Watts, and you go out and you start a workout, and you’re only sprinting at 500 Watts, it doesn’t matter what your heart rate or your heart rate variability is, you know, that’s a sign right away that your, your body’s not ready for that workout.

Other Methods to Build Endurance and Maintain Muscle Retention

Chris Case 22:49
Hey, you guys didn’t want mentioned the stair test here, I thought you would.

Adam St. Pierre 22:54
I’m actually I’m racking my brain, they did a study after the West, I think it was Western states endurance run, and after the Tarawera 100k, where they they looked at typical measures of muscular recovery. You know, after Ultra runs, you’ve got Cpk through the roof and all the typical measures of muscle damage are just unbelievably high because of the eccentric forces of running for that long and I was at a conference a couple years ago where they tracked those markers for 24, 48, 72 plus hours after an event. But I think they also looked at people’s use either one mile times, or maybe they were doing for hundreds to see if any of those markers correlated with, you know, an actual decrease in sprint performance or in high intensity performance. I wish I could remember the details of it. I’m blanking on it. But I know it’s on the tip of my tongue.

Trevor Connor 23:46
Well, if you think of it, send it to us, we can certainly we can put the study in our references.

Adam St. Pierre 23:50
Yeah, I’ll see if I can find that.

Chris Case 23:52
That seems awfully cruel, I must say on the surface of things if you’ve just run western states, and two days later, they’re like, Okay, go out and run as fast as you can in the mile or 400, or whatever. That sounds terrible.

Adam St. Pierre Discusses how Competitive Racing Athletes Train the Smart Way

Adam St. Pierre 24:03
There’s a contingent led by this gentleman, Mike Wardian, who lives out in the sort of the greater DC area and he’s, he’s a serial racer, he races all the time. But I think after every 100 miler, he does the next day he runs a one mile all out. So you just find, you know, a track wherever it happens to be and runs it, and I know people will go and join them, and it’s quite masochistic. And then you think there’s also a contingent that runs a beer mile a day or two before, you know those same races. So…

Trevor Connor 24:32
You see that just good prep. Especially if you keep the beer up after you’re done running.

Chris Case 24:38
Yeah, that’s the old school method of carb loading, right? – Yes. – Very good. Well, let’s move on to a question here that comes to us from a James Cooper. He’s out in Alameda, California and is in a bit of a response to our question in response to Episode 185 of Fast Talk. In that episode, we discussed different training methods across different endurance sports with Dr. Steven Siler. We brought up rowing, skiing, running all sorts of things. Check that episode out first, if you haven’t, but James’s question here is, I have a question about mixing two sports in a single workout. As it was discussed in the episode, running frequently beyond 90 minutes or so will start to accumulate considerable stress on the joints, and muscles, which in part explains why runners don’t do three to four hour long, slow runs. I’m curious though, if doing something like a 90 minute easy zone one in a three zone model ride on the trainer to jumpstart some muscle fatigue, and then doing a 60 minute zone one run would be of any benefit. Conversely, would a 60 minute run prior to a 90 minute zone one ride allow a cyclist to get some of the gains normally seen on longer? Four Hour plus LSD rides. As a father of three young children. These four hour endurance sessions are really not in the cards. This really is a response or a question in response to that episode 185. But in some ways, I feel like it touches upon some things we we discussed in the today’s episode of I don’t want to put words in James’s mouth here. But can you cheat your way out of having to do the four hour ride to get those benefits?

Adam St. Pierre 26:26
I want to jump on this one, Chris. First thing I gotta say is that runners do do three to four hour long, slow runs, maybe not, you know, half marathoners, marathon runners, but my beloved type of running is in trail Ultra running where three to four hour runs are just the just the beginning. But I think it’s a really interesting question. Again, my background is cross country skiing, I take offense to the term cross training, it’s just training, you may be training on a bike or you may be training running or may be training scheme. So you know, mixing modalities is regularly done, and a lot of sports, you know, triathlon being the most obvious example, you know, in triathlon, often they are biking and then running, because that’s the most specific form of training for their event. But I’ve worked with runners, you know, recovering from injury who may, you know, do their their run first, because maybe they can only tolerate, you know, 60 minutes of running stress, and then they’ll hop on a bike for an hour or two. And that’s a way for them to get a, you know, a three hour endurance workout in with the first hour being the most specific to them. Whereas if they were to fatigue their legs with an hour or two bike ride first and then do the 60 minute run, that could increase the likelihood of injury from that run running on fatigue legs, right. That being said, you know, ultra runners run on fatigue legs all the time, it’s sort of a given in Ultra training that you’ll do, you know, some back to back long runs, or you’ll do a hard workout and then a longer run, or you’ll do double some days, I think the benefits from this type of workout are largely psychological, you know what it’s like to be running and have your legs be a little fatigued be a little sore. And I think those are, are kind of unique to to the ultra running world and probably not something that’s that that should be taken up into other training for other sports. In general, you want to do the the hardest workout first, the most stressful workout first. So if you run for an hour and ride for an hour, I think that’s a pretty good, good two hour workout.

Chris Case 28:24
Trevor, I want to turn to you though, and ask the question, I guess. My guess is James is really asking, If I run up to 60 minutes before I do my ride, does that somehow equate to the same thing as a four hour bike ride? And what are the gains?

Trevor Connor 28:43
Yeah, my interpretation of the question is getting out this whole idea that an hour of running is usually considered equal to like two and a half hours on the bike. So if you do that hour of running, have you and then you get on the bike and do another 90 minutes? Well, if you quite an hour of running into two and a half hours of cycling, then you got your four hours. Right. I actually looked I could find zero research on this, it might exist, I couldn’t find it. So this is totally my opinion, my guess I think you’re going to get some benefits. I even put in my notes going with what you’re saying Adam is it’s all good training, you’re going to get adaptations from both. You’re going to get good adaptations from the run in, you’re going to get good adaptations from the cycling and you are going to get when you’re talking about those those central factors that are less sports specific. You’re going to get good training to both. But the question that we get hit a lot with, I still remember the one email I got or somebody said, heard your episode about the long ride, you know, I’m fully on board, I fully get it. There’s a benefit to the five hour ride. You can’t get any other way. I just have one question for you. Is there a way you can skip those first three hours and get the benefits of the last two? Yes. And I’m going to give to this question. The same answer I gave to that, which is in my opinion, unfortunately, no, there are benefits you get from that longer ride. Or as Adam said, that longer run, that I don’t think you can get any other way. There’s no way to cheat it. And I fully get what he’s saying he’s got to life. He can’t go out for the four hour ride. I think there are benefits that you’re going to lose. Now, can you still get to be really strong and be a good athlete and very competitive and get 90% of the way there? Yes. But I think there’s things you gained from that longer ride that you can’t game without doing the time.

Adam St. Pierre 30:38
It’s funny, you know, at the end of long runs, or long ski workouts, you know, people start to think about, you know, two and a half hours is long enough, or three hours is long enough. And my response to that with the athletes I coach is to say, Do you guys know what the most important, you know, half hour of the workout is the last half hour? So, you know, if you’ve got a three hour ride on the schedule, and you have the time to get a three hour ride in, you’ll get that three hour ride in. An interesting thing and cross country skiing that you know, isn’t as as seen in cycling, because the technique component is that it’s pretty rare to have cross country skiers go beyond three hours of skiing at a time a three hour ski is a is a long session. But sometimes in the summer or during a big volume block, we may want to do a longer session and typically what we would do is do a do a three hour ski and then an hour run or a three hour ski and then an hour bike. So we’re adding volume but not in the same modality. So to get to that four hour session, you know, maybe it’s a two hour skate ski and a two hour classic ski, which are different enough to utilize different muscles and prevent extreme fatigue. And what we’re trying to avoid by doing a you know, a four or a five hour cross country ski is you know, it’s late in the ski your technique falters and you’re in graining bad habits. So it’s pretty rare for me to utilize cross country ski workouts longer than three hours of one technique. If you look at elite cross country skiers, most are training twice a day, nearly every day, you know, whether it’s a ski session in the morning, and a strength workout in the afternoon or a run session in the morning and a recovery bike in the afternoon or, you know, any any combination of you know, either to aerobic workouts or you know, one robot workout and one strength workout. And it’s not necessarily they don’t have the time to do four or five hours at a time. You know, certainly my college athletes, because the class often don’t have four to five hour training blocks. But the idea of doing doubles and doing different techniques regularly or different modalities regularly is to prevent overburdening the muscles that work primarily in any one technique meant to just kind of be remain well rounded get the most volume in that you can without overworking Anyone, anyone system or any one area.

Trevor Connor 32:52
I think there’s real benefits from mixing up the sports as you’re saying, doing some work in one that’s high quality and then trying to do some work. And another that’s high quality, particularly from a health benefit, I do feel that if somebody is all always just skiing, or always just cycling or always just running, you get out of balance, and you start to have issues and athletes who tend to mix these up, keep it in much better balance, the the only thing I would warn, and you see this with triathletes is if you’re always mixing it up, well if you want to be in all these sports, that’s great. But if your focus is on one of these sports, and you’re always mixing it up, you’re gonna experience what triathletes experience, which is they’re pretty good at cycling and running and swimming. They’re not really good at any one of them.

How to be Practical Year Round in Planning your Workouts

Adam St. Pierre 33:42
Yeah, that’s totally true. And that’s maybe my favorite thing about cross country skiing is you can roll our ski in that the non snow months, but you have to run and bike and, and swim and rock climb and do whatever else in that in the offseason, the dry land season to build as much fitness as possible so that once we’re on snow, we can just focus on skiing.

Chris Case 34:03
Okay, let me hit you with a hypothetical question, then, Trevor, to follow up on this mixing modalities. We’ll mention two days, we’ve got this athlete, he’s a cyclist, or she’s a cyclist. And that’s their primary sport. And they’re trying to get better at that sport. But they don’t have a lot of time. You got two options, maybe a two hour window in the morning and another two hour window after work in the evening. Versus they can carve out a three hour block where they could do this mixed modality run bike single session, what would you suggest? Or would you mix these two types of scenarios in strategically?

Trevor Connor 34:39
So I’m going to dress as purely from a very practical standpoint, because I do think when we talk about the two days there is things that we we leave out of that equation, which is the time that it takes you to get ready to get changed at the end of a workout to shower which actually adds up to a lot of time. Time that some time. Like if you say, I’m going to go for a bike ride, that moment doing, you get changed, get everything ready, get your bike ready. Time how long that takes. I’ve done that and when I’m quick, it’s 15 minutes. – Yeah. – So it’s not something like you go, Oh, I’m gonna get on the bike and then a minute later out in the bike. So thinking about people that are time crunched and want to maximize their time, my issue with the two days is actually that means you’re changing four times twice to get ready twice at the end of the workout, it means you’re potentially showering twice, you’re probably going to lose a lot of workout time, with all that getting ready and getting changed. It’s not the most efficient use of time, right. And I think we forget that people go that it’s really efficient with time to divide it up due to days. Now, if you’re mixing that with, say, a commute, where you’re gonna have to get changed anyway. Great. I think that’s great. I recommend that to people all the time saying, on your way to work, maybe do your interval, or do an easy ride in the morning because you don’t want to be sweaty at work. And then your way home, do your intervals, something like that. You had to get changed anyway so great. So me personally to try to be the most effective with time I would rather do the the one workout and mix them up. So maybe spend some go out for a run and then get on the bike. I think I’d be hesitant to get on the bike, do a long bike ride and then go for a run for exactly what Adam was talking about of your farm is probably gonna be sloppier and you’re gonna risk injury.

Chris Case 36:30
Very good.

Chris Case 36:31
Well, Adam, it’s been a pleasure to have you on Fast Talk. Thanks for joining us today.

Adam St. Pierre 36:34
Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Trevor. It’s always fun talking to you guys.

Trevor Connor 36:37
Adam great having you on the show. It’s been too long. Hopefully we can get you back.

Adam St. Pierre 36:41
Yeah, I’ll be I’ll be down in Colorado sometime this summer and if you guys ever make your way up to Bozeman, I will take you out cross country skiing as long as we have snow.

Chris Case 36:49
All right. That’ll be a laugh fest.

Trevor Connor 36:51
Sounds good. If we have snow

Chris Case 36:54
If we have snow. Alright, thanks again.

Adam St. Pierre 36:57
Thank you guys. Take care.


Chris Case 36:58
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts and be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. So join the conversation at forums.fasttalklabs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at fasttalklabs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For Adam St. Pierre and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.