Q&A on Polarized Training, Ramping Down Your Season, and Ruining Workouts, with Rebecca Gross

Coach Rebecca Gross of 3six0 Performance helps us field questions on polarized training, closing out your season, if you can "ruin" workouts, spin classes, and more.

Rebecca Gross racing cyclocross
Rebecca Gross racing cyclocross at Aardbeiencross in Hoogstraten, Belgium.

With the help of Rebecca Gross, owner of 3six0 Performance, we field questions on polarized training, how to effectively close out a season, whether you can ruin workouts with indulgences or poor sleep, and how to get the most out of spin class.

Before Rebecca began coaching, she was an accomplished cyclocross and mountain bike racer. She was the 2012 Cyclocross Masters World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky and has twice won the collegiate mountain bike short track national championship. She continues to race professionally.

Rebecca is also a veteran of the United States Air Force and holds a masters degree in sport and performance psychology from the University of Denver.

Polarized training progression

This question comes from Eoin Cremen, from Bath in the UK. He writes:

“This question comes from a long-running debate between my twin brother and I about the optimal progression of bike intervals in a training program, moving from early / base season, into an ‘A’ race / short racing season.

We both subscribe to a polarized model, predominantly using sessions as the distribution, rather than durations in zone. The question has revolved around the balance between the final training block reflecting re-enforcing race pace at distances nearing race duration, or pushing to develop the higher end qualities (both centrally, VO2Max, and peripherally, fiber and cellular physiology).

We have both played with “Seiler-esque” intervals (4×2, progressing to 8×2) as the HIIT component of a training block, complemented with regular easy, Z2 sessions. Then for the final block we’d elongate the duration and reduce the intensity of these efforts and often include them into longer rides to allow for more time at higher intensities.

We also have considered swapping the emphasis of those training blocks, essentially training long to short, race pace to VO2max intensity.

Thoughts?”

Ramping down a season

This question comes from Sara Larsen of Brattleboro, Vermont. She writes:

“As the seasons start to change here in the Northeast, it’s about time I hang up the road bike. The thing is, I still feel like my fitness is high, and my mind is fresh. What should I do in this situation? Bottle that energy and motivation and save it for next year? I’m not really one to race cyclocross. Are there other outlets I should pursue?”

Burned out on structure

In a related question from Britt Gunnarson of Kolding, Denmark, she asks:

“I have reached a point in my season where I have decent form, but I don’t have the mental energy to do more structured intervals. With one more race to go this season, I don’t know if I should continue to push the mental side of things, scrap the season, or if there is an alternative to these.”

Ruining a workout?

This question comes from Scott Dickey from San Diego, California. He writes:

“I’m prone to indulging in an occasional beer or three after a hard workout. It helps me relax. Sometimes I also stay up late or my sleep is disrupted after a hard workout or long ride. I seem to be buzzing for hours and sleep poorly. I’ve often wondered where’s the breaking point… If I get the work in, but then indulge too much or don’t rest well, did I gain anything? Or did I just lose the chance to gain something from the work I put in?”

Can spin classes replace Zwift?

Finally, a question from Joe Uknalis. He writes:

“For the sake of motivation this winter, I’m considering spinning classes, rather than another year of Zwift. I just would rather be around people. How do they fit into a training schedule when it’s cold and dark outside? How do I use them effectively for the motivation, without overdoing it? Is that possible in that setting? Where does that leave you when you can finally get outside again?”

References

Sylta, Ø., Tønnessen, E., Sandbakk, Ø., Hammarström, D., Danielsen, J., Skovereng, K., Seiler, S. (2017). Effects of High-Intensity Training on Physiological and Hormonal Adaptions in Well-Trained Cyclists. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(6), 1137–1146. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001214

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 00:12
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance performance. Sitting down today with Coach Trevor Connor, Coach Ryan Kohle,r and our guest of honor today Coach Rebecca Gross.

Trevor Connor 00:30
The next season starts now. Every year in September and October, I receive hundreds of emails from athletes looking for a coach or asking a training question. As much as I try, I just don’t have the time to answer them all. So this year, get your start to next season with our Head Coach Ryan Kohler. Ryan is an exercise physiologist, a certified USA cycling level one coach, and he holds a master’s in sports nutrition. Ryan heads up our virtual performance center at Fast Talk Labs and now he’s ready to help you. Schedule any help session or testing package with Ryan and we will include a free one-month library membership to Fast Talk laboratories. The next season starts now. Get your start at fasttalklabs.com/solutions.

Chris Case 01:24
Welcome to the program, Rebecca.

Rebecca Gross 01:25
Thanks for having me.

Chris Case 01:26
So, Rebecca, you are the owner of 360 Performance down in Golden, Colorado. You’ve also raced for quite a long time. Give us a little of your background both in coaching and racing.

Rebecca Gross 01:39
I got started coaching about seven years ago. I’ve been on my own for about the last five years and it’s a really rewarding experience. I’ve taken my 20 plus years of bicycle racing -mostly focused on the dirt side with mountain and cyclocross- and turned it into teaching others which is a really rewarding experience.

Chris Case 02:04
Yeah. Any specific age-group focus, juniors, masters, elites?

Rebecca Gross 02:11
I do a lot of hands-on with the juniors we have a couple local programs and then most of my athletes are age groupers. I do have a couple of juniors that I work with. It’s all a really fun learning experience.

What Is The Opitaml Progression Of The Polarized Model?

Chris Case 02:25
All right, well, let’s get into the questions, shall we? We’ve got the first question here about the polarized training approach, the polarized method. It comes from a twin about twins. This question is from Eoin Kremen.- I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. It’s e o I n. There’s a lot of ways to spell Ian in this world. He’s from Bath in the UK. -He writes. This question comes from a long-running debate between my twin brother and I about the optimal progression of bike intervals in a training program, moving from early or base season into “A” race short racing season.- As a point here, Ian and his brother are triathletes. -He continues we both subscribe to a polarized training model predominantly using sessions as the distribution rather than durations in zone. The question has revolved around the balance between the final training block reflecting, reinforcing race pace at distances nearing race duration, or pushing to develop the higher end qualities both centrally VO2 max, and peripherally fiber and cellular physiology. We both played with Seiler intervals, such as four by twos progressing to eight by twos as the high-intensity component of a training block, complemented with regular easy zone two sessions. Then for the final block, we’d elongate the duration and reduce the intensity of these efforts and often include them into longer rides to allow for more time at higher intensities. We’ve also considered swapping the emphasis of those training blocks, essentially training from long duration to short duration, from race pace to VO2 max intensity. Thoughts? I’m going to turn this one over to you, Trevor, I know that you are a big believer and proponent of the polarized model. You’ve spoken with Dr. Seiler extensively about this stuff. And he’s done a study actually on looking at kind of this method of going from long to short versus short to long in a progression. What are your thoughts here?

Trevor Connor 04:38
First of all, the reason you brought up the fact that this is triathletes, which is important, is if this was a cyclist saying they were progressing towards these lower intensity longer duration intervals before they jumped into their first races. I would be immediately saying I’m not sure that’s the best approach because I do think as you get close to the road race season, you need that high intensity, you need that short, really explosive type work to be able to jump in the field respond to attacks sprint at the end, you’re not going to get that with a 16-20 minute interval. So with triathlon that isn’t a factor, a triathlon is more just time trialing in three different sports. So you don’t need that really high intensity. It is a pretty interesting and valid question. I love that they talked about the Dr. Seiler progression going from the four by fours to the four by eights, they didn’t say what they were doing in that last block. But making it a little easier doing it on longer rides, I’m assuming they were going to longer intervals. Because Dr. Seiler actually published a study where they tested the different progressions, they have one group of athletes do four by fours for four weeks, and four by eights for four weeks, and then four by 16. Then another group went the other way, went four by 16, to four by eight, to four by four. In the end, they found no significant difference between the two,

Chris Case 06:10
Between the two groups?

Trevor Connor 06:11
Yes, between the two groups with the particular progressions. But if you really dig into the details, you do see that the group that started with the 16’s, -so started with a really long intervals and then went to the shorter,- they kind of saw their gains at the beginning and then they were plateauing. You’re also seeing a little more of a stress when they looked at factors like testosterone, to basically see if there was any signs of pushing some sort of overtraining. And you did see a greater stress starting out with that type of interval. That’s why he’s asking the question,- should we be doing the longer progression to the shorter or the shorter to the longer- where what I liked when you looked at the progression in the group that started with the four by fours and went to the four by 16’s, you saw them steadily improving over the whole block, as opposed to seeing most of the improvements at the beginning and then just leveling off. In both cases, you saw the biggest improvements in both groups when they did the block of four by 16’s. You also saw them able to handle it a little bit better because the greatest stress on the system when you’re looking at these hormonal factors was in that first block. So starting with four by fours, seem to make it a little bit more manageable. What I got out of this was overall that progression four by four, four by eight, to four by 16 is going to put you in a little better place. Now again, I’ve done that with my athletes, but then I have a block if they’re cyclists, where I am going to have them do super high intensity, like a Tabata type workout or a sprint workout to get that top end for races. But since these are triathletes, and they don’t need to be attacking and responding to attacks, my personal feeling is read this study, It’s a great study, and it’s available for free. But I would probably recommend they start with the four by fours, go to four by eights, and then the four by 16’s. He also asked about including that in the longer ride. I have some thoughts on that, but Ryan, what do you think?

Ryan Kohler 08:15
I mean, yeah, I fully agree with that. I think we’ve seen it in your training, too. And I know we talked about this a lot where you start with your five by fives, and you progress upward from there. And we know, it’s supported in literature and it’s a great approach for that. And the specificity piece of it with triathlon being relatively stable, as far as an effort would seem to support that. You know, I do think as athletes, -like we just had our N+1 challenges,- I think there’s some experimentation that can go on. So I think if they are talking about this, it could be fun to flip it and it sounds like they haven’t. So flipping it could give them an interesting picture to learn about themselves too. You know, I think we have a lot of data to say that it’s probably best the way they’re doing it now,going shorter to longer. But as an athlete, it’s fun to experiment with yourself too. So I think it could be a neat little thing for them to play around with and flip it see how your body responds and go from there.

Trevor Connor 09:14
In terms of including it in a longer ride,- I get that they’re trying to get that little more specificity and do the sort of length they would do in their event.- If they’re doing lower intensity, I think that’s okay. I do want to do an episode on this at some point becasue I really want to dive into whether there’s actually any research in this, I’ve seen a little bit in the past, but I want to find more research on this. But this goes back to the training the systems. Generally, if you were doing really high-intensity work, like you’re doing sprints or something and the anaerobic capacity end things like tabatas or one-minute intervals, you don’t want to combine that with volume because it’s training different systems. I’ve seen some evidence that they’re essentially going to undo one another. You’re not going to get the gains you’d get on either end by combining them. But when you’re doing something like a 16-minute interval, that’s mostly going to hit aerobic adaptations, that’s something you can combine with a longer ride. I don’t think that you’re going to have any sort of conflict or interference.

Chris Case 10:18
Rebecca, I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. I know that you’re not one of those coaches that’s all about the numbers, maybe not even so much about the science or physiology you’re more on the sports psychology side of things. That being said, if you’re working with an athlete, and they come to you with a question like this, do you say, kind of what Ryan has said, well, let’s try both and see what works for you and see, which is more effective and motivates you more? Or how would you approach the question?

Rebecca Gross 10:50
I generally will start an athlete with the shorter efforts and build into the longer because I don’t want to burn them out. So many times I think approaching a really long interval effort for someone who has not been doing them is very intimidating. I’ll have athletes not actually complete the whole interval. I would rather see success and the success comes from building from a shorter to a longer for me.

What Can I Do Now That The Road Season Is Over?

Chris Case 11:18
Very good. All right, let’s take on a couple more questions here that have to do with this time of year, the end of the road season, let’s say. It might be the beginning of cyclocross season, but it’s the end of road season and we’ve got a couple questions about that. First one comes from a Sara Larson. She’s up in Brattleboro, Vermont. She writes, as the seasons start to change here in the northeast, it’s about time I hang up the road bike thing is I still feel like my fitness is high, and my mind is fresh. What should I do in this situation? Bottle that energy and motivation and save it for next year? I’m not really wanting to race cyclocross, are there other outlets I should pursue? Rebecca, I’ll turn it over to you first.

Rebecca Gross 12:04
I like this question because I feel as though there’s a lot of other avenues. We tend to just focus on one specific thing,- and I’m not sure if she’s a road racer, or if she pursues like fondo type events or longer exploring type of rides.- I feel like if you are focusing in on one specific type of event, this is a great opportunity. She does specify that she’s not interested in cyclocross. This could be the great opportunity to plan a ride in your area, or the next state over, that would be scenic, and just kind of mentally refreshing. If you’ve got that fitness, and you’re still interested in riding, I say go for as long as you have that until the weather turns cold. There’s always other avenues to pursue and new things to do but the fitness itself is going to give you a lot of gains and maintaining the cycling, I think keeps you fit as you go into winter. So you might as well continue with it.

Chris Case 13:06
Yeah, Trevor, what do you think here? Is there something to be said for, I’m gonna get a week or two weeks off the bike at some point, maybe I should do it right now and then get right back to training to “get a head start on the next season?” Or is that a bad mentality? What would you do in this situation?

Trevor Connor 13:24
So I’ll address that first part, this is my belief, I think it’s really important to hang up the bike for at least a few weeks. Even if you’re feeling motivated and you really want to go, I just think you have to hang it up. I’ve had people ask me that again and again. I finally said, I’m gonna try this, by doing the N1 experiment and see how my season goes, if I don’t hang out the bike. I did that for the 2018 season, because I was feeling motivated the end of 2017. So I just kept going, just kept training. What I found was, I had one of the best March’s I’ve ever had, and I was pushing overtraining by the end of April. All it did was just shift my season. I wasn’t stronger. I wasn’t better. That was the year I wanted to go to Nationals and I had zero legs at nationals because of that. That was my lesson and I’m never gonna do that again.

Trevor Connor 14:17
I’ve talked about this before, I think there are adaptations that are structural. I think they’re adaptations that are more biochemical. I think that hanging up the bike for a few weeks clears out those biochemical adaptations you get rid of them, that’s why even though you just take a couple weeks off the bike you get back on later, and like, why is my power gone way down? Why do I feel like a slug? Because those have all disappeared. But I think there’s a benefit when you move into the bases and they get those out of the system. Because your body can only sustain them for so long. Now, answering her question, there isn’t a set time that you necessarily need to take that time off. I will always tell my athletes, I want it before the end of October because we want to get back to training in early November. But if she’s feeling great and motivated and there’s some fun things she wants to do, then go do it, get a couple weeks, get it out your system and then hang up the bike. In my experience with most athletes in the early to late fall is there’s a certain point where they get on the bike and all of a sudden the wheels have just fallen off and what you don’t want to do is keep riding through that.

Chris Case 15:31
Yep. Before I get to you, Ryan, I’m going to come back to Rebecca because I know you’re a big fan of cyclocross. Sara says she’s not really interested in it, but I want you to convince Sarah that she should give cyclocross another shot.

Rebecca Gross 15:45
Oh, I want to just go ahead and agree to disagree with you on that because I don’t think you should. I mean, I love cyclocross, and I’m a diehard cyclocross racer, but I don’t think doing an activity that is not in your interest- especially one as focused as cyclocross. -You don’t really go ride cyclocross, you raced cyclocross. I don’t think pushing someone, especially if they’re in that fresh mind spot still, to do something they’re not interested in is the right avenue. I think, getting outside on a cyclocross bike that are more commonly known as gravel bikes now, and just going out and riding fun, outdoor stuff and seeing pretty things. I think that’s wonderful. As far as like focusing in on racing, that requires interval work. If the mind is fresh, you might as well not. If approaching arrest is coming, I don’t think doing intervals right up to the end of that is right thing especially suffering through cyclocross. Probably more likely to do is just enjoy it. I mean, the whole point of racing and training, ultimately is enjoyment. Unless it’s your job.

Chris Case 16:53
Then it should still be fun,

Rebecca Gross 16:56
Or you’re gonna lose motivations as well. Yeah, I don’t think it is smart pushing someone to start cross If they have no interest. If it’s just an intimidation factor, and they need someone to be around to show them the ropes and make it less intimidating than absolutely. I think it would be worth encouraging folks to try, but there has to be the interest there for them. I don’t think it’s right to force it.

Chris Case 17:19
Yep. Okay, fine. Ryan, did you have any other thoughts here?

Ryan Kohler 17:24
I mean, I totally agree with that. The fact that she feels like fitness is high and she has a fresh mind. I think to Rebecca’s point initially, of finding something fun and enjoyable, that still might be challenging, is worth it. Because with a fresh mind, you can go have fun and just do cool stuff. It doesn’t always have to be on a bike, but she’s in Vermont, seasons are changing, leaves are changing. She asked about other outlets, I don’t know what other activity she’s into. But even here in Colorado, you can find as the cyclocross season starts up, there’s also a lot of other opportunities, like some running races, where you can just go run in cool places, you might go on hikes and do some other things. It sounds like with high fitness and a fresh mind, maybe she’s still looking for some kind of a challenge. I think you can find that without intervals, and potentially with some different activities, too.

Trevor Connor 18:21
So I want to kind of add to what you were saying, which is don’t do what you don’t find fun, and probably do what you find fun.

Trevor’s Cyclocross Story

Chris Case 18:31
Are we going to get a Trevor tries cyclocross, and realizes he’s not good at it story?

Trevor Connor 18:36
Well, I wasn’t going to do that, but I actually do have a story about that, which I can share from two years ago. Yeah, I was in my fall season. I’m like, I got a little bit of motivation maybe I should go do this ‘cross thing cause Chris keeps pushing me to do this and trying to sell everybody on it. So I went to a ‘cross race in Longmont. Now, in my defense, I usually run high pressure, like way too high pressure on a mountain bike ‘cross bikes because I’m a road cyclists. So I finally I go okay, I gotta run low pressure. So I ran the low pressure. I was not enjoying it.

Chris Case 19:05
What does low pressure mean to Trevor Connor?

Trevor Connor 19:08
Oh, I had it down to like 21-22 psi, it was low.

Chris Case 19:11
With tubes or tubeless?

Trevor Connor 19:15
With tubes

Chris Case 19:15
Well there is the problem

Trevor Connor 19:19
Yes, well, no, the problem got worse because my rear tire went flat and I didn’t notice I mean I don’t like low pressure. This is what low pressure feels like and I was just miserable the whole race, thinking why am I running this low pressure? And I never looked back and went “Oh, I’ve got a completely flat tire.”

Chris Case 19:35
Oh my God…

Trevor Connor 19:36
But my favorite part of the race was Kaylee Fretts was there on the sidelines and the first time I come through Kaylee’s, like “Go Trevor.” And then the next time I come through Kaylee’s, like, “Come on, Trevor. Catch them.” And then the third time I come by him, he’s just like, “Seriously, Trevor?” and he just starts shaking his head.

Chris Case 19:56
Yeah, an engine on the road does not mean you will do anything in cyclocross.

Trevor Connor 20:03
Yeah. So I left with basically my tail between my legs going, why did I do that? That was no fun. But going back to the point, the fall is also a fun time to say, I’ve potentially,- you know, a lot of riders can say this,- I spent a whole season training and doing a lot of structured stuff. Now I can go have a lot of fun. I actually keep on my phone, I’ll go out on rides and notice this road that I want to go check out but I’m like, I can’t check it out today, because I’m training. So I actually keep a list of them. And the fall is when I’m like, Oh now I’m going to go check out this. I’m going to go ride that, do all these things that are bad training, but a lot of fun.

Chris Case 20:42
Perfect.

Rebecca Gross 20:43
And what I took out of that is that you need to try another cyclocross race because you were doing it wrong.

Trevor Connor 20:48
Oh, he’s doing everything wrong.

Chris Case 20:49
That’s not the only cyclocross race he’s done. He’s done others equally wrong.

Trevor Connor 20:55
I’ve done two in the last 10 years, and both were horrifically bad. The other one was when I was coaching CSU, there was a UCI race in Fort Collins. So we wanted the whole team to go and help with the setup and marshaling and all that. So I told them, if you guys will help out, I will race the race. And this was right after…

Chris Case 21:21
You’ve never had so many volunteers sign up.

Trevor Connor 21:23
We had a bunch of volunteers sign up. This is right after I’d taken three weeks completely off of the bike. So I’d literally been on my bike twice. I line up for this UCI race, the guys coming and checking the width of tires. He just looks at my tire laughs and doesn’t even measure it. I am dropped before I’ve crossed the start line.

Chris Case 21:45
Yeah, I bet.

Trevor Connor 21:47
And then I think Ryan Trombone passed me or lap me three times over.

Rebecca Gross 21:52
Was it muddy that day also?

Trevor Connor 21:53
It was really muddy and I was on, close to slick tires. Yeah.

Rebecca Gross 21:58
So drift practice?

Trevor Connor 22:00
No, it was fall over and then walk your bike practice

Rebecca Gross 22:03
It was all a learning experience.

How To Combat Mental Burnout?

Chris Case 22:06
Yes. The glories of a good Trevor cyclocross story. Well, I wish there were more. But let’s move on. This next question is also about the ramping down, end of season time. This one comes from Britt Gunderson. She’s in Kolding, Denmark. She asks, I’ve reached a point in my season where I have decent form, but I don’t have the mental energy to do more structured intervals with one more race to go this season. I don’t know if I should continue to push the mental side of things, scrap the season, or if there’s an alternative to these? I assume here she means with one more race to go the season, I don’t know if I should continue to push the mental side of things. I think what she means there is continue to do what she’s doing and do that final race even though she’s kind of burnt out, scrap the season, or do something else. So a little bit similar to the last question, but kind of the opposite in a way in that the mental freshness is not there at all, the mental burnout is there instead. So Rebecca, what would you say in this case?

Rebecca Gross 23:10
First of all, I’m impressed with Brett for recognizing that she’s experiencing burnout. I think that’s the number one most important thing to take away here is that if you start having symptoms of this, if you will, that something needs to change.

Chris Case 23:25
Well, let me stop you there and have you describe a bit more about what people should be looking for as signs that they might be burning out.

Rebecca Gross 23:34
I think the number one thing you’ll notice is when you’re actually out on the bike or out doing your sport, you’ll notice fatigue creeping in and then with that, motivations. Motivation will be really low, or even just trying to get out the door to or get dressed to go out and ride the motivations not there. Then maybe just the thought of a workout kind of gives you stress and anxiety. Then perhaps you know, sleep is disrupted, you’re just not all around just not feeling like you are having a good feel to your training as you’re going. Absolutely, the first thing I say here is stop the structure. And I mean one last race,- it might be in “A” race, I don’t think it’s specified here in the question, -but I think burnout can last longer than just till the end of the season. I would hate to end the season with a negative experience. So I would say there’s definitely maintenance with your fitness that can be done without structured intervals. So she should back up and just remember why riding is fun and if it feels right, go for it and if not, no, I don’t think you’re going to do too much harm between that and the final race. So it’s better to preserve your motivation and eliminate or reduce burnout as much as possible.

Chris Case 24:57
Ryan, I’ll turn it over to you. What do you think here?

Ryan Kohler 25:00
With the way this was worded from Britt, there’s more of a risk by pushing yourself to do intervals and doing that last race, then just like Rebecca said, stopping, and then going into that race with potentially less form or less fitness, right? So you immediately think of just pull the plug on the structure. Take a few days off, if you go into the last race a little bit undertrained, I would rather see that than having anything that would risk pushing this lack of mental energy, even one step further. I think the risk is just too large at that point. And yeah, based on the question, the complaint seems to be around the mental energy to do the structured intervals. The decent form is there, so it seems like she can go race, and she’s probably doing okay. But that’s where I just see the big risk coming from, if we keep adding more structure. And with continuing to push the mental side of things, scrap the season, or an alternative, just seems to me, if we do anything, to continue pushing that mental side, I just think the risk is too great that you could risk going over the edge. We never really know where that edge is until we fall off of it. So I think that’s the thing that’s unknown. And I think, like Rebecca said earlier about first, recognizing you’re there. I think that’s another key point for this athlete. You know, you’re there. And you’ve already said that you’re there and now you have these alternatives. So I think at this point, once you see that just pull back.

Chris Case 26:48
It should be an obvious choice. Right?

Ryan Kohler 26:50
Right, yeah and sometimes they just need to hear it from other people that you’re doing the right thing.

Ryan Kohler 27:02
Hello, Fast Talk Labs Members, this is Head Coach Ryan Kohler, announcing a new way to use our forum. This week, we have started a new series called “Question of the Week.” Each week, we will give our forum community the opportunity to vote for the question they want to see answered most. Coach Trevor Connor, and I will research the question and prepare a detailed answer that we’ll post the following week. So send us your stumpers, pose your questions, and let’s see which questions get the most likes. We’ll see you on the forum.

Chris Case 27:39
Trevor, I’m going to hit you with- Maybe not? Yeah, -what I think it is an impossible question.

Trevor Connor 27:46
Oh, boy.

Chris Case 27:46
So say, Britt says okay, yeah, I hear you. I’m not gonna do any more intervals, I’m just gonna ride my bike, I’d still want to do this race. I’m going to ride my bike. Maybe I’ll go fast at some point in the next couple of weeks before this race actually happens, but I’m not going to do any more intervals. What percentage of her form will she lose by doing that approach versus…

Chris Case 28:15
Why are you laughing?

Ryan Kohler 28:17
What an impossible question.

Chris Case 28:18
I know it is an impossible question

Chris Case 28:20
What percentage of fitness is she going to lose between now and the race. Versus doing it with the intervals that she would normally prepare with?

Trevor Connor 28:31
Boy, Chris, that is an impossible question. Thank you for asking that.

Chris Case 28:36
Anytime.

Rebecca Gross 28:37
The answer is, it depends.

Trevor Connor 28:39
Yes, it does depend. So some things that we can answer. She’s at the end of her season. She’s three weeks away from the event. So the one thing that I can say is you’re not getting any stronger. All you’re trying to do is either not lose form or minimize loss of form. That’s all you’re trying to do. It takes about a quarter the amount of work to maintain form as it does to build form. So one thing I can say is you will be surprised how little she has to do in order to keep that form, to have it be either no percentage loss or a very small percentage loss. I will say that if she does no intensity leading up to the event, so just goes out and does easy slow rides. Yeah, she’s gonna lose a lot of that top end. So I can’t put in a percentage but probably not going to race that well. In three weeks, you’re just going to take that whole top end off. So all she needs is like once a week, a bit of intensity. There are fun ways that you could do that. One way is to go hit some training races as opposed to doing structured intervals. Those can be more fun.

Chris Case 29:51
Hit a Srava segment that you always want to K.O.M or Q.O.M. on.

Trevor Connor 29:55
Exactly go do that. The structure when I have an athlete who In this situation, they have that race like I have to do this race, I have to be ready for it. Believe it or not, if there’s no other options, the workout I will give them as a short sprint workout. Because it is short, it’s quick. It takes a lot of mental energy to go out and do eight-minute hill repeats or to do tevadas. The nice thing about sprints even though they hurt, they are 10-20 seconds long, everybody can go really hard, even when they’re not that motivated for 10-20 seconds. Which is why you see all this research, trying to get people off of the couch. They are looking at the benefits of sprint workouts because people don’t like to sit on the stairmaster for 45 minutes or an hour. But they’re happy to go and hit a six-second sprint really hard hits.

Chris Case 30:46
Yeah, right. Yep

Trevor Connor 30:47
So that’s the workout I will give. But if she just gets a little bit of intensity each week, she’ll probably go into the race with most of her form.

How Important Is Recovery After A Workout?

Chris Case 30:58
Alright, let’s turn our attention to this next question here. It’s a fun one, in my opinion, comes from a Scott Dickey. He’s out in San Diego, California, and he writes, I’m prone to indulging in an occasional beer or three after a hard workout it helps me relax. Sometimes I also stay up late, or my sleep is disrupted after a hard workout or a long ride. I seem to be buzzing for hours, and I sleep poorly. I’ve often wondered, where’s the breaking point? If I get the work in but then indulge too much or don’t rest well did I gain anything? Or did I just lose the chance to gain something from the work I put in? I guess how I’m interpreting this question is, does a good workout get neggated by bad recovery? Or do they cancel each other out in a sense? I’ll start with Ryan, because you gave me that look, Ryan, what do you think?

Ryan Kohler 31:56
Why does the guy that doesn’t drink beer always get the beer question first?

Chris Case 32:02
Well, The beer is irrelevant, It could be hard liquor. So if that’s your choice, Okay, Just that concept. Is there any way to understand whether you can undo the things you’ve done in your training by some of these other elements that affect recovery, rest, etc?

Ryan Kohler 32:25
Yeah, well, in this scenario, we already know that it does affect him, and he sleeps poorly. We’ve said time and time again, one of the best recovery tools is sleep. So where’s the breaking point for this athlete? I think we’ve found it already. If it’s an occasional beer, or three. I think there’s a lot to be said about getting a good workout in. But then it really comes back. -I would always put this back on the athlete- to say, what is the endpoint? Where do you want to end up? And along the way, there’s decisions that need to be made. Beer is an indulgence, It’s not necessary for anything.

Chris Case 33:08
Oh come on, Thats not true…

Ryan Kohler 33:09
I know, I know I can’t say that, but I am sticking with it.

Chris Case 33:16
Yeah, I am joking

Ryan Kohler 33:17
It is an indulgence. And depending on how lofty our goals are, we need to make sacrifices as athletes. So if we’re doing a solid workout and want the recovery and want to give our body the best chance to get those adaptations and achieve that goal over time. How much are we willing to sacrifice? If this athlete says, I like the social aspect, I like hanging out with friends after this workout. It’s great. Okay, well, good. Let’s run with that. And yeah, sometimes it might affect your recovery. Is that a goal-ending season thing? Maybe not, but for some athletes that have a much loftier goal that might affect you in the long term. So I think it’s just what are we willing to accept in terms of the sacrifices we make or don’t make? That’s how I look at it.

Chris Case 34:02
Rebecca, what do you think here?

Rebecca Gross 34:04
Well, I’m also not someone to indulgent in beer, ever. So I feel like the 1 to 3 was more of an open-ended question as a how much can you drink after workout. But I have to agree with Ryan that it depends on what your goals are. If your focus is the athletic endeavors, then you should probably focus more on what works to maximize your training, which would be sleep more, maybe drink a little less. I think, if you’re gonna have a weekend ride with your bros out in the mountain somewhere, it’s a chill day and then you drink a bunch of beer, you know, everyone needs to indulge at some point. So that’s fine. But if you’re focused training, doing interval work and trying to recover from that, maybe a little less, maybe one rather than the three, or you know zero also.

Chris Case 34:59
Trevor I want to ask you another impossible question.

Trevor Connor 35:04
I love the Chris is asking the questions, but he’s the only one here who drinks beer

Chris Case 35:09
Occasionally. But, I don’t I don’t find this question to be so much about beer as- if you do a workout and then you have a beer, what percentage of fitness gain did you sacrifice by having that beer? How much effect does a single beer have on a workout?

Trevor Connor 35:29
1.267 repeated.

Chris Case 35:34
Percent?

Trevor Connor 35:35
Yes.

Chris Case 35:37
Okay.

Trevor Connor 35:37
No, Is that an impossible question or just a ridiculous question. So I’m foggy on this because this goes back a little bit, but there was this whole push that I remember people saying, well, beer relaxes you, it gets the muscles to relax. If you get a good dark local brew type beer, it’s got nutrient density. So I remember some coaches starting to go, Oh, this actually helps recovery. This is a good thing. You should have a beer after your rides and races. There was a study that addressed this. I didn’t have time to find it before we recorded here. -And it’s been many years since I’ve read it. So I can’t give you the details.- But the gist of the study was no, sorry. What it came down to was beer does not help you. One beer doesn’t hurt you. So if you have one beer after a race or a ride, you’re probably fine. Beyond that, yeah, it starts impacting sleep, it starts impacting your recovery, and it is going to hurt your ability to fully adapt from that workout or that race.

Chris Case 36:50
Very good. It’s interesting, you know, I don’t want to belittle this question. I think it’s somewhat legitimate. I am sure there it’s crossed a lot of people’s minds because they want it all right? They want to do their workout and they want to indulge in it. There was a recent study that showed that fitter people drink more alcohol. I think you should dig into that. I will send it to you, Trevor. We can discuss that on an upcoming podcast with some other non-beer drinkers.

Can Spin Classes Be Useful In The Offseason?

Chris Case 37:25
Let’s move on to the final question. This one comes from a Joe Mcnellis.- I believe that’s how you pronounce that.- He writes, for the sake of motivation this winter, I’m considering doing some spin classes rather than another year of Swift. I just would rather be around people. How do they fit into a training schedule when it’s cold and dark outside? How do I use them effectively for the motivation without overdoing it? Is that even possible in that setting? And where does that leave me when I finally can get outside again? Let me see. I’ll start with Rebecca on this one. Any thoughts here? You ever done a spin class?

Rebecca Gross 38:10
Yes and I forgot earplugs. I will never do another class again.

Chris Case 38:14
Was there loud music just blasting the whole time?

Rebecca Gross 38:15
Very loud music and I think the instructor saw me putting my hands over my ears and turned the music down.

Chris Case 38:21
That’s funny.

Rebecca Gross 38:21
It was also in New Jersey.

Chris Case 38:23
Were you born in New Jersey?

Rebecca Gross 38:29
Oh, no, but I did spend some childhood years there I was visiting for a ‘cross race and my cousin who I was staying with convinced me it would be great recovery to go and to do a spin class.

Trevor Connor 38:41
Recovery?

Chris Case 38:42
Yeah, that was before you became a coach, way before you became a coach.

Rebecca Gross 38:47
Well, I was just trying to go along with my cousin because she was very determined that this was the right thing. So I was playing along and I’ll never do that again. Yeah.

Chris Case 38:54
I think, not to get us to sidetracked. Let’s assume that Joe here is talking about,- I think the spin classes have the reputation, I’ve never attended to spin class,- I can only go on what I’ve seen on TV and in movies that are probably making fun of spin classes. Where it’s very intense it can be very loud. There’s almost people dancing on bikes, because it’s like a party atmosphere. Again, I could be totally wrong.

Trevor Connor 39:28
Yep. spot on.

Chris Case 39:28
No that’s very accurate.

Chris Case 39:34
Have you guys been to spin classes?

Trevor Connor 39:37
I’ve seen some, I’ve never gone to one but I’ve seen them. I’ve watched them.

Chris Case 39:41
I don’t know if anybody’s ever seen the Danny MacAskill video, I think it’s called gymnasium. He checks into a gym and he pays for his membership. Then he’s looking for a place to ride his bike. He goes to the weight room and there’s like the stereotypical huge person that clearly has been using steroids and then he goes to the spin classroom and his eyes bulge out because they’re just like freaking out on bikes. That scene is what I think of when I think of a spin class.

Chris Case 40:12
Okay, now that we’ve been on that tangent, Rebecca, can someone incorporate a spin class into a training regimen to stay motivated over the winter without overdoing it?

Rebecca Gross 40:26
I think absolutely you could. I am not entirely familiar with what goes down in spin classes, I’m getting more intimidated as we discuss it and the wide-eyed look on Ryan’s face there is kind of echoing my thoughts on it. I don’t think there’s as much variety in the type of exercise you get there. I think, based on the nature of the bikes, they kind of maintain an increased wattage as you spin harder or decreased wattage as you spin harder. So I think if it is going to fill a social void that you are wanting, I think it’s completely okay to incorporate that. If the loud music motivates you and having other people sweating next to you, -maybe not at the time of COVID.- It’s definitely an option. There’s also any indoor riding, you lose a lot of the other muscle functions for maintaining yourself. So if you’re going to train solely on zwift, or in a spin class, and then try to do a road race, I think a lot of things need to happen in between those two, or it could result in not just lower performance on the road bike, but also collisions and whatnot. I think it could definitely could be incorporated as a training tool, but doing too many of spin classes is probably not optimal.

Chris Case 41:50
Trevor, Tell me more?

Trevor Connor 41:53
Well, I think the important thing to remember here is there is training for performance and then there is training for fitness. A spin class is all about fitness. The people who go to spin classes they gauge how good a spin class was by basically how many calories did I burn and was it fun? So if I felt like I worked up a lot of sweat, and the instructor kept me motivated, and I got through it, because a lot of the people go to spin classes would not sit on a trainer and do intervals. That’s not fun and not motivating for them. But they’re not looking for performance. So the spin classes are not targeting particular energy systems. They’re not trying to make you really fast or super strong on the bike. They’re just trying to burn calories. If you like the social aspect, and you like working up that sweat, you’re certainly going to get some intensity out of it. I think you could work it in but if you are concerned about your performance level, and you’re training to be a stronger, better cyclist, you’re going to be disappointed if you go to too many spin classes. So yeah, I agree completely with Rebecca, maybe work it in somewhat. My suggestion that I wrote down when I read this question was maybe once a week, and then get a little bit of structure in as your other intensity during the week. I wouldn’t do much more than that.

Chris Case 43:19
Ryan, I’m going to ask you an impossible question now.

Trevor Connor 43:22
Oh, Ryan gets the impossible question.

Chris Case 43:24
Yeah. I’ve been thinking about what that impossible question could be. Since you are the only one that I believe has attended a spin class on more than one occasion. I know Rebecca, you were forced to attend at gunpoint by your New Jersey cousin. I’m not trying to say…

Rebecca Gross 43:45
No it perfectly fit. Okay, I wish I could put this image into a podcast,

Chris Case 43:50
You can send us the photo. We’ll use it to promote this episode. But back to Ryan and the impossible question. When you attended these spin classes, what- this isn’t impossible I’m just going to ask you- What did you wear? Like, were you wearing a cycling kit? Did you wear normal shoes because they had flat pedals? What would take us inside a spin class if you would?

Trevor Connor 44:11
Did you wear a Hawaiian shirt?

Chris Case 44:12
Did you wear a Hawaiian shirt?

Ryan Kohler 44:13
Probably

Chris Case 44:14
Probably!

Rebecca Gross 44:15
Did you take it off?

Ryan Kohler 44:18
Different spin class.

Ryan Kohler 44:22
So my approach to spin classes is non-traditional.

Chris Case 44:27
Okay

Ryan Kohler 44:27
In that I will dress as if I’m riding on the trainer. So I walk in looking like the spandex clown

Chris Case 44:34
You are out of place

Ryan Kohler 44:35
I’m out of place. Yeah, I can’t. There’s only so far…

Rebecca Gross 44:41
That is bold

Chris Case 44:41
If you’re only gonna use one word to describe Ryan. It’s bold.

Trevor Connor 44:45
Yes. So accurate. Boldly stated Ryan, boldly stated.

Ryan Kohler 44:54
So yes, I’m not the typical spin class attendee. The nice thing is with most of the bikes these days, you can have your flat pedal side or your SPD side. So I bring my shoes, I bring my mountain bike shoes and I’ll clip in with my spandex and jersey.

Chris Case 45:12
Lycra

Ryan Kohler 45:13
Lycra. Yeah. So I’ll wear all the appropriate cycling stuff.

Chris Case 45:18
Do you wear a cycling cap?

Ryan Kohler 45:21
I don’t remember It has been a while

Chris Case 45:22
How long are your socks? Are they white?

Ryan Kohler 45:24
They’re always halfway up the calf.

Chris Case 45:26
Yeah. Alright, what color is your fanny pack when you attend?

Ryan Kohler 45:32
Neon pink and blue, Thank you.

Chris Case 45:37
Very good. Well, not to pick on people that attend spin classes too much, but we just picked on people that attend spin classes for quite a bit. Let’s end it there. Thank you, Rebecca, for joining us today.

Rebecca Gross 45:52
Thanks for having me.

Chris Case 45:53
Thanks, Trevor, for being here.

Trevor Connor 45:55
Always Chris.

Chris Case 45:56
Ryan. Thank you for being bold.

Ryan Kohler 45:58
Thanks for inviting me.

Chris Case 46:05
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 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.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 Rebecca Gross, Ryan Kohler and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.

Chris Case 46:41
Hey there Fast Talk Labs members, I’m Chris Case, and today I’m pleased to announce a new and better way to get around fasttalklabs.com. We’ve upgraded our website to make it easier to find the topics that interest you most. Our website menu is now organized by the subjects we cover best, including training, physiology, sports nutrition, sports psychology, and recovery and health. Click any of these subjects to see related content, and then dive into specific topics with new shortcut menus. Within training for example, it’s now easy to find the science of interval training, performance analysis, polarized training, planning your season, and strength and conditioning. On most topics, we suggest our top featured stories plus a quick list of the newest related content. Can’t find what you’re looking for? We’ve also upgraded our search bar to cover more of our content, just hit the search bar at the top of every page. And best yet, our updated website is now more mobile-friendly and easier to navigate with a cleaner design so you can see what’s new from wherever you are. With these updates to fasttalklabs.com it’s even easier to get faster.

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