Q&A on Sweat Rates, Going Polarized for ’Cross, VLAmax, Big Gear Work, and Recovery Tools, with Coach Grant Holicky

In this Q&A episode, guest Grant Holicky discusses sweat rate, polarized training for cyclocross, VLamax, and recovery tools.

Fast Talk Podcast Q&A
Photo: Jonny Kennaugh

In today’s Q&A episode we invited coach and co-owner of Forever Endurance, Grant Holicky, to join us for a lengthy discussion on a myriad of topics.

First, we converse about sweat rates. Ernest Boskovic references our discussion in episode 111 with Dr. Cheung, and asks several intriguing questions. (It makes us believe we’ll soon invite Dr. Cheung back to the program for a full episode on the subject.) Here are a few of Ernest’s questions: What is the relationship of sweat rate to intensity? What is the relationship of sweat rate to intensity? Is it a linear relationship? What is the relationship of sweat rate to core temperature? What is the relationship of sweat rate to dehydration?

We then discuss how to use polarized training for cyclocross. Can it be done? Should you stop polarizing at some point and bring in more specificity? Or should you become even more polarized as the season approaches?

Next, we discuss ROS and the differences between pros and amateurs.

Then we jump into VLAmax. Devin Knickerbocker asks why it is that having a higher VlaMax means your endurance performance suffers?

We then chat about big gear work on the flats: there is value in high-torque intervals, so how does one execute such intervals properly, particularly in flat areas of the world or on the trainer?

Finally, we converse about recovery tools—when and how to use them most effectively. All that and much more in today’s episode.

Let’s make you fast!


  • ​Bulsink, V. E., & Koopman, C. M. B. and H. F. J. M. (n.d.). CORNERING IN BICYCLING: COMPUTER MODEL SIMULATIONS.
  • Aguiló, A., Tauler, P., Guix, M. P., Villa, G., Córdova, A., Tur, J. A., & Pons, A. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity and training on antioxidants and cholesterol profile in cyclists. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 14(6), 319–325. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/s0955-2863(03)00052-4
  • Barnett, A. (2006). Using Recovery Modalities between Training Sessions in Elite Athletes. Sports Medicine, 36(9), 781–796. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200636090-00005
  • Haun, C. T., Roberts, M. D., Romero, M. A., Osburn, S. C., Mobley, C. B., Anderson, R. G., … Martin, J. S. (2017). Does external pneumatic compression treatment between bouts of overreaching resistance training sessions exert differential effects on molecular signaling and performance-related variables compared to passive recovery? An exploratory study. PLOS ONE, 12(6), e0180429. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180429
  • Kephart, W. C., Mobley, C. B., Fox, C. D., Pascoe, D. D., Sefton, J. M., Wilson, T. J., … Martin, J. S. (2015). A single bout of whole-leg, peristaltic pulse external pneumatic compression upregulates PGC-1α mRNA and endothelial nitric oxide sythase protein in human skeletal muscle tissue: Compression increases PGC-1α gene expression in human muscle biopsies. Experimental Physiology, 100(7), 852–864. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1113/ep085160
  • Kraemer, W. J., Bush, J. A., Wickham, R. B., Denegar, C. R., Gómez, A. L., Gotshalk, L. A., … Sebastianelli, W. J. (2001). Influence of Compression Therapy on Symptoms Following Soft Tissue Injury from Maximal Eccentric Exercise. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 31(6), 282–290. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2001.31.6.282
  • Lewis, N. A., Towey, C., Bruinvels, G., Howatson, G., & Pedlar, C. R. (2016). Effects of exercise on alterations in redox homeostasis in elite male and female endurance athletes using a clinical point-of-care test. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(10), 1026–1032. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0208
  • 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
  • Peterson, A. R., Smoot, M. K., Erickson, J. L., Mathiasen, R. E., Kregel, K. C., & Hall, M. (2015). Basic recovery aids: what’s the evidence? Current Sports Medicine Reports, 14(3), 227–34. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1249/jsr.0000000000000159
  • Serrano, E., Venegas, C., Escames, G., Sánchez-Muñoz, C., Zabala, M., Puertas, A., … Acuna-Castroviejo, D. (2010). Antioxidant defence and inflammatory response in professional road cyclists during a 4-day competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 28(10), 1047–1056. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2010.484067
  • Tejero-Fernández, V., Membrilla-Mesa, M., Galiano-Castillo, N., & Arroyo-Morales, M. (2015). Immunological effects of massage after exercise: A systematic review. Physical Therapy in Sport, 16(2), 187–192. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.07.001
  • Tiidus, P M, Pushkarenko, J., & Houston, M. E. (1996). Lack of antioxidant adaptation to short-term aerobic training in human muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 271(4), R832–R836. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.1996.271.4.r832
  • Tiidus, Peter M. (2015). Alternative treatments for muscle injury: massage, cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen. Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine, 8(2), 162–7. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-015-9261-3

Episode Transcript

Chris Case  00:12

Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance.

Chris Case  00:19

This episode of Fast Talk is brought to you by Whoop. Whoop is a fitness wearable that provides personalized insights on the performance of your sleep, how recovered your body is and how much stress you put on your body throughout the day from your workouts, and the normal stressors of life. What’s great with Whoop is that every day when you get up, you get a recovery score based on your HRV resting heart rate, and sleep performance that can be used as an indicator to how to approach your day. The Whoop app has built in features like the strain coach which actually gives you target exertion goals worked out optimally for the level of intensity your body is signaling it can handle perfect for working out at home. And based on how strenuous your day is the app has a built in sleep coach, which actually lets you know how much sleep you should get getting. So you can wake up and be recovered based on your performance goals.

Trevor Connor  01:09

Whoop is offering 15% off with the code Fast Talk that’s f a s t t a l k at checkout. Go to whoop. That’s w h o o p .com. And enter Fast Talk at checkout to save 15%. Sleep better, recover faster, and train smarter. Optimize your performance with Whoop.

Chris Case  01:32

This is Episode 118. It is a question and answer session. We’ve got another guest coach today. Mr. Grant Holicky co-owner of Forever Endurance. You’ve likely heard him on the Off Course podcast and you’ve likely heard him on this show before. It’s been a while since we’ve had you on welcome Grant.

Grant Hollicky  01:54

Hey, thanks, guys. Great to be here.

Efficient sweating

Chris Case  01:56

Today we’ve got a lot of great questions from our listeners out there. Why don’t we jump right into a big topic, first? We’ll start with this question from Ernest Boskovic. He’s from the Netherlands. He’s asked some really great questions before this one sort of opens up the door to a really big topic. It’s about sweat rates. He writes, “One thing that was missed in the episode 111 with Dr. Cheung on heat and cold myths, is the sweat rate discussion. I wonder generally about maximal sweat rates versus maximum water uptakes versus lower performance. He goes on to ask a long list of really great questions. We’re not going to answer all of those specific questions here because we’re going to do an entire episode on this. It’s such good material. But Trevor, I want to turn it over to you to give a few a few thoughts on sweat rates generally.

Trevor Connor  02:56

You sent me this question last night of let’s address this tomorrow, and I read it and just went, “Wow, we’re going down that rabbit hole?”  My immediate response was let’s get Dr. Cheung back and let’s do a whole episode because sweat rates, fluid balance, that is a huge complex conversation that they’re still figuring out. People really thought, you know, we got this figured out, but no, now they’re questioning the research.

Trevor Connor  03:22

Some silly questions like there was a scientists few years ago who said that actually, drinking water was not performance enhancing. Like you should not drink fluid at all, when you exercise. And that was kind of silly.

Trevor Connor  03:37

I’m just going to start with an overall perspective on sweat that will hopefully give some context for everything we’re talking about. And that is, our bodies want to sweat efficiently. Efficient sweating means that any fluid that your body pushes out on the surface of your skin gets evaporated. If a sweat drop falls off of you, it didn’t serve its purpose. Because the idea is, your body’s trying to take heat from the core, get it out of the core, get it out of the body. The way to do that is to generate a temperature gradient between the core and the surface of your skin. How do you cool down your skin, you put fluid on it, that creates the temperature gradient, then all that heat comes from the core goes through the skin, and then that heat is used to evaporate the fluid. That’s how you get rid of the heat. If you don’t evaporate that fluid, it didn’t serve its purpose. All you’re doing is dehydrating yourself and you’re not cooling down the core.

Chris Case  04:43

Right and we did talk a little bit about that with Dr. Cheung. If you’re swimming at the end of your zwift session in a pool of your own sweat on the floor, it didn’t do much good for you. Likewise, if you’re out on the road and your top tube is just crusty from all the sweating you’ve done that’s lost evaporative cooling sitting there, and it hasn’t done its job, so to speak.

Trevor Connor  05:06

Right. And as somebody who’s had to clean up those trainer studios afterwards…

Chris Case  05:10

That’s right, we did talk about the uh –

Trevor Connor  05:12

We’ve talked about it, it’s not helping anybody

Grant Hollicky  05:15

Check your stem if you’ve been doing a lot of riding inside.

Trevor Connor  05:20

So that’s really important. I think that was one of his questions is, is there an optimal sweat rate? There isn’t, I can’t say you should be sweating X amount per hour. It’s more if you are keeping your core temperature down, you are sweating, but it’s all evaporating, then you are optimally sweating. That’s what you want: you want to come back from a ride and be dry. And it is something that is trainable. This is part of the reason when you watch top pros, they don’t seem to have a ton of sweat on them. When somebody gets off the couch and gets on the bike or goes for a run, they’re drenched because their bodies haven’t learned how to sweat optimally yet.

Chris Case  06:03

One of the top questions he had is, what is the relationship of sweat rate to intensity? Is it a linear relationship?

Trevor Connor  06:11

That’s a tough one to answer, I did find a chart that obviously showed when you are exercising sweat rate goes way up, there did seem to be a somewhat straight line relationship between intensity and sweat rate. But again, what I’m going to say is this is a trainable thing. And your body is trying to get to that point again of efficient sweating, where everything is evaporated, everything is used. So if you are, if your sweat rate is well trained, then yeah, as your core temperature goes up, your body’s going to try to get rid of that heat, it’s going to increase your sweat rate proportionally, to get rid of as much of that heat as it can and to maintain your temperature. If you’re less trained, I remember reading a long time ago that somebody who’s coming off of the couch and goes and exercises, the body just turns on the faucet, it’s ” uh-oh, core temperature is going up” and just start sweating like crazy, right. And so probably less adaptive.

Grant Hollicky  07:20

I think one of the big notes about this comes back to what we started with, which is sweat rate is inexorably tied to core temperature. And what we do know, and there’s some really, really cool data, cool data added Doha World Championships, 2016, cycling, where they had cyclists swallow thermometer pills, and what you see is in the short, intense efforts, the temperature is going through the roof, core temps going way up through the roof, so in the individual TT, the core temperatures were up for some people about 40 degrees Celsius. Which is super high. So that intense training or intense efforts is going to drive core temperature way up. So we probably will see an increase in sweat rates to try to bring that core temperature down.

Trevor Connor  08:05

So in the research, it always said if you hit 40, if your core temperature hits 40 degrees…

Grant Hollicky  08:10

You’re in heatstroke

Trevor Connor  08:11

You’re done, your body shuts down, it stops. And that’s – when they took untrained athletes or some you know, just fit people put them on a trainer or got their core temperature up to 40, yeah, they shut down. They couldn’t keep going. But these World Champion top level athletes were getting over 41. Which was extraordinary.

Grant Hollicky  08:32

Yeah. And again, the variability of those core temps. at that study was massively amazing to, you had…

Chris Case  08:38

Massively amazing

Grant Hollicky  08:40

Massively amazing, yeah! You have medal winners, that core temperature was up 41.5 degrees Celsius. And then you have people that won medals that were at 39. That’s a huge difference.

Trevor Connor  08:54

Another thing to point – So you brought up before the whole concept of weather. Weather is actually going to be a huge factor in this. So we just talked about gradients. (So Grant you said you’re going back to school, so get used to the term gradients.) When you study exercise physiology, I think one of the driving principles is the concept of gradients, and that’s probably one of the driving principles of physics, which is: nature hates a gradient. So that’s the good old if you take a jug of salt water and a jug of tap water and you connect them eventually you’re going to end up with two jugs of somewhat salty water because nature goes, “I’ve got a salt gradient here. Let’s make them the same.” So that’s how your body gets rid of the core temperatures it creates a temperature gradient from your core to your skin. But to evaporate that water, there actually has to be another gradient. You have to have a lower fluid density in the air compared to at the skin; meaning, if you are in a really humid environment, it’s really hard to evaporate the water because the air is already quite full of water.

Chris Case  10:05

Right, right, it doesn’t take – want to take it out.

Trevor Connor  10:06

And that’s where you get in trouble because your body goes, “Okay, I’m sweating. But for some reason I’m not cooling down.” So, what’s my way of dealing with not cooling down? I keep sweating, so I’m going to sweat more. And that’s why when you’re in hot, humid environments, you start sweating like crazy. And it’s all dripping off of you. It’s not being effective, you’re not evaporating it. Likewise, that is actually a major issue for swimmers. Swimmers can actually severely dehydrate because they don’t know but they’re sweating like crazy. But none of it’s evaporating.

Grant Hollicky  10:41

And the environment; which is all fluid just strips you off. And this is one of the danger points in training inwarm water and this is been well documented in open water. With Fran Crispin’s death, we had an open water race in the Middle East and the temperature of the water was in the 90s. You just, you can’t hydrate fast enough. And so it fene ended up changing all the rules based on water temperature and trying to prevent those things in the future. But we’ll go through a myriad of options, trying to keep people cool in those temperatures, whether it be Tylenol, whether it be ice packs, whether it be cold drinks, everything. I mean, we’re handing out frozen latex gloves for them to shove in their suits.

Chris Case  11:25

Just to back up for a second and emphasize how hot it got inside some of the bodies of these athletes in Doha 41.5. If you haven’t done the calculation, 41.5 Celsius is 106.7 Fahrenheit. So yeah, if you had a fever, and you were running a 41.5 or 106.7 fever, you’d be dead. So you know,

Grant Hollicky  11:47

Or at least in a hospital.

Chris Case  11:49

Yeah, right. Sounds like you’d be dead.

Trevor Connor  11:51

All your high school students out there, if you want to skip a day of school, go out and do an hour long time trial in the heat and come back and have your mom check your temperature.

Chris Case  12:00

Yeah. All right. Let’s get back to some of these other questions from Ernest. What is the relationship of the sweat rate to the percentage of dehydration? I believe we sweat less if we are already dehydrated. So could there be a sweet spot?

Trevor Connor  12:15

Well, let’s just give the the obvious point of when you are sweating, you are losing fluid so that it will eventually lead to some sort of dehydration. I think the question is getting at, when you get outside of healthy ranges. So your body’s is getting to a point of some sort of heatstroke where you’re severely dehydrated then it gets really dangerous because your body shuts down sweating to preserve fluid, which means it loses its major way of reducing core temperature.

Chris Case  12:47

I guess this brings up the question in my mind, and maybe this is something too complicated to answer here. But you talk about training, sweat rates and training, sweating. What’s the best way to do that? How do you find that quote, unquote, “sweet spot” when your body knows how to sweat just enough?

Trevor Connor  13:06

Well, this is a really good question for Dr. Dr. Cheung, who could probably answer better than me, but I think it’s like anything else. It’s going to adapt with time. Is there something that you can do to make yourself an optimal sweater if you’re somebody who…

Trevor Connor  13:20

An optimal sweater, like a Christmas sweater

Trevor Connor  13:25

If you’re an ugly sweater… it is just something that develops with time

Chris Case  13:29

Put that on the list for Dr. Cheung.

Trevor Connor  13:31

But let’s ask Dr. Cheung, certainly, I mean, the one thing has been proven you go to a hot environment, the first thing your body does is turn on the floodgates, you start sweating significantly more. But interestingly, it isn’t optimal, you’ll start dripping. So it seems almost like it’s a short term maladaptation.

Grant Hollicky  13:52

If we can increase plasma volume, then we have a further road to travel so to speak, right? If you have more blood volume to start with, you’re gonna get to a point where you can sweat more along that continuum before we get to that point where he’s asking the question where less fluid starts to come out. And I think I think the things that I would ask you guys to put on the table for Dr. Cheung is, you know, we’re watching marathoners lose two kilograms of body weight over the course of a race. And now we have people starting to question whether it’s a benefit – what can you put up with and you’re losing weight, and so you’re going to run faster or you’re gonna climb faster, and where is that sweet spot? That’s a really great question. You know, you’ll have high, low marathoners lose 2K, you’ll have high low marathoners lose 1K.

Trevor Connor  14:40

The other really important thing that we probably should have brought up at the beginning but I think this a a good point to bring it up. We talked about fluid loss in terms of you lost a leader or you lost a couple pounds of water. Your body doesn’t have a built in scale. It has no idea how much water is lost. Matter of fact, it does. even know if it’s lost water. What your body monitors is the balance between fluid and electrolytes. Which means that if you lost two liters, but you lost proportional levels of electrolytes to maintain os – oh boy, I went to that word that I cannot pronounce – osmolarity?

Trevor Connor  14:40

There’s one with an R, there’s one with an L or

Trevor Connor  15:20

I always go with osmolarity because it’s the only one I can pronounce.

Chris Case  15:29

osmolarity vs….

Trevor Connor  15:32

They are not, but I can only say one.

Chris Case  15:36

“We’ll keep this quick”

Trevor Connor  15:39

We’ll keep this part, this is my potentially misuse because I can’t speak English.

Grant Hollicky  15:45

You are Canadian.

Chris Case  15:46


Trevor Connor  15:46

There you go, hey! I got it from two people on either side of me.

Trevor Connor  15:51

This is actually an interesting effect that you see; I had this great textbook when I was at school up in Victoria, that the back of it had this eight step process showing how your body responds to fluid loss and electrolyte loss during exercise, which I tossed the textbook, I now regret it just because I want that chart back. But the short version of that chart is when you are exercising, and you are sweating, sweat is hypoosmotic, you lose more fluid than you lose electrolytes. Which means that the fluids inside your body are then going to become more concentrated. So what happens is you start pulling water out of cells to get the osmo – can we come up with a different word for this – to get the concentration of the fluid…

Chris Case  16:43

Factor X

Trevor Connor  16:44

Outside of the cells back into balance. So then what you see is a shrinking of yourselves. But if you manage this well, at the end of that exercise, even though you’ve lost some electrolytes, even though you’ve lost some fluid, the fluid outside of your cells is actually at the right concentration. Not gonna try to use the word. So are the cells, even those cells have been shrunk. So your body’s gone not too bad a place. So what people then do is they finish exercise. They go well, I need to replenish

Chris Case  17:23

Chug a bunch or fluids.

Trevor Connor  17:25

Right. So they chug all these fluids, and the body goes, “Oh, well, that’s actually going to reduce the concentration. Get me out of balance. I don’t want this. So I’m gonna pee it all out.” But in order to pee it out

Chris Case  17:43

Urinate, this is the science term

Trevor Connor  17:45

Yeah, sorry. I need to urinate it out. In order to produce urine, I need some electrolytes. So then you actually start getting rid of more electrolytes, you actually can lose more fluid than you took in and end up less hydrated than if you hadn’t drunk anything at all.

Grant Hollicky  18:07

Right. And there’s another piece of that to; think about it, again, we’re talking gradients here, everything’s gradients. So now you got a bunch of electrolytes. If you go a ton of Gatorade, and I have a bunch of electrolytes in your system, the cells are going to put more water into the system to try to balance out the electrolyte balance. And now you’re stripping even more water out of yourself. So take your time, when you rehydrating, don’t go chug it. And you know what one of the greatest sources for electrolytes, go eat some food.

Trevor Connor  18:37

Yep. But it’s actually more important to make sure you’re getting some electrolytes into your system, after the exercise, then during because that’s going to help you to pull the fluids back into your system. So as you were saying, eat some food, and then drink the water with it. Don’t finish the exercise and go here hand me that giant bottle of water with nothing in it. And they have done these studies where you quite literally pee all of it out -sorry -urinate it all out. Plus more.

Trevor Connor  19:12

Did we cover all this? Or

Chris Case  19:14

I think that that is, yeah, we did a good job of covering a lot of the general points that Ernest was asking about. So again, let’s get Dr. Cheung back on the program for a deeper dive into sweat rates, dehydration and so forth.

Trevor Connor  19:32

Perfect. Yeah, don’t cut this. I got to go urinate.

Chris Case  19:35

Alright, the only reason we actually invited you today grant was for this next question because it’s about cyclocross. You know, you race it, you know, you coach it. This isn’t really true. We love you. But we brought you on for your comments about whatever you just said.

Trevor Connor  19:50

So, wait, we invited him? We just walked in here, he was just sitting on the chair and we went with it.

Chris Case  19:57

Hey, this guy. He’s a coach.

Grant Hollicky  19:59

I was looking for hair cut, actually, wandered in here.

Chris Case  20:01

There is a salon downstairs.

Polarized training and cyclocross

Chris Case  20:03

All right. Next question from Kelly Klein in Philadelphia. He writes, “I’d love to hear your opinion on polarized training and cyclocross. A little background: for the last 24 years or so I’ve always relied on sweet spot and/or threshold type training. But this year, I started polarizing my training back in January. Last weekend, I did a field test outside of my usual route and I was astounded by the result, I had my highest 20 minute power ever. I understand that at some point, I’ll need to start some more specific training for the upcoming cyclocross season, if that even happens. The question is, how long should I maintain the polarized training before I start with more specificity? I’m guessing that I’ll need 48 weeks to prepare. What do you think here Grant?

Grant Hollicky  20:49

Well, I think there’s a couple pieces to this, I’ll take the last part first. My curiosity is a little bit of what Kelly means by specificity because I tend to look at polarized training as being able to encompass all that specificity, frankly. So I don’t know that you need to shift away from a polarized training model at all to enter into cross season, not to mention, once you start racing, we get into this really thing with crossroads where it’s race, recover, race, recover, race, recover, which in and of itself, is highly polarized. So you know, for something like cross and I’m a heavy lifting – we have multiple camps with coaching, right, we have a sweet spot camp, we have a, you know, intensity camp, we have all these things – I always tend to be more on the intensity side of camp. And part of why I believe that is I think it can be more entertaining. A lot of the people I’m working with are masters athletes, or young athletes to go ask them to go do sweetspot over and over and over and over again, can be a little daunting, frankly, can be a little boring. So I like to bring in some of that intensity all throughout the year. Neal Henderson, who I used to work with refer to it as micro-periodisation. We’re going to look at a week or we’re going to look at two weeks and we’re going to periodized that segment, so that we’re always playing around with an intensity then recovery intensity and recovery. So I love that model for cross. And I think inherently what cross is, we’re talking short races, we’re talking punchy efforts, we’re talking high end recovery needs, we’re talking repeatability and polarize training really falls beautifully into that.

Chris Case  22:34

Trevor, I think you’re gonna say something pretty similar to that, aren’t you?

Trevor Connor  22:39

I emailed a response. And basically, what you just said, is very, much better version of the response I sent. I think what he was talking about with specificity is doing sweetspot work. And my response is, if you’re doing three, four hour road race, then I would say yeah, you need to do some sweetspot work for that specificity, but crosses short, all high intensity. So I actually would cross athletes leading into the season. I go super polarized. You’re either bleeding from the eye sockets, or you’re, you know, doing the cycling equivalent of crawling. There is no in between, and particularly during the season, because you’re doing two races every weekend. It’s kind of destroy yourself on the weekend, maybe get one quality session during the week, but the rest of the time is just super, super easy.

Grant Hollicky  23:29

Yeah, I really think some of what we’re talking about in the mindset here is when I’m looking at a pure professional cyclocross athlete, when I’m looking for endurance capability in them, I’m looking for the second race of the weekend. That’s kind of what I’m pointing to. And I always think it’s very odd when we used to have nationals in January, everybody started complaining, how am I supposed to get hours through Christmas? How am I supposed to get hours through Christmas and I would always sit there and go, “Don’t.” Get on the trainer. Rip hour long sessions, 90 minute sessions, float outside every once in a while, and don’t overdo it. You’re training for a single 45 minute race, you don’t need to recover. Be able to punch over and over and over and over again. And I think this comes back to one of the discussions we’ve had on this show before: How do we train professional athletes versus how do we train masters athletes? And I think Trevor brings up a beautiful point, if you’re doing a three to four hour road race, yes, sweet spot is very, very important. But I would even venture to question: How many of us are doing three to four hour road races that often anymore? Especially here in Colorado. So if we’re playing around with cross and crits and even time trials to an extent they’re not overly long, so let’s have some fun with this polarized model. Let’s hit some stuff in the middle of it. And really make sure we’re training cat threes, masters riders and youth riders to what it is they’re going to go race and not train them like a world tour.

ROS comparisons between amateurs and pros

Chris Case  25:01

All right. Our next question is from Daniel Hopper and he’s in Australia. He writes, “In a recent episode, you were talking about differences in ROS, between elite and non elite athletes and it got me thinking, has any comparison study been done between the two groups were exercises normalized to their normal durations. I think on a population level training volume would be a factor with individual genetics making the difference within individual population. For example, a five hour ride isn’t exactly a normal load for anyone other than a pro, you would know yourself from experience that if you do a longer session than you’re used to, you end up with more soreness, fatigue, and take longer to recover. My thoughts are that if you took an amateur and measured ROS after two hours and compared it to a pro after, say, a four or five hour ride, they’d be a lot more alike. Further to that, if you were to take an amateur and over the course of a year or so brought their load up to five hours, that the ROS numbers for a five hour ride would reflect that of the pros. I’ve heard a number of long distance triathlon coaches tell athletes stepping up to elite racing and full time training, that it takes a year of full time training before you can effectively train full time.”

Chris Case  26:16

Trevor, I’ll turn it over to you. This is – there’s not much of a question here, really, but what are you seeing in the literature when it comes to ROS comparisons between amateurs and pros? And what can we decipher from that in terms of, you know, this last point about what if you’re really needing to step it up, sometimes taking a step back, and really doing long rides for a long time helps your body work around that ROS hit more effectively.

Trevor Connor  26:49

So we were talking about this before the show, and I’ve got this nice, pretty picture of all the inflammatory effects and oxidative stress and Grant and I were just saying, we’re gonna just take turns reading for this picture. So I’ve got the IO1 B TNF file, 8SLP1, phagocytosis, lisis, and proliferation differentiation. So there’s your answer. We just want to sound smart. I don’t actually know what I just read.

Chris Case  27:22

You didn’t even say PGC1 Alpha in there.

Trevor Connor  27:26

It’s not in here.

Chris Case  27:27

Well, that’s so disappointing.

Trevor Connor  27:29

That’s why I don’t know how to read there’s no, there’s no grounding point here. I looked back through all the research that we had used for that conversation of bras reactive oxygen species. Interestingly, there was only one study that compared amateurs to pros, there are a lot of studies that looked at pros, there were a lot of studies that looked at amateurs, but they looked at them separately. So I don’t think you have a case where they were trying to do , have amateurs do a pro level of training. As a matter of fact, all these studies, were really looking at the biochemical impacts of training, so often didn’t have a training intervention at all. It was basically just do your normal training. And we’ll see the effects or do a race that you are planning on doing and then we’re going to see the effects. There was only one study from 2003, and again, we’ll put all these references up, this is one effects of exercise intensity and training on antioxidant and cholesterol profiles in cyclists that compared pros to amateurs. And by the way, cholesterol actually is part of the whole antioxidant-oxidant system, I’m not going to go into that, but what’s important about this is they didn’t try to have them equalize. Pros we’re training on average 24 hours a week, the am – what they were calling amateurs – which is actually more kind of a cat2 level cyclist, they were training about 14 hours per week. And the pros, they measured their oxidative stress after a major stage of the volta ciclista al mellark – mell –

Trevor Connor  28:25


Trevor Connor  29:18

Mallorca, thank you. Again, I can’t speak well, that’s not English, that’s fine. After they did a stage of that, were with the amateurs, they had them get in the lab and do some tests to measure them. So they really tried to say no, we’re gonna look at you doing your normal level of stress. And even there, they found that the pros training harder, doing a harder event had better antioxid natural antioxidant defense mechanism. There was another study. So going further to his question of if you had it equivocal would You know, he feels that the amateurs you would see equal antioxidant defense. That’s just not really showing up. And one of the studies that I found very interesting, considering the fact that what you see in a lot of amateurs is they tend to go shorter. And they tend to do a lot of high intensity was a study that looked at the effects of short, high intensity bouts on the development of antioxidant defense mechanisms. And what they found was, and this was an amateurs that improve their performance, but there was zero development in their natural antioxidant defense mechanisms. So what I what basically what this study shows, what several of the other studies pointed out is the best way to develop your antioxidant defense mechanisms is long. So volume for looking at what high intensity sessions tend to do in terms of regular break down and how we feel.

Grant Hollicky  31:02

Yes, intensity, there’s two ways to stress the body, one’s intensity, one’s volume. But there’s two ways to do volume too, right? You know, you can do low intensity volume. And body is going to respond very, very quickly and a lot of different ways. You can do short, high intensity, and it beats the body up, it’s going to struggle to find ways to balance it.

Trevor Connor  31:24

We’ve asked been asked a bunch of times, what are the benefits of this long slow volume? Are there ways to shortcut that? I still love one of my favorite questions I ever got several years ago was, I am totally sold on what you’re saying, I get now that I need to do this long, slow volume. But you’re pointing out a lot of the benefits were towards the end of the ride. Is there any way I can skip the first two, three hours of the ride and just get the benefits of the later half? And you’re like so you’re asking me if, you’re saying you’re sold on long, slow volume, but can you get the benefits by doing short, high intensity?

Chris Case  31:58

Can I just take my five hour ride from which the benefits derive and make it a two hour ride?

Trevor Connor  32:04

Yes. So this is one of those cases where there’s a important benefit to be achieved. That really you’re seeing, you’ve got to do volume to get those benefits. Mm hmm. Sorry.

Grant Hollicky  32:18

Yeah. It’s kind of like hoping that one of those ab machines that you know, shocks your abs is gonna give you great abs. Kind of got to do the work.

Chris Case  32:28

Yeah, yeah, you got to do the work, sometimes.

Grant Hollicky  32:31

The specific work. And that that’s really true with those long, low intensity volume rides. And long is relative to the individual, but what Trevor’s starting to note is with some of the Ross, it may be very specific to the actual length of that bar.

Chris Case  32:47

This episode of Fast Talk is brought to you by Whoop,

Trevor Connor  32:50

Whoop is offering 15% off with the code Fast Talk that’s f a s t t a l k at checkout. Go to whoop. That’s w h o o p .com. And enter Fast Talk at checkout to save 15%. Sleep better, recover faster, and train smarter. Optimize your performance with Whoop.

Why does a higher VLaMax mean your endurance suffers?

Chris Case  33:14

All right, let’s move on to our next question which comes from another frequent writer is Devin Knickerbocker of Seattle. Keep those great questions coming Devin. This one he asks, in the episode on VLamax with Sebastian Weber, one thing that wasn’t mentioned was why exactly is it that having a higher VLamax means your endurance performance suffers? In running we used to think that your lactate accumulation would basically, quote, “overwhelm your ability to process it.” We didn’t know anything about all this stuff, but it intuitively made sense. Is something like that the explanation? Or is it rather that if your glycolytic system is relatively more dominant, it is used more at every intensity level. If fatigues faster than your lipolytic energy production and when it does, there’s less lipolytic power there to pick up the slack. Trevor, I’ll start with you here. Since I know you’re, you know, well versed in VLamax having spoken with Sebastian quite a bit.

Trevor Connor  34:17

To cover all the factors here, this is another this would be an entire episode and it might actually be a good one for entire episode. We’re now going to dramatically simplify and just cover one aspect of it. We could go deep into acid production and buffering mechanisms. We can even actually talk about efficiency and of using fat versus carbohydrates or fuel and a whole bunch of other factors, and I was just like “No, this is a QA. Let’s keep it simple.” So I’m going to focus on talking about just fast twitch muscle fibers.

Trevor Connor  34:55

VLamax is the anaerobic equivalent of VO2 max, tt’s a rate. So it’s your max rate of produce of producing lactate. Or more, this is where you can get into the details your max rate of pumping lactate out into the blood, which is relevant because within your cells, your body does glycolysis. The end product of glycolysis is either lactate or pyruvate, if your cells can use that, so if you have a good aerobic system, it’s producing that lactate or pyruvate, bBut it’s not being pumped out into the blood. It’s being taken up by the Krebs cycle and then used aerobically.

Trevor Connor  35:38

So when people talk about, this is one of my little pet peeves, when people talk about anaerobic versus aerobic glycolysis. No. Glycolysis is anaerobic. It’s always anaerobic. What they mean by that is anaerobic glycolysis, is you get to the end, you have pyruvate or lactate, and the body goes, or that cell goes, well, I can’t do anything with this, I’m going to pump it out into the blood. That’s anaerobic glycolysis. Aerobic glycolysis is you get to the pyruvate or lactate and the cell goes, “Yeah, I can now use this in the Krebs cycle aerobically. So I’m not going to pump it out, I’m going to use it myself.” That’s going to go into the mitochondria, we’re going to use it. That’s what they call aerobic glycolysis. My point is always there was no oxygen used in glycolysis. That was anaerobic. It’s just what you’re doing with the end product.

Trevor Connor  36:29

Okay, so you’re gonna watch me squirm a little here because like I said, I’m trying to keep this as simple as possible. Now let’s talk about fiber types. You have slow twitch muscle fibers, they are giant aerobic engines. They obviously have some glycolytic pathways, but they’re really trying to produce all, the bulk of their energy aerobically. So when you’re talking about pumping lactate out into the blood, which is what the VLamax is all about, you’re not really talking about slow twitch muscle fibers, they are not contributing. They take up lactate, they don’t pump it out.

Trevor Connor  37:05

So now we’re talking about fast twitch muscle fibers. All fast twitch muscle fibers in the human body can produce energy, both anaerobically and aerobically. So we used to talk about two A’s and two B’s. And we’d say well, two B’s are the ones that are purely anaerobic. To B’s exist in animals, they don’t exist in humans. We have what are called 2 X. So even our big mostly anaerobic muscle fibers can be forced to work a little bit of aerobically, which is one of the reasons you can make a strong argument that humans are the most aerobic animals on the face of the planet. Another good reason for that is we sweat. Animals that don’t sweat can’t go very long, because eventually they overheat. So sorry, that’s a little bit of a tangent. But let’s talk about the two A’s and the two X, they can all do some aerobic metabolism, but when you’re talking about the two acts, it’s pretty minimal. They’re big lactate producers, they’re gonna pump it out. So once you start going hard, and they get activated, they’re pumping a lot of lactate out. When you’re talking about those two A’s, they’re very flexible. They can either become highly anaerobic, and act more like a two X, at which point they’re gonna be producing a lot of lactate and pumping it out into the blood. Or they can act more like a slow twitch muscle fiber. Build their aerobic machinery, and then they’re going to use most of their end products, or a lot of their end products with glycolysis and they’re not going to pump a lot of lactate out into the cell.

Trevor Connor  38:48

So that is why his question is why can’t you improve both? Why is it kind of an an either or? You’re looking at these fast twitch muscle fibers that are either going to move one direction or the other direction. They move in one direction, VLamax is going to go up, but their aerobic machinery has been reduced, so you’re not gonna have as good a threshold, you’re not gonna have as good a VO2 max in this particular conversation. If they go the other way. You are going to really improve your aerobic machinery but their ability to pump lactate out into the blood is going to be reduced and your VLamax is going to go down. So that’s as simple an explanation as I could come up with I hope that all made sense.

Chris Case  39:36

Grant, are you awake?

Grant Hollicky  39:38

No. I like we’re Trevor goes to that because it goes to the very basis of the issue at hand, which is the muscle fibers – and a lot of times that discussion doesn’t go down to the muscle fibers, people want to deal with it in terms of an aerobic or anaerobic mixture of producing energy, so to speak, right/ And there is some interesting research out there on when people abandon their most efficient product or pathway producing energy. And it’s really low. I mean, it’s a really low percentage of total energy, total effort, you know, it’s 55 to 65%. I mean, it’s really down. So where that gets abandoned, and you start pulling in the less efficient model for you. And so some of this stuff, if you come out of the musculature, and you start looking at the bigger picture, the wider view, and this is an incredible simplification, and it’s one of the biggest struggles with this topic is that the pings that people want to talk about aerobic versus anaerobic is already in and of itself, an incredible simplification, right? So if we start talking about that mixture, though, there is some evidence is showing the people with the highest VO2 maxes are some of the less efficient athletes. And so that balance between the two, they don’t really, I don’t think there’s been a lot of research on why though and that’s one of the questions he’s asking. I don’t know how much we have in the literature and this is, this is for Sebastion for sure. You know, where is the literature on why that shift takes place? We know we can train either or, and we can make a change in either or, but we don’t necessarily know why, other than the musculature and the muscle fiber that Trevor’s talking about, why we see that really changing and how we want to use the mixture of energy.

Trevor Connor  41:32

I, so this is getting philosophical, but I always go back to the Thrifty Gene hypothesis, which is that we evolved in a caloric scarcity. So we are always trying to figure out how to maximally use the calories that were available to us. If you think about if we didn’t have these, why would we ever de-train? Your best chance of survival is to be as big as possible, as strong as possible, have as big a Vo2 max as possible, we know these things can be improved. Why would your body ever say well, let’s reduce those things? Because then if an animal attacks, you have less chance of survival. That sounds like a great idea. The reason for that is any of these things that you develop that requires energy. So your body only wants to develop something if you can use it. And one theory that I read was if you look at the nature of the way humans hunted, you actually had hunters divided into two groups, there was one group that tended to put in the chase and try to wear down the animals. And then there was another group that would then go in for the kill.

Grant Hollicky  42:41

You lead out, and then you have a sprinter.

Trevor Connor  42:44

Right. So if you’re the guy who goes in for the kill, you want to be strong, you want to have big muscles, you don’t really need that much aerobic machinery. If you’re the guy that’s doing the chase for a while getting the animals to the person who goes in for the kill, you need a rubbing machinery but you’re not the one doing the kill, you don’t need to be that strong. So hence there is a benefit to say, let’s develop one way or the other, but not have the caloric needs of both. So just so Sebastian doesn’t accuse us of oversimplification. Let me just read here, “Increased differentiation Myo de and myogenin expression increased necrosis, IGF one, HDF photostat, nitric oxide aisle six.’

Chris Case  43:32

What is that?

Grant Hollicky  43:35

You just read it?

Trevor Connor  43:36

I literally read that.

Chris Case  43:38

What is it?

Trevor Connor  43:39

I, where am I? What’s the graph on?

Grant Hollicky  43:42

Put Sebastion speed dial?

Big gear work in bad terrain

Chris Case  43:45

All right, yes, let us move on to a question about big gear work in bad terrain. It comes from Christopher Lyons, we don’t actually know or Christopher Lyons lives, but it must be a flat place. His question: “I was really interested in Episode 101 in the value of quote, “sweet spot high torque intervals” as described by yourself and Dr. Sebastian Weber, for a time trialists such as me. My question is, how do I execute these properly? I’ve tried on the road, but I don’t have any hills that have a sustained grade, or gradient if you will, that matches my desired wattage and cadence. They’re either too steep or too short. It seems the flats would not give me a high enough power.” So a couple questions for him. “Is there a way I can set this up on zwift? And if my FTP is between 290 and 300 watts, is 270 -75 the correct intensity?” Trevor, I’ll start with you. I know you’ve already emailed Christopher, but let’s open it up for a broader discussion that will help other listeners out there, what do you think?

Trevor Connor  44:57

I’m gonna be very quick cuz I’m really interested in hearing what Grant has to say, because this is one of those, I don’t think we’re going to be quoting a lot of science, it’s more experience and opinion. I said before, I’m a big fan, or I prefer big gear work outside. I think it’s best on a climb and my reasoning been, there is a form component to this. And I think when you’re locked in on a bike on a trainer, you lose some of that benefit. So I like to have my athletes focus on staying steady on the bike. So it’s not just doing big gear training, but don’t be rocking all over the place. And that’s better outside.

Chris Case  45:40

You’re engaging the core more outside. Whereas if the bike is just static, it’s locked in very tightly into a trainer, or some kind of setup, or you’re on a bike that doesn’t move at all, because it’s purpose built for indoor stuff, Zwifting, whatever. There’s no need for engaging those other muscle groups and so technique is not so important there.

Trevor Connor  46:04

Trainers doing a lot of the work for you. The reason I like the hills are two reasons. One is they have shown there are slight neuromuscular differences on a climb, and one of them is you put power out through a greater range of the pedal stroke, which is what I want you doing when you’re doing big gear work. Second one is practical. It’s a little unsafe to be putting out 300 plus watts at 40 RPM going 25 miles an hour in traffic. Going up the hill is slower and it’s safer. So those are my reasoning. But obviously, we’re we have somebody who’s dealing with, I had to deal with us in Toronto, the biggest hill, anywhere close to me was about two and a half minutes. So my solution was, I would actually start about a minute and a half from that hill, because I would be building up speed, but still going slow for a while, because let me tell you starting from almost zero, at 30 RPM, you don’t speed up quickly. It’s a very gradual thing, by the time I was getting some speed, I’d hit the hill. And then that would slow me down and I hit the top of the hill at about five minutes. And that worked. Okay, not as good as being on a hill. But I could get some five minute intervals doing that.

Chris Case  47:21

Other things you can do to slow yourself down are ride a non road bike, basically. Something with more rolling resistance, whether it’s a cross bike, gravel bike, mountain bike. Grant, what do you got?

Grant Hollicky  47:33

I got a bunch of things, I think Trevor brings up a great point of doing an inside versus outside. But if you have to be inside a couple things that you can do to really force yourself to pay attention to technique: put a mirror in front of you. You know, really take a look at what you’re doing with your upper body, what you’re doing with, how your knees are going in and out where your hips are moving, what’s your position looks like on that bike. I think a mirror on the trainer is one of the highly most underutilized technical things that we can do, you can fix a lot of pedal stroke issues just by looking in the mirror and forcing yourself to change.

Chris Case  48:12

You did this a lot recently, and he passed months, didn’t you when you were in training inside? Or mroe for looking at your hair?

Grant Hollicky  48:19

Well, I had to set up a fan and then I put a little Enya on in the background… I do a lot on the trainer, anyway. You know, I have two kids, and how we have our time to go do a set of intervals, it’s hard to get 30 minutes out to where I need to do the intervals, do the intervals, 30 minutes home, I don’t have that kind of time.

Chris Case  48:44

It’s more efficient inside sometimes.

Grant Hollicky  48:45

Right, so I hop on the trainer and I’ll get ont Zwift and I’ll knock them out. So using the mirror is a really really big piece of it. I think another one, that’s a hugely big piece of it, because I don’t think this is necessarily recognized. When we’re on a trainer, you can cheat a little bit you can get on that dominant leg and lean on it because it doesn’t upset the balance of what you on the bikes trainers do in the work. So if you have about power meter that’s measuring right left balance, especially in real time. This is a beautiful thing to take a look at. Don’t compare yourself to the pros. compare yourself to yourself. Where do you break down with your left right balance? Where do you break down at intensities? You know, I happen to be wildly imbalanced. We’ll go with that.

Grant Hollicky  49:28

Yeah, you’re totally imbalanced. I can see that

Grant Hollicky  49:30

Oh man, my osmolarity is way imbalanced. Um, but at low intensities, I’m very unbalanced. At LT or above, I’m very balanced. I’m 50/50. Yeah. So just looking at some of those things…

Chris Case  49:45

I think that’s not uncommon.

Grant Hollicky  49:47

No, that is fairly common because you dial in at an effort and things start to come together. But using the mirror and using your left, right…

Chris Case  49:55

And it’s, using the mirror you see this with weightlifters so they’re making sure their techniques is proper. So you know, put it in front of you, while you’re lifting. See if your knees are collapsing one side or the other, etc.

Grant Hollicky  50:08

Yeah. And I think there’s a lot that can go along with that. One of the other things that we can talk about, just as a as a usefulness is wind. You know, we’re talking about ways to ride a bike that’s going to increase the resistance. You could wear clothing that increases the resistance. I mean, remember, the reason we’re in spandex is aerodynamics. Right.

Chris Case  50:29

Are you suggesting people wear jeans to ride their bikes for their big gear work?

Grant Hollicky  50:33

I was thinking parachute pants

Chris Case  50:34

Parachute pants?

Grant Hollicky  50:35

I was thinking windbreakers, yeah, man, I, like I know, Chris has a couple pairs in his closet. So you could probably get his… Even position on the bike, you know, if you’re climbing, you’re probably going to be on the tops. So it’s okay to be on the tops on the flat, increase the wind resistance increase some of those things find a headwind rod into a headwind. That’s a little inconsistent, but a lot of climbs are a little inconsistent to I think one of the really interesting things that I would think of in this is very anecdotal. But most people, if you start to pay attention to it, I think this shows up very, very intensely on Zwift, are you happier in the big ring? Are you happier in the small ring? If you get on a climb on Zwift, and I’m in the small ring, I feel like I have to smach the pedals to get to the power that I want to get to. But if I’m on a flat, I’m in the big ring, how I’m spinning that I can get exactly where I want to power wise with RPMs. So understanding who you are, and how that balance goes, you know, that that can play into some of what Trevor is asking for and when we’re asking for with these high torque sweet spot efforts. You may find yourself being able to get on Zwift and be on a climb on Zwift and inherently go to that high torque, you just have to then pay attention to your form and your balance.

Grant Hollicky  51:59

In terms of outside. I think one of the things that’s missed here is that we can break these things up very, very well. Four minute efforts, doing multiples of them, is going to create a very similar response to a single 20 minute or 30 minute effort, as long as you keep the rest low. And you’re right back into the effort.

Compression boots and massages effectiveness in recovery

Chris Case  52:25

All right, let’s get to our next question, which comes from Mike Pew, he writes, and this is a multi part question, we’ll take them one at a time, “I’ve listened to a bunch of your podcasts where you mentioned various recovery tools such as compression boots and massage as being very effective. I was wondering if you could go into more detail on the protocols for using these tools? For example, is it better to put the boots on right after a workout? Or wait an hour or two and do it right before bed? Trevor, we’ll start with you here. What do you think?

Trevor Connor  52:57

I think you’re gonna have coaches who are going to swear by all of these: do it right after, do it two hours later, do it before bed… So I did try to look for any research on this, I didn’t really find a specific “Let’s look at the timing,” so this is a bit of a thought experiment. And I’ll give my very, very short answer and then Grant I think, be fun to discuss this.

Trevor Connor  53:24

But when you’re looking at the whole repair cycle, let’s simplify it down to a couple steps. Immediately after exercise, your body is just trying to restock glycogen. So it’s trying to get glucose to the working cells, it’s probably trying to get rid of some end products, probably have some residual vasodilation that’s improving blood flow, that’s immediate. Couple hours later is when you see the inflammatory process start where your immune system goes in tries to get rid of dead or dying or damaged cells, tries to clear everything out, get ready for the proper repair and the proper repair is much later.

Trevor Connor  54:07

My short answer to this, I found a few studies that said that these compression boots can transiently increase PGC1 alpha

Chris Case  54:19

Ooo there it is

Trevor Connor  54:20

We found it! mRNA so basically the expression of it, it can help with reads  – this like bringing the whole episode to get back together – it will actually increase redox related protein expression, so hence all those terms I was using before, so basically it will help with antioxidant defense mechanisms and it will also help promote anti inflammatory responses. So based on this, my thought experiment is probably don’t want to use it right after exercise because you’re actually interfering with that transient improved vasodilation. I could see it actually interfering with the process a bit. It could help during that inflammatory stage, because one thing that does happen is sometimes that inflammatory stages too much, and just does damage. So this could help promote moving from the damaging inflammatory phase through the anti inflammatory stage, which is where a lot of the repair work happens. And then I would say at any point during that whole repair work phase could help. I did find another study that also showed that it’s more frequency than intensity or timing that seems to be beneficial. So there’s a bit of argument of, if you can do it all three times, maybe do it all three times, I would still my gut is probably not right after exercise.

Chris Case  55:43

Right, yeah, I think first, it might interfere with the process you’re talking about and there’s probably more important things you could and should be doing at that point anyway. So give your give your body a chance to go through that process, eat some food, do the other things first, and then hit the boots when, you know, it’s more convenient in some ways.

Trevor Connor  56:07

But Grant, what are your thoughts? And that could very much include why would you use these things? What’s wrong with you?

Grant Hollicky  56:12

So they’ve done studies on boots, we’ve done studies on ice baths, we’ve done studies on massage guns, we’ve done studies and and you did, there’s really not a lot of research that says performance goes up. What you’re really going to play around with here is some of the things that are occurring on the peripheries. So inflammation is a really interesting way to look at this to say, when do we want inflammation in musculature? And when do we want to get rid of inflammation in musculature? you go out and you do a hard workout, you’re going to get inflammation in musculature, and wants to repair itself. And this is how we get better, right? That’s how we get stronger, we tear the muscles up. This is again, oversimplified, but you tear the muscles up, and then you build them back up a little bit stronger. Inflammation is what provides that.

Grant Hollicky  56:57

The other piece of this that I think is really, really interesting, again, this works on the periphery is what does it do to the parasympathetic in the nervous system. One of the biggest battles after hard exercise or after racing, this is where ice baths come into play, that we’ve seen some benefit, it really allows the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, it’s going to help core temperature come down this an ice bath, it’s going to help people sleep better. And then by the combination of things, if you sleep better, you’re going to recover better if your core temperatures down, you’re going to be able to recover better. The boots have some of that same thing. So and I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten in the boots, not immediately after exercise middle of the afternoon, I feel like Norma Tech’s always put me to sleep. It really is this calming idea. And when we traveled and did the cross races out in China, that was something one of the athletes brought him along, and we would just cycle through everybody 20 minutes right before bed and draws everything out, calms the body, calms the mind, it’s parasympathetic nervous system can kick in, we get some repair.

Chris Case  58:04

So there’s potentially here, an intangible benefit to some of these recovery tools that doesn’t show up in the literature, yet, there could be a placebo effect, there could be a lot of these things that doesn’t really matter what the literature says if they make you feel better, if they make you sleep better, those are really good things in the grand context of helping your quote unquote, recovery.

Grant Hollicky  58:30

Absolutely. And I think we’re going to touch on this as we go through it a little bit. I hate foam rollers. I do not like to be in that amount of pain. Yeah, it’s really uncomfortable to me. And it spikes me up, it stresses me out, my heart rate goes up. I don’t enjoy it. Yeah, by contrast, my wife loves the feeling of a foam roller. She loves to lay on it, you can see her grimacing and then the next thing out of her mouth is ” It feels so good.” And I’m looking at it going like you’re nuts.

Chris Case  58:57

Yeah, I right.

Grant Hollicky  58:58

So how it makes you feel is going to drive your recovery without a doubt.

Chris Case  59:04

Yeah. Great. Next question that he asks here is what can someone do to dial in the pressure used with the boots? Manufacturers are a bit vague on this and it’s one of those quote “feel” things but how did the studies land on a certain pressure for their participants? Trevor? Any any evidence here to suggest what is the right pressure for an individual?

Trevor Connor  59:27

I was looking for one study that did, I remember a while ago reading, that did look at appropriate pressure. And I think I can remember the number but I couldn’t find the study. But let’s first, so you know, there are different types of these boots, and it gets quite technical, so you have what’s called external nimona pneumatic, pneumatic compression. Another word I struggle with EPC. Then you have external counterpulsation EECP There’s intermittent pneumatic compression IPC and sequential Paris deltek 0 I’m picking unfriendly words for me today.

Chris Case  1:00:13

Stupid english words that don’t look, like pneumatic, come on. How is that thing spelled.

Trevor Connor  1:00:20

So, look let’s simplify these down the different versions are static, so it puts on compression and then just stays compressed. There the super high compression, which hurts like hell. And then there’s what the normal attacks are, which are lower compression, it’s not high compression and it’s sequential. So we’ll start at your feet and move up. Yes, what I have read in the research is that is where most of these devices are moving towards. The IPC, I think it’s the IPC or no it’s the EECP that can get really painful where they get up to around 300 milligrams mmHg. And that just hurts. So what they were finding was there was really when use these staged forms, like the norm attacks, and use them at lower pressure, you really saw all the same gains you saw with the really high pressure painful ones. And so they tend to be around 100 and 120 mmHg.

Chris Case  1:01:32

One thing that hopefully is obvious to people is that something like Normatex actually come in different sizes. Yes, so you want to get a size that’s appropriate for your body type. And of course, that means if you’re sharing it with other people, it might not be appropriate for them. But that changes, I mean, they constrict at a certain rate for the certain size and if your leg is gigantic, and your wife’s is much smaller, then it’s going to provide a completely different amount of pressure to those muscles in a given scenario. So that’s just something to keep in mind.

Grant Hollicky  1:02:04

You’re talking about somebody in specific.

Chris Case  1:02:07

I have skinny legs, Jess has skinny legs, so

Grant Hollicky  1:02:09

I was talking about my family.

Chris Case  1:02:11

Yeah, I bet.

Grant Hollicky  1:02:12

Anyway, I think one of the things to keep in mind here is is the general purpose of compression. Take a step back, freshman biology in high school, how do we move blood in veins, the contraction in the musculature around it, which squeezes the vein, and they have a valve that doesn’t let any blood go backwards. There’s no active movement of blood in veinal flow. So one of the places where the boots really do provide opportunity and help on a plane, in a car, at a desk, places where you are stuck and you are not going to be able to get a lot of movement to promote veinal flow. So when we talk about pressure though, and Trevor alluded to this a little bit, you don’t need an immense amount of pressure to create veinal flow and just jump flow to keep it really simplified, right? You don’t need a lot. So it isn’t one of those cases where harder is better or if it hurts more, I’m going to get more out of it, be willing to enjoy it. You’re going to get some of that out of it and this is part of where the massage comes into a too gentle, you know, smooth massage can help a lot You don’t need to dig in and tear into stuff. We don’t need to do damage to get benefit.

Grant Hollicky  1:02:21

And you’ll see people put their legs up on walls and gravity can help here and sometimes you can do both with Normatex it puts your legs in the Normatex put your heels up resting on the wall and you’ll get gravity and Normatex working in your benefit and do that

Trevor Connor  1:03:44

combination and watch your significant other solely back out of the room. I wonder what’s going on.

Grant Hollicky  1:03:51

You alluded to this with size some of those if you get them in the wrong size, it actually creates some pinch points. Right, it’s gonna squeeze in the wrong spot which is the opposite of what you want to happen. Yeah, so be aware of that a little bit.

Trevor Connor  1:04:03

But another on the flip side another important thing to point out is a commercially available product like the Normatex is not going to get anywhere close to the sort of pressure you’d see in the medical product so if you’re worried the the highest setting is going to cause some sort of damage, no, it doesn’t get anywhere close to that so if you enjoy that highest setting

Chris Case  1:04:25

Yeah right, like I put my Normatex on as high as they can go and I’m fine with it. My dad similar size to me much older maybe that has something to do with it. Obviously he’s much older than me, he’s my dad. Almost eighty this point. He’s like on a one or two if you go higher than that he’s squirming, he’s making a fuss, being all dramatic.

Chris Case  1:04:50

Final part to the question here. “Massage guns. They’re great. But just turning it on and jamming it at your muscles probably isn’t the right approach? Do certain tips or attachments make more sense than others for recovery after specific types of training sessions? Any resources for finding a good routine?” Trevor, do you have any experience with massage guns?

Trevor Connor  1:05:13

I have one per my neck, which feels really good and that’s about all that I think about it. I had a massage therapist who used to work on me and it was literally out of one of the movies, where I told her my neck and legs were stiff, and then she tried to massage me and went, “Oh, my God,” and then pulls out this giant device that looks like a jackhammer and starts going at me… I walked in, I had an hour appointment. And she said, “What would you like to work on” I went “quads and neck,” she’s like, we got a whole hour, do you want to work on anything else? I’m like quads and neck, she starts working on my neck, she’s like, I’m not sure we’re getting to your quads.

Grant Hollicky  1:05:58

Calls up front cancel all my appointments for today,

Trevor Connor  1:06:00

Pretty much. That is about the extent of my experience. She does wear by some of these ones that have the little balls on the end that can kind of dig – to me, I would, I just think 80% of those products are feel good. And that’s about it. So I’ve never spent a ton of time on them.

Chris Case  1:06:22

But you do use a foam roller quite often?

Trevor Connor  1:06:26

I’m the same as Grant, I don’t enjoy him. I do need to use them to help with my back to help with some issues I have in my legs. So I prefer to stretch, I find that really relaxes me. So before I stretch, I’ll do five, six minutes of foam rolling, that’s about all I want to do. Just hitting those key pressure points, and then I move on. But I know people who will spend 30-40 minutes on a foam roller.

Chris Case  1:06:56

Right, and that’s your wife, and that’s my wife, -I wonder if there’s anything to that like gender or being an athlete who trains a lot, are muscles tighter, more sensitive, prone to pains when we’re trying to compress it in certain ways that others aren’t?

Trevor Connor  1:07:17

So here’s the thing, they have been trying to figure this out in the research, we’ve talked a lot about the research and some of our recovery episodes. The older research was just silly. Like they would they would do things like have somebody do a stretcher team and then do a 40 k time trial, see if it go well, it did improve their performance. So stretching is useless. Well, that’s not the point. Have you ever actually ridden a bike before you design this study? You get a real mixed.

Grant Hollicky  1:07:49

I think a lot of this comes back to what we were talking about before what do you enjoy? And what what allows you to relax what allows you to feel better, I mean, a huge and maybe placebo but who really cares. And one of the huge underestimate, we talked about that we’ve talked about this on the show, and we’ll talk about it again more, you know, we can go into the science we can go into the weeds, we can get down to muscle fibers, we can get into VLamax and VO2 Max, we can get into all these things, but you know, you line up and you don’t think you’re ready, you’re not ready. Right? So how you feel is really, really important. What you enjoy, what you don’t enjoy – I don’t think your recovery should be something that’s painful that you hate. There’s times that you have to do those things, like our pts, our physical therapists are going to tell ya, there’s gonna be times you have to be uncomfortable, right? There’s certain stretches that I have to do for my arches and my calves that I don’t do them all the time. but when I have to do them, they’re uncomfortable. You shouldn’t be doing something that every night you dread. So let’s let’s do a methodology that makes you feel good, makes you feel recovered, makes you feel refreshed, and hopefully helps you sleep, because that’s a really undervalued recovery mechanism.

Trevor Connor  1:07:49

Since they have started identifying what are the potential benefits. One of them is they look at the immunological effects and they have shown that compression, so foam rolling and things like your your Normatex will actually change the immune profile to one that’s more anti inflammatory, that will promote more muscle repair. So there’s benefits there. The other thing is its impact on the whole Gogi tendons. And I always get these things mixed up. But basically, they are sensitive to pressure that will influence the the recovery process. So what they’re finding was, so these all fit under the category of compression, what they find is it actually think it’s your gogi tendons that it activates. And that then promotes the muscle to loosen to relax that can allow the muscle it, like I said, changes the inflammatory profile. So there are actual mechanisms that are happening here. But I would say the research is very early because they’ve only really identified what impacts it’s having. So I think we’ll probably see some exciting research that really says here, here’s what’s most beneficial, here’s how to do it best.

Trevor Connor  1:10:29

And we are sometimes too quick to see placebo effect as a negative idea.

Chris Case  1:10:37

Yeah, I don’t see it as such at all. I think there’s a ton of evidence that the placebo effect is an extremely beneficial thing. In a lot of instances.

Trevor Connor  1:10:46

There have been medical studies where the placebo effect is as powerful as drugs that are prescription own.

Grant Hollicky  1:10:53

Absolutely. I was reading, preparing for this episode I was reading something that Alex Hutchinson had written and he was citing a study where they were trying to figure out the benefits of or the lack of benefits of sauna therapy after workouts right. And, and one of the things they did that was odd, as they said, you people are gonna sit in a massage, or you’re gonna sit in a sauna. And you guys are gonna rub this special recovery oil on your legs. And it was massage oil. It was just that was their placebo that was there that would know that was their control. It wasn’t even their placebo. But of course, the study can’t take into consideration what effect the special massage oil as a placebo effect is having on that study too. And, and that’s, that’s one of the things that we’re hamstrung a little bit with even our scientific research is what the human mind is doing. With those things that we’re looking at.

Chris Case  1:11:50

That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we’d love your feedback. Email us at info@fasttalklabs.com or record a voice memo on your phone and send it our way. We’re looking for more voice memos. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review and find us on social media. We’re @fasttalklabs. thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talker are those of the individual for Grant Hollicky, Coach Trevor Connor, I’m Chris Case, thanks for listening.