Janis Musins, owner of Train2Win Endurance Coaching in Latvia, joins us to discuss how to pace time trial efforts, how to optimize your TT position, interpreting INSCYD data, and the coach-athlete relationship.
Our first question comes from Ernie Blankenship in Independence, Missouri. He writes:
“I have a hard time pacing in time trials. Some people recommend that I have a steady pace throughout the effort. Others are adamant that I need to vary my pace given the terrain and technicality of the course—for example, surging over hills and accelerating out of corners to get back up to top speed as quickly as possible. What is your advice? And does it depend on the level of the rider?”
Our next question comes from Marcus Clifton in Cork, Ireland. He writes:
“Being a bit of an experimenter and a physics geek, I like to work on my own time trial position. I’ve read many things from many people on the balance between aerodynamics and power output. I always like to ask experienced coaches that simple question: When you’re working with an athlete on his or her TT position, how do you address the balance that must be struck between these two characteristics? And will you modify based on the type and length of the course, or do you prefer to find the “best” position and stick with it?”
Our next question comes from Maria Hopkins in California. She writes:
“I am preparing for my first cycling race at the end of the summer. I’ve taken the INSCYD test and it tells me that I have a VO2max of 47.5, a VLamax of 0.55, and a threshold of 2.9 watt/kg. How should these numbers inform my training plan? If I understand correctly, it would be helpful to lower my VLamax given the type of riding I’ll be doing in this race. So, how can one bring down their VLamax without jeopardizing other strengths they may have?”
Our next question comes from Klara Steiner in Stuttgart, Germany. She writes:
“My coach is a stickler for the details. If he schedules a three-hour ride for me and I do a four-hour ride, he is not happy. If I do less than I should, he is not happy. If I do something that I’m satisfied with, he will often ask why I’m satisfied and then find something that makes me realize what I’ve done is not as good as I think. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I personally find it very motivating. However, it took a long time to get to this point where this ‘tough love’ approach felt beneficial. My question is, how do I know that this type of coaching dynamic is the best for me? Is it possible that I would thrive or see even bigger improvements with someone who wasn’t such a stickler?”
Chris Case 00:12
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of endurance performance. Today sitting down with Coach Trevor Connor in the studio, and we have a special coach guest.
Trevor Connor 00:30
Every athlete faces challenges now and again, I know I have.
Chris Case 00:38
Right. Like that guy on the group ride, I’m not sure if I can trust his advice.
Trevor Connor 00:42
Exactly, a perfect example.
Chris Case 01:04
Janis Musins. Janis, Welcome to Fast Talk.
Janis Musins 01:10
Hi, hello. Happy to be here.
Trevor Connor 01:12
Great to have you on the show.
Introduction to Janis Musins
Chris Case 01:13
And I’m going to briefly give a little background story about how Janis happened to come to us at Fast Talk. It was actually an athlete that he coaches that is also a fan of Fast Talk and Fast Talk Labs, Velabor Dockage, he reached out, and really, I had some amazing things to say about Janis in terms of his coaching ability, the way that he has worked with this athlete, and Velabor basically said, “I really want to surprise Janis for his 40th birthday, I want to try to get him on the show.” And I thought well, okay, but who is this guy, Janis? Does he have any? What’s his coaching background? So, I did a little research and here we are, Janis you own Train2Win coaching, It’s a Latvian-based company, but you’re coaching athletes from lots of different countries. And you have an interesting background in that you were once the CEO of a corporation, and then you’ve transitioned into coaching. So, maybe give us just a brief overview of how that came to be, and what skills you bring from being a CEO into the coaching world?
Janis Musins 02:25
Yes, it was, it was a long transition, I would say because I’m a full-time coach, I guess for six years now. It’s actually already hard to count for me, a lot of us coaches end up being in love with what you do, and I hope my ex-employer doesn’t listen to this podcast, because I have never done my work as, how do you say?
Chris Case 02:55
I think you’re trying to say you put more of your heart and soul into this than you did with your former employer? Is that what you’re trying to get at?
CEO Turned Coach
Janis Musins 03:02
Oh, yeah, for sure. Like I was, I was never that concerned about the result. Although, I had a really key position in the company, and yeah, here I am, I’m I kind of I am kind of never on my job, but kind of always in a job. So yeah, but actually, I think it helped me a lot, because especially the beginning, because I was learning a lot, because this is what you used to do basically, when, when, when you’re the head of the company, because you should know a lot of things and search for new ways how to improve your workability and so on, and yeah, it kind of the analytics part got me hooked because basically started the power meter became available. So, that was a big thing to me, and I really enjoyed the planning part because it is really, I would say really, really similar to how it’s done in a business world, because you always have to plan ahead and you should always have kind of multiple strategies, like your plan A, B, and C, and you always look at your KPIs, you always manage people, or manage kind of events or what’s happening with all that. So yeah, it’s what kind of propelled me forward ever since and yeah, I’m really curious about where about basically about human excellence then, and I think for all of us coaches, I can speak that one thing that motivates us, when your athlete is succeeding and achieving his goal, be like at National Championships, World Championships, OR just doing his first century. This is what kind of gives me a reward of doing that and to be honest in this corporate structure, you didn’t feel that you didn’t feel the sense of appreciation of your work. Whereas being an endurance coach, seeing people succeed, is really what made me in the love of being a good coach, and it happened really, really, I would say naturally, because people were somehow finding out what I’m doing, I haven’t started this as a business project that just like happen one day. So yeah, that’s that.
Chris Case 05:26
It’s great. I mean, it’s you can tell, it sounds like you’ve found your passion your home and this is you’ve brought a lot of great skill sets over from the former world that you lived in, and now you’ve combined those skills with a passion. So, it’s great to hear that.
Trevor Connor 05:45
I am right there with you, there’s no better feeling than seeing an athlete who has been working for a year or longer for a particular goal, they question whether they can achieve it, and when they accomplish it, whether it’s winning Nationals, Worlds, or just finishing a century, that sense of accomplishment that they have, there’s no better feeling as a coach than to see that.
Janis Musins 06:09
Yeah, for sure.
Chris Case 06:10
We want to get to the listener questions quickly, but that’s kind of, you know, the sense that I got when Velabor, one of your athletes wrote in and said, “I really want to get Janis on the show, I think he’d be great for the show.” He was very passionately describing why you were such a good coach, so thank you valuable for reaching out and getting Janis on the program.
Janis Musins 06:12
By the way, it was a total surprise for me, because he actually called on my wife’s phone on my birthday, and I never celebrate my birthdays basically ever, and this was like a absolute and total surprise, because she gave me a phone, and I’d see like he was facetiming her. I see his face and I’m a longtime listener, by the way of your podcast as well, because I’ve sent him your podcast as an explanation to I can’t remember actually what we’re discussing about, but I’ve sent him the episode, and then it kind of gets started. He was starting to listen to your podcast, and then the next thing I know that he tells me that, yeah, I have to be on the podcast. It was by far the best, best birthday present for my 40th birthday.
Chris Case 07:23
Excellent. I love it. Yeah, that’s great.
Trevor Connor 07:25
We are quite honored and very happy to have you here. I will say, so we put up a Word document with the questions and you wrote in your answers. I read through your answers last night and just went, “Wow, I don’t think I even need to be there tomorrow.” Your answers are fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to this conversation with you.
Chris Case 07:45
Let’s get into our first question here. This one has to do with something I know that you love to think about, which is time trialing, and time trial pacing specifically, this question comes from Ernie Blankenship, he’s in Independence, Missouri, in the US, he writes, “I have a hard time pacing in time trials, some people recommend that I have a steady pace throughout the effort. Others are adamant that I need to vary my pace, given the terrain and technicality of the course. For example, surging over hills, accelerating out of corners to get back up to top speed as quickly as possible. What is your advice? And does it depend on the level of the rider.” Janis? I’ll turn it over to you to start, what do you think?
Pacing in Time Trials
Janis Musins 08:29
People who are saying that he has to kind of approach it a bit differently or, depending on course, and the variety of power outputs are the correct way. A lot of people do think that that time trials are ridden at just one power output, and actually, there are almost, I would say I’ve come across only a few of them, where it’s actually it’s very flat like pancake flat, and you have only just the turnaround point and basically no wind, but most of the time trials are actually ridden not like one constant power. So, you basically have to adapt your strategy to first of all the course, the weather forecasts, of course, because if you’re less aerodynamic, you should always kind of try to gain more time when you have a headwind if you are a really good climber and your course happens to have a climb in it, then most probably your you should be concentrating on that climb, rather than doing the climb, at the constant power output, you should actually go over your threshold and try to kind of recover on the downhill. Or if you have really technical course, and you happen to be a really technical rather then it may help you a lot, and you should like to concentrate on this part of the course. So yeah, I think there is no right way how to ride a time trial, there is a certain way and pacing strategy that you need to adapt to a course. And to be honest, I don’t think that it would be dependent on riders ability, because the pros do the same, and the amateurs, if they do want to race well, they pretty much should adopt the kind of the same strategy, the more you know about the course, and the more you know about yourself as a rider, your abilities, and your strength and weaknesses, then it’s pretty much what you need to take into account, thinking about the pacing.
Chris Case 10:39
Question that comes to mind for me, for those that are maybe less familiar with the discipline, and they hear you say, you sometimes you know, you have that climber’s ability, so you focus on the climb in a given course, and you want to go above threshold, how do you gauge how much above threshold you can go? Is there a simple answer to that?
Gaging Threshold in Time Trials
Janis Musins 11:03
There’s no simple answer to that. What I would say is this thing is most probably the correct answer, and okay, maybe if you have looked at your power duration curve or your abilities, or done some testing, some lab testing, you may find an exact number, to target. But actually, I would say it’s, it’s, in my opinion, it’s better than done just by testing in kind of real-life scenario. But usually, nobody who rides time trials in a decent way, or on a decent level, there are not a sprinter, so you must probably should look at the kind of durations or excuse me, percentages, let’s say 10, or maybe 15%, above your threshold. But again, it depends if you have a really short climb, and you just need to carry over the speed, it might be a lot more than then, like 20% above your threshold.
Trevor Connor 12:11
Thing I’ll add to that is yeah, you have to remember, time trialing, I like to say it’s a sport of subtlety. So yes, you don’t want to pretend you’re sitting on a trainer in ERG mode and just try to hold one watch. Absolutely, there are times to push it a little bit, times to back off a little bit. But let’s say your threshold is 300 watts, you don’t want to be hitting 600-700 watts at any point on that race, and we’re talking about you hit a hill and you’d bring the pace up a bit, you’re talking 330, maybe 340 watts, don’t try to hit that hill at 500 watts, you’re gonna pay that price.
Chris Case 12:48
Yeah, it seems like there’s just a narrower power band within which you want to stay, you don’t want to have spikes well outside of that power range. You don’t really want to dip too low, of course, there might be some coasting at times. What about the this this is something that I think people struggle with too, when it gets to pacing is the start in a time trial, you know, some people have different strategies. Sprint like heck to get up to that speed that they want to then maintain, or let’s not going crazy and go into the red at the start and get on the back foot. So, Janis, do you have any particular thoughts on the start of a time trial?
Starting a Time Trial
Janis Musins 13:37
Oh sure, I can actually give you one example of one of my athletes his FTP was at the time about 360 watts, and he was like decent on trialist, and he starts his one time trial and he finishes it and sends me a message afterward, and says everything was really, really bad like I’ve suffered like hell when I finished then, and I almost instantly looked at his power file, and I see like for first three or four minutes he was doing like 420 or something. So I called him back and said basically your ego was bigger than your head.
Chris Case 14:22
Right, right. Yeah.
Janis Musins 14:24
So yeah, the starts are actually I think the worst because you have this adrenaline rush and you want to do better than or you actually at that point you think you can do better. So, I usually tell that you should always like keep a close eye on your power at least first three to four minutes, then when you settle in it’s really easy to find your rhythm, but if you kind of overcook it, as soon as you start well basically you are finishing as this athlete I mentioned. So yeah, the starts and especially, by the way, the starts, and the tailwind are the worst because then you have this false sense of speed that you are capable to sustain.
Trevor Connor 15:08
I wish I could remember who originated this expression, but there’s I’ve heard this a few times, there are three rules to time trialing, start out easy, start out easy, start out easy.
Chris Case 15:21
Trevor, do you want to talk about physiologically why you don’t want to go too deep or into the red or whatever terminology you want to use?
Trevor Connor 15:30
Well, time trialing is all about that, trying to sit at that highest sustainable power. So, there are moments where you go a little above, there are moments where you’re below but overall, it’s the highest level that you can sustain without blowing up for whatever the distance is. If you start going way over your range, you’re going to have acid buildup, you’re basically going to start tapping into that anaerobic capacity, which has a limit to it, and you’re going to pay for that later in the race because there isn’t really an opportunity to back down and recover. It’s not like a road race where you can attack and then if the field catches you hop in, sit there at 150 watts, 200 watts for a little bit, let your legs recover for your next attack. If you do that, and the muscles start shutting down in a time trial, you’re stuck.
Chris Case 16:29
I think the word is you’re very exposed out there by yourself, you can’t hide from it. If you’ve gone out too hard, you’ve exposed yourself and there can be no coming back from it sometimes.
Trevor Connor 16:42
So, one other thing I’m gonna add because you brought up the, you know, push the hills a little bit harder, take the descents a little bit easier, there actually is some physics behind this. So, people will talk about as speed increases the amount of power required, it’s a logarithmic relationship. So, actually there is a formula for the power that’s required an aerodynamics formula, if you look at that formula, people say velocity is cubic. So basically, the way to think of it is to go from, it takes three times as much power to go from 31 to 32 kilometers as it takes to go from 30 to 31. It’s actually not quite true, it’s actually relative velocity squared times absolute velocity. So, this factors in the wind, so relative velocity, if you’re traveling at 30 kilometers an hour, but you have a 10 kilometer an hour tailwind, then your relative velocity is 22 kilometers an hour. Your absolute velocity is 32.
Chris Case 17:49
This takes me back to your high school algebra problems.
Trevor Connor 17:52
Chris Case 17:53
Yeah, no, no, that’s no fun.
Trevor Connor 17:54
So the point being, when you are going at those really high speeds, so if you’re on a slight downhill, and you’re going 55 kilometers an hour, to get a little extra speed actually takes a huge amount of power.
Chris Case 18:07
Trevor Connor 18:08
Where if you’re going up a hill, and you’re going much slower, it actually takes the increase in power required to get bigger gains is far, far less. So, you want to take advantage of those moments, you don’t want to be sitting there killing yourself when you’re already going 60 kilometers an hour, just to get those couple extra seconds.
Chris Case 18:29
Right. Exactly. That’s a good point, very good. Let’s move on to our next question to actually pertains to time trial, as well, but more in the realm of the time trial position. This question comes from Marcus Clifton, in Cork, Ireland, he writes, “being a bit of an experimenter and a physics geek, I like to work on my own time trial position. I’ve read many things for many people on the balance between aerodynamics and power output. I always like to ask experienced coaches that simple question, when you’re working with an athlete on his or her TT position, how do you address the balance that must be struck between these two characteristics? And will you modify based on the type and length of the cost course? Or do you prefer to find the quote-unquote best position and stick with it?” Janis, what are your thoughts here?
Time Trial Position
Janis Musins 19:25
Actually, finding the best position is already really, really hard. So, tinkering around that is sometimes useful, but to be honest, I think that you should always try to at least this is what I do with my athletes, I always try to at least keep their power output about the same or kind of try to reach the best possible power, and then go lower with the aerodynamics, meaning like, as long as you are able to push your watts, or at least close to your, your maximum watts, or let’s say, your threshold watts, then you need to look at the power because usually, in some cases, of course, when you have somebody who’s, let’s say, with a really, really high threshold with 400, something plus watts, then trade-off of 10 to 15 watts for increase, or decrease in your, your dynamic resistance is useful, because he or she will gain an extra speed. But if you’re, if your threshold is 200 watts, then maybe those 10 to 15 watts are really, really key in order to keep your speed up. So yeah, it’s kind of a balancing act, almost always. And of course, it depends on the distance. One is racing, but I would not change, like if I set up if I have an athlete who’s racing a relatively short time trials, let’s say 20, or 40k, time trial, or even shorter than that, let’s say, probably, he’s racing at the more aggressive position, most probably, that he can sustain only for that amount of time. Whereas if there’s somebody who is doing a full Ironman distance, and has to run after that was probably, you’ll lean more towards the position being more comfortable and sustainable with less kind of power or, or strength required because you actually need to run after that. But I wouldn’t change the position of somebody who is who is let’s say, a triathlete racing full Ironman distance for those shorter events because you need to train in order to be efficient at that position you need to spend considerable time training in that position. Because I think everyone who has ever raced on a time trial bike, knows that this is not that you are good instantly. Some people are but a lot of people are not that well-adapted, and not adapted fast to this position. So yeah, finding this position is already a kind of a key, and then you can try to adjust it in minor details, I would say, overhaul of position is never a good thing in my opinion.
Trevor Connor 22:44
I’ve certainly had cases where athletes don’t own a time trial bike, they’re going to a time trial, or they’re going to a stage race or the time trial, get their hands on a TT bike that a couple of days before the race and go, this is gonna make me faster, in my head, It’s not necessarily.
Chris Case 23:00
Trevor Connor 23:00
You need to put that time in on the bike, and you can’t expect if you haven’t been putting the time and to hop on a TT bike and, and suddenly be faster.
Chris Case 23:09
Right, right. Not the greatest comparison, I wouldn’t say but in my very limited experience, this kind of illustrates your point, Trevor, you know, I knew what my threshold power was on a road bike going up a climb, and then when we did testing as we were preparing me for the Hour Record, I honed in on what my threshold was in the TT position. And it was a good, probably 50 watts lower, you know, which is percentage-wise, a very substantial number, and I just didn’t have the time to get used to that position. There’s a lot to it, there are years of work, trying to get used to that position and be able to put out the same amount of power. I don’t know that everybody ever gets there, there are very few people in the world that probably put out more power in the time trial position than they do on a road bike, there are some and they are probably pros, and they probably grew up racing, the pursuit on the track or something like that. But yeah, it’s a long process and you cannot expect to get on a TT bike, get into that relatively aerodynamic position and maintain power without some work on the bike and off the bike, I would say.
Trevor Connor 24:35
Janis, I really like your philosophy on this. Continue with what Chris is saying, that it’s one thing to hop into a wind tunnel and for five minutes be in a position and go well this is the most aerodynamic you can be. The question is when you’re out on the road, can you sustain that? Can you put out the power in that position? I love that you say, you have to look at, can I hold this? And then be willing to put the work into getting comfortable and being able to ride in that position. And a great example I can think of is Svein Tuft, the year he got second at the World Championships, and should have won it, he had a bike mechanical, and they had to switch them onto a road bike, so we finished the race on a road bike. Even though he was a great time trialist, leading up to that event, he was putting in 1200 kilometers a month on his time trial bike.
Chris Case 25:32
That’s a lot, a lot of time.
Chris Case 25:35
So Janis, to turn it back to you for second, dramatic changes to the position are not something that you’re keen to do? Because it does take a lot of time and you change one thing and it changes another that you know, there’s a lot of variables there. Are there other things that you would? And I know this might be a big topic unto itself, but are there other things that you would turn to if somebody is trying to improve at the time trial besides position? Would you look to other things first? And what would those be?
High Tire Pressures
Janis Musins 26:12
Oh, for sure, they’re, I wouldn’t say they’re there. Nowadays, I would say there’s quite a lot of low-hanging fruit you can go for. First of all, it’s okay, if we’re not talking about it, like directly about the position is like the way you actually can hold your head which is of course part of the position then the helmet comes into the play meaning how actually compact I don’t know whether it’s the right word I’m trying to define but yeah, how really narrow and compact you can get in your front end then there is I think, which is the most inexpensive thing you can actually change to be faster and the bike is your tires, and adjust your tire pressure accordingly. Because still there a lot of actually, to be honest, a lot of my athletes I know from what they are doing when they’re speaking to me they are racing at really high tire pressures which is not fast then and almost I think everybody knows that everybody knows that?
Chris Case 27:32
It takes a lot of reminding though because it’s just one of those things that’s been so ingrained in people for so long, I believe that they just don’t get it that dropping pressure a little bit not a lot you’re not running 20 psi in your time trial tires, but some and we did an entire episode on tire pressure if you want to nerd out on that.
Trevor Connor 27:55
I remember in the in the 90s when time trialists are showing up with 19c-21c tires, and since they were Tubulars, they were pumping them up to 150-160 psi.
Chris Case 28:06
Right. Exactly yeah, don’t need to do that anymore.
Tricks That Will Make You Faster
Janis Musins 28:11
No, no so yeah, those are a lot of kind of yeah, this low hanging fruit that you can address. So yeah, your tires, your chain which is pretty easy to wax nowadays, actually your skin suit which is a really important element of you being fast how it fits you, and usually they are a bit too, like a bit too large for rider, that’s at least what I see. So yeah, there are those things that actually will make you faster and won’t necessarily change your position that dramatically.
Chris Case 28:51
All right, great. Let’s take our next question. It comes from Maria Hopkins, she’s out in California. She writes, “I’m preparing for my first cycling race at the end of the summer, I’ve taken the INSCYD test, and it tells me that I have a VO2max of 47.5, a VLA max of .55, and a threshold of 2.9 watts per kilo. How should these numbers inform my training plan? If I understand correctly, it would be helpful to lower my VLA Max, given the type of riding I’ll be doing in this race. So, how can one bring down their VLA max without jeopardizing their strength they may have.” Janis, I know that you are an experienced INSCYD tester, you’ve done this with many athletes in the past. Do you have some words of wisdom here for Maria who is new to the sport, and is just sort of ramping up her training and has this baseline of data now?
INSCYD Testing and Preparing for Events
Janis Musins 29:53
If Maria is new to the sport, I presume that she is not training that much at least not currently. I think one of the things I’ve seen in my athletes as well is like working on your fat max and actually going a bit longer. That will most certainly decrease the VLA and add to the VO2max as well. It depends on the race, of course, because if you need a lot of this top-end or high-end power, if it’s like a criterium race or something like that, then it’s probably wise to think too or think of keeping the VLA at the same level basically, then again, it’s really a hard task, I would say, first, she would go for the training volume, introduce some torque work, which usually helps, helps quite a bit. Maybe at some point, some dietary manipulations like low carb or depleted rides, but if she’s new to the sport, I wouldn’t say this is this wouldn’t be the first thing I would try to detach. So, ramping up the training hours with some torque work, and in order to keep the VLA, basically, anything to do and I would say she’s a woman and, for females that works really well. The diamond under the heavy loads is what facilitates keeping the VLA where it is, and if it normally decreases, just by increasing the amount of training you do, I would say I would be good with that because then you will gain more than you actually lose, because as with anything in training, it’s kind of a balancing act you need to trade one thing for some other, strategy she can she can adapt at least that next few months or so.
Chris Case 32:02
In terms of the torque work that you speak of, when you prescribe that for an athlete do you tell them go out and ride in a certain gear, and try to stay in that one gear all day long as if their bike was setup as a single speed bike? Or do you have them do hill repeats at low cadence? What are the types of low cadence high torque work that you like to prescribe?
Janis Musins 32:31
I usually do this in terms of cadence, so I’ve not about bothered what gearing they are, although I usually ride 5311 which, which I’m just used to doing. Yeah, but it’s always the cadence target, because basically I’d say usually 50-60 RPM is what works the best, and this is low enough to actually to produce the necessary torque usually, and it’s not high enough to be in a normal range of cadence, because if somebody is starting out most probably her normal cadence is about 80 RPM, that’s what usually happens with somebody who’s just starting out they’re not instantly at like 95 or 100 RPMs. So, it is below their kind of normal cadence. And yeah, hill repeats are I would say the best or if you don’t have any hills, then headwind works well as well, but this is a kind of an interval training. So, I always, I’ve never prescribed anybody to ride the whole day had one gear, I’m not even sure if that would be really useful, that would be painful for sure, and not sure about how it would translate into training gains. But yeah, hill repeats three minutes on one minute off or something like that, because if she is new to the sport, we need to take into account her ability of joint taking on this, this pressure, therefore not really long, you need to accumulate a time in this this low cadence or would the scoreboard but not in one go, like not 40 minutes at low cadence, at least not at the beginning.
Trevor Connor 34:29
Yeah, and to continue with that point, this is something to be careful about watch for any sort of knee pains. When I give this work to my athletes, I always tell them if you feel knee pain, stop it, and then let’s discuss. Certainly, you want to make sure you’ve been fit on the bike, you want to make sure you’re in a position where you can handle this.
Chris Case 34:48
I took us a little off track there with the question about torque. Trevor, getting back to the original question, any thoughts there on these numbers and how this person, Maria, would want to train?
Trevor Connor 35:02
We talked about the seesaw effect between VLA Max and VO2 max, where if you’re improving one, you tend to lose the other. Well, I would say that seesaw effect is true with everybody, it’s most true when you’re at a very high level. So, when you’re talking about a pro cyclist or a high-level cyclist, they do need to make that choice. I think if you’re very new to cycling, you can improve everything because you’re starting at at a lower level. So, if you’re brand new to cycling, I wouldn’t be worrying too much about the, should be focusing more on the VO2 Max? Should I be focusing more on the VLA max at the cost of the other? You do have that opportunity to say no, I can kind of improve all this.
Chris Case 35:49
And that brings up a bigger question in my mind, and I’ll ask it on Maria’s behalf, which is, I don’t know how new she is to the sport, but I’m going to assume she’s quite new if she hasn’t ever done a race, should she be focusing on numbers at all? Or should she really just the number that Janis was most concerned about it seemed was volume, she just needs to ride more to get fitter, and these are great baseline numbers. Would you recommend she just kind of ignore them? Janis?
Focusing on the Fat Max as a Beginner
Janis Musins 36:23
I wouldn’t say that you should ignore numbers, because what I see in most of the cases, actually, the amateurs are the ones who are just starting out, they’re just going out, like just too hard, basically. So, in order not to kill themselves, or like for Maria to progress gradually and not harm herself, I would say she just need to remember this one number, which is most probably her fat max, and that’s basically it. Although, it is somewhat arbitrary because I think as Trevor said earlier, after a while will change and she will get better, then most probably she should look at numbers more closely. But yeah, this one kind of zone is, in my opinion important, but yeah, not like looking at your Garmin and watching the numbers, not go above your fat max zone. That’s usually not what helps somebody to ride longer and enjoy cycling more.
Trevor Connor 37:37
What I really like about what you’re saying is I agree with you that when you are new to cycling, training doesn’t need to be overly complex. I do get concerned sometimes when I see coaches that feel they have to give brand new cyclists the sort of sophisticated plan, you have to give somebody who’s got 10 years of experience in his race at the pro level, that’s not the case at all. When you’re new to cycling, as you said, you just want to make sure you don’t kill yourself because you’re going hard every single day, you want some intelligence to it, but it doesn’t need to be that sophisticated.
Chris Case 38:13
Alright, our next question. This one comes from Clara Steiner, she’s in Stuttgart, Germany, and she writes, “my coach is a stickler for the details. If he schedules a three-hour ride for me and I do a four-hour ride, he is not happy. If I do less than he is not happy. If I do something that I’m satisfied with, he will often ask why I’m satisfied, and then find something that makes me realize what I’ve done is not as good as I think. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I personally find it very motivating. However, it took a long time to get to this point where this quote, tough-love approach felt beneficial.” So, Clara’s question is, “how do I know that this type of coaching dynamic is the best for me? Is it possible that I would thrive or see even bigger improvements with someone who wasn’t such a stickler?” Janis, I’ll turn this over to you. I will note that when Velabor originally reached out to me, I think this is a great question for you because he kind of said that you were a bit of a stickler in a good way, and he liked it. So, is that true? And how would you answer Clara’s question here?
Janis Musins 39:30
That’s really true. I’m not giving out my kudos in Strava just for any random session.
Chris Case 39:38
Janis Musins 39:39
That’s yeah. So, if I actually do that, then there’s something I consider to be really good or useful about the ride. But like at answering Clara’s question, I think if she is still with the coach then it kind of works, tough love. If you’re a good coach, most probably you are good psychologists as well, and this is my own philosophy as well. If you want to be really good at this coaching game, you need to be a two in one person kind, and psychologist as well, you need to know your athlete, and what drives him or her forward. And for sure, sometimes you need this tough love, and you need to give somebody a really hard talk about something that they do, and I think Clara’s is doing a good thing that he or she is asking Clara why her thoughts are the way they are. Because sometimes athletes if especially if they don’t know the idea behind the session, they kind of tend to think, “Okay, I need to do four hours, four hours on the bike,” whereas you as a coach, say, “you need to do four easy hours on a bike.” And if you go hammer out those four hours, of course, your coach won’t be happy. So, communication and understanding the reason why behind that I think is really a key, and I have always said and truly believe that I have my athlete’s interest. So, I always act as a person who is in direct interest of this person getting better than then she was, or he was before that. If it takes a somewhat tougher approach, then it’s you need to do, because I’m, as I said, like I’ve done the same basically, I’ve asked those questions to my athletes, and I said like, like you’re wrong, because this is not what it’s intended to do. I mean, the training session, it’s hard to judge whether somebody would be better or not, but yeah, you kind of need to be a keeper of the cogs, so to say and see that your athlete actually is following the plan, because people are inherently lazy. It’s just the way human nature is, and part of the coach is being a mentor, and kind of police officer who keeps an eye on your training, big shadow, being somewhat green. I think that Clara is fine, has found a good match, whether it could be better, who knows? As long as she’s training and progressing, I would say it works, because coaching is partially a psychological game as well. I mean, you need to have this match with other person, the better match you have, the more or the better results, you will you’ll end up with.
Chris Case 39:46
Trevor, are you a fan of tough love? What’s your coaching personality? What’s your, you know, what’s the persona you bring to? And does it change athlete to athlete?
Trevor Connor 43:10
You brought up the point about as a coach or almost a psychologist.
Chris Case 43:16
I’ve heard that many times before. It is very true.
Trevor Connor 43:17
And what I would say is there is no one approach that works for every athlete. Part of what I have found I have to do whenever I start working with a new athlete is figure out that athlete, what resonates for them, and what they need. And so, example I always think back to is we used to be in a shared office space, and there was a gentleman in that space named Richard, who listened to me talk to one of my athletes one afternoon. When I hung up the phone, he went, “Wow, that was harsh.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He started describing like, you were being pretty hard on that athlete. I just went, “That’s what he needs, that motivates him.” But I have other athletes that I would never be negative with because it would completely deflate them.
Chris Case 43:20
Trevor Connor 43:36
So, I think with each athlete, you really need to figure out what motivates them, what keeps them going, and give them what they need. But also quote Neil Henderson, we had him in here on the show and we were off-mic, we had just finished recording he was talking about his athlete, It’s like, “Wow, Neil, that’s hard,” and he goes, “They don’t pay me to be their friend.”
Chris Case 44:33
Yes. Not to throw Neil under the bus or anything but I feel like he probably trends more in the tough love kind of works for everybody, and if that’s not working for the athlete, that’s okay, because that’s the way he does things and if they’re not going to thrive under that they should find a different coach, right?
Trevor Connor 44:52
Agreed. You know, now reading this, it’s a one-paragraph question here. So, I certainly don’t know this athlete but from the little bit I’m reading, it sounds like she needs that tough love, but also probably needs this coach to every once in a while be encouraged, it sounds like he’s always looking for something to say, you didn’t do this well enough, just on the little bit I read I think what this athlete, I would give some of that. Some of that, well, no, you need to step this up, you could do this better, but it sounds like she also needs those moments of celebrating.
Chris Case 45:29
Yeah, the occasional reward.
Trevor Connor 45:31
Chris Case 45:31
Yeah. Yeah. Um, the question for both of you, I think, have you ever been asked by an athlete this question, do you think I should see a different coach? Do you think I would be better served by a different coach with a different philosophy or methodology? Has anybody ever asked you that? And if so, how did you respond?
Janis Musins 45:54
Yes, I have had those questions before, and fortunately, not a lot of them. Because what I learned through my experience is actually in this first conversation with a potential athlete. I kind of say upfront that, yeah, as Trevor said, actually quoting Neil Henderson, you are not paying me to be your friend, you’re paying me to achieve some goal or achieve a result. If at that point, the athlete is kind of moving on with me, like a first test I give them. But yes, I have had those questions even after a while and honestly have advised them to see another coach, I agree, because usually when this question comes up, you either feel that the chemistry is not there, because then I know for myself, I really do enjoy work with people I’m working, that’s why I don’t have a, like intensely changing roster of athletes, they pretty much stay the same quite long with me, and I enjoy that, and I cherish that. But then again, if somebody comes once in a while and sees that my work is not right for them, I’m more than happy actually to advise them to seek another type of coach because as I said like I’m no cheerleader as well, and if somebody sees this as a key characteristic in his or her coach, I won’t be the one who is providing that for this athlete. I’m much better at those other things, and maybe some tough love than just yeah. So yeah, I think as I said like you are always should represent an athlete’s interest, so if there is a necessity to change a coach, then it’s what somebody needs to do, I think.
Chris Case 47:59
Trevor Connor 48:00
Also, add to this, I sense this in you, I certainly know this with Neil, there’s nothing wrong with tough love, but it needs always come with respect. And where I get concerned about coaches is when I hear about coaches that aren’t showing respect to their athletes.
Chris Case 48:17
Just being critical all the time.
Trevor Connor 48:19
So, when I hear about coaches that are always yelling and insulting.
Chris Case 48:24
Trevor Connor 48:24
That’s different. You can be tough on an athlete, you can drive an athlete, but you should always respect the athlete, and I will say, as a coach, if you don’t respect your athlete, then you should be telling them you need to find another coach.
Chris Case 48:39
Janis Musins 48:41
Chris Case 48:43
This brings up another question in my mind, and honestly, this is one that I really have, have wanted to ask throughout the program, because I know that Janis in particular, you’ve coached athletes from a lot of different countries, Trevor, you’ve coached athletes, at least in North America, but from very distinct regions. I’m curious to know to dive into that a little bit. Do you see trends or habits, good or bad from the different athletes you work with from a given place? And if so, how do you work with that? How do you respond to that? And I’ll give an example, you know, and speaking in general terms, of course, all the athletes that you coach Janis from a given country, or do you see that they all make the same mistakes, or do you see that they all have a great philosophy about one thing, but maybe they’re kind of harboring some inherent affinity for really bad habits or some old school philosophies or some myths that they have to hang on to for some reason? Just generally, how does culture influence endurance training principles in your experience?
Culture and Endurance Training Principles
Janis Musins 50:09
I need to be very cautious not to make any enemies.
Chris Case 50:11
Yeah, no, I know we’re talking in generalizations here, but I’m just curious if you see any indication of that?
Chris Case 50:20
Oh, yes, for sure. From culture to culture or from country to country actually, you can see those distinctive a perception of things or inabilities of doing certain things. For example, I won’t name the nation, but one of the countries in the Nordic Region, they are they, they are willing to suffer, and don’t get me wrong, I mean, the some part of the training is or comes through suffering, riding a lot of zone four or doing a time trial shouldn’t be easy, if you want the result it shouldn’t be easy, and this is what kind of the some of some of them are really kind of soft and you need to find the approach and kind of tailor your training I wouldn’t say philosophy maybe but actually what you are prescribing them so for example, if I would give somebody who is already somewhat accomplished athlete, let’s say I don’t know two by ten minutes at the upper zone for a workout, I couldn’t do that for this nation. For sure, like the most probably like nine out of ten people would fail, and will ask me like question, why do I need to do that? There are some other ways around that then maybe this and that would work, so kind of they are avoiding that. Some of the other nations especially this one big nation, we call it our big neighbor. You can try to guess who they are.
Chris Case 52:06
I can guess, yeah.
Janis Musins 52:08
And they, actually those athletes they need this tough love because that is how they’ve been brought up and this is what kind of comes with them.
Chris Case 52:21
They expect it, right? To some degree?
Janis Musins 52:24
That is your duty as a coach and getting back to this respect thing by yelling on those athletes and maybe not saying really nice things sometimes, they do not consider this as being on unrespectful to them. This is you showing your kind of turf and saying like, listen, you need to harden the F up and do this because it’s better for you. So yes, there are those certain distinctive things. Some athletes I have coached over on the other side of the globe, they are really, how would I politely say that? They are not saying what they are thinking, so they kind of mask those feelings and you need to read between the lines in order to understand what they are actually saying to you.
Chris Case 53:25
You’re talking about Canadian’s aren’t you?
Janis Musins 53:29
No, to be honest, I have never coached an athlete from Canada. So no, that’s not Canadian, but you know better than I.
Chris Case 53:38
I’ve never coach Trevor but I sit across from him at a podcast in a studio all the time, and I have to read between the lines.
Trevor Connor 53:47
Oh, look, I will tell you in British Columbia when I was training up there, it was definitely tough love. Like we would have a 9 am ride, if you showed up at 9:01 you would have to catch the ride.
Chris Case 54:03
Yeah, right discipline.
Trevor Connor 54:05
If you got a flat tire group didn’t stop for you, you had to chase back on like it was there was no given an edge, and I love that. That actually is really motivating for me that pushing you’re getting the angry that sort of stuff, and I’ve periodically talked to people like, “Stop being so tough on yourself, Trevor,” like no, leave me alone. This works for me. I need that. So I fully get it, you’re talking about that big country next to you that we won’t name, I’m actually very much like them and that’s something I got in Canada for sure.
Janis Musins 54:44
Well, and you are much more polite than them.
Chris Case 54:48
We don’t want to disparage an entire nation, but yeah, you’re a fan of Rocky Films to which I don’t know, there might be some relationship between, just a slight relationship there, we won’t go any farther with that.
Trevor Connor 55:07
So, my second bedroom is a workout room and I have on the wall, one of my all-time favorite quotes is from Rocky Balboa, and it starts with, “let me tell you something you already know, life ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a mean and nasty place that will knock you to your knees and keep you there, if you let it.”
Chris Case 55:25
There you go.
Trevor Connor 55:26
There’s my philosophy.
Chris Case 55:27
Philosophy when it comes to you. Well, you know, I don’t know what the benefit is of discussing it, I just thought it was very interesting to understand a little bit more about how people bring a little bit to their own training, and how coaches can effectively work with that. It’s nice to hear that, you say that the things we’ve discussed on the program many times before, particularly the aspect of coaching being a psychologist, you know, part of me gets a little anxious hearing that. I know it’s so true, the thing that makes me anxious is the fact that most coaches are not actually psychologists. So, they’re basing a lot of what they say on things they know through experience, sometimes gut feeling, sometimes they’re probably guessing, and that’s where I get a little worried that sometimes you could, you might say the wrong thing because you just don’t know. Not that a trained psychologist always knows either, this stuff is complex. So does take a lot of experience, building rapport, understanding, trying to understand through a lot of communication what a given athlete needs, and modifying accordingly. So well, those are the questions for today. Janis, I must say it’s been a real pleasure to have you on the show again, Velabor Dockage out there if you’re listening, thank you very much for bringing Janis to our attention. Train2Win coaching is based in Latvia, Janis you’re right now at a training camp in Spain, thank you for making the time and for joining us on Fast Talk.
Janis Musins 57:15
Yeah, it was my pleasure.
Trevor Connor 57:17
It was a real joy having you and your answers were fantastic. So really appreciate your taking this time.
Chris Case 57:26
That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast and be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback, join the conversation at forums.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 Janis Musins, Trevor Connor, I’m Chris Case. Thanks for listening.