The Age of Data Overload—What’s True and What’s Actually Worth Knowing?

We are inundated with training data, opinions, and information. But that overwhelm makes it hard to get at what is actually true. Our hosts share their thoughts on cutting through the noise.

There was a time when athletes when athletes guided their training by solely speed or pace. If you wanted to find a single article on endurance sports training, it meant spending an hour rummaging through the local library. Information was in short supply and most athletes trained by feel or by trying to emulate the local hero.  

Those days are behind us. Now there is so much information and data, an athlete could end up spending more time analyzing their training and reading about training than actually training. This information overload poses a new challenge – how do you cut through all of the noise and get to the truth?  

In this summary episode, we give our thoughts to do just that and find answers that you can trust. And what we have to offer may surprise you. First, the truth is grey and often contradictory. If things seem very clear and fit almost perfectly with what you want to believe, you probably shouldn’t trust it. You’re getting closer to the truth when it’s nuanced, complicated, but seems to work when you put it into action.  

 Likewise, be careful of the N-of-1 effect – seeing something work for one person and assuming it will work for all. But even at this point there is a contradiction. When it comes to your training, N-of-1 is all you actually care about – because it’s about what works for you. You just need to always keep in mind that research provides averages, and your physiology may not fit well with the results of that study or the advice in the article you just read.  

To help us make our case, we brought in a wealth of clips from top past guests making similar arguments in other episodes. This includes Dr. Iñigo San Millán, Joe Friel, Dr. Stephen Seiler, Julie Young, Cameron Cogburn, Dr. Stacy Simms, Neal Henderson, Tim Cusick, Dr. Stephen Cheung, Alan Couzens, and Tracy Markle

So put on your skeptic’s glasses and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance sports training. I am here with Grant. I’m here with Rob. We are doing a summary episode which are fun, which gets us in trouble. My guess is, we’re gonna get in trouble with this one.

Grant Holicky  00:23

I’d say that. Let’s make us two.

Trevor Connor  00:26

So we’re taking on a little topic with no arrogance of how do you get a truth? And what motivated this is we’ve been doing a lot of episodes lately, we’ve been talking about the explosion in information, the explosion in data, we’ve been getting a lot of questions for people of, well, how do I know? How do I know if this device helps? How do I know if this data is what I should be looking at, and it is getting a little overwhelming for people. So we want to talk a little bit about ways you can know when you’re getting closer to the truth. And when you are getting further away from the truth and I put this outline together. So if you hate any of this, blame me Don’t blame grant or rob. But I’m taking a bit of a scientists approach to how you get at truth but we might get a little spicy here at some points. I don’t know

Rob Pickels  01:16

Trevor the truth. You can’t handle the truth.

Trevor Connor  01:20

Yeah, really can’t. Rob comes up to my office all the times like here’s the truth, Trevor, I’m like no, Rob, not today.

Rob Pickels  01:27

Whichever head in the sand corner.

Trevor Connor  01:29

That is me. I’ll just sit there with my research studies and be really happy. Well, the basic principles are the same. There’s a big difference between coaching professional and age group athletes. Professional athletes are the elite, the 1% of the sport the best of the best. These athletes vote every day to training and demand the most from themselves and for their coaches. In our newest release for the craft of coaching with Joe Friel, we explore the art and science behind coaching professional athletes, check out the craft of coaching module 13 at fast talk today. So let’s kick us off with somebody who explained this pretty well. This is from Episode 266, Dr. Sol Milan talking about how we are flooded with devices. And he actually says the we actually kind of need to trust our feelings here.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  02:23

As you guys know, we’re flooded, the market is flooded with devices, with gadgets, with information with pretty graphs, etc. Right? Many times they’re not even validated. So that’s where we need to be careful and how to interpret that information. And how we then modify training with athletes, you know, even this this hurry variability, or this watches stuff, they look at multiple parameters, right? They might tell you, they have these algorithms, and they tell you, Oh, you’re fatigued today. Whereas in fact, you know, this is what I get from my athletes, right? They say, hey, my magnanimity brand, but my whatever tells me that I’m fatigued today, I should take a day off. And obviously I follow the plan. And I did my PR today in this client Kom, right? Other days is the other way around. They tell me that I’m super good. And I go other like, I’m really fatigued, right? So I’m not saying this happens all the time, obviously, right, but it happened. So that’s why all this information that we’re getting, including the saturation, which is popular, now we have to take it with a grain of salt.

Trevor Connor  03:22

So guys, let’s give a short answer. What are your immediate suggestions to our listeners about how to get towards the truth?

Rob Pickels  03:33

Well, Trevor, you know, coming out of that clip from Indigo, it really reminds me of the entire episode that we did with Dr. Steven Chung, on wearables that had very similar themes around there is so much information that is fighting for our attention. Sometimes it’s in agreement, sometimes it’s pulling us in the total wrong direction. And I think that it’s important that people take in a lot of information, but that they have to be able to find their way navigate their way through that information, to figure out what’s important in that moment to figure out what supports them moving toward their goals and their objectives. And the all of the information all of the noise in the world might not be beneficial or true to you and what you’re trying to do.

Grant Holicky  04:23

Yeah, I think one of my big pieces on this is is Know thyself, right? I think it’s important to know what you need, what you respond to what you’re going to improve on. We’ve all been doing this for a long time, and I’ve been racing bikes for a while, but I was swimming before that and all those things triathlon and they’re in the middle and a dark phase.

Rob Pickels  04:44

But I think that’s the truth.

Grant Holicky  04:46

I think one of the big things for me, though, is I know I can respond quickly to training. I’m a quick responder I know that so I can load up over a course of two or three weeks, but if I stay on that I’m gonna fall apart. So I gotta rest I gotta recover. So it’s Knowing that who you are and what you need, and take that to the table when you have all this data, because then you can start to look at that the information and tailor it to yourself. And I think that becomes really important. And, and even, you know, as, as Joe Friel talks about in this clip, there’s so much information, making sure we use the information that’s going to drive us toward what we want to do, what is our goal? And so here’s a clip from Joe Friel, from Episode 202. Talking about just that.

Joe Friel  05:33

Well, it’s certainly true that data now has become overwhelming. If you just take a power meter by itself without even looking at heart rate, other data pieces, like splits, you know, on the track for runner, if you just look at power meters, and the data that’s produced there, you could spend if the athlete did a two hour ride, you could spend two hours just going over the data from the power meter. It’s just amazing. When I first got a power meter back in like night, when was it 1994, I think it was something like that I got a power meter to use. At the time, it was just one number it was what’s my instantaneous power. Right now, when I look at my handlebar device, what’s my power, that was the end of it, there was no other data that went beyond that instantaneous data. Now, it’s to the point that the data is overwhelming just from the power meter. And that’s not including other sources of data vendors, vendors floss, lots more. Now you got your garment on your wrist, your whoop, on your other wrist, you’ve got a heart rate monitor, you’ve got devices counting, you’re keeping track of your sleep at night. And the list just goes on and on and on. And all this data is being collected. And what today’s coach has to do is to figure out what is important, that’s the biggest challenge facing a coach have all this data, what’s important, not all the data is important, much of it is entirely useless for what you’re doing with a given athlete. So we have to you have to decide what’s what’s the critical things are what do I have to watch? This is kind of the one of the things I I’ve always developed in my own way of coaching athletes is that I have to develop how I see the world is there have been held back by something, they come to me because they have a goal they want to achieve. It could be to podium in a race or it could be to qualify for a national championship or whatever it may be people have very high goals that come to me. And what I see is I’ve got to figure out what’s stopping them from achieving that goal right now what’s what’s standing between them and success.

Trevor Connor  07:26

So set the dimension here, I actually specifically chose the word truth, because I had a former life as a history major. And in history, we were taught that truth and facts are beyond human scope. We are never capable of fully knowing the truth fully knowing the facts. And that’s just something to recognize you tried to get as close as you can, but you can never obtain it. But I became a scientists science was very much the same thing. You have theories. There’s no such a thing as a fact, insights, there is just theory, and I love to point out to people, even gravity got thrown out.

Grant Holicky  08:00

Yeah, yeah, that’s fair. So

Trevor Connor  08:03

my big recommendation before we dive into some of these details is just always have healthy skepticism, including with us, there are things I can point back to Episode Six, seven years ago where I go, I can’t believe I said that.

Grant Holicky  08:16

I don’t feel that way. Personally, I stand by everything. I

Rob Pickels  08:21

buy everything, Trevor, so I can’t

Grant Holicky  08:22

get through that. I can’t get through that with a straight face. But I do think that’s right. And yet another correlation between Trevor and myself that I also was a history major, and a biology major. I don’t know that he knew that. I know. Like, look at that. How brutal would that four years have been to be a bio and history major.

Trevor Connor  08:42

I learned something a little new about Grant every day. And

Grant Holicky  08:45

that’s what I try. I try to peel back the onion and let you guys in. It’s stinky.

Trevor Connor  08:50

Rob also just completely fell backwards and pretended he was asleep.

Grant Holicky  08:54

But I think that the key, you know, if you look at it with history, we try to determine what somebody was thinking, but we don’t know what they were thinking. Even if they write a diary. We we don’t know what they were thinking. And I think when you look at science, you can get to a very similar place. When we discussed this on an episode not too long ago. You know, we have 20 people that we’re experimenting on 15 have a positive response, five have a negative response. You don’t know you could be in the five. And so it is not fact it is information and kind of tailoring that information to you is crucial.

Rob Pickels  09:31

Yeah, I think so right research and the results that we derive from it are really trying to determine the likelihood of something working not the absolute ism. If you take a supplement if you do a particular training, if you climatized to the heat, it might commonly be reported that that’s a 2% gain. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you multiply your FTP by 2%. Even for me, you know Trevor and I went back and forth on this word truth because For me, it’s whether or not that concept is appropriate for what you’re trying to achieve. But I think that that also gets to the kind of the truthiness that Trevor is discussing here. Because I think that at one time, one answer could be the correct answer. The truth is different athlete in the exact same condition, maybe it’s a different recommendation, maybe there’s a different truth for that athlete. And so I do think that individualizing this is a really important concept.

Trevor Connor  10:31

So we got a little ahead, I gotta throw this clip, and then we’re gonna save for later. This is from Episode 131, Cameron Cogburn talking about how studies are an aggregate, but there’s actually a lot of individual differences, which was exactly what you’re talking about. So let’s hear from Cameron now.

Cameron Cogburn  10:48

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, if you’re, for instance, looking at specific study, you know, as, as you mentioned, Trevor, that most scientific papers, they try to analyze phenomena in the aggregate, and then from that derive, you know, a general principle, however, you know, you might have an individual response to that, for instance, is, if it’s a training modality, or, or nutrition, you might have an individual response to that intervention, in most scientific papers that they’re not 100% of the participants get the same outcomes. And so, I think it is important to recognize that individuality does come into play when interpreting these papers, and in other, you know, scientific principles, and the more I guess, experience you have, and the more you know, yourself, and what kind of works and does not work for you, the better you can interpret certain results and know ahead of time, whether they’ll be applicable, whether they won’t necessarily be as useful to you or not.

Trevor Connor  12:04

Okay, so we said we were going to take approach here have given you from kind of a scientific approach some ways to think about this when you’re trying to assess data. And I’m going to throw one out not so much to say, here’s how to determine if something is good. Or here’s how to determine if something is bad, and I’ll stand behind this one. If it’s too good to be true. It isn’t true. Look, I’m this is where I need to get spicy. I think this is something that’s taken advantage of a lot. Nowadays, people get particular news feeds, and people tend to start getting the news that agrees with them. And I think this is we’re talking about the polarization going on right now. A big part of this, if you’re reading a news feed where you agree with everything is being fed dia, you’re probably heading in the wrong direction.

Rob Pickels  12:51

Well, we do live in a clickbait world. We live in an algorithm world. And yeah, we are constantly being fed things that probably are going to reinforce our beliefs, whether that’s on the political side, the world events side, or whether that’s on the training side, search for a supplement, see what happens everything thereafter in your news feed is geared toward that. So yeah, Trevor, I think that you’re entirely true that these sources are really important.

Trevor Connor  13:25

Yeah, so you just brought up supplements is a great place to throw in a clip this from Episode 192, with Dr. Louise Burke, who talks about supplements and the fact that what you tend to see is people believe in the supplement, and then they go the supplements. Great. And sometimes they mix that up with are we just feeling the placebo effect? Or does the supplement really actually do something? So let’s hear from her now.

Dr. Louise Burke  13:48

I agree with you that they can be very powerful in terms of the marketing and in terms of the belief that people attribute to them. And it’s hard to know why maybe it’s because people kind of just have this lucky charm idea that there’s going to be something that you can get that’s easy. And that, you know, there’s going to be magic answers that come from something. And it’s tangible. When you take a supplement, you know, you can sort of see yourself doing it, whereas maybe some of the other things that you’re doing like sleep or bars on the bike, etc. They’re harder to record or maybe they were in the old days. So it’s a much more visible sign that you can you’re investing in yourself when you’re taking supplements. And we’re all just suckers, I guess in some ways, just thinking that this ought to be some magic out there. There’s no you can go back to Jack and the Beanstalk and all this idea that somehow there’s going to be this magic bottle of something that provides us with the quick fix to where we want to go.

Rob Pickels  14:55

So coming out of this clip about supplements, I think that it’s really interesting to point out With how supplements can captivate the attention of people. And I think it’s it’s oftentimes for the same thing that happens with people and equipment as well. People are willing to spend $2,000 on a set of wheels. Why? Because they think if I buy those wheels tomorrow, I’ll be faster, right? Or I’ll have a better experience. And I think that that happens exactly the same with supplements. Sure, take a pill, get faster, that’s easy enough, I can do that. I’m already training, I’m already trying to lose weight. I’m already trying to do all of these things that take a long time. But if I take this pill, tomorrow, I’m going to be better. And I think that that can infect people, because it’s the short cut, right? And so supplements can hold in terms of misinformation. And hey, I think that there are supplements that are potentially beneficial depending on who you are as a person your individual needs. I’m not saying that supplements are universally bad, but they are a product that’s very easy to sell. And I think that that’s especially true in today’s society. When this selling is happening. Every one of us is looking at social media almost all of the time. And that social media as we talked about before, and knows that formula knows that algorithm knows what to say it knows what to feed you with, so that you get sucked in and trapped. And Tracy Markel, in Episode 262 did a really great job of discussing social media.

Tracy Markle  16:26

I think with our athletes that are in development under the age of 20, we’re seeing that they’re dealing with a number of different issues. So social media is a minefield for them. Besides the persuasive design, and what’s built into these to release dopamine and keep you coming back for more. They’re a highly traumatized group of people, the amount of traumatic events that are repeated constantly on social media, seen video after video and a lot of this graphic, Instagram and some of the other sites, Tik Tok, depending on the algorithms that are built into the clicks, if you have an interest in a topic, it can take you down a rabbit hole into more problematic information. And algorithms are developed to really notice where you’re going. And in many respects, they know you better than you know, yourself. They know what what that next step will be. And so a lot of these young people are exposed to information, unlike those of us who are digital immigrants, or we grew up at a time before smart devices, which was, you know, the first one came out in 2007. With the iPhone, these kids are we referred to as digital natives. They’re growing up in this world. And so we’re seeing as a whole, especially with our athletes who are in development, they’re less resilient than they used to be, they’re not managing as well. And we blame social media exposure for that. And the amount of negative news and content that’s on there. I’m not even at all touching on bowling, because there’s a high level of that occurring, too. But mostly just the negative news.

Trevor Connor  18:11

So I think what we’re getting at what we’re saying, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Or if it’s just everything seems to fit together perfectly. It’s probably not true. The fact is, truth is very complex. And it’s very nuanced. And I think that’s often what people struggle with, I find when you’re getting to something that’s probably closer to the truth, it is difficult, because I’ll give you an example this one question we get hit with a lot is heart rate versus power, which is best? And my answer to people is always yes to all and no to all right, which is heart rate is great. But here’s the exceptions, right? Power is great. But here’s the exceptions. There is no power is absolutely better. And here’s why are heart rates absolutely better. And here’s why. It’s nuanced. And that’s the point. And don’t just take it from me. Here’s a clip from Episode 205 with Dr. Sol, Milan talking about some of those nuances between power and heart rate.

Dr. San Milan  19:08

So what I’m seeing I look at that training, and one of the things that you start seeing is our heart rate, heart rate is it’s a true physiological parameter. And it’s been kind of forgotten, although it’s coming back but I still remember about a decade ago or a little bit more like people didn’t want to know anything about heart rate. I vividly remember and I’m sure rod you were because we were talking about the while back right? It would Trevor the same thing right? He’s like how people just trained by Watts and then in the heart rate was old school and didn’t mean anything right. But fortunately, heart rate is back and now we know everything about how reversibility is a big concept etc. Right? But, but one thing that I see right away is like, you know the heart rate response to exercise either cyclists have today, for example, intervals, likely press or You know, or FTP, and we know that those power of let’s put a number, let’s say 300 Watts, the heart rate normally is, let’s say 180 beats per minute. And today, the heart rate is 165. And that athletes telling you, man, my heart rate doesn’t get up. That’s a sign of fatigue. Right there, they you can see right in the spot without the need of blood analysis, just looking at the data. So yeah, so one of the things that I do every morning, I just look at the data from 20 picks from the athletes on the team, you know, in the UAE, for example. And, and that’s where I started identifying things like this, and I contact them, and I tell them the Hey, how, you know, how do you feel like yeah, today, my heart was not respond to that. And that’s where you start concluding that, in fact, there are issues right? Other times is that the athlete, himself or herself who contacts you, right? And tells you, hey, there’s something wrong, My heart doesn’t get up, don’t have good legs, good sensations. So I always tell them, Listen to your heart. And this is this is a very powerful for others.


Trevor, it’s really interesting that you bring up power, heart rate speed. I think that as a cyclist, we are our tools are a little bit different than some athletes that I normally work with. And that’s runners. And you guys know, I love to use my wife on this show. As an example, she has recently increased her race distance, she used to be a 10,000 meter specialist, and now she’s looking to move up to the marathon, which means her training has changed a lot. When we were working on the track all the time, then things like pace worked really well, because the track is pretty homogenous. I’m really glad you’re doing this. Yeah. You know, and you guys are I think are familiar with the track that she runs on is relatively hidden by some trees. So there’s not a lot of wind or anything else. Anyway, it made riding workouts really easy. And so for the most part, we relied on pace. Yeah, now that she is out running on the roads of Boulder, oftentimes northeast of town where the roads are rolling, the surface is changing, the wind is blowing at her. She was really relying on pace, specifically. And it was doing her a disservice. Because what she wasn’t realizing and that’s where these other measures like heart rate rating of perceived exertion come in. What she wasn’t realizing was how much she was overworking at times trying to maintain that pace. Well,

Grant Holicky  22:25

and I think this is a really important piece of what we get into when we talk about all this stuff. Runners love to use pace, like Well, I’m running at a constant pace. So I should train at a constant pace. Yeah, but you run in constant space that sometimes goes uphill and sometimes goes downhill. So you’re running 520s starts to go uphill, suddenly, you’re running fives, essentially right. And the same thing is true of cyclists. We love lt. We love that stuff. The reason I like to go above is that you don’t always sit there in a race, you’re going up and you’re going down. Right Heart rate versus wattage thing is I think it’s it’s really overlooked, because heart rate is a physiological response. Watts are what you’re putting out, those two things don’t necessarily line up all the time. And, you know, using that together is just so important. And I think so much of this stuff is like I haven’t said it yet. I can’t believe it. I you know, we’re how long into this. But it depends, you know, it all depends. And Rob wrote

Trevor Connor  23:23

the outline. He’s like this whole God grants

Rob Pickels  23:28

in different ways, like remix,

Grant Holicky  23:30

it depends. Depends, but it’s really important to kind of understand that. And to utilize that.

Rob Pickels  23:37

Sometimes that internal measure is more important. Sometimes the external measure is more important. Sometimes you need to be looking at both of them.

Trevor Connor  23:44

Yeah. So I think the message here is, truth is complex truth is nuanced. And let’s do two quick clips here, really given examples of this, and one is from Dr. Steven Siler. He is known for those four by eight minute intervals. And there are so many people who are fans of Dr. Sylar and go, those intervals must be magic. And here’s Dr. Sylar saying, Hey, we saw some positive results with them. But they’re not magical. It’s more nuanced than that.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:11

We’ve all got these tools, whether it’s on Zwift, or whatever Garmin, or you can put in your parameters for your interval session. But the sales don’t see all that to put it that way. You know. So that’s, that’s one issue. And then I think maybe even a bigger issue is, I wrote about this years ago, we talked about the epic workout, because kind of related to the epic idea of the epic workout is the idea of the effective workout, the maximally effective interval session. What is the interval session? Is it the Steven Siler four times eight minutes? Is it the bet Ron Assad 30 fifteens with three times nine minutes and 45 seconds, four times four. There’s been all of these different magic workouts that had been espoused in often the person who did the research and publish like myself, we never said that four times eight minutes was magical at all. In fact, we tried to write that it wasn’t. But they these types, any type of study that says, Well, this was an effective prescription, or maybe it appeared to be more effective than these other prescriptions, then all of a sudden, that’s the that’s the latest magic workout.

Trevor Connor  25:27

Here’s another great example a nuance here’s Joe Friel, talking about using carbohydrates and saying, there are times you need to increase your carbohydrate consumption, there’s times you aren’t, it’s not simple.

Joe Friel  25:39

It’s a double edged sword, what one of the edges is now the leading disease is related to one of the leading diseases in this country, which is diabetes, type two diabetes, that’s the fastest growing disease in the country, in fact, in most civilized parts of the world, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve become extremely carbohydrate rich in our diets. And so I understand that, you know, it’s important to have carbohydrate to perform well, that’s, that’s important. But I’m afraid sometimes that the athlete who receives that message thinks that means I should eat much, much more carbohydrate, and that person may not should not be eating necessarily more carbohydrate, that person actually should be limiting their carbohydrate 301. C, is off the scale, and we’re telling them to eat more carbohydrate, that’s, that’s really not a sane thing to be doing. So that always concerns me. But you know, there’s the other side of the coin, which is a scientist as well, you have to have it to perform well. You know, so I’m, I always deal with that in my own head. Who am I telling this to? Who am I having this conversation with on Twitter, and saying, eat more carbohydrate, I’m not sure it’s a healthy thing for us to be talking about, I would suggest that what athletes should do is get a physical once a year. And the physical shouldn’t involve a blood sample, which looks at lots of things. But I would ask my physician to look at my a one C, HB a one C, and the physician will know exactly what that is. And the information you get back from that is very important. That’s going to determine what you do going forward as far as your diet. It’s not as simple as saying no carbohydrates, or eat lots of carbohydrates, because there’s lots of things we call carbohydrate, and having more, the more basic ones like fruit is much better for you than eating a piece of cake, or a slice of white bread. You know, there’s all kinds of things we can do here that to modify your intake of carbohydrate. But the starting point is to find out if you’re sensitive to carbohydrate, that’s where your physician comes in. That’s where getting an annual physical comes in very handy. And again, asked for HBA one see, review from your blood sample.

Rob Pickels  27:58

Dave, as talk listeners, this is Rob Hybels. Wouldn’t it be cool to decide what Trevor and I are going to talk about on an upcoming show? Or how about we answer a question on polarized training, you’ve been dying to know what about a 30 minute zoom call with me or Trevor on your favorite sports endurance topic. This is all possible when you become a fast talk Patreon member, we have four monthly memberships to fit your level of support. If you enjoy fast talk, help us stay independent, and dishing out your favorite sports science topics by becoming a fast talk Patreon member today at Talk podcast.

Trevor Connor  28:35

As a scientist, another thing that I want to bring up about the truth is the truth can be contradictory. And I know we’ve gotten emails from listeners who struggle with this, whether it can be talking about from a scientific perspective, there can be one study that says a another study that says B and they contradict one another. And they go well, how do you reconcile that? And I go, I’m fine with that. Yeah, that’s the nature of the truth. That’s the nature of science. It can contradict. How do you guys feel about that?

Grant Holicky  29:04

I’ve said this before, but I think what gets missed sometimes in scientific studies that that they’re doing them on individuals, and that where are those individuals are at in their training cycle and their recovery in their lives, and there’s so many variables, and you start going down the rabbit hole of how many variables there are, then you start to turn that back and go, how many variables are there with me? You know, that perfect workout can be perfect for me on a Sunday in June, but it’s an awful workout. It’s the worst thing I could do on a Wednesday in April. And understanding that balance for your athlete or yourself as an athlete is just so important. And it’s the same information but it can be completely take you in two different directions. As an athlete,

Trevor Connor  29:48

though, I think you bring up a really good point. And let’s now hear from Julie Young. This is from Episode 209 where she expresses what you’re talking about the complexity of figuring out what works for you and how hard it can be used to actually find that answer, and how it can contradict.

Rob Pickels  30:04

What is it that science and education can teach us that maybe you can’t get out on the road? What what are the best things to be learning from a book?

Julie Young  30:13

Well, I think there’s just the, you know, the principles, and there has to be a basis, and like a system, a methodology, you know, based on principles. And so, you know, as opposed to, like, just basing everything on what we think to be true, or speculate, or guess, like to have some, again, some backbone to to the training program, and I think that’s like what the science can provide. I do think like, in some respects, science can be confusing, because the, you know, the studies are, they’re very controlled, they have to be because they’re controlling for, say, one, one variable and controlling the others, which is not reality. So in that case, I think we need to be critical when we read the studies and understand who they were testing, you know, the factors, that sort of thing. So we, you know, understand context, and we understand relevancy and, and to me, that’s where I think people can kind of go sideways with the science is trying to, you know, they read, read one study, and then they’re going to, you know, implement those those findings in absolutes. And still, you know, science, we still need to be critical in the way we’re thinking about it and make sure does it actually apply to what we’re trying to do? And I think, you know, just because it’s there doesn’t mean we should use it, you know, we just first need to make sure is it relevant.

Trevor Connor  31:36

So I want to give another example of this, as most of our listeners know, I’m a big fan of the polarized approach. There’s another popular approach. And we’ve had frank on the show a bunch of times, who was a big fan of sweetspot training. If you look at them, they’re fundamentally almost the opposite approaches to training. And I’ve had people ask me, how do you reconcile those and I go, I’m fine with it. I’m a believer of the polarized training model. I’ve seen a lot of science to back it. But I’ve also seen Frank have a lot of success with athletes. And that doesn’t bother me.

Grant Holicky  32:07

No. And I mean, athletes are so widely varied. And we haven’t even gotten into the conversation about men versus women, or who these studies are being done on, right. And so, you know, if we’re talking about me as a 50 year old athlete, and the study was done on 25 year old men, and maybe that’s not applicable to me, but we have all of them here. 50 grand, yeah, well, we have, but that that’s, that’s nothing compared to women. So you know, we have all these studies out there that are generally done on men. And women are trying to drive knowledge from that, in some cases, it’s a completely different story for women of what happens. And so we have a great clip from Dr. Stacey Sims, who’s done so much research on the difference between men and women and the effects of training and some of these studies, and this is from Episode 231, where she talks about diets and how so many of these diet trends are done on obese sedentary men, and they’re not really applicable necessarily to women.

Dr. Stacy Sims  33:10

If we look at trendy diets, like most of them out there, you have the Keto, the low carb, high fat, intermittent fasting. So what’s really important to understand is that the data from these diets have come from initially a clinical population of obese sedentary men trying to lose weight for surgery, or metabolic control. And then they crossed over into the fitness world and it became this thing, oh, yeah, if I do keto, or I do low carb, high fat, or you know I’m doing intermittent fasting and do my training in the in the fasted window, it’s going to increase my body’s metabolic efficiency is going to increase my ability to burn fat and use fatty acids can male data. So when we look at the outcome for women, it’s not the same, we see there’s an increase in sympathetic drive instead of some parasympathetic drive. So women tend to get tired, but wired when they’re following these diets, there is an increase in insulin resistance instead of better blood glucose control. We also see things like a difference in telomere length, but not in a positive way for women. Exercise in itself has better longevity data for women with regards to how it stresses the body to improve overall health and stimulus. And when we’re looking at what these trendy diets do is it puts those women smack dab in where we don’t want them in that low energy state or the body perceiving it to be in a low energy state.

Grant Holicky  34:34

So kind of as we move forward, one of the things that I’d like to touch on is just all that data, and what do we do with it? Right? And I think in so many places, and for so many people right now, things get so very black and white, and that data is so very helpful. It makes things clear, it defines me you know, my FTP is this what’s yours? What’s yours? What’s yours and I’ll never forget listening to Robin Carpenter on one of the old episodes. That’s where he’s kind of shrugged his shoulder and said, I haven’t changed my FTP and training peaks in seven years. But so that data is so dependent on a lot of things. And sometimes that data can clarify things. But other times it makes it really, really murky and almost makes it harder to coach somebody with all this information,

Trevor Connor  35:18

I got to say, I haven’t changed my FTP. And all I do is just re upload the rights from 10 years ago, and I was strong.

Grant Holicky  35:25

Brilliant. Dude, I’m fantastic.

Trevor Connor  35:27

The data I’m looking fantastic. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  35:29

it’s a confidence builder, for sure.

Trevor Connor  35:33

So you’re getting at a point. And let’s do a throw here to Neil Henderson from Episode 266, where he talks about the fact that data right now is a bit of a wild west.

Neal Henderson  35:43

There’s also then the aspect of what is being done with the data that does come in. And I would say, at this point, it’s kind of the Wild West in a lot of areas. And there’s what I call algorithmic bravado, a lot of processing being done and recommendations or insights supposedly been provided by these algorithms that are not very well established and are not clearly applicable for all the users utilizing those. So I think, you know, there’s great opportunity as we continue to move forward, and there’s improved quality of the data that is being collected, and then secondary to that the algorithmic aspect of how then that is being processed? Or is it being integrated with other pieces of information? You know, for sleep? As one of those things, I tend to ask, what was the quality of sleep? How well did you sleep, that’s an important aspect, you can show me any kind of data that says how many hours in stages and this and that, but just that total volume of sleep, and the subjective quality is a much better predictor than a lot of those other additional variables that may or may not be actually true at this point.

Rob Pickels  36:55

I don’t know about you guys, but half the time I’m looking at my data, I just decide to straight up disregard it, whoop gives me a terrible recovery score must have been wrong. I don’t know I wasn’t wearing it right. And in in some regard, I joke about this, and we’re all laughing. But oh, I know, you’re I know, you’re serious, of course. Because I think that what we oftentimes miss is the art that comes with coaching. And here’s the thing, sometimes that data is wrong, or sometimes that data just isn’t important. Now, I think that there’s two ways to go about this, just don’t record the data or ever look at it. And then it’s all art, or you have to collect some data, but know when it’s important and when it’s not. And Tim Kusik, in 119, talked about how data is not a magic bullet. It’s ultimately just helping you make decisions. But you have to make that decision.

Tim Cusick  37:51

As we brought more and more data, to endurance coaching to being an endurance athlete, you got to understand what is the role of data? What is the role of data science, right? You look at a bunch of data, and that now you’re a data scientist, because it got power, you got heart rate, you got all these things? So now you’re a data scientist. People think that all this data and the data science we apply is meant to give us some definitive answer, oh, go train for 56 minutes. And 282 Watts, right. That’s not what it really is. Data science is decision science. So you’re collecting all this data, so that you the person making the decision has more knowledge, and you improve the odds of the success of the decisions you make. In this particular case, we’re talking about athletes success, their ability to achieve their goal, you know, to be on peak form when they want to be on peak form to to win their big race, whatever that might be. But you’re really talking about data, all this measurement of training load and other factors that are involved in that. It’s not a magic answer. There’s no one high open to candidate data. And what popped out, like, you know, Springboard snakes, were, you know, magic answers of what I should do. What happens when you look at all the data, it makes you more knowledgeable, and it allows you to make better decisions, which increase the odds of success. You know, when you apply exercise stimuli to an athlete, the response, you know, physiology Isn’t this neat, linear thing, right? responses can be different and sometimes predictable. Sometimes not.

Trevor Connor  39:33

So I’ve got to defend the whoop a little bit here. Wednesday, my whoop gave me a horrible recovery score. And I thought it was completely off. I’m like, I’m fine. And at 11 o’clock, I had a meeting in our conference room and Bell who works with us was there fairly Belle was worried for a day that I was really angry with her. But I walked out of the conference room we have this couch in our front area of our office. I sat down for a minute It woke up an hour later nice

Grant Holicky  40:01

effort, you are getting old.

Rob Pickels  40:05

You are getting geriatric.

Trevor Connor  40:08

But I like woke up for that. I went, Oh, whoops, probably right.

Grant Holicky  40:13

But I do think the point is that we can’t fixate on data, right, we still have to understand what we’re feeling and what what’s going on with our bodies. And it’s so easy to go, oh, the data is this that’s, that’s dead, right, black and white. And is a great quote from Dr. Steven John talking about that, you have to still understand what you’re feeling, you have to trust those sensations a little bit. So this is from Dr. Steven Chang from Episode 266.

Dr. Stephen Cheung  40:42

As a scientist, I absolutely love data. And I’d love to see what my body is doing. That’s what got me into this field to begin with. But I think for athletes and coaches, you know, as they’re assessing the utility of these different tools, you first have to question the accuracy and reliability that we talked about at the start, you have to have at least some understanding of how these devices are giving you the data, whether that is how they’re actually measuring the variable, how they are being processed, and also what it means in terms of what they are telling you. So you have to have some trust in that. And I think one of the challenges right now, a lot of these units, you don’t really know where they’re coming from. So how would I then deal with it, I would take each of these measures with a grain of salt, really tried to understand what they’re doing, and then really track it to your own experiences. Don’t become a slave to that data, don’t become too fixated for it, always understand and try to get a sense of how do I feel when this unit is telling me X? How do I respond when this unit is telling me why. And so really try to calibrate your own sensation so that you have a better understanding of the tool, and also how it responds to you rather than just a big group average. So I think there’s utility in them. But I think we’re really in an early stage right now. And I think there’s potential for a lot of these tools coming up. But it never replaces you actually understanding how you can use it the best and relating it to your own situation and experience.

Trevor Connor  42:31

So we talked about the fact that truth is complex and nuanced. And if you are getting closer to the truth, you’ve got to deal with that complexity, you’ve got to deal with those contradictions. If you’re not seeing that you’re actually probably getting away from the truth. We have a second recommendation here. And this is Be wary of the example of one. And this is something politicians love to use. If a politician hates a law that was passed, they go and find that person that was hurt by that law. And they bring them to the Senate building and have them tell their story. Go look how horrible this law was. A fact of the matter is, there’s, again, we’re gonna say this is history of history, there’s never been a law passed that didn’t hurt somebody and didn’t help somebody, you could always find that example. Anything that you’re looking at any device, you can find the example of the person that went, this changed my life. And the example of the person that no, this actually made things worse for me. So be very, very careful of that example of one. It here. Let’s hear again, this is from Episode 192, with Dr. Louise Burke, about how this whole idea of things being trendy and placebo effects lead us to swearing by things, which is kind of another variation of this, looking at the example of one

Dr. Louise Burke  43:48

is right, question and theory. And I see a lot of that. And I think as humans, we love to be part of the new brigade, you know, when there’s something new out, we all like to convince ourselves that, you know, We’re the cool kids, because, you know, we just were an early adopter or an early discover. And then after a period of time, when everybody’s doing the same thing, it’s like, well, you know, I need something new, that I want to be just part of the group, you know, I’m an edgy person. And so there’s a bit of that sort of just cycling of chains and fashions. And that happens in every part of our life. You know, think about the haircuts and the clothes and different things that you wore. And you know why suddenly flavors go out. And something happened, changed what they look like, it’s just, you know, we moved on. So there’s a bit of that. And that’s sometimes tells you a little bit about the evidence that supports the product because in the beginning, you might have a lot of belief effects, a bit of a placebo effect that goes into things and then after a period of time, people realize, well, you know, that wasn’t, didn’t seem to be doing that much. So they’re moving on and when you talk to me about athletes Being so confident about products, I think that’s a good thing that you do get a benefit from taking something that you believe in through the placebo effect. But I think the best kind of arrangement with supplements or anything is that you add a placebo effect on top of the true physiological effects. So everything’s aligned, you’re kind of getting double the benefit, because you’re confident in something that’s actually having a physiological effect as well. And sometimes, you know, when you see athletes that are just taking loads of stuff, and they’re, you know, they’re just keep adding more to the group, or they don’t seem to have a really good differentiation between what they’re taking, it’s all thought, fantastic. You think that’s a waste of a placebo effect, because it’s not being targeted at getting the best belief effect out of the products easy.

Rob Pickels  45:51

So I’m going to preface this. Here we go by saying, I think Louise Burke is great. She is terrific. She is phenomenal. Trevor, I think those same things about you. But I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with you. But I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with you both. Because how about this, we talked about individuality, and tailoring things for yourself. I know where it’s going. I’m viewing this as an n of one. I think the N of one that are other people. You shouldn’t apply that and a one to you. Grant grant is freaking out at the end of the table right. Now. Hold on, let me just let me finish. Let me finish. Let me finish let me finish. But we all have to learn what works for us. And that might not work for other people. And I will say the placebo effect is real. Oh, yeah, it’s very real. We all do a lot of things, it probably actually don’t do anything to improve us, technically speaking, but they do do things to improve us. And I don’t know that I’m willing to discount those things.

Trevor Connor  47:01

So can I respond to this? No, no, I

Rob Pickels  47:04

disagreed with you, that’s a one and done your

Trevor Connor  47:07

response. And here’s my response, read the outline.

Grant Holicky  47:19

So basically, what we’re going with here is if you’re using the N of one, as yourself, it’s useful. So we

Trevor Connor  47:28

have said this on the show before of when you have a n of one as a study, when you have a celebrity endorsement, that’s just one person, be wary. But at the end of the day n of one is all that matters to you, what does work for you and what doesn’t work for you. So we’re gonna jump ahead here, we’ve got from Episode 241. Alan cousins talking about the fact that science is about a straight line. But not everybody fits on that straight line.

Alan Couzens  48:00

That’s the advantage. You know, we you think about what happens in a study and you think about the type of results that you see, and you see a scatterplot, and you see a straight line that goes through the scatterplot. If you’re on that straight line, that that’s great. But with these more complex models, it doesn’t have to be a straight line, it can be a wavy line dependent on where you are on different different features, you know, and that wavy line can come very, very close to your particular specifics as an athlete, and that’s where these things really shine. And I think it’s super important, obviously, you know, Chris, we, we are quite different as individuals where we have different muscle fiber types, we have different anatomies different height different way, you know, there’s all of these things that come into come into play in determining what the optimal action for athlete is. And yeah, I think there’s huge advantage in individualizing things that come from this approach. And the other really key point, I think, is the importance of the individual. And rules can only describe so much, and they can only apply to so many people. And it’s just not fair. And it’s not good coaching to those outliers, the people who are a little bit different from the norm, to try to fit them to, to the scatter chart with that that single line, you know that there’s enough individual difference out there, that we really need something that helps us better identify these athletes as individuals.

Grant Holicky  49:43

So I think that that quote from Alan cousins is really important because we want science to be black and white. But all of these studies are fraught with the outliers, right? They’re fraught with the people that are way over here on the graph, and the other So that is that not all, not all studies carried the same weight, right, there was a moderate response, there was a low response, there was a high response. People aren’t telling you what the response was, in aggregate when they’re presenting this study, necessarily. So you may be looking at something that’s really just not that powerful of a study. And here’s a great quote from Siler talking about just that that studies are. There’s low power in studies, there’s outliers in studies. And here he is, in Episode 236, talking about that,

Dr. Stephen Seiler  50:29

you know, lab studies were painstaking, but we had good control. And the literature is full of studies with very, very small sample sizes. So that’s been the trade off is good control in the laboratory, but generally, fairly small groups that you’re able to get through a eight week training study, or whatever it might be, you’re limited to in numbers. And when you have small studies, then there’s lots there is variation. And so it’s it gets pretty hard to be very convincing about any of your results, especially when you’re comparing different ways to train because we know that there’s individual variation in response, and so forth. So it doesn’t take very, then take more than one, we might call an outlier. Somebody that responds unusually, before, there’s really no clear result in these studies. So that’s kind of the the Sport Science World has been fraught by what we call underpowered research studies. And it’s not the fault of the researchers, it’s just it has been the nature of the game, the nature of the situation, we work in the nature of the facilities, the nature of the type of research you’re trying to do.

Trevor Connor  51:49

So the second point that we’re making, and thank you, Rob, for keeping us going speedy

Rob Pickels  51:54

Mr. Efficiency over here. always one step ahead, this interesting contradiction

Trevor Connor  51:59

of the n of one, be careful of the n of one, the one celebrity spokesperson, the influencer, the example of the single person because you could always find one person that something worked for, and one person that it didn’t work for single people or not to be trusted. But at the end of the day, likewise, you got to trust yourself, you might hear a bunch of people say, this all worked for them, if you trying to doesn’t work for you. That’s all you care about. Beta Alanine doesn’t work for me. So grant, you threw this in as kind of our thing to bring us out, which is, I think we have a good segue here from talking about the power of the research of what is the source of the truth? Rob, you did bring up issues about truth is probably not the right place to use truth. But what is the source of your information? Is it coming from research expert opinion, random creators, clickbait marketing, you can’t trust all equally? And this was your point. So sorry, let me steal your thunder.

Grant Holicky  53:00

No, I think it’s, you know, it’s hard because you, you get into this place where there’s so much information. And as you alluded to earlier, Trevor, especially if you’re in your silo, if you’re reading all the same stuff, and, you know, then something comes along, and it kind of sort of agrees with what your mindset is. And then you’re drawing that in, I think we see this all the time, and people that are using the same example, to argue two totally contradictory points, right? Like, yeah, I saw that thing. And that proves that I’m right. And the other person sitting there going, I saw the same thing that proves that I’m right. So there’s just so much information we have to wade through, and we really have to understand it. And, you know, I hate to always plug coaches and scientists on this show. But there are people out there that probably understand it a little bit better than the athlete. And if nothing else, even for me, I’m likely not going to understand that information as it pertains to me without my own biases. So where can I find that objective opinion? That’s going to be I’m going to be able to come in and go Hey, Rob. Hey, Trevor, or in my case, hey, Neil, Jeff, who but what do you guys think about this? And how does that pertain to me?

Rob Pickels  54:14

Well, Grant, I think you’re bringing up an interesting point. We have our own biases. And I was thinking as you were talking, I wasn’t listening to I was thinking as you were talking course thought I was like what doesn’t have any biases, and it will maybe research? I don’t know, that might not actually be true. I think that researchers are a little bit biased and bias can certainly be put into research with how a study is set up. And so there is bias everywhere. But I do think that we need to just accept that there is bias we need to try to understand that there is bias. We know certain newspapers lean left some lean right? Some are somewhat down the middle who knows. But that having multiple sources, multiple people you’re talking to just like You’re saying that’s what helps eliminate the bias and give more of a well rounded picture.

Trevor Connor  55:06

And the only thing I’ve could add to that, yeah, talk to people read a lot. One study, there might be issues with that study, you can’t base everything on a single study, you have to talk to people, just make sure you’re looking at sources, make sure you’re talking to people who don’t all necessarily agree with you, it’s a sometimes more valuable to go to that person who you know, is going to disagree with you. Yeah, listen to him. And I

Rob Pickels  55:29

would, I would approach everyone with some skepticism here, because there are some very smart people, especially people in the media world, who have great credentials after their name, they have really popular, you know, shows whether it’s a podcast or a YouTube channel. But let’s be honest, these people are running a business. And I don’t mean to undermine anyone in particular, but people are running a business and you run a business based on the number of clicks, the number of likes the number of views, especially when you’re in the content world, in some regard, but we’re trying to do it fast talk by bringing information to people, it’s not any different. And I’m willing to say that, but take everything with a grain of salt, because I know I personally have heard things from other creators. That I think to myself, well, that’s not wrong. But I think it’s over emphasized because it’s new, or it’s catchy, or it’s kind of click Beatty, for lack of a better term. So you can’t fault that person for discussing it. But it might not be the places I would put my eggs. So just a grain of salt with everything.

Trevor Connor  56:38

So I think to take us out here, let’s give Cameron Cogburn the final word. This is from Episode 131, where he brings up George Paula’s, this is talking about four steps to solving a problem, which I actually as I read this, this is not a bad way to approach, finding what works for you finding what is close to the truth. And I’m not going to spoil it. Let’s give Cameron that word.

Cameron Cogburn  57:04

There’s this book by George Bollea, he’s a mathematician is called how to solve it. And so it’s a famous book. And, you know, it’s, it’s kind of a way to break down any problem. And I think it’s not only mathematic mathematically, but I think you can apply it to anything that has a well defined problem you can apply these principles to, and I think this kind of encapsulates what I would call scientific thinking, you know, applied to athletics first step in his book is that, first, you have to understand the problem. Step two, is after understanding, make a plan. Step three is carry out that plan. Step four, is look back on your work, how could it be better, you can already hear in those steps, things that we have been talking about throughout this conversation. So you know, step one, first, you have to understand the problem. Now that problem could be physiology, you’re trying to train your VO two, Max, you’re trying to train your threshold, or your endurance, or it could be the problem of, you know, it can be a race problem. You know, I’m trying to approach this time trial on this certain course with these certain parameters that has a hill in it or a headwind or a tailwind or, you know, you have to first define the problem concretely. So then after you’ve defined it concretely, then you can make a plan. So, again, understand the basics of the problem, the principles behind it, then you can make a plan, okay? Now, the next step is simply carry out your plan, you know, you have confidence in your plan, because you’ve tried to understand the prompt to the best of your knowledge, you’ve tried to come up with a plan based on that understanding to the best of your abilities now, just carry it out. Then the final step is this, you know, kind of observe what happens. So, you know, this notion of recording and observing what happened, how it went, what went right, what went wrong, where it could be better. And so I think that you know, this kind of system can really be applied to various problems, you know, both abstract and very practical.

Rob Pickels  59:38

That was another episode of fast talk, subscribe to fast talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast dock are those of the individual as always, we love your feedback tweeted us at fast talk labs or join the conversation at forums dot fast talk for Dr. innego San Milan, Joe Real Dr Stephen Siler Julie young Cameron Cogburn Dr Stacey Sims Neil Henderson Tim Cusick Dr Steven Chung Alan cousins Tracy Markel grant Holic II and Trevor Connor I’m Rob pickles thanks for listening