Peaking. It’s that elusive target we all strive for — to be on our best form right when our goal race comes around. We build plans for it, we follow six-week guides we find online, and yet too often we find our best legs for the training race the week before the big event or wake up the morning of our target race with flat legs.
Perhaps it’s so elusive because peaking is both a science and an art. What we discovered over the course of this podcast is that the two don’t seem to get along with one another. Some of that has to do with the fact that science lays out a very specific four-week plan for peaking, while the art says that it is very individual. Even among those who understand the science, it appears that what they do is different.
In today’s episode, we’ll first discuss the science of peaking — including how long it takes, why we do a fatigue block to start the peak and the science of what happens physiologically to produce the peak.
Next, we’ll discuss how the top athletes peak and why it doesn’t seem to agree with the science.
Then, we move on to why the art of peaking says something different from the science and what you should be considering when you are getting ready for your target event.
From there we’ll take a deep dive into how to peak — how long to taper, how to taper, what to do right before the event, and what are the biggest mistakes you can make.
Finally, we’ll give you “Colby’s six tips” on preparing for an event.
Our guest today knows all about peaking — both as a coach and as an athlete. He’s an hour record holder, an Olympian, a thinker, a tinkerer, and someone with massive amounts of experience as an athlete. Colby Pearce’s many many qualifications are too long to list here so we’ll let Colby detail them himself in a minute
Also sharing his thoughts we have Robert Pickels — the illustrious Mister Pickles — and the head physiologist at Pearl Izumi. He’ll talk about the physiology of a peak and why he thinks it’s about balance.
Colby Pearce: Olympian, bike fitter, and coach
Robert Pickels: Head physiologist, Pearl Izumi
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Chris Case 00:10
Hello and welcome to Fast Talk. I’m Chris case managing editor of Bell news, joined as always, by my sometimes effervescent, sometimes stoic co host, coach, Trevor Connor. peaking. It’s that elusive target we all strive for, to be on our best form, right when our target race comes around, we go plans for it. We follow six week guides we find online. And yet too often we find our best legs for the training race the week before the big event, or wake up the morning of our target race with flat legs. Perhaps it’s so elusive because peaking is both a science and an art. What we discovered over the course of this podcast is that the two don’t seem to get along with one another. Some of that has to do with the fact that science lays out a very specific four week plan for peaking. All the art says that it is very individual. Even among those who understand the science, it appears what they do is different. In today’s episode, we’ll first discuss the science of peaking, including how long it takes, why we do a fatigue block to start the peak, and the science of what happens physiologically to produce the peak. Next we’ll discuss how the top athletes peak and why it doesn’t seem to agree with the science. Then we move on to why the art of peaking says something different from the science and what you should be considering when you’re getting ready for your target event. From there, we’ll take a deep dive into how to peak, how long to taper, how to taper, what to do right before the event and where the biggest mistakes you can make. Finally, we’ll give you Kobe’s six tips on preparing for an event. There’s your hint on our guest today. He knows a ton about peaking both as a coach and as an athlete. He’s an hour record holder, in Olympian, a thinker, Tinker someone with massive amounts of experience as an athlete and coach Colby Pierce. He has many many qualifications that are too long to list here. So we’ll let him detail them in a minute. Also sharing his thoughts. We have Robert pickles, the illustrious Mr. Pickles, the head physiologist at pro zoomy. He’ll talk about the physiology of a peak and why he thinks it’s all about balance. We’ll also hear from Joe Dombroski, a world tour rider with EF education first drapac who will share what it’s like to peak for an event at the highest levels. So sit back, put your feet up. Find the nearest sensory deprivation chamber. Let’s make you fast.
Chris Case 02:41
Today’s episode of fast dock is sponsored by Cirrus makers of power tap power meters. I use their easy to use bulletproof g three hub based power meter at the recent dirty Kansa 200 mile gravel race. Learn more about the training involved in my race and my transition from cyclocross racer to endurance guy in an upcoming episode of Fast Talk. Learn why gathering accurate power data from my power tap, which is able to deliver plus or minus 1.5% accuracy played a critical role in that transition. Thanks to Cirrus in power tap for their support of Fast Talk.
Chris Case 03:25
Tell us a little bit about yourself Colby Pierce, I know that you have a lot of racing experience. Even Leonard’s in told me you used to go to his house when you were 13 years old and geek out on stuff with Vaughters here Leonard here’s some tubing make me a new fork with a little less rake in this and of that
Colby Pearce 03:44
fact. Yeah, tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Colby Pearce 03:48
I mean, yeah, you could call an apologist say hopeless, Mike. Let’s see. Okay, I’ll try to keep this really Cliff Notes started racing in like 89 when I like started mowing lawns saved up immediately for a track bike a mountain bike across bike after I got my road bike. I mean, like any good cyclist should, yes, driving to the springs when I could and just fell in love the sport that was like I hit by lightning bolt. I literally went home after my first criterium ever and was like, Well, I’m a bike racer now and I shaved my legs, much to my mom’s dismay. She was like, What are you doing? So race race race wasn’t anything amazing in terms of raw talent, but just ridiculously stubborn. And so I eventually started to kind of do well kind of became a tom trellised race for Shaklee in the mid 90s, late 90s card a cyclist in on card a cyclist prime Alliance Oh photo, American pro seen start to get better at track. Did some track World Cups. Ended up finally going to I think was 10 World Championships for USA cycling. Worked for USA cycling for a year and a half in 2005 starting in 2005 his track endurance coach hmm
Chris Case 04:48
yeah, I didn’t even mention your national a year our records that you’ve had and held and currently hold.
Colby Pearce 04:54
Yeah, yeah, I did a record in 1995. I broke john Fry’s record in Colorado Springs and wrote 50 points. 191 k an hour that was full dark mode like Lotus. Actually the bike even by today’s standards is pretty pretty fast. So I kind of had a little bit of a leg up in the time trialing curve for a couple years. But I was just way more Aero than most other people. And then everybody caught up to me and the guys Unreal engine started beating me. But then I moved on to track so and then I went to the Olympics in 2004. And Athens raised the points race. That was incredible experience. Just amazing. Got to stay through the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony. And then what happened oh, then I worked for USA cycling. Then I came back to racing some more, did a bunch of pro six days, most of which were with Daniel Holloway. Mm hmm. we raced for four seasons of six days. That was an incredible experience because was kind of a return to the old school in a way like, I think six days are changing now. And they’ve kind of progressed. They’re not what they used to be. More track stuff when two track worlds my last year track world was 2010. And then I worked with got a job on Garmin for a year with their sports science team. That was amazing, really hard year like, took me to my knees a couple times did the entire tour the entire well to half the zero plus some training camps and worlds wouldn’t trade for anything learned an amazing amount. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work at that level. But I wouldn’t do it again either. Hard here, man, I get my ass. And then I worked for SRM for a year and a half. So we’re seeing a pattern here. It’s called unemployable
Chris Case 06:21
year and a half and you’re out. Yep.
Colby Pearce 06:22
See ya. Except for my own coaching job, of course, which I’ve been doing since 2005. But when you’re your own boss, things are a lot easier. Also in 20 1112, an old man went and lived in Sydney for a month with Steve Hogg. And trained with him as a bike fitter. That was amazing. I mean, first of all, just to live in a city is cool because you get to not race through it. But you get to like go to the market and buy kangaroo and stuff like super cool. But steve king of ruler, Well, apparently there’s like a population problems down there. Yeah, and the iron iron, great source of protein. So but Steve’s an amazing teacher, incredible thinker, out of this fear type of person. Just
Chris Case 07:05
I think you’ve got a little bit of that.
Colby Pearce 07:06
You think so? I hope so. Yeah, I hope so. I’d
be you’re gonna you’re gonna express some of that today.
Colby Pearce 07:12
I try. I try to think out of the sphere whenever I whenever I can. So anyway, then I’m started bike fitting and I’ve been doing bike fitting, I’m coaching and designing some track bikes. I teach you the velodrome. I teach classes. I teach Roden, trot and road clinics locally and coaching about 18 athletes. So
Chris Case 07:28
yeah, bike bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes, racing, racing, racing, you’ve raced probably more races than Hmm, just a lot of racing. And so that brings us to today’s topic, which is peeking
Trevor Connor 07:43
no actually now that we’ve heard colbys experience that was our our so thanks.
Colby Pearce 07:48
That was a terrible cliff notes version. I
talked way too much about that. All right. That was
Trevor Connor 07:51
- Well, yeah, I’d love to hear the full version stuff. That’s pretty impressive.
Chris Case 07:55
Yeah. peeking the there’s a science side of it. There’s a practical side of it, the art and science of peeking. And that’s what we want to get into today. Before we get into that, though, I want to have you speak a little bit toward this fear that people might have towards peeking this, oh, my God, rest take time off the bike. What’s that all about? Well,
Colby Pearce 08:17
I think it’s easy for cyclists to forget that they actually get stronger when they rest. I mean, you smash your body, you do muscular damage, you deplete your hormones, you dehydrate yourself, you, you destroy your glycogen reserves, all those other things you do to yourself during training, it takes time for your body to register that load, and then have time to repair all the damage you’ve done. And that’s when you get stronger. So that’s part of what that taper process is for. It’s also what your Monday rest day is for every week, or maybe hopefully more than just one day a week. This is a theme that we brought up multiple times in the podcast, and I jumped on any opportunity to bring it up. Remember, the the fundamental principle of training is you do damage with training, and then it’s in recovery that your body repairs. And if you did the right amount of damage, it’s super compensates and built back stronger. And everybody forgets that recovery side of the pencil. It’s stubborn, cyclists are stubborn, you know, and obsessive, obsessive, which is what makes them good athletes in a way because you have to be that type of person to go out and drill yourself for 30 minutes of a climb. And in training a bunch of otherwise, you know, that’s how you get, that’s how you get the load you need how much you have to give your body respond in time to respond to that load. And so many cyclists and triathletes as well are just type A personalities. It’s GO GO GO doo doo doo, and they’re focused on the going in the doing, not the downtime. So and then, of course, as soon as you don’t have training as a distraction, then you start thinking about your race and you start thinking about your performance and how invested you are into that all the training, months of training and preparation you’ve done planning, the money you’ve spent and all the sacrifices you’ve made with your family and friends and data and you start getting nervous about how that’s going to play out. And that time during the peak that the taper time before the peak really happens is when that sort of mental energy really crescendos and that can be difficult for an athlete to deal with.
Chris Case 09:58
I think the part of that which is makes people nervous is the fact that they don’t know enough about it. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. They’re they think it’s all art. But there is some science to it, there’s there’s a lot of practical experience that we can all share with people to help them not be nervous about that to help them do it correctly, and then
Trevor Connor 10:18
beak. And that’s going to be one of the themes of this podcast. And it’s quite fascinating as there is a science side to this. And then there’s a practical experience side to it. And we’re going to start by saying, here’s what the science says. But I think as we go through the podcast, that’s actually going to get quite gray.
Chris Case 10:34
Why don’t we start with the science, Trevor?
Trevor Connor 10:36
Absolutely. What a segue. Let’s go right into here is what the science says a peak should be. So I’m going to give you the classic. If you read research, or read a review on peaking science. Here’s basically what it’s going to tell you to do. I mean, there’s different variations. So I’m just going to give you kind of a broad overview. But essentially, a peaking strategy can last anywhere from four to 28 days. So basically, four weeks, and what they suggest in the science, and we’ll talk about this in a minute, but you start actually with a big week, where you actually quite intentionally overreach. So I always like to say to my athletes, when we talk about a taper and bringing down the amount of stress, you’re putting your body under it, you have to be tapering from something. So if you’re sitting on a couch and say, Okay, now I need to get strong for race, so I’m going to rest more, you’re just getting out of shape. So it’s, again, you need to do that damage, and then let your body repair from it. So most of the literature, when you see a peaking strategy, they talk about some sort of week long, functional overreach, and that’s about four weeks out. So 28 days out to about 21 days out. And then the research really does talk about two, three weeks of bringing down the training stress. And what they say is you have you have three factors in your training, you have intensity, you have frequency, and you have volume. And it seems that you want to maintain the intensity. So you want to keep up interval work, whatever you’re doing, you want to maintain frequency. So still train most days, it’s the volume that you want to bring down. And the research says, you want to bring that volume down somewhere 40 to 60%, which is a lot. So you’re essentially cutting your training time in half or more. And that’s where people kind of flipped out saying, wait, I need to be training that little. So if you think about that, if you’re typically training 12 hours a week, for the two weeks before your big van, you’re cutting down to five, six hours a week. So that’s a pretty big cut. That’s what the research says. And again, going back to that overreach. So there was one really interesting study. This is a 2014 medicine and science in sports and exercise. The lead author was Dr. Aubrey and it actually compared doing an overreach followed by a taper to basically doing standard training and then tapering down. They found about half of the people actually, they just had kind of acute fatigue. The other half were truly overreached, meaning they were they were starting to push towards a bit of burnout. And what they found was the group that was just fatigued, acutely fatigue, saw the biggest bump in their form. Both of the groups that that were overreached beforehand still performed better than the control group when they hit the target events. So in this case, they use time trials. But up until so they basically did the overreach and then they did a time trial every week for four weeks. It wasn’t until the fourth week that you saw the people that were actually truly overreached able to match the people that were just acutely fatigued.
Colby Pearce 13:51
So just longer for them to catch up, basically.
Trevor Connor 13:53
So it took them longer to catch up. That’s exactly the way to put it. In the study. They tried to explain the difference between the people who are just fatigued and the people who were overreached. And they use some psychological measures like the palm scale, and found that both groups that went through the this overreaching protocol show the signs of mentally being fatigue, they described themselves to fatigue, their palm scores were fatigued. But in the group that was truly overreached, you also saw a decline in performance. So they just couldn’t hit the same numbers. And the conclusion of this study is if you overreach yourself to that point where you just can’t hit the numbers anymore, you’re actually not going to get as good a taper. Yeah. But certainly they said in both cases, they still perform better than the people who didn’t do an overreach before.
Colby Pearce 14:40
So from my perspective, that comes down to really understanding your baseline as an athlete, right because I used to joke about one of my chocolate teammates in the past where he would go best after he broke a bone. It’s like the guy. This dude was infamous for sort of always being just totally smoke, just always trying too much. You know, his famous saying was 100 k a day. Right? That was his baseline. He would write 100 k a day or whatever. Thousand setups a day. I’m sure there’s some people on the podcast, you can figure out who this is, but the guy was just smoke, but then he would fall down, break his collarbone. And six weeks later, he just be like a uncaged tiger, right? It was that forced rest. So there’s some athletes, if they’re really type A, and their baseline is like they’re barely above water all the time. And then you try to push them, you try to give them some weak, that’s another, whatever plus 15 or 20% TSS or lower volume or have you on qualified, it might just bury him for so long that they may not come out of the cave in time for their their event unless you give them a really long taper. So then you have to really be careful about how much you’re going to push them for that last week of extra load. On the other hand, if someone’s load a little more sustainable, and more balanced with what their regular life is, and then you give them that plus 20%, for example, then that can be the perfect setup, you get that roller coaster, that big load. And then they feel like their legs, your tree trunks every time they walk upstairs for 10 days. And then magically 12 days out all of a sudden, two days before the race. They go, Wow, I just danced up a hill. And then they go to the race and knock it out of the park. That’s the goal, right?
Trevor Connor 16:03
My old mentor he won the national championships, I think three times back in the 80s. And I asked him what some of his training strategies were. And he said I had the simple strategy in the world. I was the only person who showed up to the national championships rested. Yep. We had when I was managing team Rio Grande, we had a guy on that team who had this phenomenal year, where he was ranked top 10 in the US. And when you if you talk to him about that year, he says, you know, he got hampered that year because he kept getting sick all the time. Mm hmm. Yeah. And he said, you know, if I just didn’t get sick and train like that, I’d had the best year of my life and he doesn’t get because you are getting sick about every four weeks, you were forcing yourself to take a rest. And that’s actually why that was your best year, right? gives you that natural undulation in your training stress. Let’s talk a little bit about the the the physiology of what’s going on with a peak. So you had brought up one earlier on about repairing damage. Yep. Which is certainly a big part of it. So did you want to talk a little bit about that? Well, it
Colby Pearce 17:05
depends a little bit on what kind of training you’re doing. But if you’re doing if you’re certainly if you’re in the gym, or if you’re doing a lot of high torque work on the bike, if you’re doing a lot of sprint standing starts acceleration glycolytic work, that’s gonna cause a lot of muscular damage. Even Of course, if you’re doing a lot of co2 that can cause muscular damage, so or if you’re just doing really hard group rides, that’ll loop that in. So muscular damage is one of the aspects that you’ve just got to let your muscles heal from that trauma, it’s raw physical trauma. And when they bounce back, of course, when you tear down the muscle fibers, you got to give him time to get stronger, they build to get stronger, the fibers get more resilient, and then you’re you can make more force later. Or you can make either higher peak force or more force or a longer duration.
Trevor Connor 17:42
So this is what I actually researched last night, because I was very interested in Yeah, that’s what we’ve always been taught. And what they say in the physiology is that it’s, you’re allowing that repair and the repair is going to build you back stronger. We’ve also talked in the past that when you are training really hard and fatigued, you’re producing a lot of your body’s natural painkillers, your catecholamines, which unfortunately, actually blocked muscle repair. So you need to rest enough to allow those declare out to your body can actually repair the damage. But I found a couple really fascinating studies. And so I won’t be too study heavy here, but it’s getting these out of the way at the beginning of this podcast. But a couple fascinating studies that found what’s actually adapting what’s actually getting stronger. So there is some improvement in in your body’s ability to store glycogen. Certainly there’s repair damage, they demonstrated these, but the one that was I had never heard about and correlated very closely with improvements in performance with the taper was in type two a muscle fibers. So these are when you think of your slow twitch muscle fibers, the ones that work purely with oxygen, those are your your type one, your type two x are the ones that are really your strong fibers but work purely anaerobically or almost purely anaerobically. So they don’t last very long. These two A’s are the in between ones that can go one way or the other. So they can either build their aerobic machinery and act more like a slow twitch muscle fiber, or they can become big anaerobic animals and produce a lot more power. What they saw during the taper and this was with endurance athletes. So one study was with runners one study was with cyclists was that these two a fibers there was a big increase in oxidative enzymes, and an increase to the point that they actually matched the type one fibers so you were seeing them essentially having the same aerobic activity oxidative activity as your slow twitch muscle fibers, even though the slow twitch muscle fibers also saw an improvement in those enzymes during the taper. But this was the part that really caught my attention. There was an increase in the cross sectional area of these two a fibers so they increased in size and became more powerful. But what was fascinating about it was they saw about a 15% improvement. The diameter of these fibers, which translated about 5% per week, when you go into the weight room and do a strength training program, typically improvements in the the diameter of muscle fibers is a little under 3%. So somehow tapering from an endurance event was increasing the size of these muscle fibers more than just going into the weight room and doing strength training, which even the researchers are sitting there kind of scratching their head going, this needs research, because that’s what you’re trying to do in the weight room. And we’re producing it just with a taper.
Colby Pearce 20:35
Now, is that a study? I’ll put in the show notes for?
Trevor Connor 20:37
Oh, yeah, no, I always put all the great all the references up and happy to send it. So there’s, there’s two studies here that both show this dramatic increase in the cross sectional area. So essentially, what’s happening is the it’s you need all the muscle fibers, they’re seeing some repair and improvement during the taper. But it’s particularly these two ways, which become very oxidative, but the same time increase in their dynamic diameter and also become much stronger. And that’s where we seem to seem to see a lot of this taper come from or the improvements during the taper come from.
Colby Pearce 21:09
So it’s like every cyclists trim, you get to lay on the couch and literally
Trevor Connor 21:12
grow muscle. Exactly. And to a level that most your bodybuilders in the weight room would look at this and go, damn, I need to go do some endurance training, right sit on the couch. Yeah. Interesting. And the last important thing in this study was that they had people who tapered by reducing volume, but keeping the intensity up and had people who tapered by reducing intensity, but keeping the volume up, and you only saw these changes in the people who reduced volume, but may just want to maintain it. So
Colby Pearce 21:39
yeah, that’s, I remember studying with Nikko years ago, and I’ve got his book. And he’s one of the kind of premier guys who studied tapering and peaking quite a bit. He’s written a lot of literature, he’s been a lot of studies on it. And that was always his nuts and bolts was reduce volume, maintain or even increase intensity, and maintain exercise frequency. It took me a long time to get my head wrapped around that intuitively as an athlete and then later as a coach, because for me, when I would finish a really big block of overreaching, I would kind of just want to cut it off and just not do too much. That was my instinct, I mean, but I was the guy who really buried myself in the overreaching part. But you got to maintain that intensity to keep things firing, keep things open, keep all the pathways sort of active and mobilized or energized or however you want to describe
Trevor Connor 22:23
- Oh, absolutely. I mean, I learned the value of that overreach week, a long time ago. But my strategy always for that week after when you start tapering down, you know, it’s like you said, You started looking at intervals and going, no more intervals, right. So my technique is I go to a training race and I when I get there, like, my goal today is not to finish denying an attack so much. It’s so hard, I’m gonna blow myself up. And so you really get that high intensity. Yeah, I just kind of do it in a fun way. But you have to keep that intensity.
Colby Pearce 22:55
Yeah. My method for that in the last few years actually has been pick a short straw locally. I’ll get I’ll do this from athletes effect Today’s the day you’re going to go there’s a Juilliard climb here in Boulder locally, it’s a we don’t have that many good local little circuits with Short Hills. Most of the time, if you want to short climb where you can do some high power, you kind of have to go up a canyon and then do a U turn in the middle or something right, just right, recover on the climb and keep going with Juilliard. It’s a short climb, it’s probably less than a minute less than well, depending on what direction you hit it from and how far you go. But yes, if you come down from the steep descent into it, it’s less than a minute and it’s probably I don’t know what 10%
Chris Case 23:29
Colby Pearce 23:29
say 1212 kind of towards the top a little bit and then it kind of tapers out and man you could just let yourself up like a Christmas dream that thing and and so I I’ll go and just see what I can do on strobe on that thing and I don’t really care that much but it gives you some accountability. It’s a little bit fun you know, I can do it on my terms. I go put on my race wheels misconceive if I want to models and stuff my balls in the bushes give away all my secrets even have the KLM Colby no not even close. Especially not on a fine like that’s like the anti Colby. My one of my athletes Nathan Haas does have it and I had him do it last year just to like living through my children in a sense. We’re all you listeners out there go
and try. Juilliard in Boulder full disclaimer, you
Colby Pearce 24:09
do need someone to flag the intersection because that’s gonna make sure there’s not a car coming but buddy Yeah, to make sure that when you bomb that descent Anyway,
Trevor Connor 24:19
here’s the good old there there. Every rule should be broken because I think we’ve said at one point or another that Strava is not good training. But here’s a case where
Colby Pearce 24:26
I yeah, really good training. It keeps it fun. I like to use it at the right moment in my athletes programs. I like to use it for myself. sparingly but Yeah, I do. I do. Yeah. And threshold for me and this. I won’t digress too far. But threshold for me is like frosting on a cake. You need just enough. You smear that thing with frosting. It’s just gonna ruin the whole cake but at the little at the right moment brings everything together. It’s also like salt in a soup, you know better than algae. Too much salt in the soup that thing’s on it’s inedible. The entire recipe is ruined but you put just enough in there a healthy dose at the right moment and boom, it brings everything to life. It flame it’s a flavor enhancer. That’s what threshold is for training program. So I’ll sprinkle some threshold into my athletes programs here and there. And the best way to do that is say, hey, go try super flag. Yep. Go and throw it on Strava because then it gives them a little bit of accountability. It gives them that little bit of like, somehow I know someone’s watchman’s watching. Yeah, yeah. And then it can drive it in. But yeah, I don’t I’m not a fan of it every week, I don’t think it’s constructive, or every third day,
Trevor Connor 25:21
or when seppuku starts a minute before you. As I discovered,
Colby Pearce 25:26
yes, seven Yeah,
Chris Case 25:28
step by step.
Trevor Connor 25:30
But otherwise, it’s great. There is some question about what exactly a peak is physiologically, I like to refer to a peak as the first symptom of burnout. Because from my experience, that tends to be what follows, especially if you carry a pig too long. But others see it as the body simply getting into balance, Robert pickles, the head physiologist at prolight, zoomy, and someone who has 20 years of experience helping athletes perform their best shared with us his thoughts on peaking, and why it’s about getting the body back in balance.
peaking is is certainly, in my opinion, a necessity for performance, right, where we’re bringing the body essentially backing balance from the stress of training, that’s ultimately trying to break us down into the rebound, that’s going to help our physiological adaptation. And peaking is really just a name that we’ve given right where people we like to put things in nice, neat little boxes, peaking is a name that’s given to a strategy to try to bring the body into a good place. For me, in my opinion, the best peaking is typically when we maintain intensity, and we reduce volume. And physiologically, there’s a lot of different things going on. For me, a big part of that is just even something as simple as glycogen repletion, right, we’re going through big heavy weeks of training, even though we’re eating a lot, we’re always operating at a moderate amount of glycogen impairment. And through peaking with the reduced volume, we’re filling those fuel stores and we’re providing the body with that energy that it’s going to need for that high output competition. Beyond that, you know, we can talk a lot about reduction of muscle damage, we can talk about decreases in inflammation, we can talk about all of these different things that go into how we’re feeling. But you know, one of the easiest things for people to understand is it brings our carbohydrate stores back into balance, physiologically, is
Trevor Connor 27:26
there a danger to trying to extend a peak. So an athlete has that feeling of Wow, I’m on fire. I’m hitting prs, I’m just racing better. And I’ve been racing all season, everybody wants to hold on to that, is there a danger and trying to hang on to that as long as you can,
at some point in time, you’re losing fitness, right, and we’re talking about balance of that chronic training load over time, versus acutely what’s occurring, right. And if that chronic training load is relatively low, then we do not have the stimulus that causes the body to improve, we’re responding to that day to day change in intensity, and volume. And so yeah, you know, you can’t peak, you know, two weeks is oftentimes cited as what you can maintain a true peak for. And if you try to go below our longer than that, then your fitness is going to come down. Now that doesn’t mean you you might still perform well, you know, there’s no question about that. But for you as an individual, you’re no longer optimal. And you’re coming down the backside of the curve at that point in time.
Chris Case 28:25
Okay, so we’ve talked all about this science of peeking. When they look at what the top athletes are doing, do we find out that they’re actually conforming to what the science says they should do? Or they doing something else?
Trevor Connor 28:39
So we said at the beginning that we’re going to take the science, which is pretty crystal clear, and we’re going to make a gray and this is a started making a gray, and then when we start giving our advice, it’s probably going to get gray hair. So interestingly, doesn’t seem like it was until recently that some people said, Why don’t we see what the best are actually doing when they peak for races? So I, I found two studies one took they’re both with cross country skiers, one took 11 athletes who are all gold medalist at either the Olympics or the World Championships. And they were all Norwegian basically pretty much. Yeah, it was definitely a Norwegian study. This is in 2014. It was actually led by Seiler was it another study and unfortunately, I don’t know cross country skiing. So I don’t know her name. But I believe it was a Norwegian athlete and they talked about her being the best cross country skier of all time, and I think she’s won 18 medals between World Championships and Olympics. That’s more than Colby
Colby Pearce 29:37
by a good margin.
Trevor Connor 29:39
Her tapering strategy was very similar to this other study of these other medalists so basically just kind of lump it all together. One thing that did fit with the research is while they were in their taper, during the couple weeks before the event, they kept up their high intensity work. They definitely did a bigger week about three weeks out from the event but This is where it starts to fall apart. So here’s right out of the study, training volume, frequency and intensity remained unchanged from pre peaking to peaking period. All three variables stayed the same, all three variables stay the same. So I mean, you actually look at the graph here, during the final week of the event, or action was two weeks before it came down just a little bit, but it was not significant. It was certainly lower than during the preparation phase, much earlier on in the season. But you look at those few weeks leading up to the event, from pre peak to the actual peak, there actually wasn’t that big a change. The other thing that was really interesting is they looked at the records of how many people took a rest day, 12 days out how many took a rest day, 11 days out, and so forth, and so on. And what you see is two weeks before the event, so from 12 days out to six days out, there was always at least one athlete taking a rest day and often three, four athletes that would take a rest day, on one of those days, but five days out, four days out, three days out. And one day out. Not a single athlete took a rest day.
Colby Pearce 31:07
Yeah, they’re all training, their own training. And by rest, you mean complete rest? No, no active recovery. Right?
Trevor Connor 31:12
Yeah. And the other thing is, if you look at their the 14 days out, we have this little graph here that shows how many athletes did high intensity intervals, 14 days out, 13 days out all the way out to one day out. And you can see on average, four athletes are doing high intensity. On every one of those days, there was wasn’t a single day where there wasn’t at least one or two athletes doing high intensity intervals. And the day where you saw the most number of athletes, so eight of them doing high intensity intervals. Two days, let’s do days, it is
Colby Pearce 31:43
prime, the system prime the engine openers openers, you might call them Yeah, yeah, cycling world. That’s interesting. Um, one thing that I’ll share with respect to how I coach my athletes, especially when they’re getting ready for an event that requires in cycling, such a momentum, sport, meaning really, you do need openers, like, in all the time I’m going to erase in 30 years, and in many times, you get mixed results, meaning if you force rest of some type, let’s say you crash hard or you’re sick or whatever. And then for whatever reason, you have to jump into a race. Sometimes you’ll show up to that race and magically, your legs will be open, everything will fire and you’ll just feel like a surprise yourself. But more often than not, I would say you end up with heavy legs, dead legs, you do one effort and kind of blow up and then you’re sort of gassed for the rest of the race. Until you’re you know, it’s probably a result of your blood volume being low and a few other physiological factors that should prevent you from running the engine red, hot and open. So we’ve all learned the hard way that we need those openers, right? To a certain extent, in between those opening sessions, those periods of intensity those intervals running into in the last week, I’ll recommend that people just hop on the rollers is my favorite way to do it. I actually call this workout, stir the soup. And it’s just a light, really, it’s the other one, the other terminal uses minimum effective dose. So I’ll say 30 to 45 minutes, just sort of get going get your kids nice and light start off and around zone one heart rate progressed to zone two, as soon as you break a good sweat. And you get over that point where your legs are burning, and then the burn starts to kind of subside, meaning you’ve sort of processed whatever you’re going to process you start up circulation, you’ve raised your muscle temperature. You’re done. And that’s usually between 25 and 45 minutes writing stir the soup. And he likes soup, don’t
Chris Case 33:24
you? That’s your second reference, like soup. Yeah, soup is good. Yeah, it’s good. All right. Yeah.
Trevor Connor 33:29
I think what we’re getting from these Olympic athletes who because you know, if they’re getting gold medals, they figured some things out. And he just looked at the graph, there was a fair amount of consistency between these athletes. So it wasn’t like it was one outlier. And I think the summary of these athletes is yes, you need to keep up the high intensity work. I think that that athlete, they’re saying was the best of all time, she’s slightly increased her high intensity work, you made a little harder. During her taper, you still saw a trend towards decreasing volume. And these studies were saying you’re seeing more like 15 18%, not the 40 to 60% that they’re recommending in the research.
Chris Case 34:08
So it’s a it’s a just a lesser taper, right. Still tapering, but just not as dramatic as what the science is saying.
Trevor Connor 34:16
The other thing that I thought was interesting is that bigger week where they they do a little bit of a functional overreach was three weeks, not four weeks. Yeah. So it was a little closer events of the taper was a little shorter. And you can see here that that overreach week wasn’t huge. It was just bigger bit a little bigger than normal. So a little less a drop in volume, keep up the high intensity do that that overreach a little bit beforehand. And both studies one of their conclusions was these are athletes who are racing all the time. They don’t have the luxury to do a big three week taper. So that might be one of the factors is they’ve actually trained how to recover really quick and get ready for the next race recover quick get ready for the next race. might just be able to handle it a little bit better.
Colby Pearce 35:02
Yeah, it’s interesting to to consider kind of the demands of the of the events the athletes are competing in and what they’re trained to what their baseline is. That’s, that’s what we’re talking about is change in homeostasis, right? We want a desired effect. And we have a given load, and we have to look at what that workload is try to quantify it, try to measure it, so we can figure out what it is and then change it manipulated accordingly so
Trevor Connor 35:21
that we get a result for our peak event. Anybody who’s is gone through a physiology program there, there is an expression, which is all training causes a conversion from fast twitch fiber to slow twitch fiber. And people say, well, that’s crazy. You know, what about going in the weight room? Well, look at your bodybuilders. They have all these veins, because they’re actually developing a lot of slow twitch muscle fiber. The best way to redevelop fast twitch muscle fiber is sitting on the couch. And again, you look at what is the most powerful anaerobic animal in the world. Do you think of something like the cheetah? Yep, was spent most of its time to sleep in industry, right, just sitting around. Yeah. And I see athletes all the time they get injured or they get sick, and they have to take two weeks off the bike. Then they get back on they do a sprint goal. That’s the best hour I’ve ever seen, of course, so tapering for track events. Yeah, you really need to drop that
Colby Pearce 36:11
volume. And we’re not just talking about kilos or team Sprint’s we’re talking about points race Madison, the endurance track events, which are still long duration by track snares. But short by road standard, we’re talking about a 25 minute race, but very intense, right, nine or 10, Sprint’s I’ve worked a lot of track athletes in particular those on the sprinting side, that requires, I think, more of an extreme reduction in volume. Because it’s so important to be fresh, it’s really important to be open, but it’s almost more important to be fresh, because the efforts are so explosive, and you have to go so deep, the events are separated by sometimes thousands of a second. So you really need that that ability to just absolutely open the engine 100% all the way. And road cyclists don’t really live in that world necessarily. And I would argue that two other events that fall into those categories that when we look at the broad spectrum are one is shorter mountain bike races, in particular short tracks or shorter cross countries and even some cyclocross races, because there’s a high exposure, a component of explosive nature to those events, you need to be able to produce a lot of power over short bursts. And the other one is, of course, shorter time trials. prologue TT is a great example. And you see so many prologue TT results where there’s one athlete who just smokes everybody by significant margin, right? How many times we’ve seen that, like, one guy is 12 seconds, and then there is a herd of dudes that are right behind him, you’re gone. What is the difference there? And I have no science to back this up at all. But I’d be willing to bet that that guy is the guy who probably cut his volume, more her volume more running into that event. And that’s what enabled them to gain that significant margin, they were able to access those anaerobic reserves so much more effectively on the day.
Trevor Connor 37:47
Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. And I think you look at the opposite. All of us have probably had this experience where you’ve done several weeks of big volume. And I kind of call it you just become a tank. Yeah, you can put out this decent Chi, depending on the person Hi. 200 watt power. Yeah, do you? Oh, yeah. All the time. But if somebody attacks, there’s like, No, just diesel on bad. Right. Right. And you have no jump. Yeah.
Chris Case 38:10
Just step back for just a second. I’m curious if you have thoughts on how big that overreach week should be if there any guidelines there.
Trevor Connor 38:19
So I think going back to that study, they had a really good differentiation, which is everybody who went through that that overreach week described themselves as fatigue, when they did the palm scale, they came up as fatigued. The difference between the people that saw the big jump in and form and the people who didn’t was a drop in power, the people saw a really good taper period, even though they were fatigued, if they had them go and do a test, they could still produce the power. So you could almost just take the approach of do interval if you’re building that week do intervals towards the beginning of that week towards the end of that week, and if you’re 3040 watts down, you probably overdid it, or have some sort of a test maybe you just have a you know just a 510 minute hillclimb do it at the beginning, and you should still be somewhat in the same neighborhood towards the end of that week.
Colby Pearce 39:14
Maybe I mean, arguably, part of that week is to put you in the valley of fatigue, right? You know, this jumps ahead a bit to my own experience last year, I kind of did a little week long build for masters track worlds. And I’ve been around a while so I figured I’d roll the dice a bit and see what happened. I probably averaged I don’t know your normal working guy masters still bike dork. Volume of training for most of the summer Haute Route Rockies aside I probably averaged 10 or 12 hours a week you know, nothing to flash. The three weeks before masters worlds I decided I was going to do like a 26 hour week and a half that just sort of worked out to be the way it was I kind of get up every day and go Okay, I’m not totally smashed. Let’s see what happens. I was gone to the track and do some intervals. It was also really rainy that week. So some of it was literally dodging rainstorms and or not dodging but Man I for like three days after that I was terrible. And I went on. We have a local group right here that I did. And one a local kid who comes in sometimes we’re pretty close on climbs, usually we are. He just destroyed me that day. I mean, there was no doubt and I just felt like I was dragging a tree stump. You know, there’s no doubt I was still in the valley of fatigue at that point. But a days later, got two masters and felt like I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel the pedals. It was no chain every day. So no, the one thing
Trevor Connor 40:24
that’s interesting there, as you said, Two, Three days later,
Colby Pearce 40:27
yes, I’m still fatigued. That was two or three days after that was the first ride. It was the first day where I try to go hard after my, the significant overreach. Yeah,
Trevor Connor 40:36
so but that’s also after the painkillers have cleared out and your body’s gone into a recovery mode. So yep, that study that was just quoting, I actually read last summer. And I, during that with the athletes, I coach, I’m big on doing training camps a couple times through the winter, so fatigue weeks, and I always tell them by the end of this week, I want you good toasts like you, you need some rest. With some of them. We experimented a little bit this year, and on the last day of their camp, I had them do something with some intensity. And I was actually even though they were saying I’m tired, I’ve got one day left to me. How many of them were actually able to put out the best wattage I’ve seen this Ranger. Yeah. But then they rest. Two, three days later, they contact me and they go, I couldn’t get out what happened this morning? Yeah. And then if they got in the bike, they probably couldn’t break 200 ones.
Chris Case 41:21
Yep. And you’re saying that’s because of the natural painkillers have cleared their system, they have to
Trevor Connor 41:27
clear those painkillers for their body to do the repair. Yeah. And that suddenly, when you feel how damn how
Colby Pearce 41:33
much work you’ve done? Yeah,
Chris Case 41:35
I think it’s it’s clear that with the different philosophies and things that we’re discussing, that we’re starting to get into that gray area where it’s a little bit more art, and I think that that’s interesting, I think that that everybody has a method, I think we’re trying to help people hone that method. But I think it’s also things you have to try. You have to experiment. Even Trevor has been doing this a long time. Even Colby, who’s been doing it for 30 years is still experimenting, still tweaking, fine tuning, searching for what works for them. And as you age, it might change. You know, as you race more, it might change. I think you’re spot on.
Trevor Connor 42:13
There’s an individual side of it. You and I are both that time trial style rider and I know I can dig myself into a dark, deep place of fatigue. And actually a week and a half later come out of it and have that big kind of bump. And that taper bump. I’ve certainly seen with some of the athletes I’ve coached that if I ever dug them that deep it’s the end of their season.
Colby Pearce 42:35
Yep. Yep. So there is a fine line there. And yeah, it’s it’s all about knowing the athlete and looking at their lifetime athletic ability because I know I know myself well enough after being in sport for three decades that I can pull that off but in 1998 I dug myself in a huge hole for example, and it was one of those years where in May I kept going kept gone. I’m gonna hit a new plateau. I’m gonna hit a new I’m gonna be the fastest Colby ever and I just ground myself into dust. Yep, I was never the same athlete. For the last three months of season. I was just barely above water just hanging on for dear life. You know, I could fake a flat criterium and that was about it. No explosive power, no snap as soon as I tried to anything deep at all was just hopeless. So that’s part of what training is about is learning your own limits. Learning the limits of your athletes hopefully you don’t push them as far as I did myself that time you figured out beforehand but
Trevor Connor 43:21
what’s some of your your best? Well, I’d
Colby Pearce 43:24
have to say that our record 95 was a good one. Father has helped me with that we’re kind of training buddy sparring buddies back then. And he was working with Adrienne demon who’s a coach who exercise physiologist pretty smart guy and I mean jvn our some of the first guys in the US to have srms this is like Greg Oman and then like YouTube, who are Colby Pearson, Jonathan Vaughters. So that year, we learned a ton and Adrian started coaching JV and he actually knew how to use the the power to coach which no one did back then. So that was pretty cool. But
do you remember the specifics of it?
Colby Pearce 43:57
Yeah, roughly, yes. And I have some of the power data’s gone. Unfortunately, it’s like over the years of transferring to hard drives and stuff. I’ve lost some of it, sadly. But I recall doing a 35 kilometer trial run on the Tuesday before I believe I did the hour on the 31st. And it was a Sunday if I remember correctly, it was kind of my last big ride. And the whole idea was to simply be on pace and remarkable. You know, this is Carter springs in 1985 outdoor velodrome so luckily the weather’s having to be nice that it was one of those perfect September’s where we had lots of good days of weather. And I did it and I was I remember finishing that 35 k trial being exactly on fries pace, and distinctly thinking like I could easily go faster. So that was a huge boost for me. So when you’re in that position, you know, it’s easy to have a positive mental outlook because you go all I have to do is not trip down the stairs or catch the flu in the next you know, three or four days and I’m good to go. Yeah, that’s the perspective I had going on. And then still to this day, actually I did my opener is just a classic straight up five minute video to just like eyeballs bleeding as fast You can go the day before, open everything out until you’re absolutely annihilated, like pursuit pace and that, you know, you do a little bit of prep before and a little bit of warm down after but basically that’s the nuts and bolts of the tune up and that that’s kind of what I remember from my last week. I don’t recall real clearly what I did. I think actually during my overreached period, if I remember correctly, it was the cardio cyclists stage race was happening in the springs. I’m supposed to do it, but I caught a little bit of a cold so I decided to skip it. I got to watch it. Yeah, so this is your world was in 95. They were in Colombia, I think in Bogota. And frickin Miguel Indurain shows up to Colorado Springs with like three or four Spanish teammates, they do the Carter cyclists state race. These guys had never ridden with helmets before. This is 1995 they get to the states of like, you have to buy a helmet. You need a helmet. They’re like a what’s a helmet like, you know this in your head? I mean, these guys literally walk into like the local bike shop probably caught a cyclist and buy helmets, I swear him this is not made up or even gratuitous. Like one of the guys race the entire race with the helmet on backpacks or all weekend, just smashing people off the front just dropping bombs everywhere, you know, climbing like an eagle. And everyone’s like, what planet are we on? just hilarious. I think they did a Garden of the Gods road race and maybe an Air Force road race or something and something else. And then they went down to Columbia. And I don’t recall who won road world that year in 95. Anyway,
Chris Case 46:21
Alright, we’ve talked about a lot of the timing of a peak. But how long does a peak actually last in your experience? And what does the science say?
Trevor Connor 46:30
Well, I do think the length of the peak can be somewhat personal. But the one thing that is consistent is it’s very short. So you You do have to time it somewhat for the right event. And you will hear people talk about they hit their peak for the the race that was the prep race or the race they cared about a week beforehand. My general experience and Kobe I’m really interested in here and yours, well get my quick two cents, is you can extend a peak one, maybe two weeks, and you can’t really go past that. The big danger we’re trying to extend a peak is your body’s operating at a level above what it’s used to. So if you keep trying to push it, it’s going to go from peaking to burnout. Or if you continue to really try to taper eventually that taper is going to turn into D training and one way or the other, you’re going to lose form. But I’ve seen a lot of people who are on a peak, they keep trying to push it. And next thing you know they’re burnt out. So I’m generally a big believer in targeted for the event, get your event done. And then even if you still feel a bit of that peak in your legs, pull the plug before you start burning out, get that rest and and get back to training so you can get to your next peak. Or at least get to good fitness.
Colby Pearce 47:41
Yeah, get get a baseline fitness going on. have regular training load again. Yeah, Yeah, I would agree with that. I mean, I’ve I’ve run into that a few times where people, I’ve had athletes who, for example, had a kind of an early national championship, maybe in June or something like that. And then they have racing immediately afterwards. And maybe in particular, that national championship isn’t necessarily the most physically taxing IE, you know, it’s different if you’re talking about endurance mountain bike nationals, where you’re literally going to be feeling your legs for days afterwards, or a stage race versus, for example, Masters track nationals where you’re there, and you’re racing, and the racing is hard. But you’re talking about a three kilometer individual pursuit or a three k team pursuit or, you know, 20 minute points race. I mean, yeah, the race is hard. But the next day, it’s not like you’re gonna be super destroyed and sore. So it’s tempting for those athletes to just want to come home and then immediately jump back into the local criteriums and such. And I think you have to respect the fact that sight from a psychological standpoint, even if the physical load isn’t that high, the athlete is so invested in their their peak performance, whether it went good or bad, they just need a break, you just need to unplug and not go pin on a number and try again. So sometimes you have to have that discussion with a Type A athlete who’s like, I want to do more, I want to do more, you know, I feel great, I’m gonna keep smashing. Let’s take a step back. And remember what you did. Remember that extra week of load you did, and then that taper and then remember how we thought you were gonna cold and you were freaking out, and I had to call you and then you went to your race and you did this and you’ve been through a lot. Now you flew home, let’s just relax for a bit. And let’s just start with me. You don’t need to do this criterium. But I really want to do it, I think I can win. We still have 14 weeks of season left or whatever, you know,
Trevor Connor 49:18
if the race is coming up, you can win.
Colby Pearce 49:20
Yes, the season is long. It’s always about the long game. Right? Especially at that point. So but as far as how long a peak actually lasts? Yeah, I think if you’re talking about a championship event, or an event that is really physically exhausting, then even if the person thinks they can keep going, chances are they can’t. So you just have to be a little bit firm with them about as a coach and plan in advance say, look, we’re planning a break here. You need to you need a break, because I’m afraid if you keep going. Here’s the real the other danger is you give someone a giant loading week and then you taper them and then they’re super fresh and they go to a race and they smash and then they keep going well, if the fitness is still there, they’re generating a lot more force. Sometimes in particular, if mechanically something’s not quite ideal, then being injury. Yeah,
Trevor Connor 50:05
that’s that’s what he’s getting at your body’s operating at a higher light. Exactly think of it is. This is when you’re hitting the nos button. And yes,
Trevor Connor 50:12
any drag racer, if you keep hitting that nos button,
Colby Pearce 50:15
the end is gonna fall out or some right.
Chris Case 50:17
Explosion explode. I
Colby Pearce 50:18
don’t know much about racecar engines, but
Trevor Connor 50:21
actually, I’m kind of guessing myself. But I’m assuming if you keep hitting
Chris Case 50:25
any listener out there that knows about cars, tell us what letter? Yeah,
Trevor Connor 50:30
so cars, we’re gonna get an email. So no, you keep hitting that nos button cleans.
Colby Pearce 50:35
Exactly. That’s not the way human engines work. So yeah, the trickier part is to when you have a race, that’s not a championship event that has a very definitive finality to it. So let’s say you’re peaking for, toward the healer, which is in May, usually, and then you’ve got a few weeks of racing after that, and the rider wants to keep going, then again, man, there’s so much racing left, you really I think it’s up to the coach to be to have that honest conversation with the athlete and say, Look, I want you to be good for your September goal,
Chris Case 51:04
whatever they were, if they don’t have a coach, they should have that conversation with themselves themselves.
Colby Pearce 51:07
Take Be realistic, be realistic, be like, it’s not, it’s not a weak guy. Like I’m not tough enough thing. Everybody has a natural wax and wane to their their preparation, their training, how their body responds to load, you can’t just go go go forever.
Trevor Connor 51:19
One thing I do with all my athletes is whenever they have a target event, about pretty close to that event, I have a talk with them about what’s your next event. Because I think it’s important to have that in the mind. Because when you are building towards a race and you’re doing that big overload week, and then your taper and you’re trying to be perfect with everything, then you go to this event and you have the event whether you win or lose. There’s always the same reaction a day or two later of this has been my life. Now what now what? And yeah, there’s a bit of depression. And I felt that depression a bunch of times and it’s really important to be able to look down the road and say, oh, six, eight weeks from now I’ve got that event. So it’s not like this is just everything’s ended. What did what do I do with my life, you know, you don’t have to have a big existential crisis.
Chris Case 52:12
Today’s episode of Fast Talk is sponsored by Cirrus makers of power tap power meters. I use their bulletproof g three hub based power meter at the recent dirty Kansa 200 mile gravel race. Learn more about the training involved in my race, my transition from cyclocross racer to endurance guy in an upcoming episode of fast learn why gathering accurate power data from my power tap, which is able to deliver plus or minus 1.5% accuracy played a critical role in that transition. Thanks to Cirrus and power tap for their support of faster. And now let’s get back to the show.
Chris Case 52:55
So now that we’ve talked about the science and learn what the best are doing, learned what the literature has said. Let’s talk a little bit more about the the gray areas of this the art of peeking, Colby, you’ve had decades of experience here. Tell us a little bit give us an overview and perspective on on peeking?
Colby Pearce 53:17
Well for me, I mean, my number one rule as a coach is to always try to see the athlete as an individual. I mean, you have to understand the more you understand about the athlete, and I don’t mean just mean their training, stress score, I mean, really understand the athlete, the more you can effectively write training for them. You got to understand what their relationship status status is what they do for a living, you know, to spend time on their feet. How good is their diet, how much stress
Chris Case 53:39
other stresses in their life?
Colby Pearce 53:41
Yeah, because that all of course, contributes to what they’re going to be able to do on the bike. You know, as Paul check said, he’s a he’s a mentor that I’ve been studying and exercise coach and a holistic lifestyle coach, he says, you bring your whole life into the gym. And what he means by that is you bring all your stress into the gym, all your financial stress, all your job worries, all your relationship concerns, you know, your whatever it is if you have an injured heart from a bad relationship experience that’s going to impact you, as you make effective work on the bike. Because, as we all know, everyone’s personality comes out on a bike. I mean, that’s one of the things I love about cycling, he put someone in 20 minutes into a really hard climb. And they’re scrapping to make the lead group look the expression on their face. There’s something primal about that. And that’s the summation of who they are as a person. And that’s not just all the intervals they’ve done. That’s their whole life experience.
Trevor Connor 54:28
So I’m a mean guy in the peloton. I’m not sure I like where you’re going with
Chris Case 54:33
Colby Pearce 54:34
on her scowl. And Chris Horner is always smiling. I don’t know what that says. But so you know, so my point is you got to you have to understand the athlete on a holistic level. And of course, part of that on the more granular sense granular senses that you have to understand, really be in touch with what their training load has been. So when you back up when you think backwards, just like you think backwards from the finish line when you’re sprinting in a criterium to this corner, that corner or whatever. Where am I going to setup my sprint. It’s the same concept in a taper and then a loading week, and then it taper into performance. And you have to say, how far out Am I going to put this peak? How am I going to instruct my rider to do this? Right. And that gets into my practical tips on how to do that, which are very important, I think, in my experience.
Trevor Connor 55:17
But it also sounds like you’re saying that each individual athlete athlete has to put the time and the experimentation and define what’s the best peak for that
Colby Pearce 55:25
I would agree with. Yeah, I would agree with that, it’s difficult to do because to do, it’s one of those experiments that you can only do so often, I mean, you could tell someone that for a local road race, they’re going to do a full, you know, one week load, that’s going to be plus 40% of their normal training volume, and then have them taper for eight days and then try to erode race, it might be successful. So some athletes, and it’s probably a good idea. But in practicality, it may not work out that effectively, because that’s a lot. And in particular, when you’re talking about 95% of all athletes, they don’t have the flexibility to manipulate their schedule that regularly I mean, everyone smile, you have the dream client who runs their own company, or, or whatever, maybe they have very flexible employment or that kind of thing. And that’s great, then you can play with those variables a little more. But most athletes, I coach don’t have that. So when little stricted in there, exactly, yeah, their regular weekly load is 10 hours, you say, look, I want you to do 16 hours, you know, 16 Hour Work rate for eight or nine days, and then cut it off. Nine days before a local criterium, they’re gonna be like, well, how many times a year to do this, what we’re gonna do it twice more to practice and then once at Nationals, and they go, um, no chance, like, I can’t take that much time off work. So, yes, ideally, you would practice it. But unfortunately, most of those practice, there’s so much that goes into it, most of the time, it ends up being for an actual event, in my experience. And the other thing I’ll say to that is, we all tend to think of our sort of optimal performances in the past. And it’s kind of the same thing in terms of, if three years ago, an athlete did XYZ PDQ before a certain race, they’re going to want to take that same eight day pattern and that same intervals at the same Hill and the same whatever they recover shakes, they were drinking, and say, Well, if I just replicate that now, I’ll have the exact same result. But of course, three years of life have happened, you’re not the same athlete, you haven’t trained the same, you got married had a kid or you change your job three times or whatever, all these other things have happened. You’ve had different training, load, different rate schedule, different teammates data. So we can’t take it’s not that formulaic. So my point is, even if we have a baseline sort of idea around something that worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you in the future. Of course, you can take that structure and manipulate it or change it use it as a baseline. But you can’t replicate. I’ve had so many athletes that particularly hit us with riders who get lost for a season, that kind of feel like they trained hard, but it didn’t work. And then a lot of times they’ll go to a nuts and bolts person, oh, well, two years ago, I was dropping everybody and I dropped this guy in that kind of one of these races. So I’m just going to start doing what I did, then.
Colby Pearce 57:51
Unfortunately, that line of thought, I have yet to see it actually pan out. So because you’ve got 12 months, the previous 12 months of different stuff in your body. But so what are we talking about, we have to boil down to nuts and bolts, we have to look at the bottom line of what the basic concepts are. And I agree that maintaining or increasing intensity is important. It depends a little bit on how much intensity you’ve had in your program. If you’re a person whose idea of intensity is five times six minutes at vo to power and you’re actually doing 30 minutes at vo to power which most people aren’t secret. When they do 30 minutes work. Some are but many aren’t. Then you might be well advised to cut it down to 15 minutes on your vo today in I’m talking about during your actual taper, right. But for someone who’s doing 12 minutes worth of work, high quality work, or more, maybe more poignantly, if you have a Master’s athlete who’s training eight to 10 hours a week all summer, are you really going to ask them to cut their volume again by 40 to 60% to train five hours. That’s what the science recommends. On the flip side, that’s not what the athletes at least at the Olympic level are doing. I don’t know how how pertinent that is to a Masters athlete who’s training or anyone who’s training doesn’t do a master anyone is doing eight to 10 hours a week. It’s like, Okay, how I mean, does that mean on your day where you were going to do a 75 minute lunch ride, you’re now doing a 38 minute lunch ride. I mean, come on. Like, just go for the hour, like get a proper warm up and do your work, do a little bit less volume of intensity is this is my general thought pattern. But make sure that intensity is very sharp, right. And I also tend to look at physiological sort of windows, meaning there are certain durations of intervals that really tax someone’s body and there are other durations are a little more sustainable. One of those durations is right around a minute. Things get really hard. If you do a one minute interval with a gun to your head, the last 15 seconds you are really pedaling through clay, mud and cement, right. That’s because all the glycolytic system for most people shuts down, you know, usually around 45 seconds in so you’re kind of forcing it. Now, that type of stimulus can be very useful at certain points in a program but when you do it all the time It can really be very damaging. So maybe during your taper period, you cut that down to 45 second intervals, I love 45 second intervals, I think they’re very useful for emptying the glycolytic tank, right? there times when I get my athletes one minute intervals, there are times when I give them 40. So it’s all about context. And the same for me goes for three versus four versus five minute intervals. a five minute interval is really just a four minute interval with a gun your head for the last minute, you get two minute four, and you go, I think I can barely hang on for dear life the last minute and then I get this wonderful duration, right. So in your taper period, maybe you don’t need to quite do all that damage. What your objective is, is to activate all the the energy systems, activate all the enzymes make sure the body’s still awake and open and the muscle fibers are firing and generating force, but not fatigue them.
Chris Case 1:00:47
Right? It To me, it sounds like your picture, you’re painting a picture that has a lot of nuance that has a lot of feeling as a coach responding to the feelings of an athlete. I want to flip over here to Trevor, who I want to. Do you agree with this? Is this how you’re shooting down some science?
Trevor Connor 1:01:04
Oh, no, actually. So when I work with an athlete for a taper, same thing that I don’t know, I don’t think there’s a particular formula, you can just say that, here’s what you’re going to do, and you’re going to be perfect on this particular day. It’s just it’s not that simple. So I actually take much more of an approach of here’s how it should feel with the athletes. And during that taper week I talked about, we never want to have a time when you are feeling buried and tired. Agreed. But when I have them go out and do that intensity work the way I describe it to them, which is you know, you’re actually be more scientific than I am with with your description. But it’s kind of the same thing I say, I want you to go out and do like, I want you to finish that workout saying that was a good hard workout. I feel like I was hitting some big numbers. But you should not be coming home dragging your feet. Yes, you should almost be coming home energized.
Colby Pearce 1:01:54
That’s how I like to. It’s like, if you were doing squats in the gym, and you put on a given weight, and you’re sure you could do 12 reps, we’re going to nine today, you should always come home with a few reps in the tank. On your taper week. It’s it’s more about perfect execution, perfect form. super high power crisp, and then you’re done. And that’s it, put a bow on it. Go home, put your feet up. Exactly, yeah.
Trevor Connor 1:02:14
But taper week is off track when an athlete calls me up and says I’m feeling fatigued. I’m feeling tired. Yeah, you You never want to get to that that point, you mean that you can do that during times during training? But not on a tape?
Colby Pearce 1:02:28
Yeah, I would agree with that. Although I have had athletes in that tape period where things have gone. It’s basically they’re coming off their big overload week and their normal load is we’ll just say hypothetical numbers 15 hours a week, and you bump them up to 22 or 23 or 24 hours. So big increase for their overload week, they’ll be aggressive, it’s going to take them 72 hours, where actually they’re probably gonna feel a little bit worse. And they’re going to need to, you’re gonna have to give him some time. And you’re gonna have to coach them through that. That’s where the the coaching and the pep talks are so important. They look, what are we here to do as coaches, we’re here to constantly remind our athletes where they are in the big picture, because all humans tend to see trees, not for us, especially when the event is coming. And so you have to constantly back them out in the 30,000 foot view and say, Look, you should be fatigued right now. You should feel like Do you remember how much work you just did? Do you remember that Tuesday last week I made you go Flagstaff three times, like and you did it? And do you remember that on Friday, you set a new five minute season best power somehow, like you’re smashed, so just chill out. Everything’s gonna work out. We have nine days until your race.
Chris Case 1:03:29
There’s a lot of there’s trust involved there there.
Trevor Connor 1:03:32
Yes. No, that’s a really good point. And sorry, when I was saying you should never feel tired. What I meant is, you should never put yourself back in a fatigue place with the work that you’re doing during the taper. Agreed? Absolutely. So if you’re stuck, you know, if you hit that point where you’re feeling pretty rested, and then you do a ton of work
Colby Pearce 1:03:48
and you’re fatigued again. You’ve undone your point of the taper week. Yeah, Agreed. Agreed. But
Trevor Connor 1:03:53
I obviously you can do that fatigue week have multiple days in a row where it’s kind of scary going, Oh, damn, I want to start this race and then all of a sudden you wake up one day and go the best legs I’ve had all year.
Chris Case 1:04:06
Yep. This the science was saying three to four weeks for a taper. You were just mentioning a lot of seven, eight days. I’m wondering if you have any more evidence to talk about the timeline of a peak and have you ever even tried a four week taper or a three week taper?
Colby Pearce 1:04:26
Not intentionally. I probably have as a result of sort of extenuating circumstances. For example, there are periods where I’ve myself have been battling like some semi chronic knee stuff was coming and going early in my career. And I ended up kind of half training half not half turning half not that effectively end up being a long taper.
Chris Case 1:04:45
Whatever fell What have you found to be the ideal taper for you your athletes, what are some of the this for me,
Colby Pearce 1:04:51
I think seven to 10 days is the sweet spot two weeks out gets to be for someone who’s absolutely glued into a seven day work week schedule. Sometimes you got to finish that build week or that overreaching week, 14 days out. So then effectively you are in a two week taper. So that’s, that’s about as much as I, I had several athletes on that program before worlds now they think about it. So and that’s more a function of the fact that you can just give them two big days on last Saturday and Sunday, they got a bit of work on Monday. And so what I do in that case is I make sure that that overreaching week or that loading week is significant. And then I tell them, you’re doing nothing for two days, and your third days, and maybe the active recovery. So we’re given 72 hours to help clear out the system. And then we start a pattern of, for me, what I found really works effectively is a day on day off pattern. Pretty simple. I’ve used this for myself, I’ve used it for track athletes, road athletes, I’ve used it for juniors going to junior National Junior World Championships, I’ve used it for outhouse going into us pro road championships, or, excuse me, and worlds both day on day off, if I find it to be very effective, it’s simple. It allows the athlete to do just enough work every 48 hours, if you do some type of work that activates things, and you kind of kind of approach it like a bit of a cookie sprinkle it’s a little bit of this work a little bit of that work, a little bit of tempo, a little bit threshold, some co2, some short explosive neuromuscular work, and and then they get a day of active recovery. And then we repeat that and then you know, not exactly the same those the the intensity on the on days changes. But fundamentally, the pattern is down day off. And the day off doesn’t have to be active rest, but most the time it is and then that’s also day to emphasize recovery modalities.
Trevor Connor 1:06:31
Yeah, the only thing I have seen or heard in terms of tapering length, is when you are tapering for a more of an pure endurance event, like you’re tapering for a big long stage race, your taper tends to be shorter. If you’re tapering for a shorter, more intense event like track or crits, you need a longer taper.
Colby Pearce 1:06:53
Well, if I can mention if I can add, interject there for a second, I’ve noticed, working with Garmin with a few athletes. There’s some athletes who depending on again, the physiology of the rider and the type of rider they are, in their context going into the events, sometimes they would really stumble on the second day. And I found this to surgery myself as well, if I have a really important stage race, which I don’t really do those anymore. But okay, what’s the typical stage race pattern for someone who is a person who has good recovery is the first day they’re fresh, you don’t feel the pedals, you’re going hard all day, you’re swinging this, that whatever all over the place, shooting bullets off, then you wake up the second day and go, Oh, what happened? You feel that first day, right? So it’s like you’re fresh. And then the second day, you’re in a hole, and then by the third day, then you get the rhythm, your body’s awake and has the rhythm of the race. So several coaches have tried this technique where basically the day before heart stage race, you actually ride pretty hard, not in a damaging way, again, respecting those physiological windows that we talked about not doing time threshold, maybe more tempo, more glycogen depleting, but then of course, you make sure they eat a bunch of carbs at night, so they’re not going to the line empty, etc. So you actually kind of start the race sort of with a half day a day before the stage race starts. That’s particularly important on a on a stage race where you might have a day, that’s a GC day, the first day, you know, there’s several American races where that can happen, like to the Hill is a great example, right? If you’re not open when you’re trying to fly up the mcgeough. And you lose a bunch of time there, but you go get the rest of the week. Well, there goes your GC right.
Trevor Connor 1:08:21
Now I’m a stage racer, I’m a pure stage racer. And My typical day before stage race I care about is three plus hours of riding. Yeah, yeah, I actually do a pretty decent day ride.
Colby Pearce 1:08:31
Yeah, the challenge there comes in protour cycling, you get to the Tour de France and, and it’s just chaos. It’s a circus. And it’s really hard for the athletes to have much control over their training at that level. You’d be surprised I mean, from can do whatever he wants, I’m sure. But for the rest of the teams, it’s you know, there’s interviews, there’s massages, you have to hand your bike in because the mechanic needs it. And you have to be here for this dinner and this team thing and this that that done before, you know, they’ve got 75 minutes to drink. That’s it. It’s amazing how it flies by?
Trevor Connor 1:08:58
Yeah. Yeah, I
Colby Pearce 1:08:59
mean, that’s a different subject. But even during the race, even during the race, you think pros get to do whatever they want to do and whatever is best for them. But it’s often not that close, not even close. They’re doing interviews, they have a bunch of things well commitment and you know, more permanently, maybe to our audience, from a practical standpoint is the same is true for example, okay, let’s look at like an endurance mountain bike race. There’s so much there’s so many logistical details to mind before you’re going to go ride your mountain bike hard for eight hours, the entire day before it can easily be consumed with like stress, figuring out raisable food and changing tires and cleaning your bike and replacing that bearing and then having the pre ride meeting and then trying to get to bed at 830 at night because the thing always starts at frickin four in the morning. It’s like, by the time you do that you barely have time to ride your bike, let alone do openers. I mean, it can be a lot.
Trevor Connor 1:09:45
Well, you just heard our thoughts about tapering for a tour. Chris caught up with Joe Dombrowski World Tour rider with EF education first drapac presented by Cannondale, who talked about his actual experience prepping for the JIRA this year. It’s Definitely a long way away from what the science recommends. But even Joe admits that if he were coaching amateur for one day race, the approach would be very different.
For me, then in terms of the run into, let’s take, for example, the Giro, I typically will do altitude before a grand tour. So like, for example, this year, it’s looked like, you know, this big anaerobic focus, lots of gym work up until about February and then starting to come with more and more volume, and a little bit more like, long sustained efforts. And then I would say the last bit is, especially as a climber, focusing on grand tours, you need to make sure your weight is where it needs to be. I’ve had actually good success with like, in 2016, in the same timeframe, I was in Tenerife, before the euro. And I ended up writing a great euro. And I spent, I think, 17, or 18 days here, and I did maybe one or two days where I went over 320 watts. So the the intensity was actually very low. And I was just writing a lot. And part of that was because I was a bit heavy. And I did need to lose some weight. And it’s, it can be a bit dangerous, sort of trying to combine altitude training, with a lot of volume with a lot of intensity. It’s just like, a bit much. Yeah. But in general, I found that actually kind of taking out a lot of the intensity in the month before the key races works well for me, and then I just bring in, you know, I might be training 25 to 30 hours a week on the bike. But the intensity in general is pretty low. And the efforts that there are maybe more like, sort of medium to like, like, I guess they would sort of look like spike zone three type efforts or, like, over under threshold type efforts, but not a lot of like real high end stuff.
Chris Case 1:12:08
Two weeks before the gyro starts or a week out, do you have a time in in mind going into a big race where you say, Okay, I need to start a taper? Do you have that luxury, leading into your target races?
Yes, and no. Like, for example, I just finished off a few hard days and 10 races. I’ll do Roman D between now and then zero. And I kind of end up keeping the volume up maybe more than you think. And I think it’s kind of one of those things like, in my experience, the body sort of likes homeostasis. So if you’re used to writing a lot of volume, if you just stop, or if you significantly reduce that I find that I really struggle like in and one thing that’s I think has helped me is I often find it hard to get the power out the first few days of a stage race. And one thing I started doing with JV is usually two days before the race, I’ll do like five to six hours, but just easy, you know, like 170 watts just kind of noodling along. And I found that keeping that volume in there, I tend to have an easier go the first few days when it can be pretty explosive. And then I tend to get better as the race goes on. And even even in a grand tour, racing the JIRA, I’ll do my best power numbers in the third week.
Chris Case 1:13:45
I’m sure preparing for a grand tour is significantly different than if you’re prepping for leaf for a single day race.
Sure, but even then, you know, you’ll see some guys before the classics do a long ride the you know, two days out. And I think that is you know, I think some of it is even just like a world tour level riders are used to racing and training at a very high volume. So even things like blood plasma volume, when you go from like a lot of volume to just stopping, then you lose a lot of that. And then when you try and get going again, it’s sometimes you have a hard time like sort of getting the power out. And so I think it’s probably more common than you’d think. And I think that’s something that you really only see in very high high level athletes, because I don’t think it’s something that works. For example, like if I were coaching a, you know, a Master’s rider who’s working 40 hours a week and is going to race a criterium on a Saturday, I think Their case, you know, if they’re riding maybe 10 hours a week, it’s best for them to just go in fresh.
Trevor Connor 1:15:07
Let’s get back to our conversation with Colby and what not to do in a peak.
Colby Pearce 1:15:12
So we’ve already talked a bit about some of the what not to do’s and clearly one of them is to get nervous halfway through your taper period and decide that you need to do an hour long Strava segment or
a really hard interest session. Right? And oh, man, yeah, like I need to cram for this size and losing
Colby Pearce 1:15:28
fitness or Yeah, exactly. I haven’t I haven’t done enough. Because whatever you’ve done at that point, the only thing you can do at that point is ruin your race completely by doing it trying to do too much work.
Trevor Connor 1:15:36
Or worse. You’re just coming off of that overreach week,
Trevor Connor 1:15:40
you’re fatigued. You’re not putting out great numbers. You go, I gotta train, I
Colby Pearce 1:15:43
have to train more. Yes, exactly. Right, exactly right, you got to, you have to use some baseline of common sense, which means, okay, if I’ve been doing 20 minutes worth of work on my interval days, and I’ve been doing an hour worth of sweetspot or threshold on my longer days, then I need to cut that by a mathematically sound amount, and stick with it and do the best I can on that day. And if the numbers are low, the numbers are low, but I still have another five or eight days until my race and things are gonna turn around. And when you get nervous, you put energy into other areas of impacting your recovery.
Chris Case 1:16:16
What are some of the other things that people should definitely not do? Let’s get back to apocalyptic floods. Yeah, live in places without Yeah. Well,
Colby Pearce 1:16:26
this does get a bit into my practical tips on how let’s do it. Great. So I have my my six Colby tips on what to do, or my practical recommendations on how to handle things going into a an overload week and a taping peak or peak cycle.
Trevor Connor 1:16:43
And this is how professional Colby is he made this list and he brought it in I think you our first guests to come in with notes with all the nerves. Yeah, well,
Chris Case 1:16:51
we’re setting a high standard
Colby Pearce 1:16:54
for the future podcast guests bring notes or don’t I don’t know. So my number one tip for and this is some of these tips apply to both the overloading week and the taper. Some of them apply more just to the taper. This one applies specifically to the taper one though actually it applies to both and I’ll give Alan Dr. lm credit for this. He taught me this years ago I worked with him on and off as a coach for years and and Alan said the number one thing you can do and this is at the time was supported by the science the number one thing you can do during a taper period to help improve your performance when you want to peak is get more sleep. Sleep is I think the science pretty clearly shows that sleep is absolutely essential for endurance athletes unless you have a rare genetic snip like Jocko willing and you can sleep five hours a day and get up and smash yourself every morning at 430 in the morning. For those of you don’t know who Jocko is just go Google it and have fun. It’s an amazing journey. And so, sleep add an hour of sleep, ideally per night in the taper period that will help your recovery at so many essential biological components of recovery happen during sleep. It’s it’s I can’t emphasize it enough. And the easiest and most practical way to do that is to go to sleep an hour earlier than you would normally. So if you are a 1030 bed person, climb into bed at 930. Even if you don’t fall asleep at 930. That’s okay, just start reading a book with low levels of light and let the magic happen. Let it happen. The second line of defense for that is to sneak a nap in whenever you can. Even if it’s a 20 minute nap where you don’t actually feel like you sleep at work. You go hide in a broom closet or something doing when you get home from work if you’re totally smashed before you start playing catch with kids and you know, clean up the dog poop and cook dinner or whatever other random domestic stuff you got to do. sneak in a 20 minute nap just make a deal with your partner offer them something in return. Maybe it’s that amazing vacation down the road. But you’ve got to there’s got to be given taken. Hopefully your life partners and family understand this goal is important you you’ve been working on it for months. So they should be supportive of you in that perspective. So you might need some help. Sleep is one area where people need help. Ask for help.
Chris Case 1:18:59
Yeah, good. That’s
Colby Pearce 1:18:59
number one. Number two, is clear your calendar. Okay, if you are normally training 12 hours a week, and then your coach is gonna ask you to do 18 hours a week during a loading week. And then your taper period, this is not the time to go to the dentist. This is not the time to start a new screen door project. This is not the time to finish your taxes. Do that stuff in the other 50 weeks in the year, not these two weeks. Okay? Like because life coach will be comes out you’re already dealing with additional you need a clear calendar so you can just relax and then if you have an extra hour at night, if you’re not going to bed early, then you can just do something relaxing. And that time will help you unwind and work towards your goal. You spent months preparing for this event. Don’t screw it up in the last week because you accidentally forgot that. Suddenly you had three parties to attend to and a kid’s birthday party and you know to dance appointments and then you had to take your dog to the vet to get his teeth cleaned like that can wait a week or two weeks.
Trevor Connor 1:19:56
Right. Something I like to do with my athletes is when they’re on a recovery with week or taper week, and they’re not training as much actually have them schedule, the time that they would a train and I say yes, you would have been on the bike this time. So we know you have that time. Yes. Now it turns into recovery time. Yes, take a nap, do a stretch, do some foam roll. Yes, but that time is still time time for you to recover.
Colby Pearce 1:20:19
Yes, that. Exactly. I agreed. Um, number three is during that taper period is the time to make lists, be organized and be professional. That means managing your equipment, take it at a sustainable pace. So if you’re preparing again, for a mountain bike state race, that’s the time to go check your tires, check your cassette and drive train, take your bike to the shop, or do the work yourself, again, in a sustainable pace. So you plan on advance. So it’s not the night before the race, all of a sudden, you’re running around going to the bike shops and stressing stressing out about stuff that could have been done four or five days ago, right? That’s the time to make sure you’ve got enough chain lube, is to start going to the grocery store and planning out your list and make your energy bars or do your scratch cookbook or whatever your method is right, make sure you got enough energy drink all those details. That also means that in particular, if you are your peak event is an event such as a time trial, and you’re gonna be warming up on a trainer. This is the perfect time to rehearse your warm up routine and go over it with your coach know exactly what it is, the more stuff on race day that you have perfectly dialed the less you have to think the less to sit, the fewer decisions you have to make, the more in the flow moment you can be or in the flow during the moment you can be and that is going to increase the probability of you having a productive race or a race result that you want. So if your warmup routine is 20 minutes, zone one building zone two plus a five minute progressive plus litho. You practice that once during your taper just set up the trainer and that’s your intensity for the day. Make sure it works. Try it out, discuss it with your coach. If you have questions about it, then when you actually do it, then you’ll go Oh, well, I guess once I did it, I wasn’t sure if I should do another minute in this zone or what? You can iron all that out, then it’s dialed right. And that’s also the time at the you should have a clear picture what your training is going to be. You should have a plan. Of course, training plans are ideas and ideas are meant to be toppled over and knocked around and changed based on weather and other things. Especially during a taper week, you need to remain a little bit flexible. Don’t be fixated on a certain day, this has to happen or Oh, it doesn’t have to be a crisis. If you had a day of motor pacing plan on Wednesday, and then Pacer can’t pace you till Thursday morning. Just work with it. It doesn’t have to be day on day off, right. But have a plan, try to execute it as best you can and then be flexible with that plan. Number four is we just touched on this a bit. It’s really about emphasizing recovery. And I like to tie this Yang versus yen. So you got to kind of consider what you’ve been doing to your body during training all this time. That’s all gang energy. That’s building energy. It’s it’s Cadillac energy, it’s destructive energy. It’s also creative energy because you’re making and doing things but it depletes the body. Right? When you do a week that is a loading week. That week impacts your system on many different levels. Physically, mentally, spiritually, it drains you, right, it’s a lot of energy and output. It’s a lot of doing, it’s doing it’s putting on shoes and going out doing intervals and, and then it’s recovering and eating and cooking and all those things that go into that sport. So you got to balance that out with activities that allow you to restore energy, replenish energy, moisturize the body bring energy back in, right. And that’s as simple as eating and sleeping in some senses. But in other senses, it can also be things like massage, foam, rolling, stretching, Epsom salt baths, magnesium cream, one of my favorites that I’ve discovered kind of more recently that some of my other athletes have been holding back on me about float tank. Have you there? Have you guys ever done been to a float tank? No, no,
Trevor Connor 1:23:42
I haven’t done one.
Colby Pearce 1:23:43
All right, so I got to go down down a tiny wormhole for a minute. I’ve been using the bootstrap for over a year. Now. The whoop for those of you don’t know is it’s like a Fitbit but far more advanced. It’s so it’s a strappy way around your wrist and continually measures HRV or heart rate variability, which is simply the number of microseconds between each heartbeat. And the higher your HRV, the more responsive your nervous system is to the environment. So you want a you quote, want a high HRV when you’re recovered, that indicates that you are recovered and that responding to environmental stress as well. Or global stress is really the way to think about it because you were the whoop 24 hours a day. It includes your exercise stress wearing while you’re writing and it also gives you a sleep score. So it tells you how well you’re sleeping. So it’s a pretty neat device. There are few other devices out there that do similar things it doesn’t I’m not wedded to this one, just the one I’ve been using. I’ve got some of my athletes on it. I think it’s very actionable information because it gives you a recovery score every morning when you wake up. It’s based on the previous stress scores and your sleep score. And it’s really simple scores one to 100. Zero to 33 is read 3366 yellow, six, six pluses green. So you can really simply say I’m recovered or I’m in the middle ground or maybe I need another now. point is when I use the whoop and I went to a couple float tank sessions my HRV shot up that night. 90 minute float tank session during the day, then I slept so well that night were so try to describe this flow. Okay, so a float tank is they used to be called more isolation tanks. Now they’re called float tanks. It’s basically a pod that you climb into some more advanced centers will not have a room, but most of them are pods. You climb in there, you have control over your own environmental factors conditions, but it’s filled with about 10 inches of extremely sad linic. That’s not the right word, sailing water, it just basically dumped tons and tons of Epsom salt in it so much so that you float quite easily in that 10 inches of water. So then you can close the pot, if you want to, you can turn off the lights, you have no music if you want. And it is completely dark in there and almost totally silent. Depending on which tank you’re at. Some centers will more quiet than others don’t pick one extra highway. So you get in there and you just breathe and float and roll and
Chris Case 1:25:53
out stimulus. stimulus deprivation.
Colby Pearce 1:25:56
It is Yeah, it’s a sense. Yeah. Because if you think about it, even when you’re sleeping, now you constantly have things assaulting your senses all the time. And when we’re out in the world, I mean, between iPhones and people honking at us and everything else going on, there’s a lot happening, your nervous system has to process all that input and information and learn what to ignore and when not to. And that plays a big role on the fatigue levels of a person. So this is an opportunity for you to kind of hit the reset button. And what’s amazing about it is a 90 minute session will take seemingly about 45 minutes in your head time just flies by and you walk out of there just like a Zen monk. It’s incredible. Anyone more? You want more. There are a lot right now. Yeah, they’re amazing. I highly recommend people try and check it out.
Chris Case 1:26:38
If you haven’t had Do they have any of these things outside of Boulder County? Absolutely. Okay.
Colby Pearce 1:26:42
Yes, yes, this is a thing, not only in the Republic of Boulder, aka the fairy bubble, as we call it. So this taper period is a great time to just like you mentioned earlier, you schedule time for your clients that would have been training time. Now that time is float tank time or massage time. Or maybe it’s just foam roller time or stretching, gentle stretching, this is not the time to do a brand new super hot yoga class where you’re going to pull up pull a hammy or a groin or something, we want to maximize your your replenishing energy during this period so that you are as recovered as possible going into that event. So when if you are an athlete who gets nervous or you have an athlete your coach Anam an athlete who tends to get nervous during the taper because they’re getting itchy and they want to train a little more have them put that constructive energy into actively making themselves recovered if you go to the line 100% no fatiguing your muscles fully filled with glycogen nervous system is ready to rock you’re just gonna have the best race your life and that’s what we want.
Trevor Connor 1:27:39
Right right. I think you also touched on you might get this might be one of your next bullets but the importance of Don’t be trying things you don’t know or that yes, you on a week of attainable give a taper yes is where you want to be a boring person doing what you know. Yes.
Colby Pearce 1:27:55
Agreed. Yep. not the time to be like, oh, maybe I could go do a set of 20 back squats. You know, give me the extra incrementation right, no external citizen this week and that goes for cleats and pedals By the way, right. So if your cleats impel, this is a common when I see is a bike fitter people come in Oh, my knees a little niggle. First thing I check, okay, guess what, your cleats are smoked. And your pedals are smoked, because you left it way too long. And now you’ve got this medial chain collapse, and you’re pronating a little bit and boom, knee issue or back issue, right? Pretty common. So the day like the day after your loading week is when I recommend if your cleats and pedals need to be changed. That’s the closest you would do it to your your race. So if you’re on a seven day taper, you’ve got several rides still, to make sure that everything’s in the right place. And that things are dialed not things don’t go weird. That’d be as close as I would recommend you put new equipment on and as far as other stuff goes, it should have been done before that,
Trevor Connor 1:28:48
right? Do not change these things today before a race, right?
Colby Pearce 1:28:51
Yeah, yep. The next one kind of goes into the float tank department a little bit. And also touches on what we just talked about, which is not trying anything new. But my recommendation is meditation. This is definitely outside the sphere for some people. So we’ve been waiting a long time for this stairway Lee. So candles and candles and candles can be involved, whatever, whatever gets the job done. You know, in the last few years as a coach, I’ve really been craving intellectual stimulation and the ability to kind of serve my clients better. And one of the best, most effective ways for me to consume information and learn new things is through podcasts. So I’ve been consuming a lot of podcasts in the last four years now. And one of my favorites is Tim Ferriss, and this guy’s massively popular if you haven’t heard of him, I recommend you go check out his website. It’s a giant infomercial just wade through that stuff. He really has good intent in my experience. And in my opinion and Tim, what Tim does is he interviews experts across all walks of life, business, sports psychology, comedians interview, Jamie Foxx and Arnold Schwarzenegger, anyone who’s world class at what they do, and one of the things Tim likes to do is boy Get down to what all these world class people have in common, what their common behaviors are. And one of them across the board. The striking, common denominator is meditation. Meditation is immensely popular amongst people who are really, really good at what they do. So that alone is a compelling argument that you should at least concerted consider it or try it in your life.
Trevor Connor 1:30:21
Now what form of meditation?
Colby Pearce 1:30:22
Well, that is kind of up to the individual to explore I mean, and they’re there kinds of apps and things you can use to get you started. The important part is you start to explore and figure it out. I’ve used this program called Ziva mind. But really, what is meditation? Fundamentally, it’s cleaning out the trash. Our minds are filled with clouds, and the clouds go by, and sometimes the clouds are happy white clouds, but many times storm clouds, their storm clouds, and these clouds collect in your skull. And they can influence your perspective. And their negative thoughts about whether it’s about yourself, whether it’s about other people, whether it’s about the guy who just cut you off, or whether it’s negative self talk about, I’m not good enough,
right, this touches on or I didn’t do the right preparation, preparation.
Colby Pearce 1:31:07
Training wasn’t hard enough, right? Oh, this guy is doing this time trial this weekend. I’m not doing that. Why do I need to do that? Did I not train enough? This is just negative self talk. And meditation helps to clear the mind of that self talk and give you a blank slate, we’ve all been on this planet for well, least a decade and a half to three decades, it’s 100 years, right? In some cases, you’ve got many decades of old thoughts that are collecting like old, kind of dusty furniture in your attic. And you’ve got to clean out that attic so that you can have a clear mind and clear intent when you go into your sport. And it just promotes. And that’s ultimately our goal, right. And then the last point that I’d love to suggest to people is, this should be a lifestyle practice more than anything. But taper time is a great time to sort of double down on it. And that is clean air, clean food and clean water. You need to protect aggressively protect your own personal environment. If you’re the type of rider who goes on the Wednesday night group ride or whatever does your Thursday lunch, right and you go hard, and then you come home after you’re finished your day at work and you knock back a couple cold beers. The taper week is the time to reconsider that behavior. And I can tell you specifically using the whoop that alcohol in particular is one thing that definitely has a negative effect on HRV and sleep score. You can see it clearly. So if you check out their site, you’ll see a lot of people say oh yeah, I quit drinking since I use them. Because you see the negative feedback immediately you see, you can see it quantifiably in your in your HRV. But taper week is a great time to not gorge yourself on chocolate cake. not have a lot of refined foods. If you look if you take the 30,000 foot view at most the science I’ve seen nearly everyone, regardless of what type of diet you follow, or what you think your what diet will best serve your individual body type or phenotype. The common denominator between most of the science shows that if you include more vegetables, you are healthier, vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, fill your plate with vegetables, and then decide on the other stuff after that. carbs are important for elite athletes. But high quality food, high quality, clean water, clean air, these are important things to look after in your taper period, and also for your overall health. So be conscious of that cultivate that lifestyle, and that will serve you to the end, because as Paul check would say, sooner or later health will be everyone’s priority, you can either make it a priority now or it will become a priority later in life. Absolutely.
Chris Case 1:33:35
Trevor, give us your quick one minute, this is what peaking is all about Taiko.
Trevor Connor 1:33:41
So as you saw, it’s a little bit gray. there probably isn’t one particular format that fits everybody. But I would say general rules you need some sort of big, fatiguing week to taper down from, that’s usually going to be about two weeks out from the event. When you are tapering, you need to keep the intensity up, bring the volume down. As you saw, there’s a lot of debate on how much you bring that volume down. And then that that week before the event is when you have to be kind of a bit of a monk, make sure you’re getting your recovery, make sure you’re doing everything right, you’re eating right, show up to your event ready. And I know you’re gonna have a lot to add to that. So I’ll say just those a little bit. I guess the last thing I’ll add is don’t try to extend that peak for weeks. Yeah.
Colby Pearce 1:34:26
That’s a great framework. Yeah, I would just add to what you said. I mean, thinking about like our concepts of clearing the calendar, for example, and emphasizing recovery off the bike, you got to think backwards from the line. So if your race is on the 30th of the month, as early as the seventh of that month, you’re going to be starting your loading week. Well guess what, during your loading week, that’s going to be an extra percentage, whatever that is 1520 30% volume or and or intensity on top of your normal load. So that means you’ve already got a clear calendar. That’s Cuz you’re not gonna have time to do anything else, there are no dog appointments that week, you’re going to be sleeping training, working, and doing essential family activities, whatever those may be right cooking, and, etc. So and dealing and putting out fires, you know, if you get a flat tire in your car, obviously that can’t wait three weeks, I would say it’s a lot about planning. And it’s also about sort of taking a moment to understand the commitment of a true peak. And then again, having a conversation and hopefully the support of your family and loved ones, because they need to be on board with you on this, it’s, it’s something that’s going to impact your life off the bike as well as on. So it’s really important to make sure they’re on the same page and that they’re supportive. And you know, what a great way to frame that conversation is, sweetheart, I have a proposition for you. And that proposition may involve a vacation or some alone time or the calendars cleared so that your significant other can do what their goals are at some other point in the year. And you will then do all the cooking and most of the dishes and and for that period of time, right? That’s respectful and fair. So you got to plug all that equation in it can’t, it can’t just be me all the time.
Chris Case 1:36:04
The one thing I would add to that, I guess would be trust the process. commit to it and don’t start second guessing halfway through, don’t ramp it up. Because you think you’ve done too little. stick to the plan. trust the process. And that’s what agreed. That’s what the peak should be. Yeah,
Colby Pearce 1:36:23
there’s a good probability that at some moment, you will second guess the process. That’s the time to remember, I plan this out, I know what I’m doing. I’m going to call my coach or if you don’t have a coach, you’re just gonna say, this is my plan, and I’m going to stick with it. Good or bad, and I’ll learn from it. Because chances are you’re going to have many other opportunities to peak. So
Trevor Connor 1:36:41
get weird feelings. Weird things happen to your body during that whole Yeah, he can taper phase. So yeah, you have to look long term. Yep.
Chris Case 1:36:48
Thank you Koby. Pierce. That was an excellent discussion. Thanks for joining us. We hope to have you back again to talk about soup and sensory deprivation pods and many other topics. It was wonderful talking with you. Thank you. Thank
Colby Pearce 1:37:03
you guys. It was an honor to be here.
Trevor Connor 1:37:05
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk at velonews. com. Subscribe to Fast Talk and iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play. Be sure to leave us a rating and a comment. While you’re there. Check out our sister podcast developer news podcast which covers news about the week in cycling. Become a fan of Fast Talk on firstname.lastname@example.org slash fella news and on email@example.com slash velonews. Fast talk is a joint production between velonews and Connor coaching the thoughts and opinions expressed in Fast Talker those are the individual for Chris case, Colby Pierce, Joe Dombrowski and the illustrious Mr. Pickles. I’m Trevor Connor. Thanks for listening.