In this episode we’re taking a step back — way back — to see the forest for the trees. Let me explain: Many of you have been fascinated by our recordings with scientists and coaches like Stephen Seiler, John Hawley, Iñigo San Millan, and Joe Friel. We’ve received a stack of questions about polarized training, the two thresholds, how to execute long rides, and many more. They’ve been great questions, and they’ve made us think about how we can answer all of them.
The complex concepts we’ve discussed in our deeper science episodes were developed by far smarter people than us. Still, that science is only valuable if it’s communicated to our listeners in a way that makes it approachable and applicable to you. After all, what good is any of this if you can’t use it to improve your performances.
So, in this episode, we want to play the humble role of science communicators, to make sure we get the message right. We’ve also sifted through hours of Fast Talk recordings with our many distinguished guests to bring context to what we hope is a simplified, unified message about the fundamental principles of these previous shows: there are just three types of rides. Yes, that’s a simplification. Yes, you’re getting our bias. Yes, you’re going to listen to this episode and think, “Well, what about the…” Fill in the blank. And you’re right. If you want that level of detail and scrutiny, please return to those past episodes. In this episode, we’re talking about the forest. We’re hoping to give you a framework to understand all that scientific detail. And we’re going to keep it simple.
- First, when you take away the complexity, training boils down to three ride types in most training models.
- We’ll give a simple zone system, based on physiology, and explain why that’s important.
- We’ll define the long ride: why it’s important, how to execute it, and why there are no shortcuts.
- We’ll define the high-intensity ride: why less is more with this type of ride and why executing it with quality is so critical. Dr. Seiler actually divides these rides into two categories — threshold rides and high-intensity work. For this podcast, we’re lumping them together, but we will hear from Dr. Seiler about why we shouldn’t neglect threshold work despite the current popularity of one-minute intervals and Tabata work.
- We’ll discuss the recovery ride. Ironically, for most of us, this is the hardest to execute. When we’re time-crunched, we might think that spending an hour spinning easy on the trainer is not time well spent. We’ll discuss why that philosophy is dangerous to take.
- Finally, we’ll talk about some of the exceptions, including sweet spot work and training races.
We’ve included excerpts from Dr. San Millan, once the exercise physiologist for the Garmin-Slipstream WorldTour team, among others. We’ll hear several times from Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is often credited with defining the polarized training model, which developed from his research with some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Dr. John Hawley will address both long rides and high-intensity work. Dr. Hawley has been one of the leading researchers in sports science for several decades and is a big proponent of interval work and carbohydrate feeding, but even he feels there’s a limit. Grant Holicky, formerly of Apex Coaching in Boulder, Colorado, has worked with some of the best cyclists in the world. He sees undirected training, those “sort of hard” rides, as one of the biggest mistakes athletes can make. He’ll explain why. And finally, we’ll hear from legendary coach Joe Friel about sweet spot work and why it does have a place… even though technically it’s not one of our three rides.
Now, to the forest! Let’s make you fast.
Welcome to Fast Talk, the VeloNews podcast and everything you need to know to ride like a pro.
Chris Case 00:14
Hello and welcome to or welcome back to Fast Talk. The VeloNews podcasts on training, nutrition, and sports science. I’m your host Chris Case managing editor of VeloNews joined today as always by the king of clarity, Coach Trevor Connor. Today we’re doing something a bit different. Taking a step back, way back to see the forest for the trees. Let me explain. Many of you have been fascinated by recordings with scientists and coaches like Dr. Steven Siler, Dr. John Holley, Dr. Inigo San Millan, and Joe Friel. We’ve received a stack of questions about polarized training, the two thresholds. How to execute long rides, and many more. They’ve been great questions, and they’ve made us think about how we can answer all of them. The complex concepts we’ve discussed in our deeper science episodes were developed by far smarter people than us. Still, that science is only valuable if it’s communicated to our listeners in a way that makes it approachable and applicable to you. After all, what good is any of this if you can’t use it to improve your performance, or better yet to captivate your spouse or best friend with a cool science you’ve just learned about on Fast Talk. So today, we want to play the humble role of science communicators, to make sure we get the message right. Today, you get Coach Conner, and you get me. We’ve also sifted through past episodes, with our many distinguished guests to bring context to what we hope is a simplified, unified message about the fundamental principles of these previous shows. Yes, we love the deep dive as much as you do. But if there’s one thing we think is critical, at Fast Talk, it’s to step back and ask what it all means. To see the forest for the trees. So in this episode, we take hours of Fast Talk recordings and boil them down to a very simple message. There are just three types of rides. That’s it three. Yes, that’s a simplification. Yes, you’re getting our bias. Yes, you’re going to listen to this episode and think, well, what about the fill in the blank, and you’re right. If you want that level of detail and scrutiny, please return to those past episodes. Today, we’re talking about the forest. We’re hoping to give you a framework to understand all that scientific detail. We’re going to keep it simple. We’ll discuss first, when you take away the complexity. Training boils down to three ride types, and most training models. We’ll give you a simple zone system based on physiology, and explain why that’s important. We’ll define the long ride, why it’s important how to execute it, and why there are no shortcuts. We’ll define the high intensity ride. Why less is more with this type of ride and why executing it with quality is so critical.
Chris Case 03:03
Dr. Seiler actually devised these rides into two categories, threshold rides and high intensity work. For this podcast, we’re lumping them together. But we will hear from Dr. Seiler about why we shouldn’t neglect threshold work despite the current popularity of one minute intervals, and tabata work. We’ll discuss the recovery ride. Ironically, for most of us, this is the hardest ride to execute. When we’re time crunched, might think that spending an hour spinning easy on the trainer is not time well spent. We’ll discuss why that philosophy is dangerous to take. Finally, we’ll talk about some of the exceptions, including sweetspot work and training races. Again, today, you’ll mostly hear from us, but we’ve also pulled segments from past episodes, many of which spurred the questions we’re now trying to answer. We’ve included excerpts from Dr. San Millan, once the exercise physiologist for the Garmin Slipstream World Tour team, among others. We’ll hear several times from Dr. Steven Siler, who is often credited with defining the polarized training model, which he developed from his research with some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Dr. John Holley will address both long rides and high intensity work. Dr. Holley has been one of the leading researchers in sports science for several decades and is a big proponent of interval work and carbohydrate feeding. But even he feels there’s a limit. Grant Holicky formerly of APEX coaching here in Boulder, Colorado has worked with some of the best cyclists in the world. He sees undirected training those sort of hard rides as one of the biggest mistakes athletes can make, he’ll explain why. And finally, we’ll hear from legendary coach Joe Friel, about sweet spot work and why it does have a place even though technically it’s not one of our three rides. Now to the forest, let’s make you fast.
Chris Case 04:53
In my mind, a lot of the questions out there from from listeners seem to want to apply a bit of complexity to something that is that is, at its core, pretty simple. And we’ll get into why it’s simple, we’ll get into how it’s simple. This-this episode is kind of about seeing the forest through the trees, and honestly eliminating a lot of the complexities that people are trying to bring to this.
Trevor Connor 05:22
You don’t think that listener who sent us a question about how his aerobic threshold was 145 beats per minute, and should he be doing a long ride at 143 to 145? Or should he be pushing 46-146 o r 147?
Chris Case 05:36
Trevor Connor 05:37
Cause that’s a really critical question and-
Chris Case 05:40
Yeah, I don’t know what it is, I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that out in the world, a lot of coaches maybe want you to do all of these complex intervals, and this for one minute and five reps and this sad this rate, you know, power at this for this many minutes. And, and they perhaps there’s just this, this feeling that if it’s not complex, it’s not specific enough, and it’s not going to be beneficial enough, kind of like, if it doesn’t hurt a lot. I’m not getting any gains from it.
Trevor Connor 06:11
Oh, we’re gonna go into that.
Chris Case 06:12
Trevor Connor 06:12
That’s gonna be fun.
How Pros Athletes Train and Use Their Data
Chris Case 06:12
So I get the sense that some people are overthinking it.
Trevor Connor 06:17
Yeah. Look, I, one of the most revealing things for me was we did a couple episodes. And I wrote an article or two articles about training data, and all the various metrics. And so I interviewed four or five top pros for those articles and podcasts asking, what metrics do you use? And the interviews went nowhere, because every top pro I talked to like, yeah, I let my coach deal with that I don’t really look at the data, and really found that the pros, they they mostly train by feel.
Chris Case 06:50
Trevor Connor 06:50
It doesn’t mean that they aren’t training very, very effectively, obviously, are, they’re pros, but they just know that this is what this type of ride should feel like. This is how it should be, and I can tell you, when I go with for a long, slow, easy ride with the pro when we start going too hard. They just let let us ride away. You know, they keep it very controlled. But they’re not sitting there going, “Oh, my heart rates 145 and I should be 143. What am I doing?”
Chris Case 07:16
Trevor Connor 07:16
Yes, ride’s off course.
Chris Case 07:16
Right. At the same time, I think pros have a sense of their abilities, and how hard they’re pushing themselves and the rate at which they’re working, and all those things. To some degree, they have a much better sense of that than the average rider out there. So it’s a little unfair to make that comparison in in a sense. But, but-
Trevor Connor 07:39
The point that I’m going to make is when you start getting really obsessed about those details about the particulars of the wattage and the particulars of the TSS, and what’s my normalized power? I don’t think that makes you better. I think that gets you out of touch with what is the overall purpose of the ride? What is the overall purpose of my training? And that’s when you get off track. You think you’re actually being very disciplined and doing the right thing. But it’s again, it’s it’s you’re focusing on the trees and losing the forest.
Chris Case 08:08
Right. Now, I would agree with that, there can be data overload for sure, and it can distract you from the the true impetus of why you’re doing what you’re doing and how to do it directly.
The Three Types of Rides
Trevor Connor 08:19
Right. I’ve been answering these questions for a while now, especially since we did those episodes with Dr. Seiler, and I have found, I’m kind of giving the same answer again and again and again. Which is great, because it means there are certain questions that everybody has, and that’s what motivated this episode. And taking that big step back. Here’s what it comes down too. There are three types of rides.
Chris Case 08:44
Trevor Connor 08:45
Particularly in the polarized mode, I’m going to say most models, these are your three types of rides. There’s a couple exceptions, and we’ll take some time to get to the exceptions. But here they are.
Chris Case 08:56
Trevor Connor 08:56
There’s first type of ride. Long, slow distance. Second type of ride, high intensity interval work.
Chris Case 09:04
Trevor Connor 09:05
Third type of ride, which this is where I find most athletes really, really struggle is short, easy. Your recovery rides. Easy rides.
Chris Case 09:16
Yep. Spinning out the legs.
Trevor Connor 09:18
Yep, and there is a value to those so but we’ll get to those. So pretty much this episode, we’re just going to go through these three types of rides and and talk about them in detail why they’re important how to execute them. And if you can execute these three types effectively figure out how to organize your week to balance these three types of rides, that’s most of what you need to know about training.
Chris Case 09:43
And I think some of the beauty and and simplicity of this is there’s three types of rides. Every time you go out for a ride, you pick from those three in terms of the purpose of the ride, and each ride should have a distinct purpose.
2011 Study on How Pros Train vs. Amateurs
Trevor Connor 09:58
That’s a really important point. Doing these rides as effectively as possible, is really critical, and so I actually put in some notes here, there was this 2011 study where they, they got hold of rider’s Strava data for a year. And they looked at pros relative to amateurs to see how pros train differently from amateur-amateurs, and here was their primary observation. In pros, there was a lower variability, and higher intensity of intervals. So what they mean by the lower variability is when they were doing a long, slow, easy ride, they stayed in zone one.
Chris Case 10:37
Trevor Connor 10:37
The whole ride, there was no attacks, there was no big five minute efforts, they just kept it slow.
Chris Case 10:42
Trevor Connor 10:43
Right. When they got the interval work, though, it was all red. That was all, I’m killing myself.
Chris Case 10:49
Trevor Connor 10:49
And you really saw them be very disciplined, so. They knew what each type of ride was about, and they executed it very, very effectively.
Chris Case 10:57
Yeah. And I think we’ll get into this too. Those three types of rides go hand in hand. They prepare you for executing the other types of rides at high to high quality, so you’re not coming in. Of course, there are exceptions, and we’ll, we’ll talk about those. But what you’re doing on day one, is leading into day two and the rest of the week, and they’re preparing you for getting the most out of each of the types of rides.
Dr. Seiler’s Three Zone Model
Trevor Connor 11:29
We need to have some sort of zones to give you as we’re talking about these types of rides, and since there are dozens and dozens of different zone systems that are all very different. There’s five zones models, and seven zone models and nine zone models. I think we just need to see stick with something simple. So we’re just going to use Dr. Seiler’s three zone model, which is based on physiology, which is what I really like about right. And it basically says we have two key physiological markers. We have our upper threshold, what people call your your anaerobic threshold, or everybody refers to as FTP. FTP- FTP isn’t quite, it’s pretty close.
Chris Case 12:08
Trevor Connor 12:09
But really, we’re talking about that, when you’re talking about, hey, I was riding that threshold.
Chris Case 12:14
Trevor Connor 12:14
That’s that upper marker, there is a lower threshold called your aerobic threshold, which is a little harder to measure. That’s where you need to get into lab to really find it. But it tends to be right around 85% of your anaerobic threshold. So for example, again, going by heart rate, if your anaerobic threshold was 172, your aerobic threshold is going to be around a heart rate of 145. This goes back to a really old episode of Fast Talk, but let’s listen to Dr. San Millan explain why it’s so important we use zones based on physiology.
Why It’s Important To Do Zone-Based Training
Dr. Inigo San Millan 12:46
So yes, as Trevor very well mentioned earlier, is that, yeah, you’d really want to train different energy systems, right? And each energy system, and that’s kind of like what it should be. That’s like the beauty of coaching, right? You want to target each energy system differently riding for that, ideally, you translate that into training zones, right? That’s why you have your training zones, because it’s training zone addresses one different energy system, and that’s where like, your intervals are as high as possible. You’re not really identifying or targeting that one specific training energy system. Because that’s often you know, people, oh, this is your training, zone one, zone two, zone three. And you ask many coaches and what does zone two mean or zone five? Or whatever the name of the medical term you want to call it? What happens at that intensit, right? And people don’t know, and each intensity teaches relates to one energy system. Absolutely. That’s, for example, what we’ll do in the lab, we clearly identify the different zones, and we translate that into heart rate into watts, into pace for runners. Right. But there’s a purpose of its own. That’s why it’s important to understand what someone’s been. Likewise, I have seen definitely, you know, as you know, very well, there’s so many coaches, they don’t know what zones are either. So I would also ask athletes to ask their coaches what zone two and zone three years, right? So that, that, you know, there’s like a better debater understanding I’m on the entire community, whether you’re a coach or you’re an athlete.
Trevor Connor 14:14
Back to the show. So three zones are zone one is up to that aerobic threshold. Zone two is between the two thresholds. And zone three is a above your lactate threshold.
Chris Case 14:26
Yep. It’s very simple.
Trevor Connor 14:28
It is very simple.
Chris Case 14:29
And in the beauty goes beyond that in that it does correspond with things happening inside your body.
Trevor Connor 14:35
Right. Now, now that we’ve said that’s really simple. Later on, we get into high intensity work. It’s not quite that simple at the upper end, and that’s been confusing some people but we’ll we’ll get to that. But one other really important thing to know about is there have been studies looking at autonomic stress. So when you measure in heart rate variability, this is one things you’re looking at, how well you’re you’re recovered. autonomic stress is going to affect your heart rate, variability, it’s going to affect your recovery, and there’s there’s been a decent amount of research showing that it’s kind of like an on-off switch, and once you go over that aerobic threshold, you started to accumulate autonomic stress below that aerobic threshold, almost none.
Chris Case 14:37
Trevor Connor 14:41
And that’s some studies show it a little above the aerobic threshold. Some studies show that right at the aerobic threshold, but the point is when you are training at or below that aerobic threshold, you aren’t building up stress and fatigue the way you are at those higher intensities, right. So that it’s not going to push burnout, the way higher intensity work would. Let’s bring in a clip from Dr. Steven Siler talking about this stress, which he refers to as training monotony.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 15:44
Well, it goes back to some really good research by Gas Labaran, it was a Belg- I believe Belgian investigator that studied horses. Karl Foster has done some work. Others have done this work around the idea of training monotony. That one of the best ways to overtrain an organism is to subject them to just daily stress that that is at the same level, and that’s, that’s what happened with horses is that when, horses when their easy days were made harder, they fell apart. When their hard days were made harder, they were able to handle it, and so the concept of training monotony, I think goes right to the heart of why polarize training works. Is that we, we want to, we want to keep a lot of the training, what I would call under the stress radar. We want to train signal adaptations at the muscular level without turning on this big stress response,because every time you turn it on, if you turn it on repeatedly, then you actually, what actually happens is the body starts to lose the ability to mobilize, you start to stagnate, you start to lose your last gear. I totally agree with what you’re saying, and I think that’s what elite athletes are very good at is, is managing the training so that they don’t turn on that stress response too often. But when they do they they kick back. But they stay under the radar a lot with low intensity training.
Trevor Connor 17:23
All right back to the show.
Chris Case 17:25
Well, why don’t we jump in and talk a little bit more about each of these three ride types in detail. I think, Trevor, you’ll be able to explain what’s happening physiologically, the intent here for each of the three ride types. But, I can also bring in some experiential and of course you can too, but this is the this is the style of training I employed for preparing for Dirty Kanza last year to quite a degree so I can-
The Physiology Behind the Three Types of Rides
Chris Case 17:51
Chris got really grouchy.
Trevor Connor 17:53
Like Chris go out and do a five hour ride really slowly, like this is so boring.
Chris Case 17:56
Trevor Connor 17:57
Why am I doing this?
Chris Case 17:58
Yeah, it’s it’s something honestly, some of this stuff takes some getting used to. It’s a, it’s a different feeling to what people are used to in terms of training. It goes back to that, if you’re not feeling the pain, what are you gaining? And you have to understand that things are happening inside the body, inside all the way down to the cellular level that are a benefit. You just might not perceive it as such. Especially in the first couple hours of those rides. So we’ll get into that.
Trevor Connor 18:28
And if you’re not used to these rides, they’re boring, people struggle with them.
Chris Case 18:32
Trevor Connor 18:33
I’ve worked with a lot of athletes who had no base fitness, and when I started giving the long, slow rides, they’re just like, please give me anything else.
Trevor Connor 18:41
You know, I’ll do intervals and put bamboo under my fingernails for 30 minutes afterwards. Same thing, just no more four hour rides.
Chris Case 18:41
Chris Case 18:48
Trevor Connor 18:49
But I have found, and after about six, seven months, so the first year is a bit of a struggle. I always get this email is called or they say I used to hate these rides, now they’re my favorite ride. And I find once you start doing them, you really you can really enjoy them.
Chris Case 19:07
Trevor Connor 19:08
The key thing about these is these are done in zone one. So these are below, at or below that aerobic threshold.
Chris Case 19:15
Trevor Connor 19:16
And I think it’s really important to keep it steady, which a lot of again, when I find somebody has no base fitness, the first response I get is, I almost fell over. These were so painfully slow.
Chris Case 19:29
Trevor Connor 19:30
Which they are.
Chris Case 19:30
But, he didn’t fall over. They didn’t fall over because they were so hard. They fell over because they were too easy, and they felt like they were going too slow.
Trevor Connor 19:37
Chris Case 19:37
Yeah, but you just have to keep going.
Trevor Connor 19:39
Right, and I you know, there’s a quick addendum here that if you live in hilly terrain, and you’re out doing one of these rides. I mean, first of all, if you’re trying to do on these long, slow rides, don’t climb an HC climb, doesn’t really fit together, you know. Pick a flatter, better route. But if you hit a climb and you go a little over that aerobic threshold, that’s fine. You know, we’re talking ideals here, but then there’s reality. Yeah, sometimes it is, it’s unavoidable. But don’t suddenly take it up to 180 heart rate on that climb.
Chris Case 20:08
And I think it’s worth noting, the first couple hours of these rides may feel slow. But if you are doing them as intended, don’t want to put a figure on it necessarily. But at some point, you’ll hit a point where you’re going to start to feel this fatigue that is not like fatigue that you feel from hard intervals, it’s just going to be this sort of whole body fatigue, and it continues on to get to get more apparent and more taxing as you go into your fourth hour, your fifth hour, your sixth hour, if you’re Trevor, your eighth hour, your ninth hour.
Trevor Connor 20:47
Because that’s fun. What’s wrong with that?
Chris Case 20:49
Because you’re used to it that, yeah.
How Do You Know If Your Ride Was an Appropriate Length?
Trevor Connor 20:51
Yeah, and so I get asked all the time, how long should these rides be? And the answer to that is, it depends. If you’re a pro, yeah you got to go out and do a six hour ride. If you’re brand new to cycling, you might get this effect, two and a half hours. And doing a six hour ride is just too much for you.
Chris Case 21:06
Trevor Connor 21:06
But I think Chris hit on the key thing. You know, the length was right by you get home, you say I never really went hard. I stayed in zone one. But I’m feeling that right. I’m a little bit tired.
Chris Case 21:18
Trevor Connor 21:18
And it’s it’s the length that should be fatiguing you, not the intensity.
Chris Case 21:23
Trevor Connor 21:23
And sorry, there, we had a podcast a while ago, talking about the importance of these long rides. I got this great email from somebody who said, I get it, I’m totally sold, I see the value of these long rides. But you made the point that the real gains are in the last hour or two. So is there a way of skipping those first three hours and just getting right to that final hour?
Chris Case 21:45
Right. There are no shortcuts here. That’s the truth of the matter. You can’t skip ahead, unfortunately.
Trevor Connor 21:52
And let’s talk a little bit about what’s going on there, and this is, when you do these rides, do them by heart rate, don’t do them by power. This is my bias, but I believe very strongly in this.
Chris Case 22:03
It totally makes sense, you’re going to explain it, and it totally makes sense when you do.
Trevor Connor 22:07
Remember that power is a measure of what’s going on in the bike. So it says here’s how hard you’re going relative to everybody else.
Chris Case 22:16
It’s a mechanical-
Trevor Connor 22:17
Chris Case 22:17
Use Heart Rate to Measure the Length of Your Ride
Trevor Connor 22:17
But it doesn’t say what’s going on in your body, right? Heart rate is a measure of what’s going on in your body. It shows how hard you are going.
Chris Case 22:25
It’s like the techometer.
Trevor Connor 22:26
Right. There is an effect called cardiac drift. It’s also can be referred to as the slow component of VO2. But basically what it means is if you went out for a five hour ride, and you just sat at 180 watts, you might start that ride at let’s say 130 beats per minute. But by the end of that ride, you might be 145, even 150.
Chris Case 22:50
Trevor Connor 22:50
Heart rates kind of slowly drift up. This is cause-one of the causes of dehydration. But a really important cause when you’re doing these long rides is muscle fiber fatigue. So your your fibers start to get stressed, they start to get damaged, so you start recruiting more fibers, and that raises your heart rate. So this is again, why it’s important to do these rides by heart rate, because if you did that whole ride at 180 watts, you might be zone one at the start of that ride, but you might be solidly in the middle of zone two by the end of that ride.
Chris Case 23:20
Why These Long Rides are so Beneficial
Trevor Connor 23:21
This is also why these long rides can be so beneficial. When you start out, you’re really work in those slow twitch muscle fibers. But as they fatigue, you start to recruit more and more fibers and you will start to recruit your fast twitch muscle fibers. Then you’re starting to make your fast twitch muscle fibers work-work aerobically, which is a great gain for cyclists, not a great gain if you’re 100 meter sprinter, you don’t want to do that. But for a cyclist, you are forcing fast twitch muscle fibers to work in a way they don’t normally work. So that’s going to be a game. The other great thing about this is normally to hit those fast twitch muscle fibers to really work them, you have to do high intensity work, which produces that autonomic stress. So here is a way of training fast twitch muscle fibers without actually generating any autonomic stress so that you can keep training the next day and the day after.
Chris Case 24:13
Right, and the thing you’ll notice too is, the more frequently you do these rides, the longer you’ll go or, or just you’ll reduce the amount of cardiac drift over time. So when you first start doing these rides, you may start out and you’ll see a 20% increase in cardiac drift, and so by the end of the rides, if you’re keeping your heart rate at where it should be, you are having to slow down considerably because you you don’t want to your power, you just can’t put out as much power at the same heart rate. Six months later or less. You can push your body to produce the same amount of power and keep that heart rate down. So by the end of a six hour ride, you’re actually maybe only 5% reduced in terms of drift.
Trevor Connor 25:01
One of the biggest indicators I look for in my athletes to say they had a successful base season, and we’re now ready to start really focusing on race fitness, and move out of the base phase is I want to be able to see them do a four to five hour ride with minimal cardiac drift. So you know, it’s always the same get them on the bike at the November beginning of December, and you just see this enormous cardiac drift that heart rate just going way up relative to power. But, by sometime in February or early March, I want to see that be much more of a flatline.
Chris Case 25:37
Trevor Connor 25:38
And that’s these rides are how you do it, and it’s stay in that zone one, just stay there, do it by heart rate. Go long enough that you are feeling fatigue, and the other really important thing about these rides, which every this this is where people are gonna cringe and hate me.
Chris Case 25:56
If they don’t already.
Avoid Stopping on a Long Rides
Trevor Connor 25:58
Well, fair enough. People throw things when I go to the supermarket. I’m just used to it. Avoid stops.
Chris Case 26:05
Yeah, minimize them.
Trevor Connor 26:07
Chris Case 26:09
Don’t pee your pants just to stay on the bike.
Trevor Connor 26:10
Yeah, no, you can stop and pee, that’s okay. But the coffee shop in the middle of a long ride-
Chris Case 26:16
Why Athletes Should Go Fairly Easy When Training
Trevor Connor 26:16
-that’s no longer a good effective long ride that is now two rides, and you aren’t seeing the same gains, you really want to push this cardiac drift. You want to get those muscle fibers cycling, so you’re starting to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers. You can’t give them those long rests.
Chris Case 26:33
That that has been a question that has come up, you know, two days, could I do two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon for say somebody that’s commuting?
Trevor Connor 26:41
Yeah, you still you know this came out of Dr. Seiler’s research that ultimately it’s just accumulating time, and the more time you do in zone one, the more gains that you’re going to see. There is a truth to that. There there is a stimulus on that PCG one alpha system which we keep talking about. There’s actually a bunch of other effects. But that’s that we figured that’s the one we’ll talk about on the show. Two a days have a benefit. But there is a benefit to the long ride that you can’t get from two days, and that’s the one it’s the fatiguing those muscle fibers so that you start seeing muscle fibers cycling.
Chris Case 27:15
Yep. One of the interesting things I remember from one of our interviews with Dr. Seiler is you know, and his research he’s been studying a lot of athletes. He works and at the University of Norway is in really world class, the best of the best Nordic Skiers. And, and a lot of them will train in the offseason by running and things like that, or, and he’s also working with some elite runners from Norway, and studying them and he has gone out with them. He’s no slouch, but he’s not a world class athlete. But he’ll go out with them on some of their long, slow efforts, rides or skis, and he can keep up with them.
Chris Case 27:57
Chris Case 27:57
Because for those elite athletes, they’re not going hard. In a sense, it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around it, but we’re telling them to deliberately go easy.
Trevor Connor 28:08
So I still remember when I was training at the National Center in Canada, the head coach, Houshang Amiri, he had to go over to Africa for two weeks, and we always had a Wednesday and a Saturday ride where he would follow us in the car and we’d go that good zone one pace.When I arrived, and we had guys like Swanye there, I was probably zone four in the three zone model trying to hang on to them. But for them, it was definitely zone one Houshang left and said, “Well, I’m not going to be here on Saturday. So go to the Saturday group ride.” You know, the one that all the local riders go to the Masters Riders go to, and nobody wanted to go, and they all got upset. And you saw these top top pros saying I don’t want to go that route. Not because they’re like, I don’t want to ride with Masters Athletes. The complaint was it’s too hard.
Chris Case 28:57
Yep. Yeah, a lot of group rides, and there’s a place there’s a time and a place for group rides, for sure. But oftentimes, it’s not in the base season, and when you’re trying to get these long rides in. If you have a group of friends that is doing the same thing, you can certainly go out and get the benefits of these long slow rides together as a group to make it a little bit more fun. But a lot of times group rides are not the place because people are aggressive and attacking and riding too hard, and they might stop several times. So you’re just not getting the benefits out of those rides like you should.
Trevor Connor 29:32
Let’s hear what Dr. John Holley has to say about the value of the long ride.
Dr. Holley’s Opinion on Long Rides
Dr. John Holley 29:37
The longer you go, the more you tend towards free fatty acid oxidation. But-but again, you’ve got to remember that unless you’re doing a five hour ride race at that pace, it doesn’t necessarily help racing. All it does is build up extra capillaries. Again it gets the muscle used to use in fat and turning on beta oxidation and all these you know adaptations of the muscle which you know about. So yes, that there is point to that. But again, when I send you the articles, you’ll see that if it’s a race situation, at the end of the day, even if it’s a three hour race, it’s carbohydrate dependent and not fat dependent. Having said that having the ability to utilize fat at the highest rates possible is an advantage in long endurance events. The great New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard, you know, coached probably half a dozen Olympic gold medalists, you know, They’d even have runners like Peter Snell, who won the 800 and 1500, doing very long Sunday morning runs sometimes up to 20 miles. And Snell, if you talk to him now know, Peter reasonably well, he’d say, “Look, I’m not quite sure what I was doing at the time.” But now, you know, he’s an exercise physiologist at Southwest in Texas, and he said, “Look, you know, now I know the physiology behind this.” The other thing that the rides do is go through the whole fiber population, if you just go out and ride for an hour, yeah, you’ll tap into some slow twitch fibers, and you do this and you do that. But by going along, and almost going to exhaustion at that submaximal pace, you’re then asking the muscles to recruit the slow twitch fibers, the fast twitch A and the fast twitch B, and unless you do very high intensity intervals, I don’t think you do that. So you’ve got two ways of tapping into that fiber population. Either go long and slow to exhaustion, or basically, you know, do high intensity and wipe them all out anyway. So I think another advantage of the long long ride is to is to get all the fibers active, and at the end of those rides, you’re calling on fibers like the two A’s and two B’s which aren’t that reuse, or aren’t that good to do in that endurance, and I think that’s an important thing as well. To, to make sure that all the all the fiber population has been recruited and has that potential to, to use as much fat as it actually can. The two B fiber isn’t very good at that. But use use everything, you’ve got type thing, and that’s another reason for doing a long ride. We often do rise to exhaustion in the lab and you know, they’re fine for the first hour you get to the second hour, it gets a bit tougher and you get to the third hour, the workload hasn’t changed. But of course, the fiber recruitment hasn’t, two B fibers don’t like working at 250 watts. They prefer working at 550 for 30 seconds. So it’s a really hard ask of the muscle, but only by using the muscle and driving it to that point, do you actually recruit it. So, and I think that’s a very important reason if that’s put that right up there as with fat burn in the recruitment pattern is vital.
Trevor Connor 32:21
Back to the show. Okay, so one final addendum on these long, slow rides is well, I said, they’re in that zone one. So below your aerobic threshold, the question you’re going to ask is, well, how slow?
The Two Types of Long, Slow Rides: LSD and LSS Rides
Trevor Connor 32:37
My answer is there, there’s actually, at least when I’m with my athletes, I coach. There’s two types of these long, slow rides, I call them LSD and LSS, which makes absolutely zero sense. But when I tried to rename them to something that made sense, all my athletes protested, told me I couldn’t change the name. Generally, there’s that just long, slow distance, which is anywhere below that aerobic threshold, though, for example, my aerobic threshold is 144 beats per minute, I tend to do these rides around 120. So they’re slow, they’re really easy, and it’s just doing time on the bike. I do those rides, particularly in December, November, even a little into January, when you’re way far away from the season, and you’re just trying to get time on the bike. The other type of ride, that’s a very powerful ride, and I’ll give a call out to Dr. Inigo San Milan, who’s a big proponent of these rides, and really, he was the one to introduce me to them, are these aerobic threshold rides. Which is right at or just below aerobic threshold. So again, my aerobic thresholds 144 beats per minute, I try to when I do these rides, keep my heart rate around 136 up to 146 at the max. So the feel of these rides is you’re not hurting, you’re not killing yourself. It’s just slightly uncomfortable, but very sustainable. But if you do it for three, four or five hours, depending on your level, by the time you finish that ride, you’re you’re dragging your feet a little bit, you’re feeling it. These are powerful rides, so don’t overdo them. This is not a ride that you can do all the time. So even as I get closer to the season, I might have my athlete to do one ride very close to that aerobic threshold. But the other ride is more that LSD. Keep it 10-15 beats per minutes, below the aerobic threshold and don’t stress yourself. So that gets us to we’ve now talked about the long ride.
Chris Case 34:37
Trevor Connor 34:37
Let’s get to high intensity training.
Chris Case 34:40
Trevor Connor 34:41
Chris Case 34:41
And some people love this stuff.
Trevor Connor 34:43
Some people, this is all they want to do.
Chris Case 34:45
Why Athletes Should Not Do High Intensity Work Everyday
Trevor Connor 34:46
And I get this like I don’t have nearly as much time as I used to have to train so you get on the bike and you go I want to maximize it and there is a belief. I have limited time. It’s hard to find an hour to get on the bike. So if I have that hour, I need to have my tounge hanging out and get some value out of it. Why don’t we start with and I won’t give his name, but I’m going to embarrass one of my new athletes. I just started working recently with a new athlete who took that approach of, I’m going to get on Zwift every day and hop in a training, race, or do intervals. And he was doing intensity five, six days a week.
Chris Case 35:23
The time crunched cyclist.
Trevor Connor 35:24
The time crunch cyclist, and when I first started working with him, I asked him for his basic variables, what’s your your threshold heart rate? What’s your max heart rate? What’s your resting heart rate?
Chris Case 35:36
The heart rate guy asking for heart rates.
Trevor Connor 35:38
Well, I got power numbers too. But those are easy to figure out just by looking at his files. He thought his max heart rate was right around 167. Pretty low. I then said you’re doing way too much high intensity. And it took me a long time to get him on board, but basically said two high intensity sessions per week, the rest is easy. Boy did he struggle with easy, but I got him on board. And all of a sudden we were seeing his heart rate get up to 180.
Chris Case 36:08
There was some suppression beforehand.
Trevor Connor 36:10
He was training so fatigued all the time, that he just never saw what he could actually hit.
Chris Case 36:19
Trevor Connor 36:19
So we’re having all sorts of stuff, like right now we’re in the middle of the winter. I told him you don’t want to be hitting your best numbers in the winter, because that’s a sign that your your timings off. Well, he’s hitting his best numbers, not because he’s particularly fit right now, just because he’s actually rested.
Chris Case 36:34
Trevor Connor 36:34
And he can hit decent numbers. So what you see when you do too much high intensity is your body reacts, and it puts limiters on you, and so you’re never really doing true intensity.
Chris Case 36:46
Yep, your compromising those those workouts and your performances,
Trevor Connor 36:50
Right. That’s the common question, how much high intensity, if you are employing a polarized model, the idea is 80-20. So 20% in the zone three, but that’s 80-20 in terms of for every eight low intensity workouts you do, you do to high intensity. If you actually distributed took your your power distribution for the week, it’s 10% or less of your time in zone three. It’s not a lot of time.
Chris Case 37:19
Quality Over Quantity for High Intensity Workouts
Trevor Connor 37:20
But if you don’t want to look at it that way, because I can get hard to figure out, there’s plenty of research showing that two high intensity sessions per week is ideal. You see no additional gains with three.
Chris Case 37:34
Trevor Connor 37:34
And you start doing four more, you’re really pushing that autonomic stress and you want to two things is going to happen. You’re either going to burn out very rapidly. Or you’re going to see what I saw with my new athlete, that none of those sessions are really, truly high intensity.
Chris Case 37:50
You bring the ceiling down-
Trevor Connor 37:52
Chris Case 37:52
-in a sense, you plateau at that level and can’t go beyond it.
Trevor Connor 37:55
Yep. The point with these is to not do tons, it’s to just have those two. But make them really high quality.
Chris Case 38:05
Trevor Connor 38:05
So you want to do them recovered.
Chris Case 38:08
Trevor Connor 38:09
You don’t want to do them fatigued. You want to spread them out. You don’t want to do your two high intensity sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then have the rest of the race spin-spinning around.
Chris Case 38:19
And to bring it back to Dr. Sei- Dr. Seiler’s story about the athletes he’s worked with and trained with. Those easy rides that they were doing were easy. But the workouts they were doing were completely epic. Like, unbelievably hard.
Trevor Connor 38:35
Chris Case 38:35
There, we’re talking world class athletes, of course. But that’s, that’s the dichotomy that we’re talking about here.
Trevor Connor 38:41
Yep, and even there, you know, there are times absolutely rip yourself apart. But you don’t always have to do that. There was actually a study that came out a couple weeks ago, and this isn’t the only study to show this. But it was on weightlifting. Where they had some athletes do, so they had two groups, both groups did the same exercises. One group did five sets. The other group did one set, and so the group that was doing five sets, they were spending about four hours total per week in the weight room. The group that was doing one set spent less than an hour in the weight room per week, and both groups saw the same strength gains. That’s weight room, but there is a similar effect with interval work with each increasing set. You’re seeing less and less gains but you’re generating more and more autonomic stress, and it’s going to take more time to recover. So there is a sweet spot of do two sets, maybe three sets if you’re higher level, make them really high quality make them really hurt. I was just talking with somebody a couple weeks ago we were talking about sprints. That’s right they were a commuter and talking about how they said-
Chris Case 39:50
Trevor Connor 39:51
They sprinted out of every single lights and is that good training? And I said look when I do sprints, I hate them because at the end of each sprint, I feel like I am choking.
Chris Case 40:00
Trevor Connor 40:00
I am gasping for air, that’s how much they should hurt.
Chris Case 40:03
Exactly. Same thing with a four minute effort. If you’re getting to the end of those, and you’re like, “Okay, let’s do the next one.” Then you probably didn’t do it right, or your body is not allowing you to do it at the level that you should.
Trevor Connor 40:17
Right. I had an athlete who wasn’t seeing much gains in the top, and I just started working with him, and he was showing me these workouts he was doing. He was doing like five sets of one minute intervals, and I can really tolerate a lot of high end work. And so I modified the workout, I gave him two sets of one minute intervals, just six, one minute intervals with one minute recoveries, and he complained. He’s like, I’m not gonna get anything out of this, and I gave him some, you can’t drop below this wattage, here’s how to do the intervals, and explained to him, you know, I want these really high intensity. He couldn’t get through the two sets.
Chris Case 40:51
Trevor Connor 40:52
And he his email back to me was, I’ve never done something that’s heard so much in my life.
Chris Case 40:56
Yeah, that brings up a good point about one’s ability to be able to finish the workout. You need to know what is appropriate in a sense of, I can accomplish this and get right to the edge. But you don’t want to create a workout that’s so hard, you can’t do it, can’t complete it.
Trevor Connor 41:13
There’s a certain point where you just can’t do it with sufficient quality, and like I said, ll you’re doing is generating more autonomic stress, and you’re not getting any gains. So when I give athletes high intensity work, I always have quality requirements. So if I have them do one minute intervals, I say, you, for example, I might say with one athlete, these need to be done over 420 watts, and if you start dropping below that you’re done for the day, you turn around go home.
Chris Case 41:38
Trevor Connor 41:40
Dr. Holley is a big proponent of high intensity work and has done a lot of research on it. But he shares the view that it should be limited.
Dr. Holley’s Opinion on Why High Intensity Workouts Should Be Limited
Dr. John Holley 41:49
Yeah, and, you know, Steve’s done some great work on the polarized training, and that if you look at the rowers, and the cyclists, and probably even the runners, you know, this is a huge volume of I mean, let’s just call it steady state aerobic work, and, and it’s peppered in between with very bits of high intensity or even supramaximal intensity. And again, that seems to be what works for the athletes, I’m not sure you need to do intervals all year round. I’m not sure really how long you need to do intervals for you know, if you want to get really, really sharp, my guess is you can probably do this in three to six weeks. And if you look at a periodized training program, if you’re looking at that intensity, I wouldn’t certainly wouldn’t do two sessions of intensity a day and I probably only do two maximum of three a week, anyway, you know, with cyclists, probably probably two. When we’ve done our training interventions, or eight times five minutes sets with a cyclist which again, it’s in the literature, you can read that, you know, we’ve only done we’ve done three a week, and that’s that’s been tops. But any more and I think you probably go over the top, I really do think two to three sessions. At the top level is all you can handle if those really intense stuff, and when I say intense, I mean glycogen stripping, high carbohydrate, high absolute power output soft speeds and you know, the actual work time probably 30 to 40 minutes maximum.
Dr. Seiler’s Controversial Zone Three
Trevor Connor 43:10
Back to the show. So we’re hoping to get Dr. Seiler on for third episode, and then and that’s entirely what this is going to be about. Because when people talk about his zone three, like I said, this is where it gets a little complicated.
Chris Case 43:22
Trevor Connor 43:23
Because first of all, since he’s not, he’s dealing more with runners and cross country skiers who you don’t attack in races, you don’t sprint as much, it’s more steady. His own three only goes up to VO2 max so things like Tabata sprints, they’re not in his own system. When he was in here, or when we when we had him on, we had an offline conversation about the tabatas, and he wasn’t that big a fan, and we’ll get to that in a second.
Chris Case 43:53
Trevor Connor 43:53
The other thing to remember is, we’ve said zone three is lactate threshold and above. But actually, in his research when he was figuring out the, the distribution, he either measured it as above four millimoles. Sorry, about four millimoles of lactate in your blood, which correlates fairly well with threshold, but it’s not perfect. Some people are above that some people are a little below. He also, when he designs his zones, or when he was you read his research on interval work. He was doing it as percentages of heart rate, and I believe his zone three was 85. No I was at it was I think 90% of max heart rate above. Don’t quote me on this, I can’t remember exactly. But that can actually put you a little below your actual lactate threshold, and it puts a lot athletes below where they feel their FTP is. Dr Seiler to this fascinating study of four by four minute intervals, four by eight minute intervals, and four by 16 minute intervals. And he puts all those pretty squarely in zone three, even though those four by 16 minute intervals, were at a heart rate and a wattage that’s below lactate threshold. So you can go a little below lactate threshold, and still really be in that polarized model still really be doing what would be considered zone three-
Chris Case 45:20
Quality zone three work.
Trevor Connor 45:21
And you know, some of the explanations for this is if you’re doing four by 16 minute intervals, even though the the wattage and heart rate doesn’t quite match up, you’re probably gonna be getting up above four millimoles, and he has his athletes do those four by 16 as hard as they can. It’s just there 16 minutes, you can’t do them as hard as you can do an four minute interval.
Chris Case 45:39
That’s a pretty damn good workout
Trevor Connor 45:42
Chris Case 45:43
Especially if you have a climb to do them on, you know, a good steady climb that takes 16 plus minutes.
Trevor Connor 45:51
Yeah, they hurt going outside of Dr. Seiler of research and the polarized model. There’s a lot of research out there showing that if you’re trying to train your lactate clearance,
Chris Case 46:02
Trevor Connor 46:03
It is at its highest at about 95% of your lactate threshold, and above that 95% of your lactate threshold, it starts to decline. So there is a real value for your top end race fitness to train just a little below threshold.
Chris Case 46:18
Yep, and you saw that when we did the when I did the hour record training. We were trying to target that exact point, right around 95%, and all the workouts and it just the philosophy being it just helps push that up more and more, and it wasn’t just me. Neal Henderson, when he was coaching Rohan Dennis for his hour record was doing the exact type of work that exact same type of work so-
Trevor Connor 46:45
And you will actually find a lot of top end, high level coaches do a lot of that work. So when we had Sebastian Weber in here, when he was coaching Tony Martin, it was a lot of low cadence, just sub threshold work.
Chris Case 47:00
Trevor Connor 47:00
We actually did record part of the conversation with Dr. Seiler about the difficulty of figuring out threshold heart rate, why he uses percentages of max heart rate. Let’s listen in.
Threshold Heart Rate
Dr. Stephen Seiler 47:11
Again, we have some typical values, but the individual variation is big enough that we don’t like to just throw out blank numbers. But again, like I said, that 60 minute power will probably put the athlete pretty close to 90% of our rate peak, you know. In that 87 to 92, three range, the average will end up being probably 88 or something, because the first 15 minutes probably feel pretty, okay. And then then, you know, the drift starts moving you into a heart rate zone, it’s more typical of interval trend, you know. The low end of interval training so that the drift of heart rate is is kind of tricky. So it’s hard to, you know, we have to decide in a 60 minute power test, where what heart rate, do we say that was my maximum lactate steady state heart rate.
Trevor Connor 48:04
And I will say, I tend to look for a point where the heart rates fairly level. If somebody does a test, and their heart rate is rising the entire time. That to me tells me they were actually a little over their threshold, a little over LT two, and that’s too high a heart rate.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 48:21
Yeah, that’s a that’s a good point, and that like for me today, I found that I, once I got to about 90, I stayed there for most of the time. Right at the end, it’s crept up to 91 or two, I think, and then, so I agree with you that you should be able to find a, you know, a big chunk of a 60 minute power test where heart rate is pretty darn stable, and then I would also say, for these low intensity rides, if at least if you’re on a trainer, and you’re clearly in an LT, you know, low intensity motorist, then heart rate should really stay flat.
Trevor Connor 48:57
Dr. Stephen Seiler 48:58
And that’s a that’s a good quality indicator of the session that, yep, you’re where you need to be or it’s 70% of heart rate peak or, you know, something like that, and it’s just, it’s just stay a nice and flat.
Trevor Connor 49:10
You have noticed that in the research, you’re always used the peak.
Why Dr. Seiler Uses Percentages of Max Heart Rate
Dr. Stephen Seiler 49:14
Yeah, cuz it’s just it’s just a reference. Otherwise, you end up kind of taking percentages of percentages, and then most people get a bit confused. So I try to just take a percentage of 100. 100 is, you know, heart rate peak is the highest heart rate that you see during cycling, ever.
Trevor Connor 49:32
What percentages would you have the LT two and LT one?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 49:37
Yeah, so then based on that, then I would say LT one. In terms of where I want them riding at, in a low intensity ride, they’re probably going to be somewhere around 70% of heart rate peak. They may be as low as early on in the ride 63 or four and then they drift a little bit up but they they shouldn’t go above 75% of heart rate peak for the whole ride.
Trevor Connor 50:03
Dr. Stephen Seiler 50:04
That’s, that’s a typical low intensity ride.
Trevor Connor 50:07
So you’d have LT one at the top end of it be about 75% of your max heart rate?
Dr. Stephen Seiler 50:12
Yeah, it’s it’s ballpark, it’s, if they’re really well trained, it might be a little bit higher, but it but again, I think it’s reasonable to start with something conservative and then just over the weeks and months adjust a little bit. So 75 is probably not too bad as an as an estimate. And then, and then steady state will be more like 85, 86, 87
Chris Case 50:34
Dr. Stephen Seiler 50:36
The LT two, right, as a percentage of heart rate P. I was watching yesterday, the European Championships and running and a Norwegian key the 17, the day before yesterday, one to 1500 meters in the European Championships. Again, he’s 17 youngest ever to win a gold medal in the European Championships in 84 years, and then 24 hours later, he ran a 5000 meter and he won that too.
Chris Case 51:02
Dr. Stephen Seiler 51:02
And then 17 years old and just dominated and, and he when they they were doing a kind of a package on him and he’s running and I was thinking, damn he’s running slow, I could run with him. You know, but but he was running a, you know, an easy session, and, and it was easy. I could even look at it and say, “Well, he’s actually running really easy.” But I also know that when these guys do their hard interval sessions, they are just absolutely inhuman.
Chris Case 51:33
Back to the show. This this will probably be a bias thing, I guess too. But it gets back to the simplicity aspect of it. A lot of people like to do complicated things when it comes to intervals, over-unders, and tabatas and things like that. And there’s time and place for those but you like eight minute repeats.
Trevor Connor 51:56
Right. You brought up that question of tabata intervals, which are those like 20-10s or-
Chris Case 52:01
yeah 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Right, yeah.
Trevor Connor 52:04
Low, short, hard intervals, or something else that’s really popular is the one in two minute intervals, and there is a place for those. But I did find it interesting that offline conversation with Dr. Seiler, an offline conversation with Sebastian Weber, and several other people said, “Yeah, there is a place for those. But you see, most of the gains from that type of interval work in about six to eight sessions.” And there’s a lot of research to back this. So starting to tabatas in November-
Chris Case 52:33
Trevor Connor 52:33
And doing them all winter and doing them all season. There’s no real benefit to that.
Chris Case 52:37
Trevor Connor 52:37
Doing those hard one minute intervals, all winter, or for months, months and months, there’s no real benefit. These are the intervals that you should be doing just before the start of your season and into your season. And again, I’m giving you a bias. But it’s a bias where we’ll again, put references up and there’s a lot of research to back this. Let’s hear what Dr. Seiler has to say about really high intensity work.
Dr. Seiler’s Opinion on High Intensity Work
Dr. Stephen Seiler 53:01
You see all these magical recipes for training sessions with breakdowns and build ups and all that. And I want to say this, that does the muscle cell really understand all of your complexity, you know, because when it comes when it comes down to a training is about creating a signal for adaptation. You know, but we’ve turned it into this hiero advanced hieroglyphics, you know.
Trevor Connor 53:20
Right, and actually thinking that you have a study from last year where you said that you can essentially skin the cat bunch of ways with different types of intervals. But the the people who saw the, probably the the least gains are the people who really mixed it up.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 53:36
Yeah, we didn’t expect that in that particular study. But, but, but just to kind of get to the essence of that is that interval training is fairly straightforward. You need to accumulate minutes at a reasonably high intensity. And so you try to find the balance between a high intensity that you can do for quite a few minutes, and then what we tended to see was is that around 90% 91-2% of heart rate max was high enough to get good adaptation, and then David Bishop down in Australia is even starting to collect some data that suggests that conditions associated with very high blood lactate may actually have some inhibitory effects on adaptive signaling, which, which kind of really for me fits in well with this issue of not letting the interval sessions get to high intensity. That you know, finding that sweet spot on intensity, that’s, we typically see it around 90%. But there’s something that changes from about 90-92% heart rate max to 95-96, where you just really start to fall apart. You know, you start to really have a lot of inhibitory responses in the muscle. You would say in the typical, you’re just full of blood lactate you’re blowing up and that doesn’t seem to be an adaptive state.
Trevor Connor 54:57
So what’s your feeling about something like tabata intervals?
When To Train With Tabata Intervals
Dr. Stephen Seiler 55:00
Well, I again, it depends if I’m cross if I’m preparing for a CrossFit competition or this kind of thing that I’m probably going to do some of those very short, very high intensity intervals. But if I’m trying to build my metabolic engine, build my VO2 max, for 30 minute races for an hour power, for you know that I’m going to tend to do longer intervals. I just, that’s what we see. We want to accumulate minutes. We’ve done a little bit of research we haven’t posted yet, but we’ve compared micro intervals with longer intervals, you know, where you do these 30-30 kind of things, and, and we don’t see a difference. We don’t see any magic there. It, the body is not that sensitive. Maybe the cyclist says “Yeah, but it’s great, because I’m getting all these accelerations.” Well, okay, maybe, so I’m not gonna argue with you on that. But from an adaptation standpoint, just in terms of cardiovascular adaptations over we can’t see a difference. It’s not particularly sexy, I get that, you know, I’ve told people that my research tends to destroy all the sexy theories. Because it’s pretty, it’s pretty straightforward. You know, it’s it’s keep it simple scientist, or coach, but we just don’t find these shortcuts. Do collect the minutes, do the work, get the rest and balance the-the low and the high intensity work. These are the basic ingredients.
Can You Be Too Focused on Short, High Intensity Training?
Trevor Connor 56:23
So what’s the effect of being too focused on short, high intensity? I have been seen this interesting trend. Living up in Toronto, I do a lot of time on Zwift and use. I’m seeing more and more athletes doing tons and tons of the short high intensity intervals all winter, and particularly on Zwift. You see guys getting on in Zwift every day and doing a training race, right. And you’re seeing these longer, closer to threshold intervals, get out of favor. Five minutes, eight minutes, even 16 minutes. And maybe I’m just had that I was actually talking with my old coach Houshang Amri a couple nights ago. We were talking about this, because he’s seen it as well and junior athletes up in Canada. You, there’s something that that cyclists are starting to lose, and I see it on Zwift. So I get on there, I go into my long thresholds, and there’s a couple climbs there. There’s two 20 minute climbs, and then there’s this there’s simulated Alpe d’Huez, and I will do those climbs that kind of four to 4.2 watts per kilogram, which is hard. But that’s, that’s still get you popped into progress.
Chris Case 57:32
Trevor Connor 57:33
It’s not anything extraordinary.
Chris Case 57:35
Trevor Connor 57:36
And I can usually take the leaders jersey on those climbs. But then every once a while just to have some fun. I jump into a training race on Zwift, just to see where I’m at. And it’s January right now, so I’m certainly not in great fitness. The longest this winter I have lasted in one of those training races is five minutes.
Chris Case 57:54
Trevor Connor 57:55
They are 600 watts off the gun.
Chris Case 57:57
Trevor Connor 57:57
And just attacking like crazy, and I get popped.
Chris Case 58:00
Trevor Connor 58:01
Instantly, and what I am seeing, at least, this is my observation. Everybody’s building that really high end big attacking power, but they’re losing that sustainable power.
Chris Case 58:14
One thing I guess I would say here is that you can do whatever you want, in terms of training, you could go on Zwift every day and do the race workouts, the sorry, the training races. If you’re starting at a low level, you’re going to get better.
Trevor Connor 58:31
Chris Case 58:32
And you’re going to eventually plateau. What we’re trying to say is, if you actually want to maximize your human performance as an individual, there’s a better way to doing it than that Zwift training race every day.
Trevor Connor 58:50
Back to Dr. Seiler.
Dr. Seiler’s Opinion on Interval Training
Dr. Stephen Seiler 58:53
Just to polish this off, when we bring recreational cyclists in these guys, like you’re describing a train 7, 6, 7, 8 hours a week, full of energy full of desire, and we put them through a very careful lactate profile test. Very typically, what we see is that they have they have to two and a half, even three millimolar changed in their pants. I mean, they can’t even get on the bike before they’re already in that, at a blood lactate level that we would typically describe as being threshold. They have what we call no metabolic control. But then after six or seven weeks of discipline training, intensity distribution. Then we bring them back in, do the same lactate profile and now they’re able to do it, you know, they’re at 1.2 1.3 millimolar. You know, and it flattens out, shows that nice break, and then we have an athlete that’s looking like they may not have the same power but they have the same threshold picture, the curve as the elite guys. It doesn’t take that long but but it has to do with this intensity distribution, and when these guys are always at their threshold, we tend to see a profile that is, is also kind of starting at their threshold, if you understand what I’m saying. So it’s quite it’s quite interesting because the way we how quickly we can we can fix it if they will just listen and actually do the easy rides, easy. Believe no longer.
Chris Case 1:00:21
Believe in it.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:00:21
Yeah, yeah, and let that let that system develop. Trust the fact that it does, it is part of the equation. Trust me, I love interval training. So I am not I don’t think I’m wisey as I call my son, sometimes, you know, I, I like hard, hard work. I’ve actually been able to push myself to puking level on intervals. So don’t get me wrong, but but everything I’ve done wrong in my own training has had to do with training too hard.
Trevor Connor 1:00:51
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:00:51
And when, and so that’s the one thing I’ve learned from these top guys is that it’s not about being tough. It’s about being smart, and knowing when to unleash the beast, and when to keep it at home and focus on other aspects. You know, you’re breathing, every ride, every workout, should be purposeful.
Trevor Connor 1:01:14
So the kind of the summary of this high intensity stuff is two sessions per week, every once in a while, so maybe three. Don’t start doing four or five, because you’re not really doing high intensity anymore. If you actually managed to do high intensity, you’re gonna burn out fast.
Chris Case 1:01:28
Trevor Connor 1:01:30
So two a week. Plan your week so that you can do them recovered, and do them really high quality. And then in terms of the type, yes, there’s a value to sprint workouts, yes, there’s a value to the bottom one minute intervals, and there’s also a value to those longer, five, eight, even longer, minute threshold work. Just remember that that higher intensity stuff, six to eight sessions to maximize the gains.
Chris Case 1:01:54
Your meat and potatoes should be something else.
The Slow Recovery Ride
Trevor Connor 1:01:57
Right, so that threshold work takes 12 to 14 weeks to truly see the gains. So that’s if you’re going to be polarized all year and you want to see gains in all your fitness, my suggestion is that longer threshold, you know, just just round that anaerobic threshold work is what you should be doing for a lot of the winter. And in one of Seiler studies, he said he found that the best distribution what you saw on the highest level cyclists was one really high intensity session, one threshold session for low intensity workouts per week.
Chris Case 1:02:37
Which brings us perhaps now to our final ride type which is the slow recovery ride.
Trevor Connor 1:02:43
Oh, the one that’s gonna kill people.
Chris Case 1:02:46
Trevor Connor 1:02:47
See people hate this.
Chris Case 1:02:50
It’s a slow recovery ride, how can I kill them?
Trevor Connor 1:02:53
I had an-
Chris Case 1:02:54
Mentally it melt in their- melts their brain.
Trevor Connor 1:02:57
Oh they just, it didn’t hurt. I don’t get this? Why am I doing-I had this athlete. I spent years trying to get him to do these rides. His anaerobic threshold was 270 watts, and when he had a low intensity easy recovery ride on his plan, he would do it at 220 watts.
Chris Case 1:03:17
Trevor Connor 1:03:18
And I’m just sit there go, that’s not easy.
Chris Case 1:03:20
Trevor Connor 1:03:21
Didn’t feel that hard.
Chris Case 1:03:22
Yeah, it should not feel hard. That’s the that’s the simple way of putting it. It should definitely not feel hard at all
Trevor Connor 1:03:29
Chris Case 1:03:29
You almost can’t go too easy. You can’t go too easy.
Trevor Connor 1:03:33
Chris Case 1:03:34
As long as you don’t tip over.
Trevor Connor 1:03:35
So this is me reaching out across-through the mic to all of our listeners and taking you by the hand and I’m gonna say this. It is alright to not hurt.
Chris Case 1:03:46
Trevor Connor 1:03:46
It, the-the is the no pain, no gain. It’s great on the side of a Mountain Dew can. It’s not the way training works.
Chris Case 1:03:56
Do they put that on the side of Montain Dew cans?
Trevor Connor 1:03:58
Oh, I don’t know, they’re always having their Moutain Dew and do and you’ll be an Olympic athlete. Which-
Chris Case 1:04:03
Trevor Connor 1:04:04
I don’t know many Olympic athletes that drink Mountain Dew. Sorry, I don’t think they’ll be sponsoring us the next episode.
Chris Case 1:04:10
Damn that’s good. That could have been pretty lucrative.
Trevor Connor 1:04:12
Yeah sorry. Not every ride needs to hurt. We have to get this concept out of our head. If it didn’t hurt. If I didn’t do some sort of intensity. There were no games. There was no value to that ride, and going to give you a another way to look at this that’s going to help. That will get rid of some of that stress when you do the easy ride. Yes, when you look at a ride in isolation if you just do an hour, slow and easy, and that’s all you ever do.
Chris Case 1:04:43
Trevor Connor 1:04:43
Yeah, you’re of course you’re not going to be very fit. You have to look at these rides in the context of the week, and the idea is getting back to what I was saying before it’s making sure you’re two high quality intensity sessions are high quality. And if you let’s say you do one on Tuesday, and then you do another one on Thursday, which is pretty common with cyclists who have a full time job, and then you do your long ride on the weekend. If on Wednesday, you’re hopping on Zwift and going into the the B ride in one of the training races and doing 220 watts, you’re not going to recover effectively. And you’re not going to do that Thursday, high quality session with enough sufficient quality.
Chris Case 1:05:28
Better to just not ride your bike.
Trevor Connor 1:05:30
What is the value to that slow ride? One is and this this gets, again, back to that polarized model and Dr. Seiler’s research, he’s really found that accumulating time at zone one is accumulating time. We did talk about there are added value to long rides. But there’s still an accumulation effect. So if all you ever did was two high quality sessions and a long ride. Yeah, you’re gonna get some fitness. But for some reason, you’re going to you’re going to see more gains if you add in those slow rides, and you get to that 80-20 split. Dr. Seiler says that easy training, including the long rides builds biological durability, let’s hear his explanation.
Why Easy Training Builds Long Rides
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:06:10
And then there’s there was an interesting term that got came out on Twitter just the other day that really summed it up for me in a lot of ways. They call it biological durability. Like that, I might, I might call it biological resilience, same same thing, and it seems to be just what we see in elite endurance athletes is that a lot of that volume, that low intensity work, builds a durability in their system. In both their, you know, the hormonal system, the muscular system, the cardiovascular system, they respond well to training, they recover from training, and they can mobilize multiple days in a row, and that’s just, there’s no shortcut to building biological durability. You can’t do it, with just about, you know, three days a week or have high intensity for 30 minutes. That makes you biologically fragile, in a way, because it won’t take very much to tweak your system and put you out of play when you don’t have that base training.
Trevor Connor 1:07:10
Well, that’s a fantastic way to put it.
Dr. Stephen Seiler 1:07:12
I think so many recreational are scared of not training hard enough, and that’s not what they need to be afraid of. They- what they need to be thinking about is, is training. Easy enough and long enough in the low intensity sessions to build that biological durability so that those high intensity sessions really can be developmental. They can really push and handle them, and I think that’s where a lot of athletes get it wrong.
Trevor Connor 1:07:42
All right, back to the show.
Chris Case 1:07:43
Personally, I think of these rides as almost like a massage. Like just spinning out the legs, very easy. You come to a hill, if you’re crawling, that’s great. That’s where you want to be. And you’re not pushing yourself. There’s no like, tension in your body in your legs. You’re just spinning, and like I said, I think of them as the massage, and I think of them as preparation for the other stuff later in the week.
The Science Behind Lactic Acid
Trevor Connor 1:08:12
So let’s talk about some of the science behind that. I mean, you hear people say that all the time. You had the coaches in the 60s and 70s saying you need the slow rides because they clear the lactic acid.
Chris Case 1:08:22
Trevor Connor 1:08:23
I this I was at a conference this weekend, and boy, I make the guy uncomfortable. I went to this table, this guy that had the Keto supplements, what you need for your Keto or Paleo Diet, and it was 2,000% of your recommended daily allowance of everything. And-
Chris Case 1:08:41
How much did it cost?
Trevor Connor 1:08:42
A lot of money.
Chris Case 1:08:43
Yeah, I bet.
Trevor Connor 1:08:44
And this guy was huge. So I picked the wrong fight, because this guy could have snapped me in half. But I was like, “Oh, well so tell me about your supplements and tell me” and he’s like, well, this is just going to optimize your diet and give you all the things that those don’t give you. And I kind of avoided the way I thought the whole philosophy of these diets is you don’t need supplements, because you get it through natural foods. But, I let that one go, and then he’s like, and this is just gonna maximize your training I’m like how’s that he’s like, “Well, one of its effects is it draws the lactic acid out of your muscle so you can train harder.” And I finally was like, well, that’s interesting, because lactic acid doesn’t exist in the human body. He’s like, yes it does. He just, you see him get flustered, and so I explained that we had in our previous episode, and this is where I’m turning into a total prick and he should have snapped me in half. But I’m like-
Chris Case 1:09:33
Trevor Connor 1:09:33
But I’m like talking to him about the PK value of lactic acid and how that shows that physiologically lactic acid can’t exist in the human body.
Chris Case 1:09:42
You dropped a nerd bomb.
Trevor Connor 1:09:43
I dropped a huge nerd bomb and he was pretty much just go away.
Chris Case 1:09:48
A muscley guy was like, you know what, big middle finger, F you, get away from me, flick.
Trevor Connor 1:09:52
Yeah, no, he didn’t like me.
Chris Case 1:09:54
Trevor Connor 1:09:54
He didn’t like me at all, and I did not buy the supplements but I did take a picture.
Chris Case 1:10:00
But back to the show.
How the Immune System Plays a Big Part in Repairing Muscles
Trevor Connor 1:10:02
Back to the show. So yeah, all that you need this to clear the lactic acid out of your muscles. No. But I’m going to give you a another potential explanation, and this goes back, we had that episode on staying healthy, and the immune system. And it’s really important to remember that our immune system has many functions in the body, one of them is fighting viruses and bacteria and other invaders. But the immune system is also responsible for muscle repair.
Chris Case 1:10:31
Trevor Connor 1:10:31
So when you go and do a hard training ride, when you do those high intensity intervals, you do damage. Then the immune system comes in, repairs that damage and if you train effectively repairs, the muscles bigger and stronger. Whatever system you’re training repairs, it better than it was before-
Chris Case 1:10:49
The adaptation process, yup.
Trevor Connor 1:10:50
Yeah, but the process in that repair process is very, very similar to the immunological response to illness. Hence, and we went into this in that episode, I won’t go into it here. When you are training really hard and starting to push burnout, one of the symptoms is you feel sick, and this is why burnout is often misdiagnosis as mono.
Chris Case 1:11:14
Trevor Connor 1:11:14
Because your immune system is so activated, you have the symptoms of being sick. A couple studies looked at the relationship between exercise and the immune system, and found that when you train hard, there’s actually a suppression of the immune system. And again, we went into that in that episode, so I want to explain it here. But it’s a J-shaped curve relationship, or actually an inverted U. So when you start training really hard, you see a decline in immune function. But when you do easy training-
Chris Case 1:11:46
Sort of boost things.
Trevor Connor 1:11:47
You see it boosts, so hence that U shape. So when as you if you graphed increasing intensity of training, or training stress, initially, those very low levels, you’re going to see immune function increase, and then you’re going to start to see a drop very rapidly.
Chris Case 1:12:02
Trevor Connor 1:12:02
So these slow, easy rides, they increase blood flow, they activate the immune system. So they are going to help the immune system, do that muscle repair from your last high intensity session. Which means A) you could potentially see better adaptations B) you’re going to recover faster so that you can be ready for your next high intensity session.
How to Mentally Cope With Doing a Slow, Easy Ride
Chris Case 1:12:27
So it’s just what I said. Only you got you dropped another nerd bomb on people. No, it serves multiple purposes, and I think we’re-we’re not mentioning the mental component. You don’t need right that Zwift, sorry, Zwift race in between your Tuesday and Thursday hard workouts. You need something relaxing and mentally enriching rather than mentally taxing.
Trevor Connor 1:12:55
Right. So the message here is, when you get on the trainer, you are a try- a time crunch cyclist, you have eight hours a week. You get on that trainer on a Wednesday, you did a high intensity session on Tuesday, and you’re just feeling like I only have an hour, I need to do something. Look at this ride in the context of the whole week and saying, going easy today, well I don’t feel anything. This is helping enhance the gains from that hard workout I did yesterday, and this is going to help me get ready for my next hard session, which is Thursday or Friday. You look at it in that context, it can be very easy, literally and metaphorically to just get on the trainer and say, I’m just gonna do an easy spin.
Chris Case 1:13:41
Trevor Connor 1:13:42
And make it really easy. The last thing I’ll add to that is a great thing to do on those rides is your neuromuscular work. That’s where you can do your cadence pyramids, that’s where you can do your spin ups. Just make sure you keep the wattage low.
Chris Case 1:13:54
Yeah, keep it low.
Trevor Connor 1:13:54
When I do my neuro work I don’t ever want to break about 170-180 watts, and those rides, I’m going to average 140.
The Relationship Between High and Low Intensity
Chris Case 1:14:03
What’s the relationship between high intensity and low intensity? Is it, do they complement each other? Is it synergistic? Or do they just fall into distinct buckets?
Trevor Connor 1:14:13
Yeah, I think complimentary is the perfect word for it.
Chris Case 1:14:16
Trevor Connor 1:14:16
So you’re welcome Chris, good job. There’s this great review by Dr. Larson, where he looked at this looked at this. Why top pros do both low intensity work and high intensity work, and it really centered around this, this PGC one alpha pathway in our system and that’s again, that’s the pathway that up regulates all our endurance adaptations. And I’m going to try to explain this without going really deep into the weeds here. But there are four ways we can upregulate PGC one alpha. The zone one big volume work acts through one of those paths. The high intensity through another, and they seem to have a multiplying effect of one another. So basically, the, the long slow is going to upregulate PGC one alpha. The high intensity also will up regulate it. But when you do the two and comb- in a particular combination, they multiply and you see a much, much bigger effect. But-
Chris Case 1:15:20
Two plus two equals-
Trevor Connor 1:15:22
Chris Case 1:15:22
Six, in this case.
Trevor Connor 1:15:24
The other thing they see is the high intensity work upregulated very rapidly. You see very quick effects. So you’re going to see adaptations right away. But, they plateau very quickly, a lot of this high intensity work, you’re going to see all your gains after about six interval sessions.
Chris Case 1:15:40
Trevor Connor 1:15:41
The long slow volume seems to not really plateau. Everybody has their genetic peak, but-
Chris Case 1:15:49
Trevor Connor 1:15:49
It will just keep improving. But the improvements are very-very slow. Hence the reason to build that base, to build that aerobic side with that long, slow volume you you’re talking years. Years and years and years of development. But to bring around that race fitness, a few weeks.
Chris Case 1:16:09
I wish there was a an analogy we could use here to explain this, and I don’t know if this is a good one at all. But, it’s like building a house in a sense, and it takes a long time to build the structure, the foundation, all of that stuff. You get to the end, you put the siding on he put the shingles on you put the window trim, you put a flower box on it, that stuff doesn’t take as much time. But it’s the two together that make the home.
Trevor Connor 1:16:35
Right. I think that’s a great analogy I actually use for my athletes a slight variation on that analogy, because a way I look at is you’re given a house. You’re given a body.
Chris Case 1:16:44
Trevor Connor 1:16:45
So you’re not building a house, and what you’re trying to do is make that house bigger and better. So when we’re talking about that aerobic base fitness, we’re talking about the foundation of the house. Take a step back, remember the fundamental principle of training, which is training doesn’t damage, and then it’s repairing that damage that the in this analogy, the house gets bigger and better. So everybody thinks of well training is doing the repair work. No. Training is a storm that comes in and damages the house.
Chris Case 1:17:18
Trevor Connor 1:17:18
And then it’s in recovery that you come out and do the repair work.
Chris Case 1:17:22
Trevor Connor 1:17:22
So when I think of that base fitness, that-that aerobic fitness, it takes years to build, that’s this, just this constant rainstorm that where the water gets into the ground and starts eating away at the foundation, the house and cracks the foundation so that then you have to build a better foundation. And that’s just slows-slow, steady, easy rain that takes long, long time.
Chris Case 1:17:46
Trevor Connor 1:17:46
High intensity work, that’s a tornado or a hurricane that comes in and rips the roof off the house, and then you just have to build a better roof.
Chris Case 1:17:56
So that’s it. Those are the three rides that you should be doing. It’s it’s pretty simple. However, we know that there’s other types of rides that people do. Some better than others. So let’s let’s address some of those.
Trevor Connor 1:18:10
So let’s talk about the type of ride that you don’t see on-in any philosophy.
Chris Case 1:18:14
Trevor Connor 1:18:15
And this is the in between ride.
Chris Case 1:18:17
Yeah, no man’s land.
The “In-Between” Ride
Trevor Connor 1:18:19
This is thw, it felt good. I felt like I did something hard, but it didn’t really hurt. And unfortunately, this is where a lot of amateur like cyclists spend a lot of time. Because the- that’s literally what these are. These are the feel good rides.
Chris Case 1:18:36
Trevor Connor 1:18:36
You do an hour, you got a little intensity, you felt like you accomplished something, it was pretty good. As we said before, if you’re doing the high intensity, right, it hurts.
Chris Case 1:18:45
Trevor Connor 1:18:46
A lot of people don’t like that. These rides, they produce autonomic stress. They don’t produce enough damage to really see adaptations. These are the ones that are going to cause you to plateau. These are the ones where when I see athletes doing these all the time, those athletes are constantly complaining that they they just never seem to get any stronger. They don’t help you. Every ride should have a purpose, know the purpose of that ride and do that ride. So when you’re going out for long and slow, the purpose is slow, keep it slow. When you’re doing high intensity, the purpose is whether it’s sitting at that threshold for longer periods of time or doing your tabatas, doing executing it as high quality as you can. Avoid this in between stuff, and one thing that I have athletes do all the time as they say, “Well, I know today is meant to be a long, slow, easy ride. So what I’m going to do is go to the group ride and ride with the C group, that’s an in between ride. Doesn’t matter which group A,B,C,D or E. They’re all going hard. They’re all racing.
Chris Case 1:19:47
Yeah. Probably stopping.
Trevor Connor 1:19:50
Even though you might be fitter than the C or D or E group, there’s still going to be a lot of intensity in there, and you’re just that is not a recovery. I hate it when I have an athlete say oh today was a recovery ride, so I went to the group but I rode with the D group. Because you look at it and it’s just a classic in between ride.
Trevor Connor 1:20:09
At APEX coaching, they have my all time favorite expression for in between rides. They call it training in moto rato. Let’s hear Grant Holicky explain.
Training in “Moto Rato”
Grant Holicky 1:20:18
The one that jumps out at me always is making the easy too hard, and making the hard not hard enough. Training is about working the edges of the system. Base training is the foundation of what we’re doing as an athlete. You can do that base training harder, and frankly, one of the really interesting points is is is shown in many in several studies. Base training, which is a little bit easier, and tempo training, which is that no man’s land below a threshold actually are going to give you a similar physiological response. They both have a similar effect on threshold power, they both have a similar effect on VO2 max power, all those things. Just one of them makes you more tired than the other one makes you. So the more time we spend at tempo, the more time we spend in that no man’s land. That’s going to SAP the legs, that’s going to SAP the body. Now, when we turn around on Wednesday, it’s time to really just rail those threshold efforts or rail those VO2 max efforts, we tend to not have as much left in the legs. So the hard training gets diminished down a little bit. The easy training gets lifted up a little bit and we live in that world as as, as Neil my, my partner at APEX coaching describes as we live in “Moto Rato”.We live in that medium place and-and we’re not going to get that return out of that medium place. Make your hard efforts super hard, and make your bass training and your easy days at base or super easy.
Chris Case 1:21:43
So Trevor, what about a sweet spot, though? Isn’t that somewhat what you just described that this has a negative connotation, no man’s land?
Trevor Connor 1:21:52
Yeah, and that used to be called no man’s land. We’ve been talking about the polarized model. I constantly reference this other study again, we’ll put all these references up were big proponents of the polarized model looked at the differences between all the sports and you saw that cycling was different. And top cyclists do a little more zone two work, then cross country skiers or runners.
Chris Case 1:22:17
Zone two in Seiler’s model to be specific.
Trevor Connor 1:22:19
So this is this is your sweet spot training.
Chris Case 1:22:21
Trevor Connor 1:22:22
And I do think there is a place for that.
Chris Case 1:22:23
Trevor Connor 1:22:24
I think less so in December in January, I think as you’re getting into the season, a lot of racing is at that intensity. So there’s a value of bringing in some sweet spot work. So I will have my athletes all winter, do long and slow in the zone one. But once we get to late February, early March, I say go out and do the group, ride, get some sweetspot work. Or I’ll start adding sweetspot work to their long rides, to start getting that a little more specificity, a little more intensity and training. There is definitely a place for it, and I think a Frank Overton who’s here who’s really one of the originators of the sweet spot. I don’t think he would disagree with a lot of this. He still has his athletes do high intensity, he still hasn’t do zone one work. But he says and I agree with them, there are times in the season where there’s a value to that sweet spot work.
Chris Case 1:23:14
Trevor Connor 1:23:15
The other really important thing to remember with sweet spot, and again, thinking about Frank Overton here and how he coaches his athletes, is it’s still purposeful, often structured work. That’s an important distinction between the in between stuff, which is the in between is just I’m going on field, this feels good, so I’m going to do it. You know, Frank either gives longer work that’s closer to that aerobic threshold, or he’s going to get sweetspot work that’s actually pretty short and relatively high intensity. The key thing is there’s good value to it, it’s structured, it’s purposeful. In between rides aren’t purposeful.
Trevor Connor 1:23:53
We talked to Joe Friel, mostly about periodization. But he did share some thoughts about sweet spot work.
Joe Friel’s Opinion on Sweet Spot Work
Joe Friel 1:23:58
But yeah, it’s true. Somebody focuses on sweet spot that in a way kind of negates polarized training, and yet I’m not sure that really has to happen that way. In a way these are these are contradictory. Sweetspot implies staying at a point which is you know, somewhat below the FTP or which is roughly the equivalent anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold for long periods of time. Whereas polarized training implies that you spent a great deal of time at very low intensities below the aerobic threshold. And then given a smaller portion time 20% roughly. At above the lactate or anaerobic threshold, so there’s there’s there’s some discussion going on, you’re still within the sport about how to do this. And I’ve quite honestly not tried to be too precise about this, although in the book I tried to be a lot, I suppose a little bit more precise, and I am in reality. You know, I kind of apply, I kind of use it both ways. I think an athlete is used to get a lot of training. Roughly the 80% concept, below their aerobic- at or below their aerobic threshold, and I say at- because I’ve have athletes, I would have athletes do a lot of training at there will be threshold. But I also employ using sweetspot, at certain times in the season for athletes, and then other times they’re doing things well above the the threshold or the FTP. So I don’t think it’s carved in stone that you’re going to do the same 80-20 relative to thresholds, aerobic and anaerobic throughout the year. It’s going to be divided over the course of seasons periodisation, where sometimes you’re doing 80-20, but other times you’re doing 90-10. Or you’re doing, you know, 70-30, or something like that, because you’re getting ready for a certain event, and certaint ev- the event is the reason we train. We don’t just train to achieve numbers, we train to achieve outcomes and races. And so sometimes it’s important to train in a way that that meets the demands of the event ,and that’s not always going to be 80-20. So I’m a little bit of a heretic when it comes to the 80-20, but I believe the concept is really solid. You really can’t argue that dividing, churning with a great deal at low intensity and as much smaller amount in high intensity is beneficial because there’s there’s so much research that supports this. So that’s kind of where how I hedge my bets on this thing when it comes to reality.
Trevor Connor 1:26:32
Back to the show.
When in the Season Are Training Races Appropriate?
Chris Case 1:26:34
What about training races? Where in the season are they most appropriate?
Trevor Connor 1:26:39
So again, this gets into specificity. If you remember our episode, a couple episodes ago we talked to Joe Friel, about periodization. And his biggest message with periodization is you need to get increasingly race specific.
Chris Case 1:26:52
Trevor Connor 1:26:52
There is nothing more specific to racing than racing, so there is a huge value to training races. But going back to what you’re talking about before with the in between ride, if you’re going to go out to the the Saturday group ride, or if you’re going to go to a training race, make one of your high intensity sessions and make it hard.
Chris Case 1:27:12
Trevor Connor 1:27:12
So don’t go out and say I’m going to ride with the B group or C group or you know, however fit you are. You know, a group that’s a couple levels below your ability, and sort of go hard.
Chris Case 1:27:22
Yeah, you take advantage of the opportunity to, treat it as a race, not only from a physical standpoint, but you know, mentally too.
Trevor Connor 1:27:30
So going back, we talked to the beginning about my old mentor Glen Swan that he used training races for his training. If you showed up to the training race, and you just sat in, he would pull you aside and say, “You’re not welcome back here, unless you start going harder.” And you saw it in his first training race of the season, he would off the gun be attacking us, and attacking, attacking, attacking because he wasn’t that fit yet. He’d blow up and we wouldn’t see him. Then the next week, same thing, attack attack attack the last 10 minutes longer. And you’d see this for a few weeks until his race fitness came around, and then he’d attack, and we’ve never seen him again. Because he was really good.
Chris Case 1:28:04
I think that’s one of the really interesting things that you see with with people at a at a certain level is they go to these training races, they do treat it at as a race. They might not be in that part of the season where they’re actually that fit. But they’re okay with that, and they’re fine sort of blowing themselves up because that was their intent from the very beginning. That was the purpose of the ride, and they’re not embarrassed by it. They got out of the ride what they wanted to get out of the ride, and not everybody can do that because they’re afraid of blowing up. They’re afraid of that maybe their egos too big.
Trevor Connor 1:28:42
So my favorite expression for my athletes when we’re talking about training in races is, race smart on the weekends, race hard on the weekdays.
Chris Case 1:28:49
Trevor Connor 1:28:49
Don’t go to training races to sit in and wait for the right moment. Go to the training race to kill yourself.
Chris Case 1:28:55
Yeah, and it’s, you know, it’s a great place to experiment and try different things too.
Trevor Connor 1:29:00
Right, the biggest waste of time is to go to a weekday training race and sit in the field and go for the sprint at the end. Unless you’re like me, the worst sprinter in the world, and that’s actually something you need to work on.
Chris Case 1:29:11
What about every once in a while, we just need fun rides. You just need to set aside structure, set aside a purpose. Just go out and ride your bike because riding bikes is awesome.
Trevor Connor 1:29:22
Chris Case 1:29:22
Is that true?
Why Mindset Is Important When Training
Trevor Connor 1:29:23
This goes back to there’s an exception to everything and this is the exception to the in between ride rule. Don’t undervalue the importance of mindset. If all you are ever doing is riding steady at zone one and hurting yourself in intervals, you are going to hit a point where you just say mentally I hate this. I hate riding the bike and you’re going to quit.
Chris Case 1:29:47
Yeah, that’s very robotic and-
Trevor Connor 1:29:48
Chris Case 1:29:48
-and it takes a could end up taking a lot of the pleasure out of it. You it’s very it becomes formulaic, let’s put it that way.
Trevor Connor 1:29:55
The thing with the in between rides is they’re fun.
Chris Case 1:29:58
Trevor Connor 1:29:58
So there is a place for them. But my recommendation is, plan them ahead. So if you plan an easy recovery ride, and it becomes an in between ride, you got off course and you need to adjust. But if you just say this is mentally getting to me, I need to have some fun, that’s fine. If- put it on your plan if you’re coaching yourself or tell your coach.
Chris Case 1:30:20
Trevor Connor 1:30:21
-and I do that frequently with my athletes where when I start to see that they’re not mentally as fresh, I’d say “You know what? Forget the structure this week ,go out have some fun with with your buddies.”
Chris Case 1:30:31
Trevor Connor 1:30:31
And just don’t look at the bike computer.
Chris Case 1:30:34
Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say try, just avoid looking at the power meters. Don’t worry about data, just collect it, but don’t look at it and have fun.
Trevor Connor 1:30:44
Have some fun. Don’t have it being oops, have it be I need one of these rides right now.
Chris Case 1:30:49
Trevor Connor 1:30:50
Chris Case 1:30:51
Get back to why you ride the bike in the first place. Another big exception, that breaks a lot of rules, in a way, I think is the fatigue blocks. These big blocks of rides three, four, maybe even five days in a row where you’re breaking all the rules, in a sense.
How All Types of Training Fit Together
Trevor Connor 1:31:10
So I hope we got across the message that it’s how all these rides fit together.
Chris Case 1:31:14
Trevor Connor 1:31:15
I was looking at training in terms of weeks, I never looked at it in terms of individual workouts, and a really valuable week is that training camp or fatigue week. Where you as Chris said, you do four or five, or even just three days in a row, where you really beat yourself up. And the purpose is, by the end of that week, you’re dragging your feet. You want to get off the bike, you are tired, and that’s where you can break the rules. That’s where you can have some fun. I love those weeks, because that’s I might started a little structured, I might do some interval work or a test at the beginning of it. By- by the end of it, I’m like, I’m just gonna go out to the group, right and have fun, because I’m just trying to accumulate stress here. That’s where a lot of the rules get thrown out. That’s where you do intensity back to back. That’s where you try to do intensity when you are tired, because you have to do that in racing too. They do have a real value for the time crunch cyclists because if you have a family, and if you said every weekend, I’m going to go out and do two four hour rides, you’re probably going to get divorced. If you say to your significant other every five weeks, I want to have a weekend where I do those two big five hour rides.
Chris Case 1:32:15
Trevor Connor 1:32:26
Usually families are very accommodating.
Chris Case 1:32:29
Trevor Connor 1:32:29
And then you don’t have to do as much on the weeks in between.
Chris Case 1:32:33
All right, Trevor, Coach Connor, if you will. I know you love a little competition. You got 60 seconds. What are the take homes for people listening to this episode?
Trevor Connor’s Take Home Message
Trevor Connor 1:32:43
Okay, in 60 seconds, and I’ve just lost 5.
Chris Case 1:32:46
1, 2, 3, 4
Trevor Connor 1:32:49
Okay, here we go. Keep it simple. If you are focused on should I be at 145 beats per minute versus 143 beats per minute, or if you want to talk power, should I be at 210 versus 215? You’re getting caught up in the trees, stick with the forest. Keep it simple. Keep it purposeful. We’ve now given you three types of rides, each has a purpose. Make sure you are accomplishing the purpose of that ride, and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Look at rides in con- in the context of the week. How does the week fit together because then all of a sudden, those one hour easy recovery rides have a very important purpose when you look at how they fit between your high quality rides. So never look at a ride in isolation, look at how they all fit together.
Chris Case’s Take Home Message
Chris Case 1:33:36
This episode to me is about the elegance of an approach. Again, like Trevor said, it’s that simplicity that I love to embrace. As a goal oriented, list oriented type of person and athlete. I love the fact that you can throw your rides into three distinct buckets and it’s easy when you set out that day to know what you’re going to be doing. Helps you wrap your head around what it is you hope to accomplish. It’s also helpful to know that if you’re not getting to the place where you expect it to get, you might want to abandon that ride because it’s not the day something else might be going on, it has this nice structure to it that I really like. And I always come back to Dr. Tyler’s research and the stories he tells about how he came to know a lot of the things that we talked about in this episode, which is he’s studied some of the most amazing athletes in the world. And sometimes athletes at that level, just know how to get the most out of their bodies. This is what they do, and I come back to that like, “Okay, if it works for that guy. I’m never going to be at that level but his approach works and I’m going to adopt that approach for me, and see how it works for me.
Chris Case 1:35:01
That was another episode of Fast Talk. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at fasttalk@velonews. com. Subscribe to Fast Talk on 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, the Velonews podcast, which covers news about the week in cycling. Become a fan of firstname.lastname@example.org/VeloNews and on Twitter @twitter.com/velonews. Fast Talk is a joint production between VeloNews and Connor coaching. For Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening!