The House and the Storm—a Metaphor for Training

We max out on metaphors in this week's Fast Talk podcast as we talk about some of the key principles behind training, recovery, and fueling.

biker in a thunderstorm

Understanding how to train effectively is still one of the most confusing things we face as endurance athletes. The recent explosion in exercise science and new tools for measuring our workouts has helped top athletes get more out of their bodies. But for the rest of us, topics like PGC-1α, TSS, and normalized power can just leave us scratching our heads. Sure, we can buy a template training plan with remarkably detailed instructions, but they don’t explain why we’re doing what we’re doing.  

So, in this summary episode, our three hosts—coach Trevor Connor, physiologist Rob Pickels, and coach Grant Holicky—explain the key principles of training using a very accessible metaphor: think of your body as a house and the goal is to build a bigger and better house.  

Simple enough. But, here’s where the metaphor makes one of the most confusing things about our physiology easy to understand. Most of us think of training as doing the construction work on the house. It’s not. Training is a storm that comes in and damages the house. It’s during the time between the storms—when we’re recovering—that the repair work is done and the house is made stronger. This is why recovery is such an important and often overlooked part of training.  

Building on this metaphor, our hosts explain why we need rest, why it’s critical to do the right amount of damage (or training), why nutrition is so important, and why we need a mix of high-intensity and long slow work.  

Helping to explain these concepts, we’ve pulled in clips from past episodes with some of our most popular guests. These include Dr. Stephen Seiler, who explains the concept of fresh fruit, coach Hunter Allen, who uses a similar metaphor of a table instead of a house, and Dr. Stacy Sims who talks about what happens when we underfuel.  

Those aren’t our only clips. We also hear from Dr. Inigo San Millan, who talks about the dangers of too much recovery, coach Neal Henderson who talks about doing just the right amount of damage, WKO5 developer Tim Cusick, Glenn Swan who explains the nature of how we adapt, Dr. Inigo Mujika who talks about what happens when we detrain, and coach Espen Aareskjold who uses an analogy of a battery. 

So, get out your hammer and nails, and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Trevor Connor  00:04

Well hello and welcome to another episode. This is one I’m kind of excited about, we’re doing another summary episode today. This is where we’re going to talk about something that we think is important that’s been a theme of the show and we’re gonna pull in a whole bunch of clips from past episodes.

Trevor Connor  00:21

But this one’s a little bit special to me because there is a metaphor that I have used for years to explain the basic principles of training to my athletes. In this episode, I’m going to give you that metaphor and then we’re going to dive deep into the different aspects of it and the way to think about training. But in this we’re gonna get across that principle of super compensation, recovery, diminishing return, stress, all these different – can’t believe I kind of blanked the little for a second on the principles –

Rob Pickels  00:53

All the principles.

Trevor Connor  00:55

Grant’s here.

Grant Holicky  00:56

Just riding this part out.

Rob Pickels  00:59

I there’s just a bus driving by and Trevor just threw Grant under it.

Grant Holicky  01:03

He hadn’t done a thing. Just came up, and I had to push Trevor out of the bus.

Rob Pickels  01:13

Hey buddy, good to see you.

Grant Holicky  01:14

It’s nice to be here. I know in a minute. You were just over in Europe. Ah, yep. Just got back from Belgium, the Netherlands for some cross racing, but very nice to get home and see some occasional sunshine. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  01:26

snowy Boulder, huh? Yeah, dude, it’s been sticking around like no other this year.

Grant Holicky  01:30

It’s brutal. It’s been a snowy January. Europe was warm. Sun never came out but it was warm. Yeah, there you go.

Trevor Connor  01:36

So if you do take no sun and warm or sunny and Oh, snow any and

Grant Holicky  01:41

cold and snowy in a heartbeat. The days are so short over there. You don’t see the sunshine. It’s rough. Definitely a part of handling that the Christmas period in Belgium for cyclocross is handling the weather and handling your mood with the weather?

Rob Pickels  01:56

Yeah, it’s hard. Vitamin D like what? Pretty much you

Grant Holicky  01:59

need grow lamps inside Yeah.

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Rob Pickels  03:11

So Trevor, what’s our metaphor for today?

Trevor Connor  03:13

Okay, so this is an overall metaphor for training and how we improve. So what I always told my athletes is, think of your body, like a house,

Rob Pickels  03:23

for some of us. That’s a brick house. Boy, why is there been looking at me?


Another bus came.

Trevor Connor  03:34

Wow. So think of your body like a house. And the purpose of training is to build a bigger, better house. That’s what we’re trying to do. So the metaphor here is think of the it’s like your engine or your body. It’s it’s bigger, it’s stronger, it’s more powerful. So in this metaphor, first question I’m going to throw out to the two of you that asked every athlete I give this metaphor to is, what is training in this metaphor, Rob’s holding his nose, so

Grant Holicky  04:04

it goes to me this is the third best. Third, I have never heard this metaphor. So I’m not quite sure. I mean, obviously, if we’re talking about it, we’re looking at something that is going to inflict stress, yes, upon the house.

Trevor Connor  04:21

So the answer I often get from athletes is training is the repair person or the construction person who’s going to come in and build the better house? That’s not true. What I always say is training is a storm. It’s a storm that comes in and damages the house. And this is really important to understand that training doesn’t make you stronger. When you finish a hard ride or a hard run. Your weaker, it is damaging. So training is a storm. And then there is a repair person and that repair person comes out during recovery in between the storms, because who’s gonna go out and try to repair a house when they’re in the middle of a hurricane. So they come out in between the storms, and they do the repair work. And we’re gonna get into all these different elements. But that’s the really important thing to understand here is training is not the repair work training is the damage, and its recovery where the repair work is done. So I’m going to throw in our first clip here. This is from Episode 119, with Tim Cusick, where we are talking about stress and strain. So think of that as as the damage and how to measure these. And he goes into some of these principles. And how what would actually be great is to measure that adaptation, that’s the repair, that’s the has the house gotten bigger and stronger. So let’s hear from him. Now.

Tim Cusick  05:52

The trouble that brings with training load the challenge and where the art of coaching, using data to make better decisions is as important is we can measure the stress pretty quantitatively like there’s an objective set of data, we’re starting to get our hands around strain a little bit better. But reality is we don’t have like that hard quantitative piece of data. Therefore, if stress plus strain equals adaptation, we really can’t nail adaptation. So when you start thinking about training load, we’re really trying to improve the odds by understanding what we’re applying, we’re applying a certain amount of stress, that stress is going to have some relationship to fitness, some relationship to performance, specificity, some relationship to how the athlete performs in a given event, right. But we don’t have that same heart measurement for strain. And we really think about the adaptation. For best guests, aren’t we? We don’t have that way of predicting the adaptation. Now the athlete goes to their event and does well you said your thumbs up, you did a great job of measuring stress and strain. But if they fail, you have no diagnostic because you apply to stress that you thought would result in a strain. But yet the adaptation wasn’t there. So what did you do wrong? Or wrong as a harsh word, right? Where were areas for improvement? What changes should you have done before you created that scenario? So if you think about that, in the sense of training load, it really is a stress load number that is the hard quantitative starting point. And then rolling closing on that, that gives you the real drill downs of some of the key physiological principles that you should be looking at and training. progression, overload, recovery, you know, and super compensation within now let’s talk about this idea of, you know, we get stronger when we recover. And then eventually, you know, you’re using those I applied those metrics. Well, I’ve got the right training load, I’ve done some of the right content and what’s in there, you’re hoping for adaptation?

Rob Pickels  07:56

So, Trevor, I think that we need to start this conversation with that storm, right? That’s, that’s kind of the beginning of everything of this. So how does the storm and how does the damage how is all of this playing into your metaphor, and then also tying that into the physiology that’s occurring.

Trevor Connor  08:12

So this really gets at probably the most important principle of exercise physiology, which is that concept of super compensation that you need to produce enough stress or do enough damage that your body’s going to repair, not only repair the damage, but super compensate, repair acts stronger. So the way I always think of this is think of that repair person is being lazy. So if a storm comes in, rips a couple roof panels off of the house, the repair person is going to come out and go. Now that wasn’t that much damage, I’ll just tack back on some roof panels and we’re good to go. Not going to do anything better. If a storm comes in and rips the roof off, repair person is gonna go. I didn’t like that. I don’t want this to happen again. So not only am I going to build back a roof, I’m going to build back a bigger and stronger roof. So the next time a storm like this comes in, the house can handle it.

Grant Holicky  09:07

Yeah. And we have a great quote from Dr. Steven Siler in Episode 185, not necessarily talking about how the body is lazy, but how we’re only going to do the work that our body needs to do.

Trevor Connor  09:19

So let’s hear from Oh, now.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  09:22

I think that’s important to remember, the body is super efficient. And so it doesn’t keep a deputations that aren’t needed. And it doesn’t create a deputations that aren’t needed either.

Rob Pickels  09:32

I think a concept that we have to talk about as we’re talking about these storms, right? A raging storm can do so much damage, that it destroys the house, right and so finding that balance, the correct size storm, so to say is probably pretty important here.

Grant Holicky  09:48

Yeah, in duration to write we can talk about an intense storm that’s short and that’s racing, or a short block or training camp or something along those lines, where we really can get into a lot of trouble. If we’re doing this long term constant beating up the house, you know, it’s going to slowly but surely fall apart. So this

Trevor Connor  10:08

is a trick you want enough storms to come in to do some damage, and to do sufficient damage that this repair person is gonna say, Yep, let’s build it back stronger. But you can’t have constant storms, you can’t have so much damage that you’re going to knock the house down. I think this is a good place. We all know Neil Henderson Well, so this is from Episode 127, where he talks actually about damage and the need to do enough damage to adapt.

Neal Henderson  10:36

So kind of a difference between overreaching and overtraining is with a reasonable rest and recovery. With over that overreaching, you’re going to see an improvement. With overtraining with rest and recovery, there is no improvement. And you’re only going to see decreased performance. So when we apply, you know, when we’re training, we actually get worse. That’s part of the things we have to disturb homeostasis, we have to stress our bodies, we initially get worse, it’s when you recover, that there’s adaptation and improvement. That’s what an overreaching or an overload, achieves. Overtraining is such that you’ve done so much work that when you rest and recover, you do not get any better. And so that’s kind of the big differentiator as I see things in that that realm.

Grant Holicky  11:23

Anybody who’s listened to the podcast a lot knows that this is a big piece for me. But I think the other thing that we have to draw in here is the internal storm, you know, almost if we if we really extend out this metaphor, like what happens when a pipe burst in your house, what happens when your floor starts to come up, because it’s years and years and years of this stuff. So some of this internal stuff, job stress, family, stress, life stress, these are the things that really can come and take a hold of us from the inside to that we don’t necessarily see coming, we know the storms come and we know we’re gonna get a foot of snow, we know we’re gonna get this rain, but what’s going on inside is going to have a big influence as well.

Rob Pickels  12:01

Yeah, I think that you’re entirely right, grant. And oftentimes people will look and say, but it’s been blue skies, sunny days. For me, I don’t understand why my foundation is crumbling, right. And then you go and you inspect, you dig a little bit deeper inside, and you realize there has been a pipe leaking in that wall for a year now. And it’s eroded away the foundation. I saw this all the time, when I was working with athletes, Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, people would show signs of overtraining. And as an objective person outside of them, right, it’s a little bit easier to understand the situation. And it’s like, Man, this really sounds like overtraining to me. And people could not believe it. And they’re like, but look at the training I’m doing. There’s no way I’m overtraining. And then you begin talking to them. And they say, Yeah, but I lost my job. So I’ve been training. Yeah, or somebody in my family died. Yep, all of those things lead to the exact same stress hormone response in your body that heavy training will do. And we 100% see that this internal stress a life is another storm, or as you’re saying a pipe bursting inside?

Grant Holicky  13:04

Yeah. And I think we have to recognize as masters athletes, that this is a place where yes, the professionals are affected by this. And I think we underestimate just how much they are affected by this. But for us, as a Master’s athlete, with a full time job with kids with family, this is a major piece of what has to be taken into consideration with our training.

Trevor Connor  13:27

So I mean, this is where you hear athletes frequently say stress is stress. And I’ve heard people get upset about that. But in this metaphor, yeah. Life stress is also a storm. And we can only handle so many storms hitting us all at once. Where the metaphor falls apart is those life stresses those storms damage a part of the house that even if you repair it back bigger and better, doesn’t really help your training doesn’t really help your sport. So it’s a different part of the house. I guess this is the way to keep the metaphor going. But you have to be aware of fact, this is all storms. And I think this is a great place to throw in a clip from Episode 199 99 with Chris Carmichael, where he talks about this need to do sufficient damage, but also the need for recovery. And grant even brings in your whole concept of you got to factor life into this. So let’s hear what he has to say about keeping this balance.

Chris Carmichael  14:28

Yeah, you know, elite athletes, it’s not just the training that you know, the available training time, it’s really easy to look at an elite athlete and say, wow, they basically have all day to train and so doing, you know, this idea of putting in moderate pace long rides to get this aerobic adaptations, stuff that is occurring down in the mitochondria, the muscles and things like that. That’s great, but to just say, Okay, it’s just simply that the training time In that time crunch athlete doesn’t have, it’s more than that it’s, you know, elite athletes also have a lot more time to recover from their workouts as well, time crunch athletes, they finish the workout. And they’re, you know, in those last 10 minutes of their workout, you’re already losing them, they’re already thinking about what they’ve got coming up, right after they get off the bike, showering up their first meeting that’s coming up at work. So they’re available time to recover. And everything that’s involved in that process is also greatly reduced as well. So you’ve got to take that in consideration. So it’s not just simply taking what an elite athlete hasn’t gone. Okay, we’ll just cut that in half late athlete is training 20 hours, we’ll cut it in half. So we’ll get it down to 10 hours. And that’ll be that’ll be enough. Well, chances are, you’re not going to put enough training stimulus on the aerobic system to get much adaptation, if they’re long ride, if they’re sort of long endurance ride is two hours and 15 minutes is not going to provide that training stimulus for that type of adaptation. And they’re also crunched on the if you’re doing hard workouts, how many hard workouts can you put in a week that they’re going to be able to recover from before they’re ready for the next one. So you’ve you’ve also got to look at at training time, recovery time as well.

Rob Pickels  16:24

Back when I was listening to Episode 244, with Dr. Sylar, they brought up to the concept of a battery. And that really struck home for me, it made a lot of sense to me. And I’ll let them explain the analogy a little bit deeper. But essentially, if we’re starting from 100%, all the time, life is grand, right. But we’re not always starting from 100%. Because maybe our recovery wasn’t good enough, we didn’t refill that battery all the way. So any subsequent stressor, every subsequent storm, after that ends up lowering our battery, we’re operating with a battery of 15%, we don’t have much to give before we’re completely out. But they say it a lot better than I do. So here we go.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  17:07

That’s where that urgency versus patience comes in. Because, you know, it’s easy to think, oh, man, my threshold is 320 I needed to be free at? Well, that’s a pretty damn big jump. And it’s not gonna happen in one season. And I guess, you know, how do you What’s the timeframe and maybe even masters can learn from that the patience aspect of it,

Espen Aareskjold  17:29

I think a good rule of thumb is the lower the wattage, the power, the longer it takes to develop. So it’s easy to develop sprint power, or around threshold or 30 seconds. So all that comes fast and goes faster way. But the foundation work that career a quite some time. And then I also think that one of the main things that we are talking about that when we expose the riders for workouts, they have to be in balance. So if you imagine that your battery 100% And you go to do a session, then it’s probably easier for staff session is still hard. But then if you start the morning with low sleep, and kids have been crying on life, which I actually have riders on the team that have skates, and sometimes the sleep quality is not good enough. So then we have need to have made this person to water Camus, because there’s no plan that’s so important that if you feel feel bad today that you should just do it to do it. If your battery is at 80%, then there was all the other will also be a relative effect. So it’s all about adjusting to where you are at any given time. And on progress, you will you will see more over weeks and months than from a day to day basis.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  18:57

Oh man, there’s there’s no athlete that doesn’t relate to this to the things you’re talking about now, which is that life happens. And there’s day to days stressors. So when that athlete is scheduled to do a workout, a hard session, but everything tells you that they’re not ready for it, or they’re they’re compromised at some level, whether it’s their 80% of 100. You know, so what is your typical rule of thumb? Is it better for them to do a reduced version of that hard workout? Or do you say no, we just go easy today, or do you give them rest day? I mean on that continuum? How do you solve that adjustment issue?

Espen Aareskjold  19:43

I’m going to start by saying what you research guys says So you’re a scientist. It depends. It

Dr. Stephen Seiler  19:49

depends. Dang it.

Espen Aareskjold  19:52

Yeah, no, no, but it really does. I think you have to look at the courses. Yes. To look at the total volume that you had coming up to the session, you have to figure out is there any illnesses upcoming, and you have to look at the days to come. But most of the time, I’m just saying, take a day off, enjoy it, you’re not gonna, you’re not going to get many of those into, like, reduce the, like the mental stress of not having done a workout. And a few, as you taught me, if you’re going to have a 5% increase during a half a year or year, how much better do you need to be in each workout? That’s not much. I think it’s, we don’t need to have a lot of those workouts. But if they have been settled, then it’s okay. It’s not, we have to look at the training program, the practice of activities, so the daily life, sleep, nutrition, are there any quarrels with their spouses, and they problems with children, etc, etc. Because you have the training stress, and then you also have the cognitive stress. And it’s the sum of those who creates the total stress. And if you are having a lot of bad things on your mouth, mind, something that you worry about, then you will go throughout the day and the night and everything to reduce yourself. So your batteries, maybe at 60%, then it’s maybe maybe it’s best thing is to go to and do something you like and forget about the training period, your friends, go see a movie, go to a pub or whatever.

Trevor Connor  21:35

I think all this is a good segue into the next thing we want to talk about, which is that time between storms. And this is why I really liked this metaphor, because it’s really important to understand the importance of rest and recovery to be an effective athlete and to understand that, that is when the repair work happens, you don’t repair during a storm, you might be able to do some patch work, that part of the roof gets ripped up, you might be able to go out in the middle of the storm and put a tarp over it. But the real repair work happens in between. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  22:08

I think that Trevor, this is a great point, right? Because talking about the storm is exciting, right? We all love to say oh, there was the biggest storm that I’ve ever seen. And the waves were crashing. And it’s the same thing with training, right? I went out and I did to buy 20 at 395 Watts and you feel good about yourself. But like you’re saying that’s just damage, damage, damage, right, that’s not necessarily doing anything to help you. And I think that with this storm metaphor, we all know that feeling of like the clearing skies and the and we can recognize that the recovery between storms is really important. Even though in training, sometimes it feels like the last thing you want to focus on. Yeah, and

Grant Holicky  22:49

I think there’s two sides to this too, as you start to train hard, and you start to get into a place where you’re overreaching a little bit, sometimes you’re going to get to a place where your numbers aren’t as good your performance starts to struggle a little bit in terms of these marker workouts or these sessions. And I can’t tell you how often I’ve watched athletes go do a race or go do a workout, come back and say it was off, I must be on fit now. Whereas really what is needed here is just a little bit of time to recover a little bit of time to adapt. And over the last couple of years I’ve watched this with high high level athletes, whether it be an injury or a life thing is something that’s taken them off the bike. We’ve been able to come back do a short build and they’re unbelievable, because they got this adaptation time they’ve got this recovery time,

Rob Pickels  23:36

right? Yeah. And back in what episode 127 Dr. Sylar really talks about this constant storm constant stress. That’s eventually what breaks us

Dr. Stephen Seiler  23:47

here and a number of things. Number one, you should not directly try to correlate the development over train with the actual training volume. Because you can do a lot of training volume and never get overtrained. If you manipulate intensity and rest appropriately. That’s what you didn’t do. And so you can get overtrained on 15 hours a week, and do marvelously on 25 hours a week with the difference being how those hours are being distributed. And I you know, I gotta say I, what I find is that the appropriate intensity distribution is a pretty strong vaccine against overtraining. Pardon the use of the term right now but that’s I think that’s one of the key things you did wrong or and then a lot of athletes who become overtraining do wrong and that is you develop this monotone high intensity stimuli, you know that you’re pushing pretty hard every darn day. And that just lots of different research on lot on animals on humans. That is just a great recipe for overstressing. And in a sense, what should I say, burning out that organism, whether it’s a rat, or a human or a horse, if we go way back to the our beloved, general adaptations syndrome, which is kind of that was Han Salya, the the idea of the alarm stage, the resistance stage and the exhaustion stage. You know, in training, we’re doing alarm and resistance bouncing back and forth, all the time, titrating nose, trying to push, you know, in the body, every kind of a deputation the body has whether it’s been able to handle alcohol better, or being able to handle heat better, or altitude, or training, they all have the same kind of the stages. And what Hans Salya showed when his are in his early rat studies, you know, he put a bunch of right took he started with 100, rats, he put them in a cold room. So he was the stress they had to deal with was cold, it was colder than they were used to. And it stressed them, but they adapted. And so they first had this alarm stage, and then they had this resistance stage where their bodies handled, they lived in the cold. But he would take different rats out at different times. And he was able to show that there was also even the rats that got well adapted. If they kept being stressed long enough, they fell apart, they failed, they failed, their bodies eventually failed them because of that chronic stress. So then they fell into this exhaustion stage. So you know, we have the capacity to deal with stress for a long time. But but we’re but all organisms have a limitation on how long we can handle that repetitive stress. And then you can exhaust the the the athlete or the organism and one of the best ways to do it is with a monotone stress load. Yep. So I guess you know, if I was going to ever try to make that connection between overreaching, overtraining and training, intensity distribution, all those things, we tend to talk about it, I think the common denominator denominator is the ability of the athlete and the coach to to create the appropriate variation in those in that intensity profile.

Grant Holicky  27:43

And another way to really reiterate this point, overtraining is not really about training, it’s about recovery, it’s probably that we’re not recovering enough, not that we’re training too much. And to illustrate this point, Dr. Sol, Milan, Episode 205. He really talks about this in particular.

Trevor Connor  28:03

So getting ready for this podcast, Rob, and I both actually read a paper of yours that I really enjoyed. So that’s your it’s actually a chapter called blood biomarkers and sports medicine and performance in the future of metabolomics. And something I really liked. And there’s you, you talked about overtraining, and you expressed overtraining as essentially a recovery imbalance.

Dr. San Milan  28:26

Yeah, that’s how I would describe right? Yeah, it’s like that when someone’s overtraining, there’s an imbalance there, either the input from the training dose is too much, and or the recovery is too little, and that there’s like, that imbalance. And many times, it starts by the training, you know, maybe the training zones are not correctly dialed in for an athlete, and we may think that’s a that’s an example that that athletes training zone to, but actually, it’s training, so I’m free, right. So if you do that multiple times a week, you’re definitely going over, you know, the prescribed zones, or sometimes, maybe the high intensity workouts, you know, like your threshold, again, it might not be very well dialed in, and you’re actually going over by it, or maybe it’s just the way they’re spaced out is not enough, right. And then on the other side, is the, maybe the nutrition is not there, maybe the person is restricting carbohydrates, or maybe the nutritionist, working with that athlete is trying to get that athlete on a diet that is going to be more restricted in calories without taking into account. But that athlete is training and therefore they’re not on the same page. And that may, very well cause overtraining, which is what I see so many times.

Trevor Connor  29:42

Yeah, when you’re talking about overtraining, I really like to think of that as what we were talking about before with this analogy that if all you ever have is storms, so if you’re living down south and you’re just getting hit by Hurricane after Hurricane after Hurricane, you never get that recovery time. You’re going out you’re putting the tarps over the holes you’re trying to do thinks the board up your doors. But that’s not a way to have a good well built house. Basically, you’re just trying to keep it held together, you’re holding on, eventually you’re going to have enough of these holes that it’s going to fall down. And that to me is what overtraining is. If you don’t get that recovery time, yeah, eventually

Grant Holicky  30:19

you’re going to be to a place where it’s over. You got to abandon the house, at least briefly. Yeah,

Rob Pickels  30:24

eventually I’m moving. That’s all like, Trevor is like, like, why would anybody want to live in a place like that

Trevor Connor  30:30

kid agree. So one other thing in this analogy is, let’s quickly talk nutrition. And to me, nutrition is the building materials. And this is why having good nutrition is so important because you want to use good, you want really good, nice two by fours, you don’t want the ones with all the holes and termites have kind of cut into them and you know, rusty nails, and that sort of stuff. That to me is what nutrition is you want the best parts to rebuild the house.

Rob Pickels  31:01

And not only that, you don’t want to steal building materials from another part of your house to repair the one that has the damage now, and that very much can happen inside of our bodies.

Trevor Connor  31:12

So let’s hear from Episode 231. This is what Dr. Stacey Sims, and she’s particularly talking about this with female athletes talking about not eating enough not getting those materials and the damage that can actually do to the body.

Dr. Stacy Sims  31:25

If we look at someone who’s in their 20s to 30s, we call that the reproductive or the pre menopausal years, the biggest thing that women don’t do is they don’t eat enough, because they’re following trendy diets or they’re so stressed, they forget to eat, and they fall into low energy availability. And that’s been, you know, coming out a lot in the news with a lot of athletes, this particular Olympic cycle who couldn’t hold on for that last year, because of the five year instead of the four year. And when we look at low energy availability, it is the fact that they’re not timing their food appropriately around training and racing. Or they’re purposely trying to lose weight. So I’ll work with elite athletes, and they’re like, Oh, my recovery day, I’m having 1100 or 1200 calories a day. And that’s not even enough to subsist lying on the couch watching Netflix, let alone recover. Right. So the big rock there is really making sure that people are eating enough to support their training. And the other thing is in their early 20s, body’s still growing and developing, depending on what’s happened in their teens. So there’s still an increase in the amount of of nutrition they need. And if we are taking care of those baseline needs, then we don’t have an interference in endocrine health. But when we’re in a low energy state, we start to see missteps in the menstrual cycle. So the reason why the menstrual cycle is so important to have and to track is you can start seeing when there is a misstep of energy intake in the bleed pattern. So initially, people were like, Oh, I lost my period, and I haven’t had it for three years. And then they’re clinically diagnosed with a Maria and falling into relative energy deficiency in sport, but you can back it up earlier. So if you’re looking at a woman who’s naturally cycling, and her cycle length might be anywhere from 25 to 40 days, that length might stay. But instead of bleeding for seven days, now all of a sudden, she’s spotting and bleeding for maybe three or four days, and it starts dropping off even more. So that’s the first sign that there’s too much stress, there’s not enough nutrition to support what she’s doing from a health standpoint. And then the hypothalamus is stepping in and going wait a second, we don’t have enough nutrition coming in. So we need to down regulate everything. We need to conserve thyroid, so I’m down regulating thyroid function, I’m down regulating resting metabolic rate, I’m increasing fat stores. I’m decreasing energy expenditure from resting muscle. So there are all these nuances that start to downregulate. So we’ll see this and women who kind of flatline in their performance, they might start putting on some belly fat and unfortunately, the automatic response for that is I’m going to eat less and train more. So when we’re talking to coaches, it’s really important to understand that women shouldn’t be doing fasted training, they do better in a Fed state. Again, it has to do with the hypothalamus having two areas instead of one two areas for women of kisspeptin neurons instead of one for men. And the fact that when we eat before we train we are encouraging the body to maintain lean mass as well as recover but if we go in as a fasted state and trying to do metabolic flexibility or increased fatty acid use, women are already there so it becomes a very big stress on the body and we have this backlash.

Trevor Connor  34:27

There listeners are you struggling to finish your workouts or your races it Steve Neil performance you’ll discover the proper nutritional balance that you need to finish workouts and races strong both in body and in mind. The coaching and testing services as Steve Neil performance offers are uniquely crafted specifically for you, no matter your athletic level, stop waiting to fix your energy deficit issues yourself. check out Steve Neil today. So I think that’s a good segue into the last part that I really want to explain in this analogy which is What are the different parts of the house. And we’ll dive a little bit into this. But basically, I always think of training that base fitness, that aerobic endurance. That’s the foundation of the house. And I think that’s part of why we talk about base fitness, it’s literally going with that analogy. And when I think about that top end that race fitness, that’s the roof. That’s the trimmings. A couple important things about this analogy is first, foundations are the house like if you watch a house get built, it takes a long time to build that foundation. Once they get to actually building up the house, that can happen very quickly. So it takes a lot of work to build the foundation, the trimmings at top. And that happens really quickly. And so let’s quickly this is from Episode 141, it’s a slightly different analogy. We’re Dr. Sylar talked about this as fresh fruit. But he kind of says the same thing, that top end, it comes quickly, you also lose it quickly. So again, if you think of it this way, if the house goes into disrepair, it’s the trimmings that’s going to fall off versus the roof panels that are going to fall off first, you can let that house go into real disrepair and the whole house might fall down. But the foundation is going to be just fine. It takes a long time to see damage to that foundation.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:18

I often talk about fresh fruit, and you know, software hardware, a lot of athletes are interested in their anaerobic capacity, you know, their lactate tolerance, and they do these super high intensity intervals. And you can you do get adaptive patients, if you haven’t been doing these, you know, 30 fifteens, or some kind of a high really high intensity interval training, then a little bit of that will improve your anaerobic capacity. It’s it’s, I know it will, and the thing about it is though, it only takes a few weeks, you can get a big improvement, a 10% improvement or so in a few in like four workouts. If they’re well, well executed, but they’re costly. And they’re fresh fruit because that adaptation is what I would call a soft, soft adaptation. It’s some proteins in your, in your blood and in your intracellular space, it’s some changes in buffering, it’s, it’s stuff that both comes pretty fast, but it goes away pretty fast. And it’s really costly to maintain, you know, because you have to do these really high intensity efforts that crawl it cause a big stress response in order to get those soft adaptations. So we’re going to time that training, we’re not going to do that, at times of the season when we don’t need that little turbo, if that makes sense. And so this is this is about being the chess player and knowing when to play your, you know, put your players in different position on the board, and when to emphasize your basics and when to bring in a little bit of that top in or that is costly. But that results in relatively fast adaptations. But also, should I say they will also deteriorate more rapidly, whereas that that long haul stuff that long in the low intensity, the volume, there tends those adaptations research shows us that with the training, they may or maintain longer, capillary density and so forth like that, it seems it’s like it’s infrastructure that’s been built, the lattice work in the cells has been built, and it doesn’t decay as quickly as those soft adaptations.

Trevor Connor  38:38

So now let’s dive a little deeper into that foundation. If you think about it, if a huge storm came in, this is where I love this analogy, because this really explains the difference between doing that top end really hard interval work, versus those long, slow rides. Everybody goes, well, what’s the benefit? Why do the two types I think of that interval work, that’s like a tornado, and a tornado comes in it can rip the whole house and take it away. But the foundation is going to remain tornado will actually do very little damage to the foundation of the house. How do you damage the foundation of a house? That’s that storm that lasts days and days and days and you just get that water that seeps in and starts to cause cracks in the foundation. And so that to me is that difference between interval work versus going out and doing those long Flow runs those long flow rides there, that storm that just gets the water to soak into the foundation and start to break it up a little bit.

Grant Holicky  39:40

So I think it’s an important thing to kind of note is that we talk all the time about there’s two different ways to stress the body being stressed the body with intensity can stress the body with volume. But it’s important to understand that the storms have that same differentiation as well, right? You have storms that can stress the body with intensity and you can have storms stress the body with volume. And it’s really important to understand what you’re trying to do, why you’re trying to do it and for how long you want to do it. And as you get to know yourself, or as you get to know, yourself and your coach and that relationship together, understand what are some of those telltale signs for your house, that things are starting to go downhill?

Rob Pickels  40:20

Right. And I think that everywhere you live, you’re going to get both types of storms, right? Yeah. And no matter what you’re doing for a race, you need both types of training. But depending on where you live, depending on the events you do, you might have to rebuild your house for certain types of storms. And that specificity can be important.

Trevor Connor  40:41

Yeah, that’s a really good way to think about it. The last thing I want to talk about when we were talking about the different parts of the house is the dangers of too much top end. Before we dive into that, let’s hear this is from Episode 227, with Hunter Allen, where he talks actually, he’s a similar analogy about thinking of your body like a table. So he uses a table metaphor, and then talks about not punching too many holes in it.

Hunter Allen  41:08

I think absolutely, there is absolutely there as I think that that’s something that you have to be very, very careful of. And back to the table analogy, right? Again, FTP is the table top fingernails in the edge of the tables lifting up at FTP, but you know what, you can go to the home home improvements, or buy some books, and screw some hooks down the top of the table and lift up your FTP from those hooks. That’s how we can improve the FTP by doing do T max intervals, okay, so you can improve your FTP? Absolutely, by doing vo T max animals. And it’s kind of the thing that you put, I call the icing on the cake, right, you do that towards the end of your build cycles. Especially if you’re building up to a peak of fitness, then that’s what you want to do is let’s let’s do intervals at VSU max to improve our FTP. Now, if you spend too much time doing those integrals, you put a lot of holes in the top of your table. And eventually, that’s going to weaken the table and collapse it so to speak. Okay, so I think that’s something we have to be very careful of, is making sure that we don’t put too many holes in the top of our table. And we make sure we keep that foundation of upper fitness, FTP and below, really strong. I’ll be very careful with those for steady state riders or riders who are just pure aerobic machines, those riders seem to be the most sensitive to doing a lot of work above their FTP, that it could actually reduce their FTP if they get too much work there. For writers who have a bigger anaerobic ability, I won’t be quite as sensitive to that I’ll give them more work and do to max because they can handle it, it seems to build their FTP even more, maybe they get a bigger, even bigger response. But both kind of riders need some work at voc Max.

Trevor Connor  43:14

The important thing to remember with his analogy is again, the foundation sets the size of the house, if you have a small foundation, you can’t build a very big house, you can’t build really good trimming and a really big roof because the foundations basis and this is going to be not much more than a than a tent, sorry, you build that great foundation, you can build a big house on top of it. And so this, to me is the danger of that type of training, where you just always do a lot of high intensity of that high intensity model, because that’s where you have that small foundation, but you’re trying to build a really big house on top of it. And when you do that you run into that danger of the house falling over.

Grant Holicky  43:56

I think this is really important to know what kind of athlete you are, or as a coach, understand what kind of athlete you’re working with. If you’re working with somebody who’s been doing this for 15 years, the foundation is pretty darn big. And you can do some specific work. And you can play around with that. And you maybe can treat it differently, right. But if you’re dealing with somebody who’s fairly young, or you’re dealing with somebody who’s coming into this without a lot of history in the sport, got to take some time and make sure that you widen that foundation out. And I do think it’s slightly different with youth because I think you can get the speed when you’re young and you can always put some volume in later. But that’s a whole different topic and a whole different ball of wax. But my point here is that really understanding the specific differences between your athletes, you can’t do the same building procedure for every single athlete.

Rob Pickels  44:47

Do you guys ever watch the show? Pimp My Ride with exhibit?

Grant Holicky  44:51

Yes, right. Matter of fact,

Rob Pickels  44:53

I know that you have oh, and I’m assuming Trevor has not. Not but anybody out there who has Seen the wonderful television show called Pimp My Ride, knows that exhibit the rapper would take people’s cars, whatever like jalopy they drove. And he would just throw these trimmings on top of it, there’d be TVs in it, there’d be like a hot tub in this car. But they never ever actually made the car better. Engine, they never touch the suspension or anything. And it was always absolutely hilarious to me, right. And we all see that. And we say, yeah, man, that’s a joke, you can’t do that. But that’s a lot of the training that people do, right? Just coming in man hammer, those high end intervals, you might be able to say when the sprint out of your group ride and feel pretty good. But as soon as push comes to shove, there’s nothing there.

Trevor Connor  45:47

So I always tell my athletes and grant, you had the great point that that foundation gets built over years. But even within a season, you can do some foundation work. And I always tell my athletes, that’s what’s going to set your level for the year. If you don’t do that work, then I don’t care how much high intensity you’re going to do, you’re only going to see so much improvement. So put that time into getting as big a foundation as you can before you build the house on top of it. And we’re going to jump now to Episode 179. This is with my old mentor Glen swan. And he’s actually going to talk about a graph that really shows this that initially, you can really build your level without a ton of stress. And then getting those last couple of percentages that top end, that takes a lot of stress. And that’s where you start pushing that that risk of overtraining. So let’s hear from him now.

Glenn Swan  46:39

It’s basically a curve that has on the vertical axis, fitness, and on the horizontal axis miles. And what you see is that as you start training, your fitness improves rather rapidly. And as you increase your mileage, it continues to go up. But as you get farther and farther to the right, that graph levels off. And it’s pretty easy to get up to a good level of fitness. But to get to absolute peak fitness, where the the line is very much leveling off, you’d have to increase your mileage and your intensity so much that you are at risk of burning out. So on the same graph, there is the line that I guess we would describe as the likelihood of burnout. And there is a point at which the two lines cross. And that’s the point of self destruction, to get 90% of your capabilities. Now you do a good bit of training, but it’s not, you’re not too close to burnout. To get that last 5% or so you are very close to the crossing of the two lines. So just understanding that if you want to peak, you put your mileage and your intensity up and you can squeak up into those last few percentage points of your potential. But then, if you want to make it through a whole season, he better back off, get back down into a much more of a safe zone where you can maintain pretty darn high level of intensity. But you can maintain it for a long period of time. So to really peak, you enter an area of effort, an Area of Difficulty that’s pushing you pretty close to burnout.

Grant Holicky  48:44

It’s kind of just past that time of year. And for a lot of athletes It is that time of year. This is when we’re taking our breaks. This is when people have taken that time off. And so what happens when we take some time off. And essentially one of the things that we as coaches are all going to say you got to take that time, you’ve got to take that break, you’ve got to let your brain off the hook, you got to let your body off the hook. But we’re so worried that everything’s just gonna disappear. But it’s important to remember that that foundation is going to disappear last. And as we talk about this fresh fruit, or we talk about this high end, you know that stuff comes quickly. It also goes quickly, and I think there’s elements of that, that stick around and that might be technical size or Caden sides and we can talk about those things in another episode. But right now, that stuff’s gonna go quickly, what stays well, that foundation stays. And as Trevor noted, you can do foundation work during the course of the year. But remember, as you start the season off, you’re starting with something that you’ve gained from the year before

Trevor Connor  49:44

Sunday. I like to tell my athletes using this analogy. When they asked me why do I need to take time off I hate losing my my top and race fitness and become that tank during the offseason. The way I explain it to him is sometimes there’s only so much repair work you can do to a house And sometimes the best thing you can do is let the house fall down, knowing that the foundation’s going to remain and then you can just build a better house on top of it. Yeah,

Grant Holicky  50:09

think of your offseason as scraping a house in Boulder, right, just scrape it down the foundation and just rebuild it back up bigger, stronger, more gaudy and bigger. And you in all those things with the price

Rob Pickels  50:19

of wood these days guys might want to rethink that strategy fair.

Trevor Connor  50:24

This is from Episode 243 with Dr. nuga Mochica. And he talks about how you don’t lose those structural changes in the offseason, which is what I think of as that foundation.

Dr. Iñigo Mujika  50:36

When you start to differentiate between functional changes, and structural changes, obviously, the functional changes are more physiological, and whereas structural changes are more anatomical, and those anatomical changes are going to take longer, because it is about structures that have been built by producing new proteins that are used to construct body parts to make it simple and understandable. And it’s not going to be easy to destroy those structures by training cessation, whereas some of the physiological changes are going to occur much quicker. So for example, in order to see very significant change in the size of the interventricular wall in the heart, you are going to need at least a couple of months of training sensation. And typically that that’s not something that athletes are going to do in the offseason. For example, when I when I was training, world class triathletes, my offseason was usually two weeks of forbidden training, they I would not allow them to do any exercise, I wanted to have complete rest, I wanted them to have complete rest, because I knew what would happen within two weeks. And that’s not something that worried me too much. And then I would give them two additional weeks of physical activity that was not triathlon related. So anything they enjoyed doing that was not swimming, cycling or running. And within that period, it is unlikely that any structural changes are going to take place right, you are going to have some physiological consequences such as the drop in plasma volume that we mentioned before, a small drop in thing here to max, a drop in your glycogen levels in your in your exercising muscles, and a few other things. But your strength performance is probably not going to suffer a lot within two to three to four weeks of training stoppage particularly in those two weeks of no exercise, followed by two additional weeks of some kind of physical injury. So this triathletes that I was coaching, during that third and fourth week of the offseason, we’re doing surfing, hiking in the mountains, rock climbing, playing tennis, any type of physical activity that they enjoy doing. And that is some kind of cross training that is going to be beneficial both physiologically and also psychologically.

Rob Pickels  53:24

Let’s face it, endurance athletes can be a quirky bunch, and they’re not always the easiest to work with. In Module nine of our crafted coaching series. Joe Friel shares the secrets of his 40 year coaching career that will help you overcome challenges, establish good boundaries, and celebrate your success stories. Check out the craft of coaching at fast talk You know, now that we’re getting toward the end of this episode, one underlying thing that I really want to point out is, as we’re rebuilding the house, as we’re making it stronger, the next storm that comes along, if it is in intense enough or big enough, it’s not going to do any damage to the house, right? Because now our house is bigger, better, we fulfilled all of the training adaptations that we wanted to. And so to get to that next level, that storms going to have to be a bit bigger than next time it comes through.

Grant Holicky  54:16

Yeah, and I really like what you just said about it being a bit bigger. It’s important to know and understand how much more load how much more intensity we want to bring into our training, and not to overdo it. But really the key in here comes back to this idea of recovery and rest between the storms like really being diligent and understanding yourself understanding your athlete and look for those signs of knowing when they need that recovery, both physically and mentally.

Trevor Connor  54:46

Watching a lot of athletes who have tried to go pro try to hit the highest levels. You’re right as you get stronger and better and bigger and faster. You need bigger and bigger storms to see some sort of adaptation but that is the Danger. And what I’ve seen separates those athletes who try to make it from the ones who do make it isn’t their ability to rip themselves apart. They all are fantastic at bringing in these giant storms and destroying themselves. The ones who make it are the ones that get that balance between the damage and the recovery, right. And I’ve seen so many athletes who don’t get that bounce. All they’re doing is is storming and they just fall apart, the house falls down. And I think probably a great place to end this is with episode 165. This is Dr. Sol, Milan. He’s actually talking about triathletes here because I hate to say it triathletes have that more than anybody. They’re like, my recovery days. Today, I go and run and do a two hour swim. They don’t like recovery. Now they’re great at storms. Yes. And here’s Dr. Sol, Milan talking about the danger of that.

Dr. San Milan  55:53

Yeah, and I think there’s a combination of both to write I think that it’s important to keep simulating all the way until the race. But yeah, different blocks, where you just really, really focused on, on working hard, without to a point that you might blow up and that you need a month recovery, which is the typical thing that happens in triathletes, if you if you observe the tapering of triathletes, it’s in many trails, which is a whole month into my opinion, that’s the wrong approach. Because if you have to taper a whole month, for a race, that means that you probably blew up and got overtrained. And this is what usually happens, I would say that 75 to 80% of all travelers, their chronic overtraining state. And eventually, this is why they need a whole month to taper for a week. And finally they’re fresh and new for an event and find it they’re fresh, and they feel good. And this isn’t working, right. But I really seen that you can or triathletes can do much better. By tapering choose the last week of an event without killing themselves doing so many intensities and so much training in the months before. So I think it’s a little bit of that balance. That is That is important. Right? We see, you know, writers going into the Tour de France, they don’t taper one month before, right? They taper five, six days before. So this is why I think that that balance is important. And again, the monitoring for that is going to help you a lot because it’s going to dictate how well you’re training. And if you and this is why I keep insisting in this. And I’ve been doing blood analysis for 25 years and it’s been it’s been a great, great tool. Because this helps this is continued continuously is helping me to understand how an athlete is assimilating both training and competition, and how we need to adjust the training accordingly. And he happens all the time. There are many things that you can control in training. But in the competition, there are things that you cannot control. And this is why you need to adapt, you know and do things differently.

Rob Pickels  58:05

That was another episode of Fast Talk. Subscribe to Fast Talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Talk are those of the individual, especially Grant he doesn’t technically work for us. As always –

Trevor Connor  58:22

Look out for that bus Grant.

Rob Pickels  58:23

– we love your feedback. Join the conversation at to discuss each and every episode, become a member of Fast Talk laboratories at to become a part of our education and coaching community. For the metaphorical, metaphysical, meta-something, Trevor Connor, and the pretty sure he showered today because he looks good, smells good, Grant Holicky, I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening!