The Physiology of Base Season—with Dr. Iñigo San Millán

We do a deep-dive with listener-favorite Dr. Iñigo San Millán about the goals of training in the base months and how to best execute that training.

Inigo San Millan with Tadej Pogacar
Inigo San Millan with two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar.

It’s winter in the northern hemisphere. The days have gotten shorter, the weather colder, and our first races are a few months away. This is when athletes and coaches focus on the base season. It’s named this because it’s supposed to build our foundation or “base” for the upcoming season. But what does that mean? 

In this episode, we explore the physiology behind what’s happening in our bodies during this training—the energy systems we’re developing, the attributes we develop, and the effective training that will get us there.  

Our featured guest today is Dr. Iñigo San Millán, director of training at UAE-Team Emirates, and the coach who guided Tadej Pogacar to two Tour de France titles. We talked with Dr. San Millán about the physiology of the race season back in Episode 165, so this week’s show expands on that.  

Joining Dr. San Millán are retired professional cyclists Brent Bookwalter, Dr. Bradley Petek, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and three-time National Cyclocross champion Stephen Hyde.  

So, put your bike in the small chainring, and let’s make you fast! 

Episode Transcript

Rob Pickels  00:04

Hello and welcome to Fast Talk, your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Rob Pickels here with Coach Trevor Connor. It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the days have gotten shorter, the weather colder, and our first races are a few months away. This is when athletes and coaches focus on the base season. It’s named this because it’s supposed to build our foundation or base for the upcoming season. But what does that mean?

Rob Pickels  00:29

In this episode, we explore the physiology behind what’s happening in our bodies during this training: the energy systems were developing, the attributes we’re creating, and the effective training that will get us there. Our featured guest today is Dr. Inigo San Millan, Director of Training at UAE Team Emirates and the coach who guided Pogačar to two Tour de France titles. We talked with Dr. San Millan about the physiology of the race season back in episode 165, and today we’re going to bring a similar conversation.

Rob Pickels  01:02

Joining Dr. San Millan, our retired professional cyclist Brent Bookwalter. Dr. Bradley Petek, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and three time national cyclocross champion, Steven Hyde. So, put your bike in the small chain ring, and let’s make you fast.

Rob Pickels  01:20

Now, the 2023 is here, many of us are thinking about our personal and professional goals when it comes to goal setting what works and what doesn’t. Well, we have some guides that may help in our new Craft of Coaching Module. Joe Friel share stories of three athletes and important lessons they’ve learned about setting goals. Get this season off to the right start, check out more at

Trevor Connor  01:46

Welcome, everybody to another episode of Fast Talk. This is an exciting episode because we’re always really happy to have Dr. San Millan here with us. So Dr. San, Millan, welcome again to the show.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  01:58

Hello Trevor. And, Rob, thank you so much for having me again. It’s always a pleasure. So yes, thank you very much for the invitation.

Trevor Connor  02:05

It’s always exciting for us. I mean, the feedback in your episodes have been great. You always bring up something that Rob and I do a ton of research getting ready for these episodes, and then you go somewhere or like, we never knew that. That’s pretty cool. So we’re excited to see what you would you bring up today, I am going to mention this is kind of a part two, or maybe a part one. We did an episode A while ago with you that was episode 165, where we talked about the physiology of the race season. So we felt it was important to do this second episode with you where we talk about the physiology of the base season. And that’s what today is about.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  02:42

Excellent. Yeah, right. Excited, everybody.

Rob Pickels  02:44

Yeah, Trevor, this was a hard episode for me to prepare for. Because in the beginning, I was like, I should prepare for everything, there’s so much that we can talk about. And then it got really easy, because I realized that Dr. Similan, you can just take it away yourself and that I don’t really need to add much to this one. So thanks for making this an easy episode with Trevor and I

Dr. Inigo San Millan  03:03

thank you very much. And I always great to, to be here with you guys who have a lot to contribute and a lot of knowledge and experience as well. So yeah, it’s always fun talking to you guys

Trevor Connor  03:14

are just trying to keep up with you. And I’ll start this by saying, and I know you’re gonna bring this up. So I’m gonna be very vague about what advice you gave me. But I went in to be tested by you back in 2010. And you took me through my test results and gave me some recommendations about how to approach the bass season.

Rob Pickels  03:33

I thought those were to quit the sport. Well, everybody gives me that recommendation.

Trevor Connor  03:36

But when I refused, they didn’t give me advice.

Rob Pickels  03:38

That’s what it was. That’s what it was.

Trevor Connor  03:41

So you gave me some advice that was absolutely life changing. I mean, I thought I really had my training figured out. And I applied that a little bit in 2010. But I was tested by you in June. So I couldn’t apply too much in 2010. But 2011 ended up being one of my best seasons ever. And it was because of the advice that you gave me on how to approach the base. I’m really excited to hear you give that I’m hoping similar advice to our listeners. But let’s dive into the first question that I have for you is an athlete, they finish their season, they take a bit of time off. They’re just about to start their base season. What should they look like? How should they feel coming into the base season?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  04:26

Well, and in my opinion, I think it’s it first is important to make sure that you have a good rest both mental and physical. Organize your goals. I think it’s important to debrief with yourself or with your coach, what has gone well what has gone wrong or what can be improved. And where are the goals? Where are the attainable goals in the short term in the long term? Because IoT is now also what is going to be next season right so of course where you want to be today but where you want to be next season. And in it for five seasons, right? So what is the path to get there? Right? So, because we all want to improve tremendously in one year, and it’s feasible to improve, obviously a lot, but definitely you want to move on to other years. So I think this is a great time, the offseason to really recalibrate your direction, and set up your goals with your culture with yourself.

Rob Pickels  05:24

Dr. Similan, we recorded an episode with the other Indigo, Indigo Malika, Episode 243. And it was about what happens when we stopped training. And I’m interested to hear from you. How much detraining do you expect an athlete to have when they come into the new season? Do you hope that they lose a little bit, say off of their FTP? Or are you trying to maintain fitness from the previous season so that you’re able to build through the base?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  05:49

Well, the thing from my point of view, the important thing is the assimilation of what you’ve done the entire year. So many, many times, and especially we’re talking, you know, when you have like a long calendar and a lot of races, when you don’t have the chance to have like a big solid stop of, let’s say, three weeks, right. And this is something that we still don’t know. But there’s got to be a lot of first like recovery, like a full recovery at the biological, physiological metabolic level, on top of the recovery at the mental level, and this is the mechanisms that would another so in a simulation, and supercompensation, right, so that that’s where we see that for me, I’ve been seeing for almost three years that when like a highly competitive athlete, or not even the highly competitive athlete takes the time off, right. And injustice restores rebuilding, there’s an improvement compared to last year. Whereas if would have been a continuum. That is that that actually doesn’t stop. Maybe we will not seen that super compensation. And I don’t know the answers of why this is happening. Because I don’t think nobody knows, because we’re not the mechanisms behind a simulation and super compensation. But that’s what I’ve seen that that that step, you know, like a next step to the next level. It’s accomplished year by year. And that winter time around those three weeks off, are crucial, because otherwise, I don’t see that change, like over, I continue right without taking some time off.

Trevor Connor  07:22

So that’s interesting, because there were some recent studies by I’m sure you’ve read these by Dr. Ron istead, who looked at having athletes do some some hit work during that time off between their season and their base build. And he really drew the conclusion that you should be doing some some high intensity even during that time, because that brings into the season better. What’s your feeling about that? When you say three weeks off? Should it just be three weeks off?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  07:50

Yeah, well, the thing is also like what what kind of athletes are done in these studies, right, is a different concept, right? And I’m not judging those results, right. But it’s a different concept to do this, with maybe a college students or recreational athletes or, or medium level, I’ve been doing this for world class athletes. And the main thing is that world class athletes, they go through a lot of stress, a lot of responsibility, and they really need to disconnect. So I guarantee you, if you ask most, not all but most athletes to start doing high intensity training in the offseason, by the beginning of the season, they’re going to be burned out mentally, right? What they really want is to go to a lost island. Right? You know, be sitting the beach, you know, like, like a chameleon, you know, and it’s going to the beach and, and and have fun. That’s what they want. And that’s what’s good for them mentally. But again, if you ask them to do high intensity intervals, it’s going to be a very tough task mentally to see to is that that time off to me mentally and physically. It’s quite important. And also I’m sorry, I should have said that we are always free, you know, to do some activities. So it’s not three weeks seen that the beats, right? They are. I will recommend also to you like racquetball, go for racquetball. If you like hiking, go for a hike, right? If you’d like to play soccer, go and play with carabiner carefully. You’ll never get injured. Right. But yeah, and this is what many people do, right? They they do activities, I got skiing, you know, like, that’s another thing too. So it’s more for for the mind.

Trevor Connor  09:23

That’s fair. So you talked a little bit about you work with World Tour athletes, a lot of our listeners are much more recreational. So the next big question I have for you is, and let’s just talk at a high level here. Does the bass season look different for a world tour rider compared to what it should look like for a more amateur rider for a more recreational rider?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  09:47

That’s a great question. So I, in my opinion, more of the amateur athlete or recreational athlete who don’t have either as much competition or might not even compete, right, in my opinion. They should not take three weeks off, right? Because they’re going to have like a big training that will have such a massive load of exercise and races, right with such a huge stimulus to prove it out levels. So in my opinion, it should be more than should be more continue, right, where you should continue with very similar concepts that were you were doing before, that’s where like, I would not change a lot, but maybe would be a reset button. And it depends on that on the athlete, right. So my athletes, they, they enter the season, and they might not have as many races as world class, or tour cyclists in this case, but but they’re still they might have like 20 races a year, and BCS periods, maybe the summer, into the fall also. So that might be a good time also to take to take it easy, maybe a week off or two weeks easier, and then rebuild again, because maybe they haven’t trained those energy systems for months, as much as they did the previous preseason. Right in in the winter, in the first part of the spring, like we see here, right that in state like Colorado, many areas in the US season starts back in March, and at the peak of the season starts being more like tourists like June, July, August, right, as we have the most races, even September, and this is where you raise more and you don’t train as much. Right? So you know, that means that by the time you hit October, November, you haven’t trained a lot, you know, and or your last time of really serious block of like bass training, if you will, it was maybe March, the last one, you finished it, you know, so maybe it’s time to revisit that again.

Trevor Connor  11:44

And my experience has been when they’re in the actual bass season, when you have a elite athlete, they don’t need as long they’ve done a lot of that work over the years where when you have a newer more recreational cyclists. To me, let’s make the base season as long as we can possibly make it and get that volume, is that tend to be your approach? Or do you see it differently?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  12:06

No, I totally agree. I totally agree. And this is something that is not happening just in cycling, but in other sports that that the offseason starts shorter and shorter, shorter. Right. So cycling still, we have some leeway to to make sure that the cyclists have a good three months, you know, to work until you know, because they have November, December, January, to have good three months where they can put at least well, I like them to have two solid blocks to my macrocycles that is to two months, pretty much right of solid blocks before starting the season. Sometimes you’ve been three because some writers start like a D in February, some some others are ready to downunder which is in middle of January, January. Exactly. But yeah, but some writers in may start at the end of February. So they may have three, three, almost four months in Lassie since that since the last season. So so that’s why we have very another sports, like comes to me right away soccer, they only have maybe 15 days off in between season because they have tournaments. And they have to go to other continents and do more. And they pay up big tall, not going to name teams, but I know a team that didn’t have a preseason this year, where you take time off and they you build right towards the season. And they went directly almost to two different tournaments are there you know, in in Asia, where they pay a lot of money, and there’s like extra TV, right, etcetera. And they now they started their season with about eight players injured within the first 15 days. And that’s a product, they didn’t have a good base and possibility to build the season which is key. It’s happening more and more in other sports.

Trevor Connor  13:52

Let’s hear from retired pro cyclists. Brent Bookwalter, with his thoughts on how the base season should differ between recreational cyclists and pros. During your years of focus training, what were the things that you really focused on during the base season?

Brent Bookwalter  14:05

It’s a good question. I’d say the base season, you know, sort of varied a little bit throughout my career. And I think looking back on it now I think that was that’s also wise. I think as we grow, we age and we mature and we evolve like most facets of our training and they need to adapt. So this quote, base stuff that I was doing when I was you know, a junior collegiate cyclist was definitely different than I was doing at the end of my career. I was a different creature and a different machine and a different person to Yeah, so the thing that sort of sticks out in my mind about bass is it’s sort of a cliched word. It’s kind of like in vogue to like, yeah, through the winter months, like talk about bass training and bass season. And one of the things that always annoyed me is I felt like for a lot of people, they saw it as a license just to like noodle around and ride easy. And, you know, as a professional, there’s some long slow miles, if you will, and I think there’s some value to sitting on a bike, and there’s some metabolic happenings that are there. Taking place even at a low intensity that have value, but that’s speaking for the rare portion of the population that is tasked with only riding their bike and we can do it as much as we want. And for the for the masses, I think that you have some time constraint. I personally don’t think there’s as much value as just enrolling around. Yeah, licensed a noodle, I think, yeah, it’s still the base season is still on. It’s foundational. It’s, it’s some structure that you build upon. It’s a it’s a transitioning from the prior a season through, hopefully some off time and then back into the bike. But it’s definitely not a license just to noodle around for 30 hours a week.

Rob Pickels  15:41

We’re discussing the bass season, and implying that it’s sort of a defined time, say from January to March, there’s not much competition, it’s a good time to focus on the volume. But I question that. And Dr. Similan, I’m interested to see, I tend to think about base as more blocks of training with a function of increased volume in the training adaptation that comes from that. But I have also in my training, put those blocks of training those base blocks throughout my year and throughout my season. And even if I was competing, I would still be training in that manner. And maybe I wouldn’t be as sharp as possible for those competitions. How do you see the two different ways of thinking about it play out both with pros and amateurs? Do your pro athletes go back into a base season partway through to revamp their volume? Or is it a very defined early season thing? For you?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  16:37

That’s a great question. That’s absolutely a great question. And this is something I’ve been also trying to preach for years. Because back in the days, you know, cyclists, they used to raise 8090 100 days per year. So they didn’t train much. It was competition and competition competition. And in our said, cyclists, at the high level, they need to train more and compete less. And in fact, that’s what’s happening. Now you see that the best cyclists in the world, they do 45 to 5560, maximum or sole days a year, right? So and they have a few key times during the season where they might have a whole month or a month and a half to prepare for a major goal, whether it’s the Giro or is the tour or is the Welter. So this is happening also, for amateur or recreational athletes, I agree with you that, you know, you should continue with a similar pattern. That’s why I will say that it’s a continuum right over the years, because first, many people don’t have the time to train as a professional athlete. So they’re not going to get the benefits as much of the hours, it’s just a matter of hours, right? It’s like in any job, right? If you work 40 hours a week, or if you work 10 hours a week, you’re not going to get the same things done, right. So it may take you longer, if you work 10 hours a week, it might take you longer than if you work 30 hours a week to accomplish similar goals, right. So that’s what amateur recreational athletes, they should continue and continue building through the year like, you know, should not change many of the concepts should not change. But there’s, with professional athletes, they have this window of two or three months, which is key, and then they’re gonna have a depends on the calendar. That’s why we put a lot of effort in working on the calendar of the writers. And then that’s where like, you might have like a very condensed spring or first part of the year where there’s not much room for training, it’s competition competition and recover competition recover, they do a stop, where you will take 10 Time Off will take four or five, seven days off completely. And then you might in this case, for example, you might prepare for the Giro, right? Or for the tour, it depends, you know, and that’s where you can have a month and a half to really fully train towards a main goal. So it’s very individual, and they might have another stop. And then you might prepare for the last part of the year. So we have a few windows throughout the year as well where we can revisit this structures of training, which otherwise during the season is difficult. If you just race and race and race all the time. I’m glad

Trevor Connor  19:15

you brought that taken time off. You my experience is when I work with a high level like a pro level athlete and the middle of the season you take them and tell them to take a week off. They’re like yes, Sign me up. I want to go sit on the beach. I’m feeling pretty beat up. But the people who struggle with that are the masters so the recreational athletes I work with because they go oh if I take time off if I took a week off, I’m gonna lose all my fitness. And I love the fact that and this is probably happened 40 times now. I have a Master’s athlete who’s going to take a vacation with their family. They’re gonna go sit on the beach and leading into it. They’re just so stressed. They’re like that we can lose all my fitness and then they come back and the first interval session I have to do they’re a little rusty that that kinda hurts. But then they do their next interval section on the putting out better numbers than they did before they went away. And they’re like, what’s going on? It’s like, you got some rest, your body likes rest.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  20:12

Exactly. And this is kind of what we were mentioning earlier. But that’s a simulation in supers compensation that we still don’t fully understand. Right? The mechanisms involved with that, right. But this assumption that I agree totally right, that it’s mentally, physically is both. But yeah, they come back from vacation. They’re like, well, they’re ready to go again. And they are you said, maybe at first week or the receiver then Well, yeah, I agree. 100%. Because I see that both in amateurs, masters and obviously even at a professional level, where we, it’s kind of almost like our requirement nowadays. I remember 20, something years ago, just even presenting this, this possibility of an athlete in the middle of decision taking five days off for a week of going to the beach with the family. And it was like, unthinkable, obviously, they would throw tomatoes at me, right? It’s something that is it’s a requirement. And the FSA, they they do it all the time. Yeah. In fact, the first year, when Ty when he’s first of the friends who was so fit, you know, in May that I had to donate today, your way to fit, you’re going to be to the to the friends, we have a long time for the Tour de France, that was the COVID year, right. And so everything was postponed, you know, so the Tour de France was later in by May, he was really, really fit, he’ll just take one week off, or his girlfriend, go to a picnic or go to the mountains have fun, this could never work because just you really really need to take time off because the tourists far away. And I don’t think you’re gonna get in touch for him if you continue like that. And yeah, it took a whole week off to the to the to their bikes, and they’re just for fun. But mainly they were they were campaigning, going out there and swimming in the rivers in December, etc.

Trevor Connor  21:59

That’s great. Before we dive into the physiology, let’s hear from cardiologist Dr. Bradley paddock about some of the health factors to consider when planning your bass season.

Dr. Bradley Petek  22:09

This is a great question. I think this is one that, to me falls, to be honest, more and more in the realm of coaching than in medicine. And that I think we we don’t have a great understanding of whether whether is it really kind of this zone one, zone two kind of real level training, which, to what extent that sparks these adaptations versus higher levels of intensity, I think there are very clear data. And there’s a very clear understanding that there are some elements of this which are intensity dependent. I think the suggestion to athletes in general and would be in the base level of training would be really interesting would be really getting in the volume at this point. And that I think the the adaptations that are intensity dependent will be layered upon that that process, understanding that the that there’s sort of a time and a place for each of those things. But the degree to which the things are unique to intensity is one of the things that kind of, I’d say is an active area of study. But it’s not a win, he’s not something that we can, that we’ve been able to serve to parse out with, with great specificity of saying that this adaptation is purely comes purely at the low levels. But we do see even, we do see remodeling even with people’s sort of daily physical activity at varying levels of that. So I think putting in the volume will undoubtably kind of get the basal level of heart adaptation going so to speak. And then I think the higher intensity stuff will layer on top of that, in the future,

Trevor Connor  23:34

I did see that in some of the research at the favorable forms of cardiac remodeling did seem to correlate fairly well with the amount of volume how basically how many hours per week athletes were training, I think it was, you saw the highest correlation and athletes who are training 10 plus hours per week.

Dr. Bradley Petek  23:51

That’s definitely one of the things that’s I think that’s been pretty consistent across many studies is that when we look at the degree of adaptation, we see probably the strongest correlation with volume. What that doesn’t get into is how much intensity is commingled with that volume. But I think it’s a good argument for the role of it, particularly in the bass part, some of the bass part of someone’s training, the role of volume there. And then where does interval work? Where does all that fit in? Because that’s the part that gets a little more complicated, but I think it’s certainly the each I think our takeaway, though, and what we talked about with patients is that each element kind of confers unique physiologic adaptation. And so they each play a role and and adapting them is kind of a both a personal and sport specific thing.

Trevor Connor  24:35

So let’s shift gears here a little bit. And before we get into the sort of work you should be doing in the bass season. The question I’ve been really fascinated to ask you is, let’s talk about the physiology. What energy systems what physiologically should be going on in your body in a successful bass season? What are the changes we want to see? What are the changes that you don’t want to see in January or February? is my

Dr. Inigo San Millan  25:00

opinion, right? I don’t have all the answers. And as we all get older each year, we will learn more. Right? And that both from experience and from research, right and from others, obviously. So that’s my opinion, right. So I think that, yeah, it’s important to keep improving that oxidative capacity, which is the ability to utilize, especially fats for fuel, as well as oxidize glucose very well in mitochondria. So everything comes down to the bio energetics of mitochondria, which are quite important, quite robust. So we want to improve that fat oxidation capacity. So they when the competition comes, you can travel through the race, utilizing more fat, then glycogen, and therefore you can spare glycogen storages for the last part of the race, you’re more economical, but at the same time, you can improve that lactate clearance capacity. So both fat and lactate are utilized in mitochondria. Therefore, it’s important to really focus on that energy system in that first part of the year. And mainly is because this takes months. I mean, this is what I’ve learned, at least from my experience that improving that teach months and even years, right, that’s what we’re saying, but master’s degrees in mine, I have 30 hours a week. But if I only have 10 hours a week or eight hours a week, so it’s going to take way longer, but it’s a process. Whereas then as the season gets closer and closer, you need to three, you know, stimulating the glycolytic systems, the pathways, the turbo, right, which is the the intensity you’re going to deploy in the competition. But that’s an adaptation that takes weeks. So it’s not so preeminent to do that when you’re three months out, I think. Whereas, yeah, that oxidative capacity, it’s something’s going to take months or you know, you cannot start doing that in March or so. You can do that. That’s, that’s what the window of the preseason. It’s excellent for that.

Trevor Connor  27:05

Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up about the timing. Also, like that you said, this is just opinion, Rob and I both went through all the old research we have. And we certainly find studies showing, you know, pro athletes and what they were doing in the bases and what they were doing in the race season. But I couldn’t find a single study that analyzed what physiologically is going on in athletes. So I think at this point, it’s all opinion. But I did find a couple that had some hints. And certainly, there were a couple that talked about the fact that the sort of these aerobic adaptations that you’re talking about, they often don’t show up in the research, because these can take months to years to see these sorts of adaptations. And most studies tend to be six to 10 weeks at the longest one that I found really interesting. So this was a study by Quentel. Lee, I’m sure I mispronounced that, and I apologize. So this isn’t an older study from 2009. That talked about some of these differences between amateurs and well trained, and really brought up what you’re talking about, which is this much better oxidative contribution. They basically said when they’re going at the these harder intensities, you’re seeing the more elite athletes with this better base fitness, better able to handle pH better able to do the work aerobic ly with fat oxidization, where you’re probably seen in the less trained, they’re relying a lot more on anaerobic metabolism. And I saw that in a couple studies. So one other thing to point out in this study, they said they actually didn’t see much of a difference in in economy. But what they said was that even though there wasn’t that much of a difference, you saw the contributions being different in the elite athletes, it was much more reliant on on the aerobic systems were in the more amature you’re seeing a greater reliance on an anaerobic metabolism. So they just couldn’t last as long.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  29:01

Yeah, exactly. And I agree. And this is also the typical thing. I mean, when I started doing this, I was like, wow, but now he’s like, Sure, one more is, is that many cyclists that they, they have never done this before. For example, they, they do a lot of high intensity from the beginning of the preseason, right? Or do a lot of intervals already. And now they do more like that base, if you will, right, with a lot of Zone Two in the preseason. You know, the first interval of the year comes in even the first race of the year comes in this like, data, the PR, and they’re, they’re way stronger, and like to say like, this is impossible. So I have I haven’t done intervals nearly nearly as much as I did other years. And PRM I do my first intro of the year, and I’m doing a PR, you know, or Strava Kol you know, in my local area, like what’s going on. And so this is also what, to me reinforces more of that idea. I have improved that oxidative capacity and mitochondrial function in this month’s, because it’s key to clear lactate in to improve fat oxidation. So when you deploy the turbo, which is the glycolytic capacity, you have very well robust mitochondria to clear the lactate and use it for fuel as well.

Trevor Connor  30:20

One really important thing I want to mention here, you brought up lactate. For our listeners who are less familiar with the physiology of this, we often think of lactate or particularly they think about lactic acid as is bad thing, if you’re producing it. If your blood levels are going up, that means that you’re going to heart and you’re not going to last too much longer. But lactate metabolism is a lot more complex than that. And what you were you were talking about Dr. Sol, Milan, is the fact that actually lactate is pulled into our mitochondria. So we think of our mitochondria as that’s where aerobic metabolism happens. But that first step in aerobic metabolism, is to take the lactate, which is then converted to pyruvate. And that starts the whole aerobic metabolism process going. And that’s where fat is used as fuel. But if you don’t first have that lactate or pyruvate, the process can’t get going. So actually having lactate, having your cells have access to some lactate is really important for aerobic metabolism. And we shouldn’t just think of it as this end product of when we’re going really hard when we’re working anaerobically we asked national champions, Stephen Hyde, his thoughts on bases in training, he gave an interesting answer about the importance of execution versus thinking long term. Let’s hear what he had to say. One thing that really

Stephen Hyde  31:43

helped me raise my level was, I think, understanding that good training, good quality training takes a really long time to work, accepting the process for what it is, which is just getting in there and chipping away at it. Early on in my career, I really pushed hard on myself to be better and better and better every workout and see bigger numbers. And I wanted to see much bigger numbers, and I see it reflected in athletes that I coach now is they want to see improvement every time we go out there on the bike. But that’s not the case, it’s it’s long term development is takes a long time and it doesn’t come in a week. And through the increasing loads of a training block. On top of that, you’re just kind of setting yourself up for failure. And I did that a lot. I expected things out of myself that I shouldn’t have. I wanted greatness when what I really needed was was just acceptable for the time, once I kind of realized that and started looking at training as the job that I needed to do in order to get to the race, right, because in reality, no one pays you to bike race, they pay you to train now, when you’re a professional, and that shouldn’t be lost on people. Even on the amateur level. I think that getting to the bike race is obviously the goal. But during the work between and setting yourself up for positive results rather than failure by constantly looking for extreme gains is really the key.

Rob Pickels  33:15

Something that we’ve been implying through this conversation is ultimately what I’ll say now and that that’s the hallmark of bass training might not be the only training but the hallmark of bass training is relatively large volumes of low intensity riding or running depending on your sport. And Dr. Similan, I’m interested to hear from you. How does that and we can get into the weeds on this one. That’s okay. How does that large volume of low intensity training improve mitochondrial oxidative function, lactate transport? What’s actually happening inside the body to cause those changes? And then how are those structures changing to accommodate the improved performance?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  33:56

Well, again, this is what I’ve seen over the years. Right? And this is my opinion, right? My experience, we don’t have solid research to show this. I admit it right. So that’s why again, it’s my opinion, but what we have is a lot of data, which implies that there’s a big improvement at the mitochondrial level. And this data that I see is in the laboratory, the methodology been using for years, you know, to indirectly assess mitochondrial function is looking at fat oxidation, and lactate clearance capacity. So I started doing the substrate utilization fat oxidation in the winter 2005. And ever since then, I was like, wow, this is the fall oxidation and lactic cleanse capacity. They’re so tightly integrated by and against its fat can only be oxidizing mitochondria, and lactate in mitochondria as well. So they’re both mitochondrial substrates. So when you measure in the laboratory, fat oxidation in an athlete and lactate cleans capacity Over time, that and then you correlate that with the different training methodologies that have been done, you can get to see which trainings are improving mitochondrial function the most. So this is what I’m seeing those ones who do this volume for months, right at that sounds to, if you will, and then some intensities here and there. But mainly, that’s going to, that’s what those ones that come back three, four or five months later, and they have the highest improvement in in fat oxidation, as well as lactic Ian’s capacity, as opposed to when I see athletes to student high intensity, I don’t see an improvement of fat oxidation, and likely to lose capacity or see very small improvements, meaning that that mitochondrial function has improved much. I wish that we can do this research more or understand this more with multiple mechanisms at the mechanistic level, what’s going on at the mitochondrial level, what’s going on at the transporters levels, what’s going on at different receptors metabolomics. I don’t have the funds to do that. But if someone else has it, we will be great. But we have pieces of multiple studies done of how different in the stimulation energy systems, my improved all these transporters and parameters that I was mentioned,

Rob Pickels  36:21

listeners something that I think it’s important that everybody knows, as Dr. Similan said, both fat oxidation and lactate clearance are associated with the mitochondria. And the lab tests that he’s talking about is actually utilizing two different ways to measure that, right. Because when we assess carbohydrate and fat oxidation, we’re doing that through breath by breath looking at the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide. But the lactate data is coming from a totally different measure. And that’s coming from capillary in the blood. So it’s really interesting to see how both of these data taken from two totally different parts of the body correlate so strongly because that mitochondria is the link between the two, we published

Dr. Inigo San Millan  36:59

this, my colleague, George Brooks from Berkeley and and I will publish this in 2017. Looking at that interaction, right between fat oxidation and lactate, both in world class athletes, monetarily active individuals and people with metabolic syndrome, and the correlations are in the 90s. That ours, right? It’s like zero point 90 something in that p values were like 0.001 resource was very high correlation that meaning that definitely fire in lactate are highly correlated. And we know that lactate, one of the things that does too when there’s high lactate levels in the blood, they bind to a receptor that is called a GPR 81 that is on the surface of the adipocytes. It inhibits Life policies. On the other hand, we published also this past year, an article showing that and that good shows like The endocrine capabilities of properties of lactate, but then we have also show the autocrine. Okay, capabilities of lactate, and we have shown that it decreases CPT one and CPT to mainly CPT two, which are key for fatty acid transport across mitochondria. Right. So, we see that high lactate, whether it’s in the blood or whether it’s at the local cellular level, is going to be a main regulator of what’s called the intermediary metabolism, in this case, affecting fat oxidation. And this is why we see in our curves that fire and lactate are inversely related very tightly.

Rob Pickels  38:35

So Dr. Similan, I think that a lot of our listeners are familiar with lactate from the lactate testing, and the first and the second lactate turn point. What changes would we expect to see in a lactate graph? If we’re pricking fingers? If you’re me or pricking earlobes? If we’re you? How does this actually show up in results that our listeners can understand by going through this larger volume, this base training?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  39:00

Yeah, that’s an equity question. And when it comes to lactate, there is so many ways to interpret lactate and so many protocols. And depending on the protocols you have, you can look at different lactate levels. So it’s a tricky one to look at. Right but and also how we interpret even LT one or LT two. I interpret LT one for example, as when you start accumulating lactate, meaning that your glycolytic flux utilization of glycolysis increases. And the mandatory byproduct of glycolysis is lactate. So if you don’t have a good lactate trans capacity in mitochondria for fuel, lactate fuel, the lactate is going to be start building up. Right so because lactate is producing fast twitch muscle fibers, and it is preferably oxidized or cleared in mitochondria of slow twitch muscle fibers, right so in the moment you get to an extra SEC intensity where you start deploying more the fast twitch muscle fibers We know very well that must which muscle fibers, they prefer to use glucose and fat. So the glycolysis, it’s increased, and therefore lactate production. So we have a very robust mitochondria and fast in slow twitch muscle fibers. That’s what we achieved with zone two also, that’s where you’re going to be able to clear lactate better. If don’t, then lactate has no other way to go. So it goes to the blood and from the velocities is the preferred fuel for so many cells in the body is utilized by the heart by the kidneys, by the brain, by the liver. And it’s also can be realized by to glucose through gluconeogenesis. Right in the current cycle, but the important thing is that if the person’s have LT one other other people might call it the aerobic threshold. I’m not sure about that methodology, because everything is aerobic all the way through the review to max right. So I don’t, I don’t quite understand myself what aerobic threshold means in the first place, especially when you have anaerobic threshold. So So anyways, but it does, what I’m saying is depends on how you interpret it. But the rotations that you should see is that let’s say that your LT one that’s just that inflection point where you start accumulating more lactate, let’s say this 200 Watts now, and then now you want to see that three months later, or so it’s going to be 225 or 230 Watts, right? That means that the glycolytic flux that glycolysis, it’s even increased, because you’re doing more higher power output, right, so requires more glucose, and therefore you’re going to be producing more lactate, but your lactic cleanse capacity has improved very well. And therefore, you don’t produce nearly as much lactate at 200 Watts as you produce before, again, meaning that you’re having a good adaptation, or lto. One at altitude, we can observe the same thing that there’s another way of interpreted some people call it anaerobic threshold. Some people call it blackk threshold, some people call it a maximal lactate steady state. This is where there’s no unification of criteria, right? When it comes to this. And in Furthermore, is that. So I would say that like the two of you want to call it lactate threshold, for example, or maximal lactate steady state, satellite, anaerobic threshold, because that term doesn’t exist. Technically, from bioenergetic standpoint, you know, like, in your lactate threshold, which kind of in our minds is called, like 1520 minutes, or FTP, you’re past that point, you still are in fully aerobic conditions. And then that’s the other thing like people think that when you produce a lot of lactate, you’re anaerobic Absolutely not. My colleague, George Brooks, has shown this already 30 years ago, that you can produce more than 30 years ago, you can produce lactate under fully erotic conditions. Dr. Otto Warburg, who discovered the first 100 years ago now the first transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell. He observed that cancer cells, they utilize a lot of glucose, and therefore they produce a lot of lactate under fully aerobic conditions, right, showing that there was no anaerobic conditions for cancer cells to produce lactate, that’s what we see in skeletal muscle, as well. So it’s important to understand this concept to justify that you see, in blood for five millimoles, for example, that doesn’t mean you’re anaerobic by no means, you know, you can see like God, someone who’s not very well trained, that are at low intensity, that person is at four millimoles is fully fully erotic because you look at his or her face and their breathing normally also, right? So important to know that, but that’s going to the LT to whatever you want to describe it, you should see the same thing that maybe the LT two is that’s where like a roof light, it goes wild, right? You cannot sustain it. And it’s a very high intensity, and another inflection point. And again, it might be 350. Now, but maybe two months is like two is 375 or 400 watts. And that’s another sign that again, you’re you’re producing a lot of glucose at that point, the fat oxidation is probably none, non existent or minimal, right. And it’s all fully glycolytic effort, right? So the amount of lactate you produce is huge. And this is where that’s the deal breaker in competition, because this this is where you win the races at that intensity, right? You’re gonna win races and so on. So if you’re in races, they’re high intensity, and this is where you shuttle lactate from us fast twitch muscle fibers to mitochondria and slow twitch muscle fibers. And if you have that lactic cleanse capacity, you still going to produce tons of lactate because again, it’s very high intensity, but now you produce four millimoles whereas before you were at six or seven millimoles. Right. So now it’s a sign of like a huge improvement in your economy at the metabolic and mitochondrial level and you can sustain the effort Longer.

Trevor Connor  45:00

Yeah, I think you raised a really important point I actually just wrote an article about this that we think at as your intensity increases your you’re completely aerobic, completely aerobic, completely aerobic, then you hit this point, and then you’re completely anaerobic. It’s not the way it works at all. You are always using a mix of aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. What changes is just the ratio.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  45:23

Yeah. And the predominant is always aerobic, right? All the way until there be too much and Springsteen, right. But I agree.

Rob Pickels  45:34

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Trevor Connor  45:56

So going back to the base phase, I’m going to share what you showed me back in 2010. And you were just talking about this, you look at that lactate curve. So what you were describing, if we had you on a treadmill or on a stationary bike, and we’re increasing your wattage, say, every five minutes or every 10 minutes, what you would see is at lower intensities, your your lactate would just be a horizontal line, it wouldn’t be going up at all, as you said at a certain point at a certain intensity that your LT one, you’re going to start seeing that lactate slowly creep up. And then it’s right around four millimoles, where you hit that LT two and as you said, pass that your lactate are going to shoot up and you’re not going to last very long. Would you said to me in 2010, which is probably the most important thing to be doing in the base season, is you want to push how far you want to push that curve further to the right. You want that point where lactate start to rise to be at higher and higher wattage is, and I loved you actually showed me You You did all this work on athletes of different levels. And if you take a recreational rider, and you have them going at, say 230 Watts, they might be at three millimoles you take a top pro and have them go into 230 Watts and lactates haven’t even haven’t even started to rise.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  47:19

Yeah, and this is what is fascinating to see this and how everybody’s individual. And this is what lactate gives us tremendous amount of information that other parameters don’t give us historically we’ve been doing or people have been doing this tests, you know, looking more at the cardio respiratory adaptations, you know, the view to right was your domain is a representative of because if the cardio respiratory is writing for involved, the whole wall and cardiovascular adaptations to exercise and do to is the maximum representative but we know very well. And you have seen it all the time is that the day to day right that you can see two athletes with the same via to max. One is sort of okay athlete and the other one is much better. Right? But they have the same view too. Right? And so how can you discern or discriminate both. And this is where you go at the cellular adaptations at the cellular level. And that’s what you see that, in fact, the one who’s better. And let’s say at 300 Watts, he said, one minimal of lactate, and the other one has four millimoles of lactate. So that shows that at the mitochondrial level that our patients are completely different. Even though the VO two Max shows that they’re the same, right? And then you start partitioning and also the fuel the substrates, right. And you see that given same relative exercise intensity. One athlete, you know, is maybe fully glycolytic already, there’s no fat oxidation, whereas the other ones do oxidizing it considerable amounts of fat, right. So you know that those athletes are metabolically different, although their cardio respiratory responses are identical, right. So this is what more and more when it comes to working with athletes. We’re getting into the metabolism, the cellular level, which truly discriminates between one athlete and the other, and helps us to understand also what kind of training methodologies or stimulus we need to improve rather than a percentage of your two marks and all that which in my opinion, it’s it’s something that it’s becoming obsolete, and it can be quite erroneous.

Trevor Connor  49:31

You know, I have an athlete that I’m working with, he’s in his 50s and hired me so he actually hired me when he was in his late 40s. And I saw that this you know, he was hitting LT one at extremely low wattage is and we’re just doing the Saturday group ride and was struggling to hang on. So we did a ton of base work. You know, a lot of what you had recommended to me having him do that that zone to work. And now what’s happening is if I took him in and tested him and he His LT one is right around 232 40 Watts, he can hold 240 Watts all day long. And now he goes out to the group, right? And he’s like, I just sit there and right at 240 and everybody else falls apart.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  50:11

Yeah, that’s so typical. That’s what I was mentioning earlier, too, right? That yeah, that’s like he cleans capacity, and he’s very metabolically efficient is really remarkable to 30 to 40 Watts is really good. That’s an effort also that the better you are, the more you have to push. This is another thing, I would just like to point out that reference misconception or what but there’s the idea, that aerobic part, you just you only use fat, you know, when you do that zone to for example, they use a lot of glucose also. So you can use somewhere between two and three grams per minute of glucose. And when it comes to point that you have to push to 50 to a 300 Watts, you don’t have to be there all day, whether you know, the level you are, it’s a tremendous amount of mechanical work that you need to put in for to move 300 watts or 280 Watts, you need to use a lot of glucose as well. So you definitely are deploying a lot of glucose, you also been utilizing fat. And usually it tends to coincide with that fat Max that’s maximal fat oxidation, also, but at the same time, you have a significant amount of glucose. And this is what we see in our world class athletes that when they first started doing this kind of trainings, they balk many of them. And like after two hours, like oh my god, what the hell happened, they have to stop at a gas station or something like that and pile up and, you know, Mars or sneakers or Coke or whatever, right? Because they’re like, Oh, my God, I’m blanking the time. And this is what then you start revisiting nutrition, which is very important to is another area that it’s a whole different animal, right? But yeah, you know, you can use two to three grams per minute at that intensity of glucose, therefore, you produce a lot of lactate to,

Rob Pickels  52:02

and to translate that into calories. And again, this is we’re talking about high level athletes that are able to oxidize this much glucose, but three grams a minute is about 700 calories an hour from glucose being oxidized aerobically not anaerobically, as people would assume.

Trevor Connor  52:19

This is why when I have athletes go out and do these, these, what they consider long slow rides and like eat, eat a lot on that ride, because you’re going to be surprised how quickly you’re going to deplete.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  52:30

Absolutely. And this is what we learned in the laboratory, right that I use a lot of glucose. And this is what back in the days of 1516 years ago, I started to look at the cramps per minute of oxidation of carbohydrates. And like, remember back in the days, the guidelines for carbohydrates in terms of grams per hour, were about 30 to 55 grams per hour that was needed for efforts over three hours. And looking into this. So like that doesn’t, that doesn’t make much sense. I think that we need to do at least 80 to 100 grams an hour. And when I started this concept, poof, there was like, people were laughing at me, this is absolutely impossible. And the top top nutrition is right, I’m not going to name because he was absolutely impossible for athletes to use at 200 grams an hour. Now it’s what everybody does, right? And many of these nutrition is now there are given talks around the world, getting paid for that to say that the recommendations are exactly 90 grams per hour, right. So I’m just saying that these concepts are 15 years old already, but are coming from those tests in the laboratory where we see fat and carbohydrate oxidation rates, which again, it gives us tremendous amount of information, not only about the metabolic adaptations of an athlete, but also the nutritional requirements of that athlete, we can get to personalize their athletes, they oxidize a lot of glucose, carbohydrates, right at different intensities, whether it’s a marathon pace, or whether it’s a triathlon in in the different sports or whether it’s cycling, and that’s where we can dial into that nutrition for that specific athletic event.

Trevor Connor  54:16

The last question, I know this is all opinion, as we said, I couldn’t find any studies on exactly what’s physiologically happening in the base season. But do you think there’s anything going on with muscle fibers in an effective base season? Is there any sort of fiber conversion? Is there any improvement in efficiency or?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  54:33

Yeah, from what I see from all the parameters that we see in the laboratory? Right indirectly without doing muscle biopsies? Right? Is that Yeah, there’s an improvement in the efficiency, especially if type one muscle fibers, that’s where you have the highest mitochondrial number. And it’s not just about the number of mitochondria and the synthesis of mitochondria, but about the function. People talk a lot about mitochondria precursors. Nine mitochondria via synthesis right or biogenesis. But it’s just, it’s the main thing is the function. Right. So I think that they like stimulating mitochondrial function is going to be specifically in those type two type one muscle fibers. And you can do it see probably an increase in mitochondrial size number. This is what we see in studies that have done at Toledo data was Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh back in the late 1999, or 2001, or something like that about over 20 years ago, looking into patients with diabetes, or prediabetes and how, after a few months of aerobic exercise blown supervisor over exercise with different types of sessions a week, they tripled the number and the size of mitochondria. And also their glucose tolerance improves significantly. So we know that there are a few reports showing there, especially with with the training, training, and also some populations with chronic diseases, that mitochondrial function increases tremendously. And therefore also with athletes as well. So that’s where you want to isolate that energy system and focus on improving your mitochondria. And the function as well. Another thing that is important are the different elements, you know, so one of the things that you prove is the transporters for lactate, right? So we have MCT. Once you have also the CPT one and CPT to MCT was transport lactate into mitochondria. And then CPT ones and CPT tools, transport fatty acids, so it’s different multiple elements that you improve, right? During that time, then the glycolytic level, you also improve. When you do intensity, you pull those MCT force besides all the whole glycolysis right, and all the enzymes involved glycolysis the turbo, it acts much faster, you can you improve also the capacity to to improve MCT force, which are the transporter that export lactate out of that fiber into the slow twitch muscle fibers. So you overexpress those transporters by isolating that training energy system as well. So be and this is well studied already in different settings. And especially, again, my colleague, George Brooks, you know, has done a tremendous amount of work for 50 years about all of this, right? So it’s great that we can translate this into not working with athletes.

Trevor Connor  57:34

And I’ve certainly seen the effect when you have athletes who do all high intensity. And they don’t do that that sort of base work. I remember one masters who I worked with, he went in and got tested, and just riding at a steady, easy tempo, his lactates were up at 456 millimoles. And he could hold that forever. You can score on this, this isn’t that hard. And our explanation was he was doing so much high intensity work. He had overbuilt those MCT four transporters, which were pumping the lactate out, but hadn’t done the work that built the MCT ones to take it in. So even though he wasn’t going all that hard. He was building up a ton of lactate and had nowhere to go.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  58:15

Exactly. And it probably Yeah, that power up. It was very low. Right?

Trevor Connor  58:19

Yeah, as he was riding steady at like 190 Watts, and his threshold was up around 300. So let’s shift gears, we talked a lot about the physiology. Now let’s talk about what sort of work you should be doing in the base season. And I’m going to start with a big question for you have should athletes be doing high intensity interval work in the offseason? Or in the base season? And does that depend on the level of the athlete?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  58:49

Yeah, that’s the question. And the way I addressed that is is like, you know, it depends on the goals for next season, are you going to start racing earlier or later, right, so in a month, up and down, makes a big difference. So I like to start doing some intensity here and there, right? Maybe not for the first month. But I like to start throwing intensities, because it’s important to make sure that you keep stimulating that glycolytic pathway, those types of muscle fibers. And although again, like glycolytic pathway, because like everything else deteriorates over time, right, so I like to keep stimulated, knowing though that it takes weeks to improve that bioenergetics so and then we have plenty of time if the season is let’s say two or three months out, right? But I personally like to after three or four weeks start to throw in some intensity efforts for sure. I like that.

Trevor Connor  59:44

What sort of intensity Do you have your athletes do is it short very high intensity or is it more longer threshold?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  59:50

Yeah, I like more longer than shorter but I’ve been said to depends on the currency currency group cyclists and their you know if it’s like a punchy writer, write that let’s say a criterium writer, or a writer that is more like a typical classic writer that they need to like very short efforts, you might want to tailor those to four or five minutes, three to five minutes efforts, as opposed to someone who’s a pure climber, but it doesn’t mean that it’s only one and do. The other one. But I like to mix both in depends on their goals and capabilities of the athletes are some athletes are very good, for example, long efforts, or 1520 minutes or competition pace, but they’re not very good at those changes of gears, you know, in that zone five, you know, those three to five minutes are really high intensity. And that’s where like, Okay, we focus more on that aspect, you know, so that’s where those were some of the things that I like to individualize them, according to the necessities of the of the athlete,

Trevor Connor  1:00:53

let’s check back with Brent Bookwalter, in his description of the sort of work he’d do on the bass season.

Brent Bookwalter  1:00:59

You know, throughout my career, the the race season, I think continuously got longer, and the offseason got shorter, and the amount of things we needed to work on, got more, and we had more science at our fingertips, more technical stuff to work on. So there really wasn’t Yeah, the past five or 10 years of my career, there wasn’t much time to just ride around a lot. In general, I would say the brief picture is, you know, a little bit of time off the bike, a little bit of time of unstructured riding. And then when I clicked back into sort of training on the road bike, there would probably be a period, but it was quite short, we’re talking a couple of weeks where I would just do entirely unstructured riding. And then after that, because we’re looking at the calendar and the clock thinking like races are coming, the structure came back pretty quick. So yeah, initially, we weren’t doing super high intensity, anaerobic work, but there was metered, a lot of meter work, a lot of lower middle and upper aerobic work. Yeah, kind of like zone three stuff, or medio, if you’re Italian. Yep, lots of lots of media on the climbs media, on the flats, I’d say like, on the bike strength work, every part of that off the bike strength work, I would say would also be part of that, yeah, and just trying to build that framework, it’s really, I always viewed like the base season or that foundational period as like training to train to do the more heavy high intensity stuff that was really going to lift you and push you into Race mode.

Trevor Connor  1:02:24

So we’ll be a couple of quick examples of some structured work you do during that period of time.

Brent Bookwalter  1:02:30

Yeah, a lot, a lot of the rides during that time, I would focus on accumulating basically, like progressing, accumulation of time spent in that like that middle aerobic zone, like that tempo ish zone. So I would start at the beginning and try to just spend like, you know, 30 minutes have arrived there, do three times 10 minutes, and then I would, you know, stretch it out to 40 or 50. And make those blocks of time longer, kind of the classic, like muscle tension or strength work. Yep, definitely some forced seated and standing work. I think the tendency out of the offseason, or the D training period is to, I always, my tendency was always like, stand up more get out of the saddle more stretch around, but it was important to force myself to sit and sit on the flats and sit on the climbs. And also with that just do other like postural training on the bike as well, like, not just only be riding around, you know, on the flat roads, on my tops, you know, with my head and then when chatting, but during that this sort of like tempo time actually spend some time in the drop, spend some time on the hoods, spend some time in those positions that I was going to want to access once I do the higher intensity and when I start racing, so it’s not like a completely different position.

Trevor Connor  1:03:40

So what do you focus on in terms of the training that you have your athlete to do in the base season,

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:03:46

so I focus on that, so to mainly, and so it’s important than to do a lactate test or physiological tests before to calibrate those intensities, you know, and then, since those evolve and change, what I asked my athletes is just to have a lactate meter with them, and even take him out there and I teach them how to poke themselves into lactate testing. So they give me the feedback, right, because those things are going to be changing over time. And I can see their improvement over time. And I can also adjust their intensities. And that also way that the athlete gets more engaged with the training, right, they understand that better the why are we doing this, you know, and not just the how but the way and it gets it gets quite engaged. And that being said, that’s where like the basis in as we always been traditionally call it right. It’s important where I particularly like to really work that to the hopefully it’s not becoming a cult thing, you know, the whole zoom to concept. But I’ve been I’ve been I started doing that, like perform was 30 years ago. And it was like a weird concept, right? But now it’s so popular that It’s a little bit scary because it seems like that it’s that is the silver bullet for absolutely everything including diseases, right, which is not right, but it’s just part of the equation. Right. So but it to me is an important part. So that’s what I like to really simulate, you know that bioenergetics, which is I’ve seen is what improves fat oxidation mitochondrial function like decrements capacity, and sets up a very good base to then introduce high intensity workouts as the season gets closer. And then I like to do some weight training also, especially for those ones who might need to improve that power, capacitor strength and improve the neuromuscular adaptations to high intensities. I like to do weight training. And since there are some transfer from weight, right after training, I will do a session I just like to do so in two sessions several days a week. Again, this is my experience right in impure experience, but I don’t see any research on that, right? There. Slimbridge, they say that they should maybe try some transfer of power from doing a weightlifting session, and go right away to biking to see that might work for the first month or two, the preseason. It’s not sustainable to do that, throughout the season. I’m not very fond of doing weight training during the season, especially in more endurance athletes, because it’s going to be an artifact, especially when you throw competition or so you might have some blocks, as I mentioned earlier, where a month and a half or two where you can throw some if you feel that that athlete might be a sprinter, especially for sprinters, which are a whole different breed of athletes. Right? But not a big fan of doing these in more endurance type athletes during the season. But in the off the season. I like to do it also. So, so to weightlifting. I like to do that.

Rob Pickels  1:06:52

Dr. Similan, something that I’m interested in from you is, during this base training phase, are you altering the weekly calendar of somebody? Are you say, purposefully doing double workouts or back to back workouts? How does that look specifically for this time?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:07:08

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I would say in my beginning, coaching athletes, I would do some double sessions, I saw that over time, they don’t see, again, my opinion didn’t seem to have much of a benefit, except for the view to like, let’s say weights, and you want to do later on, like cycling, but I like to do it together, as I mentioned earlier, but I think that doing that in one session, right? To me, it’s it’s enough, because physiologically, and mentally might be too much to two trainings in one day. And eventually I that’s when I started to look at blood analysis and further testing with lactate. And, and that’s what I saw that well, people could could get to deteriorate. So it’s a gain, or an area that I don’t want to enter in and take risks further or deterioration of this athletes or that farther into the season. Mentally, they’re already burnt out from doing double sessions at this time of the of the season. So one session to me is enough.

Trevor Connor  1:08:08

So the other interesting thing I want to ask about in terms of the week, this is something I’ve always believed in, when you get into the season, and you’re doing races, you’re doing training races, you’re doing really high intensity interval work, a single workout can really beat you up. And you might need a day or two to recover from that. My personal experience is the work that you do on the bases. And no one day is really going to beat you up enough to give you that that big training stimulus. So I’ve always been a big believer in the base season of building blocks of days. So you have three days where maybe you do some some threshold work one day, and then you have two longer days. And it’s the accumulation of the three days of builds of fatigue. And then you take a day or two easy and then you have another two or three day block. What’s your feeling on that? Is that how you approach with your athletes? Or do you think that doesn’t make as big a difference?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:09:00

No, exactly. So yeah, I like to do some recovery days. But I like to have, as you said three days in a row, for example, right? Where you can build some fatigue and then take a recovery day and just to rule over again. Right? So like to be like one or two easy days. But also Yeah, it’s just like if you throw like a proper session or zone two and you have like longer hours and then you you have the next day some a lactate threshold or throw like a threshold session or interval within our concern today. Yeah, like over time that causes fatigue, right. So you need to step back and recovery. And this is part of that monitoring, also that we do with athletes as well. I personally really like to, to see how they’re this is the elite level every month we do more analysis because I look at different parameters. And I can see how well and athletes are simulating training. And when you have competition, how they’re simulating competition as well. So you can tweak training program you know so That’s an important part of the monitoring. Because if you didn’t do the monitoring, sometimes you might see that an athlete is maybe not assimilating that block of training very well and is getting fatigued or trained. And if you miss that, that performance might be decreasing, and it’s going to be difficult to get that athlete out of that whole. Whereas if you see that, with monitoring, you can get that asset immediately after that, then on a day to day, you know, for example, through training peaks, we see a lot of data that our coaches see, right. And you can see a lot of parameters like how was Harvard LSU, listen to your heart rate, right? You see that they may have difficulties to get their heart rate up. And that’s a sign of fatigue also. So right away, you’re on top of that writer, or you see that, let’s say they’re doing whatever watts per kilogram for that day, I don’t know, let’s say three, or 3.3. And in today, they only did 2.3, or 2.4. So you can’t tell the writer right away what happened today, you know, you really have much lower power output. And then like, that’s what the feedback is very important, right? That the daily feedback with the acid, hydrogen today and like, yeah, you’re right, just, I couldn’t push the pedals today, okay. Then, tomorrow, we have a longer day, or in a longer day with an interval. So let’s do a recovery day tomorrow. Okay, and let’s push it again. Another thing that happens here, and it’s happening now, in this time is like you have all these respiratory infections, right? Whether is the influenza or flu, or worries is like upper respiratory infection, that is going to take out that writer for a whole week, or five days, right. So that’s a time to be careful about it. And not as they get nervous it obviously, and upset that they have to take a week off or have several days off, right, but it is the way it is. And sooner or later, everybody’s going to get or most people are going to get one of these infections. So that’s what can derail the entire block, right? So it is what it is, and then you have to be patient. But then when you go back to train, again, you need to make sure that, you know you do a transition period until the athlete has good sensations again. So that’s what I like to focus in these aspects.

Trevor Connor  1:12:15

Sunday, I always tell my athletes after they’re sick, because they want to get back to the the original training plan is basically say you have to throw it everything that we had before and figure out what’s the best plan moving forward now. And it’s gonna be different from the previous plan. Yeah,

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:12:31

exactly, you might take a step back, right to continue, right, I suppose to take two steps forward. And like, it’s probably not gonna work very well, in the long term. So something

Trevor Connor  1:12:41

I always tell my athletes in the bass season is I want them feeling like a tank, meaning if they go out and do that zone to steady ride, they could do that all day long. But they’re out the body and the buddy suddenly says, Hey, let’s sprint for that town line sign that kind of go. And that’s not really on the legs right now. And what I say is, we want you to be a tank during the base season, and then that transition to the race season is where we convert you from a tank to a sports car, because as you said that that top end comes around really quickly. Interesting. Your response to that, though, do you think that that’s how an athlete should feel on the base season? Or should they feel a little more like a racer?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:13:23

Oh, that’s a great analogy. I never thought about that before. But yeah, it’s a great analogy, Trevor. So I think along the same lines, and I think that it’s important that to be patient, and to be focused in that this part of the year to really isolate every, you know, specifically this energy system, right? That being said, if an athlete it’s has that lion, or a sports car mentality, and like, oh, I cannot be three months without doing the Sprinter doing the high interval. Sure, why not? You know? Absolutely. To me, there’s no problem, give that athlete happy. You know, but but still, you know, within like the context of like, this is where we will focus on this part of the of the season and then yeah, we’ll become a sports car is very well set.

Trevor Connor  1:14:09

So last thing I want to ask you about, I know this is a pro to a lot of coaches take I know, this is an approach that a lot of World Tour teams take have maybe few times during that base season, have a big training camp where you spend a anywhere from three days to seven days, doing a basically a fatigue block something that’s beyond your normal training that you’re going to be pretty tired from by the end of it. What’s your feeling on these training camps or fatigue blocks and the base season?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:14:38

Well, that’s a good point. And I think, yeah, this is to me, I try not to do those. And especially, I mean, one thing that I have for training camps, obviously, there’s a lot of things that happened in the training camp. So training camp, you know, this is where cyclists, they get their equipment. They need to do medical tests, you should logical tests biomechanical tests. Try the new equipment and to have it’s absolutely key to have meetings with sports directors. There’s days for sponsors for media. So in these training camps, there’s a lot of things going on there a lot of activities, right? So you have to always respect every every activity, which is very important, right? I have put just like from my physiologies, and Coach hat, right, I like to the training part of it, right. And in the training part of it, I’m not as comfortable anymore with this, these training camps, the way they’re structured, and this world would try to negotiate right in a way with everything that is going on, right? Because nowadays, we can monitor perfectly. Any athlete from around the world that that perfectly Perfection doesn’t really exist, but almost perfectly or very well, on a daily base, right. And what they feel is that when these athletes come to these training camps, and the writing groups, many of them they complain, it’s a man, this is derail in my training. In all they feel anxious, they feel like, oh, I don’t need this training, canceled training, right? And you’re always telling, okay, I could, I could agree with that. But you need to meet with the directors to try the new equipment. This is where you get the claws where you get the buyers you need biomechanical testing to make sure that the new bike this year will have its feet. So it’s absolutely deserved to be there. But isn’t the location where at least I see, okay, let’s try to individualize these trainings as much as possible to a smallest groups as possible. Because if you have one athlete, that they have to do five hours, and they’re like in the back with a group of 15 or 20, actually, they’re only going to be training out of the five hours they actually training is going to be one hour or less.

Trevor Connor  1:16:43

So what about the recreational rider who doesn’t have to deal with all that, but just says, once or twice in the winter, I’m gonna take four days and really ramp up my volume, not necessarily intensity, but really ramp up the volume and get myself to a bit of a fatigue, do you feel there’s a value in that,

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:17:00

I don’t see much of that value. Honestly, I think that they should continue with the same structure, that the thing of the winter, and this is why we do these training camps. But there’s good weather, right. So for example, nine Colorado would be having one of the worst winters I’ve ever remember, cannot go outside any day. It’s cold, icy, whatever, right? If I, if I am a recreational athlete, and they have the resources and the money, I would go to Arizona, for example, right. And in the same week that I should do here, now that I can’t, because I cannot go outside and I’m, I’m sick of doing trainers indoors, right, I would just grab a bike and go for a week, or 10 days to Arizona and do the same blog that I would do here. And this is where I will get a very good quality training. Whereas others here in Colorado, for example, or other colder climates, they have to deal with these are stuck. Right. So I think this is the value in my, in my humble opinion to move out of a cold area and go to the to the warm area. Like for example, someone put out posts on Twitter or in social media. But how many teams work through teams, we’re in the same area, when did our training camp in December. And this is the area of Alicante, Valencia in the Mediterranean, which is very mild weather you’re around, you’re in, you’re in your 50s 60s, even 70s. Your you know, in this time of year is perfect for training. And we were like about 80% of entire World Tour teams were in a 2030 kilometer radius, you know so. But if we’re recreational athletes, I would try to move away you can to qualify many if not, I would try to continue with your program.

Trevor Connor  1:18:39

Well, Dr. Sol, Milan, thank you. It’s been a great conversation. We certainly covered bass training. But I think we you know, as we always do with you when a lot of really interesting places with the physiology. So you know how this works, we always finish out with a take home the most important message you want our listeners to leave with. So let’s start with you. What do you think is your message for this episode?

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:19:03

I think my in my opinion, the message of base training is to do that to focus on that base training. And to understand what is going on there. Right For example, in as we have discussed been discussing is to try to target those bioenergetics of that mitochondrial function and oxidative phosphorylation, which is the energy system. And I don’t want to get off topic now. But I think we know a lot about this at the scientific level. And I think it’s time to translate it at the coaching level with proper terminology. We can also interfere back and forth with base training, aerobic training, if you will, right. But I think that yeah, just where you want to call it aerobic base or oxidative training, it’s important to understand what we’re doing, right and what we’re targeting at the cellular level.

Rob Pickels  1:19:48

And to build on that. For me what’s important to point out is this doesn’t necessarily have to be one time of year in a very linear fashion. It’s not like you just focus on this for a short moment then you move on Then the next thing, then you move on to competition, then you move on to the recovery after the season. And I do think that some, you know, popular online training things almost make it seem like it ought to be that way with how their Annual Plan Builder goes. This depending on the athlete, and depending on the needs of their events, the needs of their physiology, this training, this type of training is something that you can do multiple times throughout as you prepare throughout the season. So the training concepts that we talked about today are hugely, hugely important. Don’t be afraid to apply those at multiple times throughout your training season. And I think

Trevor Connor  1:20:35

my take home is going back to a story I had in that article I just wrote, I remember a bunch of years ago, there was this weekly training race, there was a Masters, bunch of us would get together and, and go through this loop. And on this loop, there was this one minute climb, that really was the race, everybody would hit that really hard. At one time, a world tour athlete who’s written the Tour de France a bunch of times showed up. And everybody was shocked when we hit that one minute climb, he didn’t really drop anybody. And they’re like, oh, he was holding back. And I was doing explain to them. No, he really wasn’t. What they didn’t notice was after the climb, he rode away from the whole group at over 300 watts. And the point that I made in my article, which I think is is my argument for why base is so important is you will be surprised, even as a recreational Master’s athlete, how close your one minute and five minute power can get to and what you’d see in a world tour athlete, Everybody focuses on those short endurance wattage is but you actually hit a pretty high level pretty quickly. What differentiates that World Tour athlete from the rest of us is they can sit there 300 watts for four hours and go, no problem where most people 300 Watts, that’s threshold or above, and they’re not going to hang on at that that kind of steady pace that the world heard athletes doing. That’s what differentiates the best athletes and that’s what you build in the base season.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:22:04

I agree. 100%. Yeah, very great example.

Trevor Connor  1:22:07

Well, Dr. Sol, Milan, thank you so much. Always a pleasure having you on the show.

Dr. Inigo San Millan  1:22:12

Well, thank you so much. It’s always fun in great thank you very much.

Rob Pickels  1:22:16

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 Fast Talk are those of the individual. As always, we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums at to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of Fast Talk Laboratories at to become part of our education and coaching community. For Dr. Inigo San Millan, Brent Bookwalter, Dr. Bradley Petek, Stephen Hyde, and Trevor Connor. I’m Rob Pickels. Thanks for listening!

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