Training as a Time-Crunched Cyclist, with Chris Carmichael

The author of The Time-Crunched Cyclist joins Fast Talk to discuss the science, merits, and limitations of the time-crunched training method.

Chris Carmichael of CTS on The Time-Crunched Cyclist

Many of our listeners, in fact, most of the staff here at Fast Talk Labs, could be considered “time-crunched cyclists”—people with only 6-8 hours to train each week. We’re athletes who, because of commitments like parenting and work, must try and find ways to fit training in around life, rather than the other way around.

And if you’ve heard that term before—the time-crunched athlete—it’s because of our guest today, who literally wrote the book on it. But before you jump to the conclusion that the prescription in the book is high-intensity intervals all the time, think again. That isn’t the case, and today we explore the specifics of the method, as well as the science that informs this training approach. We also discuss its limitations, and whether, as we are so often asked, if it can play nicely with the polarized approach.

Our featured guest is, of course, Chris Carmichael, author, coach, and the founder and CEO of Carmichael Training Systems, or CTS, which now boasts 50 professional endurance coaches who have worked with more than 25,000 amateur and professional athletes since 2000. Chris was a member of the 1984 Olympic Team and the iconic 7-Eleven Pro Cycling Team, and is a bestselling author of more than 10 books on training and nutrition. He was also coach to the U.S. Olympic Cycling team in 1992 and 1996.

We’re also joined by a host of other experienced coaches, including Menachem Brodie, Jared Berg, Julie Young, and Neal Henderson.

It’s time to explore training with limited time. Let’s make you fast!

Episode Transcript

Chris Case 0:11
Everyone, welcome to another episode of fast talk your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m Chris case, many of our listeners and in fact, most of the staff here at fast talk labs could be considered time crunched athletes, people with say six to eight hours to train each week were athletes who, because of commitments like parenting and work must try and find ways to fit training in around a life rather than the other way around. And if you’ve heard that term before that time crunched athlete is because of our guest today who literally wrote the book on it. But before you jump to the conclusion that the prescription in the book is high intensity intervals all the time, think again, that isn’t the case. And today, we explore the specifics of the method as well as the science that informs this training approach. We’ll also discuss its limitations and weather, as we’re so often asked, if it can play nicely with a polarized approach. Our featured guest today is of course, Chris Carmichael, author, coach and the founder and CEO of Carmichael training systems or CTS, which now boasts 50 Professional endurance coaches, who have worked with more than 25,000 amateur and professional athletes since 2000. Chris was a member of the 1984 Olympic team and the iconic 711 Pro Cycling Team, and as a best selling author of more than 10 books on training and nutrition. He was also coached the US Olympic cycling team in 92, and 96. Today, we’re also joined by a host of other experienced coaches, including manakin Brody, Jerry Berg, Julian and Neil Henderson. That in much more today on fast talk, it’s time to explore training with limited time. Let’s make you fast.

Ryan Kohler 2:01
Hey, I’m Ryan Kohler, head coach and physiologist at fast talk laboratories.

Trevor Connor 2:06
And I’m Trevor Connor, CEO of fast talk labs between the two of us right and I have over 40 years of coaching and clinical experience for juniors to Masters, national level athletes to club riders.

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Chris Case 3:31
Chris Carmichael Welcome to the program.

Unknown Speaker 3:33
I’m happy to be here, guys.

Chris Case 3:35
Trevor storytime this this episode or No, just a little little tidbit you’ve got

Trevor Connor 3:40
I don’t have a story. But you know, I just want to give some context. Obviously, Carmichael training systems has had a huge impact on cycling on coaching for for several decades now. So when we want to talk with you, I mean the different things that we could discuss. But I think the reason we pick the topic that we have today, I would say the thing that sounds like you’ve been focusing on a lot lately, is this time crunched approach. And that has really become a household term. Now I hear cyclists all the time talking about the time crunched approach and that’s really something that you have coined, so I guess No, Sir Chris, I didn’t have a have a story. But I have a question for you, Chris, which is what made you head in this direction and and lean into figuring out a way to help athletes that don’t have a lot of time to train, figure out how to how to get the best out of that limited time?

Unknown Speaker 4:36
Sure. That’s a good question. When we first started CTS 22 years ago, I was fresh out of USA Cycling where I was the national team director and had been there just about 10 years and before I was the coaching director, I was the Men’s National Road coach and the majority of the athletes we had coming into CTS and The first 234 years were primarily elite athletes, emerging elite athletes. And we used pretty much the kind of tried and true periodization model or organizing training with with these athletes. And it was about, I think, probably 2004 2005, we really started to see much greater influx of what I’ll call time crunched athletes and and these were athletes that had about eight hours a week, six to eight hours a week to train. And that started to rapidly become the bulk of athletes that we were working with. And that’s, in essence, really why I started CTS at the time was to bring sort of elite cycling performance to a much broader group of, of athletes, not just elite athletes. And, and so we had a lot more of these athletes starting to come in, and our coaches that were with us, at CTS, it was kind of clear after a little bit that that, you know, previous model, that model that had worked really well for elite athletes, athletes that really had basically, the vast majority of the day to train really wasn’t very effective on the doctors, the lawyers, the accountants, the bankers, these sort of athletes that had, you know, on the upper end, eight hours, maybe nine hours on the lower in about six hours to train, we needed a different training model in which to organize the training.

Chris Case 6:36
Chris, why don’t you for those who don’t actually know what this approach is, could you describe it briefly this time crunched approach,

Unknown Speaker 6:44
sure, basically, the equation of you know, workload being you know, training time, slash volume and intensity, equal, you know, the athlete workload and and as we started looking at that, we started to realize that, you know, geez, when an athlete has eight hours or less to train, really training volume is no longer going to create, especially to a seasoned athlete, one that’s that has a fair amount of experience, fair amount of training history, there, really, there’s not much adaptation, you’re going to see on having them do a hour and 15 minute, endurance pace ride. So we basically just removed training volume or training time as one of the factors that would make up an athlete’s workload, and we just focused on intensity. And with that, you know, obviously, intensity being how hard an athlete is writing we focused on, we had two primary goals in which we felt if we were to make positive adaptations with athletes, if we were able to improve their VO, two Max, we’re able to increase their functional threshold power, their chance of performing better went up significant. And so those were the two main targets of the time crunch program, with idea that we focused on intensity to get the proper training stimulus. And our goals, were improving vo to max and improving lactate threshold,

Chris Case 8:21
I would wonder if your approach here is to say, we have limited time, there has to be a bit of a compromise. If I had all the time in the world with an athlete, I wouldn’t take this approach because there would be gains I could get them to make from a different approach with more aerobic work, etc. But we don’t have that luxury. So we must make this compromise. And, you know, I would assume you set the expectations with an athlete, this is not going to get you to the best you could ever be but it’s going to get you to the best you can be given the time that you have is that is that a correct assumption?

Unknown Speaker 9:02
Absolutely. And you got to work back from that athlete. everything emanates there. And you know, as much as you love to see that athlete have some weeks where you could push them out to 1516 hours of training in a week, if they simply don’t have it because of work demands, family demands, things like that. You’ve got to work within the constraints that you’ve got. So you’ve got to make some compromises and and so that sort of idea of longer endurance miles and adaptations, you robic adaptations you can get. He really just got to kind of give up on and you got to focus on like I said, improving vo two Max and functional threshold power.

Trevor Connor 9:49
You have formalized this in a really great way and far more than I ever did. But I had a way of training athletes when when one of my athletes came to me and said I have an event I want to be strong for A couple months away, I’m not fit right now. So we need to get fit quickly. And I don’t have a ton of time. I always call this the rocky montage training plan, because it felt like you did. In the Rocky movies, they always had that 10 minute montage where they’re training really hard. And that’s kind of what this training routine feels like, you get super strong for a few weeks, and then I always warn them, you’re gonna have that big peak, but afterwards, you’re going to feel like you went 15 rounds with Apollo Creed. And what I actually liked is you had a chapter in your book called terms and conditions, and said, yes, there are sacrifices here and you had the exact same descriptions, you said, this is a 10 to 11 week program, as I remember, you’re going to get really strong in those last three weeks, but then you have to take a four to six week rest, because if you don’t, you are going to crash hard.

Unknown Speaker 10:52
Absolutely, the nice part about this program is the games can be had pretty quickly. And as long as you’re putting in the right bouts of recovery in there, in between the intense training that you have the athlete doing, they see the games, and they see him from really one workout to the next and go Well, you know, powers going up, I’m getting a little further up the hill than what I was doing just last week for the same duration, and they get really excited by it. And you kind of always fighting that more is better type of approach. And, and you’ve got to say, look, you know, this is not something that is sustainable in the long term, you’ve got to take a break from it, you’ve got to back it down, or else it’s going to kind of crumble in on itself. We like to say, this is a great program for events up to about three hours and beyond three hours, well, you’re gonna need to start, you know, there are limits to the advantages that this program can have. But I will say, Look, you know, if, if you’re able to keep the athlete in the game, and then the competition longer, all the better, you know, and and if they were getting dropped on the second or third Hill, and now they’re making it over those hills, and they’re continuing with the group, and they’re getting at that kind of upper limit the duration of the entire event, but they’re still on the game. Hey, you’ve done a good thing with that athlete. And they’re usually pretty content with where they are.

Trevor Connor 12:25
And understandably, so I’m looking at one of your plans here showing you have multiple ways to map this out. But I noticed that typically you have it’s it’s Tuesday and Thursday, you’re going to do hard intervals. Saturday, you’re going to do some sort of intensity, but it’s often over unders and a little bit different for what you’re doing during the week. And then on Sunday, you’re going to do one to three hour ride, keeping it much easier. But it’s it’s four days a week and the other days you aren’t touching the bike? And is that just to accommodate for the fact that these people have limited time? Or do you feel even if they could get on their bike one of those other days and do something easy, they should take a rest day instead, if they

Unknown Speaker 13:12
could get on their bike and ride a little bit, it would need to be easy paced recovery style rod. Because the Tuesday and Thursday workouts, that’s generally the approach we take Tuesday and Thursday are the intense training workouts, you’re going to need to recover from that in order to get stronger. And so you’ve got to be able to back it down. And if you had more time, we’ve probably changed the model a little bit where we weren’t doing intense workouts every Tuesday and Thursday during a build phase of a time crunch program. And we’d probably add in a little bit, some more moderate pace endurance rides. But with most of the athletes as we started seeing the shift, if they can get in eight hours, they feel great. You know, and they’re riding for maybe five days a week, getting beyond that you’re just asking them to do something that it’s just really challenging for them to do. And it’s stressful on them because of demands from work. Family just you know other other demands in their life. And so what I find it’s, Hey, let’s focus on where we’re gonna get the biggest return. And if we’re going to be able to improve your VO to max by 5% or increase your functional threshold power by 15%. That’s great. They’re going to see they’re going to see that they’re going to be able to see that in returns riding with their training partners and their competitions in their group rides, all those sorts of things and they’re going to be pretty happy with where they

Trevor Connor 14:49
coach manakin Brody talked with us about his approach to coaching time crunch athletes. Let’s hear about what he does and how it compares to Carmichael’s approach.

Menachem Brodie 14:58
Ah, this is where it’s We’re going to do time crunched, and they’re serious about results. I go with the HRV based training. So I like Joel Jamison’s, Morpheus. So when we have that out, I will have three types of workouts, they’re actually the same three I mentioned in the book as well. But there’s a movement day, or we’re just getting you on the bike and doing this low, you know, level two, endurance, we’ll do a stimulation day, which is going to be kind of tempo, or longer endurance. And then the last will be Development Day, which is high intensity. So for a true like, when we say time crunch, we’re talking six hours or less, or we talked today, anywhere from five to eight hours, okay, five to eight hours, the answer is three layers. But in base and build, I want them if we can get one day where they’re going, they’ll go out, but they’ll do small ring endurance or big ring endurance, where we’re putting, we’re adding a neuromuscular layer for it. And usually, up until you know, the end of build one, we’ll do small ring, we want those at faster turnover. And then once we get into build two, and towards peak, it’ll be a big ring endurance, where we’re getting the big muscular efforts and trying to challenge the stability on the bike. But I’ll try and do at least 110% of their desired or goal race distance, as long as we know that they can handle that. So if their HRV is red, then obviously we wouldn’t, but if they’re yellow, or green, and we’ll do that, and then we’ll adjust, you know, maybe go to 30 minute workout or just skip a high intensity workout because we won’t get

Trevor Connor 16:28
that. How much high intensity would you have them do in a week?

Menachem Brodie 16:32
I really try and aim for at least 18 to 20 minutes total, with full recovery in between. But again, that also depends on are we getting? Are we going for neuromuscular response, like are we working on power starts at the end of base because we’re trying to tie stuff together? Or are we trying to do a little bit more like fatigue that threshold overdoing like over unders or gear based stuff, so that’ll drive it, but the minimum would be between, you know, 12 minutes for intermediates, 10 minutes for beginners, and then a single workout two minutes for advanced.

Trevor Connor 17:07
And then how many of those workouts in a single workout really vary?

Menachem Brodie 17:10
I usually like that’s a development day, as I call it. So I usually don’t like more than two that’s for really advanced athletes who are on the bike, you know, four days a week, we’re talking about eight hours time crunched. Whereas most of the athletes to be honest, Trevor will do one development day like that we’re really pushing vo two max or whatever, maybe. And that’ll just be one day a week. And we’ll do two stimulation where we’ll do like sweetspot, lactate threshold, but the high intensity, I’m talking anaerobic capacity, sprinting, like, you know, five to five seconds to two minutes would be that high intensity, but I like the cardio cardiac power intervals. I’m a big fan of those, but it will base the recovery for that development day off of heart rate. So you got 60 minutes, here’s your warm up the warm ups, 15 minutes, 12 minutes, depending on the specific athlete have to in mind, at the end of that, when you feel ready, you hit the gas all out a minute. And then you’re recovering your soft pedaling using your breathing techniques and postures to bring your heart rate back down to 120 to 130 as quickly as possible. And you’re going to go through at least six of these up to when your recovery hits X amount of time, right. And that’s why it’s so closely tied to the HRV. Because then we can see oh crap, we really redline him. So let’s let’s back off or Oh, wow, you’re green today. Okay.

Trevor Connor 18:28
Okay, so Chris, why don’t we dive into some of the science behind this. And I do want to say I want to give a huge compliment. I really enjoyed reading the science chapter in your book. As I was going through it, you started very basic. And I was like, Well, what about the Larson study from 202 that said this and then two page laters you actually quote that Larson study You even brought up? There’s that great 1982 study by Dr. Dudley. That’s just a classic and endurance science and some of the really key studies through the years you had mentioned and really built quite a kind of a beautiful case for the value of high intensity work. So this is just want to say I really enjoyed that chapter. I’m not used to seeing that depth of science in a training book.

Unknown Speaker 19:14
Right? Yeah. Thank you. When we were looking into this, I like to think we took a pretty thoughtful approach. When you say we Who do you mean, various coaches here at CTS. Okay. Yeah, Jim layman. In college, we wanted to look at what the research was out there before we made a shift in the past if you didn’t have much time to train because you’re in school or you had a big demands that your job while when you got on the bike route is kind of hard as you could. And it’s like, well, if I’m not gonna have much time to train, I better I better ride hard. Well, we wanted to make sure that we had proper science that could back that up and also what did we actually want? What was measurable and what was repeatable that we could see in the training and get the gains that we want to achieve. So we looked at the various research that was out there, and there’s, you know, there’s actually quite a bit. And, you know, it turned out that, you know, it was it was improving vo to max improving functional threshold power, those are things that you want to do with any athlete, right? I mean, no one’s gonna say no to Hey, 5% or 6%, or 4%, you know, bump on my vo to max, everybody’s gonna raise their hand on that, or 10 12% increase in functional threshold power. And, you know, cyclists are all gonna raise their hands and achieving that. But it’s making sure that you can do it within the constraints, that what we’re calling the time crunched athlete six to eight hours a week, how best to do that, how much intensity, you need to add to an athlete’s program in order to get those adaptations. And then, you know, obviously, rest becomes critical, because these are really hard workouts, they’re generally workouts that you do, as an individual athlete, not in a group setting. So there’s the the mental pressure and mental stress of of doing these workouts that you have to take into consideration. So we looked at all that and you know, and and that’s why we the research, it all pointed to let’s let’s focus on functional threshold power, its focus on on VO, two Max, whether it’s improving vo two max or improving vo two max power, if we’re getting gains there, we’re all going to be happy.

Trevor Connor 21:40
So at the start of the book, you basically make a good point, which is you can’t take what an elite athlete is doing, when they’re training 20 plus hours a week and apply that to somebody who can only train six hours. And I agree with you,

Chris Case 21:56
just by cutting it in half, for example. Right? So it’s

Trevor Connor 21:59
really just asking you your thoughts on why that is? What is it that doesn’t apply?

Unknown Speaker 22:04
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 adaptation 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 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 finished a 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 go, Okay, we’ll just cut that in half, when elite 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 a training time, recovery time as well. So we kind of focused on those things and the nice things about you know, when you’re doing training, VO to max or your training, power lactate threshold, those are obviously we’re breaking these into intervals. And when you when you look at it from a power file standpoint, it makes it really clear how that athlete is responding to the workouts you know, you can look at the workouts, one workout to the next you can see whether the you’re getting, you know, are you seeing power gains from one workout to the next, you know quite a quite a lot of times you can see gains from one workout to the next. You can see clearly whether you’re getting the recovery bouts or whether they’re starting the workout and they’re having trouble holding that power and maybe they’re still fatigued going into the workout and they need another recovery day. If you’ve got an athlete that’s doing elite athlete who’s doing multiple days of four or 567 hours on the bike, relatively easy, moderate paced rides, when you’re looking at that power file, it’s really hard to be able to tell, Hey, are we getting the mitochondria changes from that type of workout? Well, it’s from a training structure standpoint, when you’re doing vo to training lactate threshold training, very clear, easy data to look at, and easy to understand whether you’re getting the gains or you’re not getting. Now you need to manipulate the training on that daily basis.

Trevor Connor 25:29
Right. And I do just want to take a step back and do want to point out because Chris asked you to simply can’t cut it in half, you actually literally said in the book, if an athlete has 1012 hours per week to train, you still feel that more classic approach that you take with the elite athletes is the better way to go. And you said you just cut it in half. So I think it’s important throughout this conversation, you’ve said multiple times in the book, this is not necessarily the ideal way to train, this is the ideal way to train when time is that limited.

Unknown Speaker 26:01
Absolutely. You know, it’s we coach about 2000 athletes at CTSC annually. And the vast majority of those athletes are working between six 810 hours of available trained. And so as much as we’d love to push that out, and we’d love to be able to get them in. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t, many times an athlete will have Hey, Chris, I’m going on vacation next week, and I’m going to have 16 hours to train. Great, we can cycle in some, you know, long, moderate paced endurance rides, that that we’ll see some benefits from. But you know, when they get back to the kind of the meat and potatoes of the training, it really centers around, being able to fit it in to the available time that they have to train. And as much as we’d like to do more. And we know the limits of the program, and it just doesn’t become effective, big thing is to be able to get the athletes to be able to stay in the game, you know, get them. So before they were getting dropped on the second, third Hill on the group ride, that’s hard effort. Now they’re getting over that hill, now they’re getting over the fourth, sixth Hill, and they’re actually getting to the end of the group, right? So they’re still in the game. So they’re still they’re feeling really positive about their performance. And ultimately, as a coach, that’s what you got to be looking to do.

Trevor Connor 27:30
I spoke with Jerry Berg, a highly experienced lab physiologist, continuing with what was in the research from Dudley and Larson, he raised concerns about those aerobic developments, let’s hear what he has to say.

Jared Berg 27:42
I’ve talked to a lot of other coaches too, who are sort of fallen to believing that you can sort of time crunch your way into into fitness, I’m not a big fan, I feel like that proportion of training, where you get 70 to 80% of your training, really working towards developing that sort of aerobic capacity that really challenges your slow twitch muscle fibers to really build as many you know, mitochondria as as they can as many capillary increase that capillary density as much as possible, right to you know, even encourage that sort of physiology to be able to function and you know more parasympathetic Lee not to be always sort of amped up and trying to interval and push and actually be able to get a little more, a little more relaxed sort of tone, to maybe increase that stroke volume. And I think that’s, you know, you can’t ignore that. And yes, you can, you can time crunch it for maybe, you know, six months of your athletic career and like, just focus on the intervals, the high intensity stuff and get a lot of great benefit. But then that’s my point there’s going to be diminishing return is sort of my thought, and you really need to break it out, or even in that sort of six hour week, you’re doing, you know, four and a half sort of hours of that week, are really geared towards that endurance building those sort of that lower intensity training adaptations. And then you still are left over with a couple hours of you know, potential to do some, some stuff threshold work and some threshold work and then some via to max intervals, you’re still you’re not, you’re not greatly inhibited even with that, you know, hour or less than a day, you can still get that volume plus the intervals and get the best of both worlds. Right. And so I would say that time crunch works for maybe a short time and but then But then you have going back to what our body really develops on and building all the different energy systems is where we have to cycle back to and put that focus

Ryan Kohler 30:04
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Trevor Connor 30:55
This week, again, going back to the the science as I said, I really enjoyed your chapter in the book, you are citing a lot of great studies. One of my favorites is a review by Dr. Larson, where he addresses the fact that yes, high intensity work can actually promote a robic adaptations, it does hit that PGC one Alpha pathway that leads to increase mitochondrial development. But he does point out that the way it hits that pathway, you see rapid adaptations, but they tend to plateau, where that long slow endurance work hits that pathway from a different direction and seems to have less of a limiter on it. So you recognize this in the book. But you know, I did want to ask you about this. And also you said it that that deadly study, and it said very similar sort of things that they were looking at, I think of cytochrome. C, this much earlier study, they’re probably better things to look at. But they even pointed out that first you need that lower intensity aerobic work to hit that, get that maximal cytochrome c and then the high intensity is on top of that. So I know you address this in the book. But it sounds like yes, you’re going to see some aerobic gains from this high intensity work. As you’ve pointed out, you’re going to improve that glycolytic system. But there is a cap on this. And there’s a you can only go so far. And you have to recognize that if you take this approach, is that correct?

Unknown Speaker 32:25
Yes. What we find is, the more like the VO to training, if we’re looking to whether it’s improved vo to max power, just improve your VO to those are very intense workouts. And depending upon the nature there between one minute two to four minutes in length, that cycle is usually two of those workouts within a week. Usually, you can do them in a block format, or you do on maybe Tuesday, Wednesday, we typically like to see a recovery day in between. And so we’ll do them Tuesday and Thursday, many times with through Wednesday recovery day, it doesn’t take takes probably six to eight of these workouts to really start seeing those sort of adaptations where you’re starting to see increase in higher average power over those interval sessions. But if you continue that, it kind of folds up on itself. And you’ve got to kind of back it down and go through recovery regeneration phase, because you don’t really have the base to be able to sustain and continue that longer than a six week period. By and large.

Trevor Connor 33:38
Yeah, and you pointed that out, I wish I had in front of me. But this was even a quote out of your book where you said, you start to get top heavy, and you can get crushed under your own weight. And forgive me I’m gonna go you cited in the book, one of my all time favorite studies, I had to go back and reread it before we did this recording. And, you know, again, in that deadly study, they point that out that this high intensity work, it’s going to produce oxidative adaptations in your fast twitch fibers, which is going to help that’s when you’re talking about that getting over that hill with the group as opposed to getting dropped. But they also pointed out with a lot of that high intensity, you actually see a decrease in gains and fast twitch fibers. So as you said, you’re really building those big, strong, more glycolytic fibers but not necessarily helping those big aerobic fibers. So this leads to the next question, which I know you want to talk about, which is you said this approach is great for events under three hours. But you’re going to start fading because you don’t have necessarily a well developed slow twitch fiber. So what about somebody who wants to do an event that’s longer than three hours and I know you had a couple chapters about this in the book?

Unknown Speaker 34:52
Well, first of all, you’re absolutely correct. Somebody is targeting, let’s say, more of an ultra endurance cycling. Event unbound or, you know, a lot of the events out there cycling events out there now are 200 mile events, and they’re going to be pressed on events like this. So you also want to look at, obviously, in working with an athlete like this is the nutrition plan, make sure you have a really, you’re looking at nutrition, you’re looking at the hydration plan that you have for the athletes, because these are all mistakes athletes make, not all athletes, but many athletes make. So making sure that if you’re doing these big events, and you haven’t been able to put in this nice big aerobic endurance pace, you’re going to need to make sure that you’re following a really good nutrition plan that you’ve honed down in your training, good hydration plan, because they go hand in hand together. And then when you can build in cycle in periods where an athlete could have more available training time, back down the intensity of the training, and put in more long, longer endurance. And sometimes it doesn’t take as as much training volume, as you would expect, in order to get some of that those positive aerobic adaptations, you still are having to work within the constraints that that athlete has. So they may have Okay, now they they have a week coming up, that they’re going to have 12 hours, 13 hours available to train, well, you’re also not going to want to go out and have them do the same level of intensity, those same high intensity intervals, whether it’s targeting via to max, or functional threshold power, you’re going to want to back those down. And so that you’re able to do three, four hour days, and get up to 13 hours, but you’ve backed down the intensity. So you don’t have that oxidative stress that’s occurring from those high intensity intervals. And you’re looking to hopefully get that aerobic adaptation that occurs from doing moderate paced, longer endurance style miles.

Trevor Connor 37:07
That’s actually something that I have found really valuable with my time crunched athletes, as you pointed out, you can be very effective with limited time and very targeted work. But I usually ask them as we’re doing a build up to their event, could you give me two weekends, in this 10 to 12 week period of time where you can tell the family sorry, you’re not going to see a ton of me, I’m probably gonna be a little bit grouchy, and get two days of some good aerobic work, some good endurance work. And I find that even if it’s just every six weeks, or even you can just get at once can really help to round out.

Unknown Speaker 37:47
Absolutely. And I think some of it is also not just the gains from aerobic work, the longer moderate paced aerobic rides, but it’s also that’s the perfect time to start honing in your nutrition plan with athlete, your hydration plan, and so that they go into the event. And they know exactly how much and how often and what they’re eating throughout the course of this ultra endurance event, how hydration is critical to the plan as well. So I think you also want to look at it from that standpoint, and use that time to effectively develop a good nutrition hydration plan for the athletes. And you know, it really kind of goes back to the you know, the overall training principles. One being reversibility, you know, a lot of times an athlete will start the beginning of the cycling season. And they’re coming off a big base of longer, moderate paced endurance rides, and they have this great, well developed aerobic system, they start developing, start doing more intense workouts and things like that, well will start your body, it’ll start to reverse itself, right? That reversibility principle, you’re going to start over a period of time if you’re not putting in that training, or you no longer moderate paced aerobic work, where you’re going to start to lose that over a period of time. And you see that when an athlete gets into the racing season, they’re racing having to recover from the race having to freshen up for the race, maybe there’s only really one serious training right in the week, after six or seven weeks of that their aerobic base has deteriorated pretty significantly because the reversibility that has occurred.

Trevor Connor 39:36
So I want to ask you one more question about the science behind all this before we move on. And I will tell you when I first heard about your your time crunch approach before I had read it, this was an athlete up in Toronto told me about it and said it was great and asked him what he was doing and he was doing and trust me I’ve now read and know that he completely misinterpreted your book, but he was doing intervals five days in a row during the week, which just kind of dropped my John. So this goes back to a lot of the the original research by Dr. Steven Siler, looking at the fact that intensity causes a lot of autonomic stress, it affects your nervous system. And he did a fair amount of research showing that once you start getting over three basically said two interval sessions a week is generally optimal three, you can see a little more gain, you get over that, and you’re seeing no more gain, but you’re actually pushing yourself towards overreach or even overtraining. So I was interested in your thoughts on that. But I was also very pleased when I looked at your plans to see that you never did more than three high intensity sessions a week, even in this time crunched approach,

Unknown Speaker 40:47
absolutely, we wouldn’t we wouldn’t do that I kind of make it is try to take a simple approach as possible, this high intensity training, whether it’s vo two max or threshold power, it’s powerful medicine, and you’ve got to be careful about, you know, can bring you some great gains. But there can be some side effects to it. And a lot of times, you know, this is one of the things that with an athlete who’s seen these games, and they’re really excited, wow, man, I’m now not getting dropped on that on that third on the group, right, I’m able to stay with them all the way to the end. And they just want to do more. And you’re kind of battling that, that aspect of have more is better. And it’s really, I find about too hard. Interval sessions a week is about all an athlete can handle. And then a third may be a mix, where you’re trying to tie in all the systems, maybe a group ride, where you know, it’s they’re listening via to max they’re at, they’re above it or below it or you know, over threshold or under it or at it, you know, and you’re kind of tying it all together. If you have beyond three hard sessions in a week, chances are in a relatively short period of time, that athlete is going to start being overtrained, and they’re not going to, you’re not going to have enough recovery, to have them adapt, and slowly their performance is going to start going down. And you know, one thing for many times an athlete, overtraining, they kind of confuse the symptoms, so to speak of overtraining, to under training, and they think they’re just training enough or hard enough. And they just keep doing more and more and more, it digs a hole only deep. And so you really want to make sure that what’s nice about the time crunch program is from a data standpoint, from a PowerPoint file standpoint, it’s really pretty clear when they’re doing threshold enrolls, and they’re doing vo to intervals when you’ve reached a plateau. And when you need to back it down and say, Okay, we’re done. You know, let’s just take it easy for the next 10 days, and then start building, you know, periods of just longer, moderate paced rides. Still staying in with that available training time. But it becomes very clear, when you’re doing integrals on Tuesday and Thursday, you’re no longer seeing games and that you’re you know, you’re actually now starting to see the data showing that hey, you know, this session, err, average, you know, six, seven Watts lower than the previous session, well, let’s take the next five days and just go just right easy. And then they freshen up and it’s like, okay, they’re fresh, you do another hard interval workout, you look at it, and their watts are up 10 Watts higher than they were before. Okay, now we’re back. Let’s, let’s crank it back up, and we’ll do it.

Trevor Connor 43:49
Top coach Neil Henderson has developed his own very successful approach to coaching. But we’ll deal with athletes with limited time here, Chris Carr, Michael both value the importance of recovery.

Neal Henderson 43:59
So for athletes that have a relatively low training volume, let’s just say, you know, maybe six, eight hours a week, there’s still absolutely both a need and value for including short recovery rides as part of that volume. Typically, still, at least a couple days a week of those 30, maybe up to 60 minute rides are going to provide value in accelerating the recovery process. And these are these are very important aspects. Not just kind of, like, nice to have. But these are important, especially for that person with a low training volume, because they probably work full time have family have more things going on and managing not just that physical stress, but also that mental stress can be definitely accomplished with some of these short, easy recovery spins and rides like that.

Trevor Connor 44:49
Great. So you’re saying though, or what I’m hearing from you is the timing is going to be critical. So this would be probably something you do after our day.

Neal Henderson 44:58
Yep, this is the person Perfect time, you know, and a lot of times, if you can’t get outside, you know, especially winter months, it’s harder, you know, it’s dark and cold and whatnot, just being able to jump on the trainer and kind of tune out a little bit and just recover, listen to some music or, or just kind of tune out and hit the reset button. Both a little bit of movement and some other really a relaxation, definitely important this time of year is the the days are longer. Even after that, that full day of work going out and just doing a 20 minute 30 minute easy spin will provide benefit in help speeding the recovery and putting you in a good mental headspace to

Unknown Speaker 45:37
one of the nice approaches is that data is very it speaks for itself, if you’re just looking at it, or it’s easy to know when enough is enough. The other

Trevor Connor 45:48
thing that you just hinted at a little bit, which I really appreciate it is you state very clearly in the book between these 1011 week builds, you need that four to six weeks of recovery before you do your next build. And what I really liked is you said you don’t drop the volume, you can continue to train six to eight hours a week. It’s just all low intensity. So in a kind of a strange or interesting way, you’re still getting a little bit of that that base work. And you know, that was actually the the Larson study again, his point right at the end of it was the best training is a block of high intensity after a block of just low intensity aerobic work. And in your own way, you’re finding a way to do that with time crunched athletes?

Unknown Speaker 46:38
Yeah, the key is to you’ve got to balance it with athletes schedule, you know, I mean, you’ve got to tie it into what are their goal events. One of the other advantages of the time crunch model is you can really cut down the training cycles and and make them shorter, a little more specific. It’s the old idea that, okay, we’re gonna do this periodization model, and we’re going to peak for, you know, one or two events in the year, well, you know, that that’s great, but you, you better hope you get it right. Or you’re gonna have an athlete, that’s, that’s disappointed in the event that they’ve trained, kind of six months for along the way. So I think one of the things we found with this is, we can do shorter cycles of interval training, you know, three to six weeks, followed by three to six weeks of easy moderate paced rides, and then back into this, these interval sessions, and kind of toggle that the entire cycling season, and match that up to that athletes goals and the events that they have, so that they can stay competitive from the beginning of the season, to the middle to the end of the season, as well. You got to, as I say, shorten up those cycles a bit, and have periods that they freshen back up, you’re still going to have deficiencies in athletes, overall training, and that’s going to be, you know, ultimately, in longer endurance events. That’s where you’re gonna have some deficiencies.

Chris Case 48:14
One thing I want to make sure that we cover, given our it seems like we’ve acquired this reputation as proponents of the polarized training model. It’s not untrue, we we definitely speak to those that believe in it. But we also speak to athletes that are time crunched, have limited time working dads working moms, etc. And we often get asked that very question, can I still? Or should I still use the polarized approach if I only have these six to eight hours a week? So Chris, what would you say to them?

Unknown Speaker 48:47
I would say, you know, you want to be able to pull from all the best training methods, best workouts, the things that can improve an athlete’s performance. As long as I would say the key is making sure that whatever model whatever approach whatever workouts you’re using, that you’re still following the fundamental principles training, is, as I always like to say, really, greatness is lives in the fundamentals. And, you know, it’s like one overload, you know, are we getting on an overload and then progression? You know, are we are we adding some progression into into the training, you know, is there next recovery? Is there ample recovery from a hard bout of training before you start another form of training? specificity? If you’re if you’re training for an event that has a mile and a half long climb to the finish? Well, there should be some specificity to that. Then reversibility is another turning principle and you know, as you’re doing any one particular form of training for for Over a period of time while there’s going to be some reversibility ability and other aspects of your energy systems or event demands that that will occur. individuality, have you tied this to you as an individual, you know, somebody who really from the get go, they man, they can do their three minute power, they can turn it on for three minutes. And it’s incredible. Well, you know, they may not need to do that much co2 training, you may, or may need to focus a bit more on functional threshold power. So I think as long as you’re going back and being able to apply the fundamental principles of training to any training model, then I think you’re going to be, you’re fine. Because if you’re, it’s where I find where things go wrong, is when you deviate from the fundamental principles of training.

Trevor Connor 50:57
No, I would agree with that. And actually, even though that I wouldn’t call this a polarizer, I wouldn’t call it a sweetspot approach, either. It’s its own unique approach, you do apply many of the very similar principles. And one of the things I like is you’re very judicious, you’re not saying go and destroy yourself with high intensity, as a matter of fact, and you address this in the book, you’re using high intensity to build form, but you’re keeping it limited in a given week, you might only accumulate a total of 3040 minutes of time above that lactate threshold. So if we actually, you know, just looking at I’m looking at your weeks right now, if we did this by percent of time, Dr. Seiler tended to do it by workouts. So how many workouts did you have that were high intensity workouts versus easy? And by that, no, it’s not polarized at all. But if you did it by percent of time, you would still be on your plan here spending the bulk of your time at low intensity, there’s nowhere near you’re saying, Go out and do that kind of in between feel good 90% of threshold power rides to try to up that training stress a bit.

Unknown Speaker 52:12
Yeah, no, not at all. And that’s one of the things we hear most often from athletes, when we first start working with them, it’s like, wow, feels like I’m just doing a lot of easy riding. And then you kind of walk them back through it and go, Okay, let’s take a look at what you did on Thursday. You know, let’s take a look at what you did on Tuesday, Tuesday, you spent 22 minutes at you know, basically eliciting your VO two Max, that’s a lot of time at VO two Max. But the rest of the time is just easy ride, you know, on Thursday, maybe you’re you’re spending 18 minutes, it’d be good. If you’re doing a phase of vO to max training, to to training, you really can’t handle most athletes, even elite athletes can’t handle a lot more than that. And a lot of it’s like I said, I like to look at intense training is really powerful medicine, it has side effects, it got to be careful when you apply it, you know, and when you use it, because, you know, it’s not always just sunshine, and it’s easy to kind of overdo it, I look back when I was an athlete on the 711 team. And when I was on the national team before that, and the polarized approach, you know, sort of that 8020 80% of the training you’re doing is is pretty easy, moderate 20% is pretty intense. And I look back to a lot of how we trained, and it was very much that a 20 We’d go out with a lot of long rides together two by two, all of a sudden, you know, hey, we’re coming up to a town where we need to stop and get something to eat and drink. And so we’ll crank it up for 10 Miles going into that Town team time trial training, get to the front pull as hard as you can get off sprint to get back on Sprint, when you get to the front, you know, and and, and we do that three times, and about roughly about 2030 minutes in the course of of, you know, six hours on the bike, overall, you’re in that kind of range of 20% is pretty intense 80% is really pretty moderate paced rides, you know, so I’ll say that that style of training has been around for quite a while and and has shown itself to be very effective. Now, back then we had very limited ways in which we could measure and and what we could measure and that was primarily an Avocet computer which was speed time. That was about it. I remember

Trevor Connor 54:48
those. They were fun.

Chris Case 54:52
The olden days.

Trevor Connor 54:54
As Carmichael points out, it always comes back to the principles and balance. So before we wrap up The episode let’s hear from coach and physiologist Julia young and her thoughts on the importance of sticking to the fundamentals of training. Even a time crushed athlete.

Dr. San Milan 55:09
I mean, I guess for me, it’s, you know, the time crunched athlete is always driving the ship, you know, in terms of this, sometimes people will, athletes will come and say, Well, what’s, you know, what’s the time commitment? Like, what do I need in terms of time commitment, I think it’s for me, in order to create a really positive experience and not create, like, sense of conflict is always working within the athletes time parameters. So I mean, again, for me, I try to keep it as just the same, you know, balanced approach to training. So not not more not the sense of cramming. But, you know, again, for me, there’s, it’s always important to, to maintain that off bike work, because I feel at the end of the day, that makes you functionally better on the bike. So I never like, I guess, I’m not going to be forced into shortcuts. And I think sometimes, you know, you can kind of get the sense of urgency, like, I only have this much time, but at the end of the day, it’s about consistency over time. And like, you know, helping that athlete kind of stay the course and helping, you know, the time they do have maximizing that time. So, I always ask those time crunched athletes to go into training piece and just, you know, put availability, and that, you know, that may be the same from week to week, or typically, it’s not the same, and there’s, you know, variation. So, you know, we’re not when I’m correcting a plan, just working around, like, the time they have available and making the most of that time. And then, you know, just I think to a lot of the athletes, I’m sure, Trevor, the athletes you train, a lot of the athletes I train are very type A. And so it’s, it’s kind of an all or nothing. And I think also helping athletes understand like something is better than nothing. And so like, if we can make those small deposits during the week of 20 minutes of if that stability, or 30 minutes where you can get out and run like that then sets you up for those times, like maybe on the weekend, where you have more time just mentally and physically, you know, you’re not just throwing your, your body through this roller coaster. So that’s that’s really the approach I try to take.

Chris Case 57:15
Well, Chris, we you’ve not been on the program before, but we do like to close out every episode giving our guests and ourselves a minute, only a minute to wrap up, give us the the most important take home. So I’ll turn it over to you to start. What is the most important message people should take from our discussion today?

Unknown Speaker 57:35
Probably first would be just make sure your training has a real focus, you know, what, what are you? What are you doing it? And what do you want to gain. For the time crunch program, we focus on increasing vo two max or we focus on increasing power lactate threshold or functional threshold power, however you want to say it. Those are the two things that would that we focus on in, we try to create, we have devices that allow us to collect data to monitor to measure it, and then to be able to manipulate it. So I would say just just make sure you’re asking yourself, what’s the reason why you’re training? And what do you want to gain from?

Chris Case 58:18
Yeah, I think I would follow that up with it. Maybe saying the same thing with a different word, but setting those expectations of what this can do and what compromises you’re, you’re making, what it’s limited by. But I’d also say the thing we stress on this show often, and we addressed it multiple times today is the fact that more isn’t always better. You know, you see these gains, they happen quickly. You get into this cycle where you think okay, well, if that if two a week is good, then three must be better, and four must be better. But that’s not the case. And we’ve we’ve certainly addressed that many times on the show and here today. So that that’s the cautionary aspect. Trevor, what would you say?

Trevor Connor 58:58
Well, as as I said during the episode, my first exposure ever to your time crunch approach was a misinterpretation from an athlete up in Toronto who was just killing himself every single day, and telling me he was following your plan. So at first I was like, Oh my God, what are they doing? What is this book gonna do to people? Yeah, but then I read it. And what really impressed me is the amount of science behind this. And in particular, you backup why if somebody has six hours per week, this is the way they’re going to get the best gains and be competitive. And I really appreciate that. You say, yeah, if you have 14 hours per week, we can make you a much stronger, better cyclist, but not everybody has 14 hours per week. So here is with that very limited time, the way we can make your best. Right.

Chris Case 59:49
Excellent. Thank you, Chris, for joining us.

Unknown Speaker 59:52
Absolutely. My pleasure. Enjoyed it. Thank you.

Chris Case 59:56
That was another episode of fast talk. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer To find your favorite podcasts and be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast doc are those of the individual. As always, we’d love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums dot fast talk to discuss each and every episode and become a member of fast talk laboratories at fast Doc To become a part of our education and coaching community for Chris Carmichael when aka Brody, Jared Berg, Julie young Neil Henderson and Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening

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