Why Balance and Timing Are the Secrets to Peak Performance

Is more better? We explore how our bodies adapt to training and why the right amount of stress at the right times is a far better way to train than going hard all the time.

Balance Scales from Fast Talk Podcast Why Balance and Timing Are the Secrets to Peak Performance

Today we discuss our culture of believing more is better. If a little bit of something is good for you, then a lot is great. Or, as I like to say, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing. Often this thought process is applied to training.  If a little bit of high intensity training makes us strong, then doing it every day will make us unstoppable.  

In today’s episode, we’re going to dispel this more-is-better philosophy and talk about why it is actually in opposition to how our physiology works and most importantly, how we adapt. At the very core of physiology is a principle called “homeostasis.” which describes how our bodies are always trying to maintain equilibrium or balance. The classic example is body temperature – our body typically works maintains a core temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, despite our environment, clothing, and activity.  

But it is not easy for our bodies to keep these equilibriums. The body has to work hard to maintain that consistent temperature. Think of homeostasis as a scale that is under constant stressors that tip it one way and then the other. Our bodies constantly respond to those “tips”, working to get the scale back into balance and never letting it tip so far that it falls over. That is the essence of homeostasis.  

When we train, we are essentially playing with that scale. Tip it an appropriate amount and the body will adapt to restore homeostasis, balance. Stress it too far and the body can’t restore balance, Falling into overtraining.  This is why more-is-better is counter-productive when it comes to training.  

Effective training is instead a carefully timed game of playing with that homeostatic balance.  

Since this is a summary episode, we’re going to include clips from several past episodes of world-class athletes, coaches and physiologist talking about balance, timing and adaptation including Brent Bookwalter, Joe Friel, Sepp Kuss, Dr. Inigo San Millan, George Bennett, Ruth Winder, Tim Cusick, Larry Warbasse, and Dr. Stephen Seiler

So, plant you feet, hold on, 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 pickles with my usual partner in crime Trevor Connor, but also someone special grant Hall lucky house specialist grant so special that we’ve decided to make him a regularly recurring special guest. Today we discuss our culture of believing more is better. If a little bit of something is good for you than a lot is great. Or as I like to say if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing. Often this thought process is applied to training. If a little bit of high intensity training makes us strong than doing it every day will make us unstoppable. In today’s episode, we’re going to dispel this more is better philosophy and talk about why it’s actually in opposition to how our physiology works. And most importantly, how we adapt. At the very core of physiology is a principle called homeostasis, which describes how our bodies are always trying to maintain equilibrium or balance. The classic example is body temperature. Our body typically works to maintain a core temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, despite our environment, clothing and activity, but it’s not easy for our bodies. To maintain this equilibrium, the body has to work hard to maintain that consistent temperature. Think of homeostasis as a scale that’s under constant stress that tips it one way and then the other. Our body constantly responds to those tips, working to get the scale back into balance and never letting it tip so far that it falls over. That is the essence of homeostasis. When we train we are essentially playing with that scale tippet in appropriate amount and the body will adapt to restore homeostasis. Stress it too far and the body can’t restore the balance falling into overtraining. This is why more is better is often counterproductive when it comes to training. Effective training is instead a carefully timed game of playing with that homeostatic balance. Since this is a summary episode we’re going to include clips from several past episodes of world class athletes, coaches and physiologist talking about balance timing and adaptation. Those include Brent Bookwalter, Joe Friel, Sepp Coase, Dr. innego, Santa Milan, George Bennett, Ruth winder, Tim Cusick, Larry war bass and Dr. Steven Siler. So plant your feet, hold on, and let’s make you fast.


Trevor Connor  02:39

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Trevor Connor  03:03

Well, welcome back to another episode of fast talk. This is one of my favorite types of episodes. And this is going to be a little bit different because typically, it has been Christus asking me questions. Now we’ve got three of us, and all of us can actually talk to this subject. So it’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be different. But this is one of our summary episodes. So we are about to talk about a whole bunch of stuff you’ve heard before. As a matter of fact, we’re pulling in a bunch of clips from past episodes. But this is really diving into a theme or a message that we feel has something we’ve been trying to communicate, and just want to take an episode and really dive into it and hit this particular theme. So our theme for today is talking about the importance of balance and timing. And we’re going to take a little bit of a different approach to it. So hopefully, this is going to be fun. Let’s start by talking about the opposite of balance, which is something that is pretty big in our culture, particularly big in training. And I’m looking at Grant kennish, not in his head gun. Yep. This whole concept of more is better.


Grant Holicky  04:17

Yeah, I mean, I think unfortunately, a lot of our sport is built around this mentality of more is better. And especially when I guess I can speak to all of us in this room when we grew up, there is a timeframe where more was incredibly better in the 80s and 90s. This is how we dealt with training and cycling this how we dealt with training, swimming, running everything. We just threw more people saw what they could handle and who was left was fast. And everybody else might have been broken. A little


Rob Pickels  04:45

self selection on that one. Yeah, right. Yeah. Find the responders there. Grant. It’s funny when you when you said us growing up in the 80s and the 90s. More is better. My immediately mind went to candy actually, it was funny. I was really surprised when you went with training. And yeah, but a lot of people do have this mindset that anything that’s worth doing is worth overdoing, right?


Grant Holicky  05:05

Or under doing right. I mean, you can still go back to that timeframe and say, okay, eliminate all the fat from your diet, eliminate all this from your diet, eliminate all that from your diet. And so the same thing comes into training, like you can’t eliminate everything, and you can’t get rid of everything, kind of that middle ground of everything.


Trevor Connor  05:23

Yeah, but I’m gonna put the Connor nutritionist aside, pump the brain, we are talking about candy Moore’s always, always better. If you are on the couch having a heart attack with a headache, more keen to have more GST.


Grant Holicky  05:38

That works for me,


Rob Pickels  05:40

it’ll, it’ll lessen the problem sooner


Trevor Connor  05:43

do I actually have to put a disclaimer on that.


Grant Holicky  05:46

That’s up to you now.


Trevor Connor  05:49

So let’s actually start right here with one of our first clips. This is Brent Bookwalter, from Episode 175 talking about, it’s about balance. And he actually addresses his fact that more is not necessarily better. So let’s hear from him now



as much is cycling as a sport, where your hard work and your commitment, and then the amount of you push yourself and the money do does yield benefit. Without a doubt there’s a point when it goes the other way and actually starts to hurt you in some ways, it is a little bit of a no pain, no gain sport, because you’re not going to get better out just by sitting on your couch, or you’re not going to get better just by by doing easy rides all the time. But um, just as much as it’s a sport of moderation and knowing when to say when it isn’t just about, the more you can do, the better you’ll be otherwise, you know, I don’t think it would be as as unique and as beautiful as the sport and each person ultimately, regardless of the coaches you have, or the support in our review that ultimately it’s your responsibility to figure out how all those pieces come together and what’s going to make the best.


Trevor Connor  07:01

So I actually want to take a bit of a different approach of explaining why this concept of more is better is actually a bad idea and training. And to me, this gets at pretty much the fundamental principle of physiology, which is homeostasis. So homeostasis is this idea that our bodies tried to keep most things in a tight range type bounce. So it tries to regulate a particular body temperature doesn’t like go into far above doesn’t like go into far below, it tries to keep your different levels, sodium, potassium, all your different electrolytes at a particular level, you can talk about almost anything in the body and the body likes to keep this particular level and it can be pushed one way or the other. But your body’s always going to try to get back to what’s called homeostasis. So Rob, you had a really interesting way of describing this, when we were talking about this episode, which is thinking about like a


Rob Pickels  07:54

scale. Yeah, Trevor, you know, it’s very much a balance, it’s kind of like a scale that could be tipping sort of back and forth, right. And what people don’t necessarily always remember is how actively the body is maintaining this homeostasis, I think that we all assume that it’s just this natural thing that sort of happens, oh, I eat too much sodium, then I pee out a little bit of extra, it’s a very natural thing. But really, it takes a lot of energy because the body is actively trying to maintain this balance that we’re talking about.


Trevor Connor  08:23

So when you look at more is better in the context of homeostasis, that concept is almost the antithesis of homeostasis is basically saying we’re not trying to keep balanced at all, we’re trying to just tip that scale more and more and more. And the issue is, at some point, if it’s too much, the homeostasis is going to break.


Grant Holicky  08:43

Right. And I think one of the things that gets dangerous about this is remember that there’s something to do with homeostasis that keeps us in line, right. So as we load, we may feel good under load. There’s a reason in the fourth day of the stage race, people put out all time power numbers, they’re in that groove, and they’re rolling and everything feels good. That’s part of the body freaking out trying to hold everything in line. But that scale is getting a little heavier and a little heavier on that one side. And you never know when that next piece tips the scales completely.


Rob Pickels  09:15

Well, I think that the problem that happens, right is the body realizes and we’re doing an anthropomorphism in some regards, right? I don’t know if you realize this, per se. But you know, the body realizes that, hey, you know what the load in the stress, it’s just going up and it’s going up and it’s going up. And there is no way that I’m going to be able to actively pull this back. So what does the body do? It begins to shut things down. Right, right, your max heart rate comes down, you begin limiting your workload, your carbohydrates don’t get depleted. You can’t do the workloads or the volume or anything anymore, that keeps pushing you out of balance like this. It’s proactively preventing you from overloading but when you get to that point, you’re pretty deep there.


Grant Holicky  09:55

Yeah, and you didn’t know it. And that’s one of the things that’s important for us to talk about you probably don’t know it until it’s too late.


Trevor Connor  10:03

And this is probably a really good place, we have a great quote from Dr. Hugo saw Milan, this is from Episode 205, where he talks about what happens when you’re putting too much of the stress in your body that it causes his release of cortisol and can lead to inflammation. And that’s getting out of homeostasis. That’s the effect of trying to do too much. So let’s hear from now.


Dr. San Milan  10:26

Yeah, so that’s a great point, too. So one of the things is like, yeah, that you might have some hormonal imbalances, right, so and disruption. So for example, the precursor right of protein laces, which is protein breakdown, is cortisol. So this is one of the parameters or biomarkers that we see in athletes who have very high levels of cortisol is a hormone that responds to both psychological and physiological stress. So when an athlete is not mentally stressed, but you see very high levels of cortisol, that athletes, it’s breaking down more protein than normal, probably, and then you look at the anabolic side of it, which is testosterone. So you look at the ratio. And many times you see athletes with very low testosterone levels, because they have to keep replenishing, replenishing the catabolic effects, right of cortisol and lack of energy while training. So that’s where you start getting that catabolic profile of the athletes. And that takes them to a different layer, which is more inflammation, right? So the inflammation that we see when when you have muscle breakdown, you end up with muscle micro tears and muscle damage, not seen as an injury, right. But you can see muscle damage. And there are multiple research studies on these right for decades, with muscle biopsies, looking at disruptions in the muscle structure. But we can we can see these inborn analysis and biomarkers. And the thing is, too is that the physiological mechanism to repair or one of the physiological mechanisms to repair muscles is inflammation. How many times I have seen a blot analysis and someone’s cortisol levels are off the chart, right? And obviously, the first thing is, oh, my God, you’ve trained too much, right? And like they used to have seen like, no, actually this person is not training more than five hours a week or so. But then you see like, Whoa, that person is going through enormous mental stress, or, or maybe some events, right? They go through some drama, you know, or some, you know, dramatic situation in their life. No, or a stressful day. Yeah, sure that that that alone, you know, it’s going to take cortisol off the chart, and it’s going to interfere with recovery with the anabolic catabolic balance, right. And therefore, you’re have a lot more chances to become overtraining.


Trevor Connor  12:43

So here’s what’s important. What we’re ultimately trying to do here is adapt. So adapt means your body responds to the training by getting fitter, getting stronger, taking whatever you throw at and say, I’m now going to make you a better athlete. That’s adaptation. And I do think sometimes we don’t quite understand what adaptation is what it means.


Rob Pickels  13:05

Yeah, so you know, if we go back to that homeostasis principle, you add a little extra challenge on to the body, right, maybe you spend some time climbing up a hill, and it’s hard, your body doesn’t necessarily like that. You do it once, and nothing really changes, right? Because your body has no reason to change. But you go out and you do those workouts in a fairly consistent manner. And your body says, Hey, this is the new norm, I better adapt, because I don’t want to be out of balance. So you make the physiological changes that you have to maybe it’s more mitochondria or something else. But that is again, part of the balance, because you need to do that in the appropriate way, right, where enough stimulus for change is worthwhile, and the body is able to quote unquote, adapt to that and make that the new norm make that the new balance.


Grant Holicky  13:52

Right now, every time we’re loading the body, right, we load it in different ways. We can load it with volume, we can load it with stress, and how do we layer those things to make sure that we’re loading enough, but at the same time, not overloading, right. And so we come back to this idea of how does then recovery fit in? How do we use recovery in order to adapt? Recovery itself is not adaption recovery is a way to help the body adapt?


Trevor Connor  14:24

Yeah, Grant actually really glad that you brought that up, because I think sometimes people do actually mistake the concept of adaptation and recovery. So let’s actually throw in right here. This is from Episode 82. A conversation we have with Joe Friel, where he talked about, he has a whole chapter in his book explaining that adaptation and recovery are not the same thing.


Joe Friel  14:48

Late in the book I talked about, I actually kind of throwing a curveball there, based on what we just talked about, and that was discussion about recovery versus deputation. In that they’re not the same thing. And that sometimes it’s better for an athlete to be very open ended about their, about the recovery process which now being taken to mean to include a deputation. And sometimes plans don’t do that sometimes athletes don’t know how they’re going to feel when they get to a certain point in the season. They just haven’t experienced what they’re planning to do. And when they get there, they discover the load is much greater than they thought it was going to be. Now, what do they do? Do they continue on to the press ahead with the same plan? Or do they make changes to it because of what they’re experiencing. And my point in this in that later chapter, where I talk about recovering a deputation is that the most important thing is that application is not recovery, the most important things a deputation, that’s the reason why we train is to adapt, if you didn’t adapt, or if the hell would be the reason for going out there doing workouts. And express to explain that, for example, the difference between recovery and adaptation, there’s lots of research showing that hot and cold alternating inversions for Bas, speed up recovery, there’s not a single research study that shows it speeds up adaptations. So you may feel like you’re recovered, because you’ve done certain things you’ve used when you got a massage, or you’re doing all these things that we all know about. But that doesn’t mean you’re adapted your body. We don’t know right now, we don’t know if any way to speed up the adaptive process. It’s a biological phenomenon, which, which is really beyond what we know about sports science right now. But it’s at the heart of what we’re talking about here. And so the issue is that you’ve got to be able to differentiate these two terms, recovering it adaptation, and not be focused just on recovery, but also realize you’ve got to give your body a chance to, to adapt. And so what does that mean? Well, that means, especially sleep, which is when hormones kick in, and the body actually goes through the process of becoming stronger, if you will. And so even though I’ve talked about having a plan, I’m now at toward the end of both talking about how you’ve got to be ready to deviate from that plan, because of the need to, to adapt, as opposed to simply recover. So I tried to do I tried to sneak that end toward the end, because I wanted to push the athletes reader to understand that all these other things are important. But this now becomes one of the most important things you have to also give consideration to how are you adapting.


Grant Holicky  17:28

So let’s talk a little bit more about damage, quote, unquote, damage what we’re doing to the body when we’re training. So when we’re loading, right, this is what we’re talking about when we’re doing damage. And so you can do a ton of volume that’s going to do damage, like I said, or you can do a ton of intensity, and that’s going to cause damage. But this idea as damage as a good thing, it’s probably something we want to dive into a little bit more.


Rob Pickels  17:52

Yeah, and I think that the word damage even though it’s a common thing for people to say, we really need to understand what that is, right? Because I think that damage suggests maybe something more severe than what the body actually needs. If you think about it, ultimately, what we need is stress, and maybe the load the mechanical load that you’re having causes little micro tears in the muscle, maybe it depletes your carbohydrate, right, but it puts the body ultimately in a compromised situation. And that’s really the quote unquote, damage that we’re talking about here. If we go too deep on the damage, then we’re talking about something that’s completely different.


Trevor Connor  18:29

And I think, again, going back to this whole concept of homeostasis, what you’re trying to do to get these adaptations is to stress homeostasis. And it has to be sufficient stress. So if you push it a little bit, and your body can get back into homeostasis, your body goes fine, I could handle that. If you get out of the range to where as you’re saying, to get back into homeostasis, or before the body can get back into homeostasis, damage is done to the body. Body goes, That’s not good. I wasn’t able to maintain homeostasis. So I need to do something about that. So at the next time, I keep it within the ranges.


Grant Holicky  19:04

Yeah, and I want to come back to this idea of the scales, right. I really like how this plays out. Because you can load that scale, load that scale, load that scale, and you’re loading one side with training or stress, and your body’s loading the other side to bring you back to that balance, right. So what you want to do is you want to actively tip that scale. So it’s pretty low and your body’s going to have to react. But if you throw so much on and that scale slams down onto the floor, that’s when you’ve probably gone too far. So there’s that sweet spot.


Trevor Connor  19:36

I agree. So it’s this concept of challenge or stress. So as you said it’s tip the scale a little bit, but don’t break it. You don’t want the scale to fall over and I actually think this is a good place. We got a great clip from some step coos that we’ve actually never put on the episode before talking about this idea of don’t destroy yourself in intervals and you get this mindset of do a little bit of damage. But don’t break the scales.


Sepp Kuss  20:04

I guess going back a bit to, like a single day within within the block. For me, I, it’s really you don’t want to feel shattered, you know, I think you want to feel like, yeah, I could have pushed 10% 20% More that day. But you need to also think about two days down the road, you know, two weeks down the road, because a lot of the times depending on the session, or how long it is, you know, just going a bit over doing a bit more when when you’re on a, on a good day, you can really feel it later on. So I’d say for me, it’s keeping every day at at its hardest, you know, at at 80%. At the end of the day, you know, where you still feel like you could, you know, go out to dinner with, with your friends or something and not not have your head on the table falling asleep. And then for I guess at the end of let’s say, like a two two week training block. I think the accumulation of all those days, all those days where you’re training hard, but you still feel like you have something extra I think, the accumulation of that by the end of the block. You should feel Yeah, maybe maybe 90% At the end of the year limit. But still, most importantly, mentally fresh, but ready for a rest, I guess but yeah, there’s there’s so many variables that depend on where, where you are in the training of the training cycle, how close your, your nearest races, things like that. I think in training, I focus quite a lot on the on the numbers, the power? Yeah, I’d say I study it quite a bit, you know, and see see how it is relative to what I’ve done in the past, you know, or times on the climbs power on some more clients I’ve done before, you know how it’s going to relate to the next race? I’m doing things like that. But yeah, I think in terms of the recovery aspect, I’m I don’t really yet at least haven’t bought into the, you know, the the kind of metrics they have now for recovery and things like that. Measuring like if you’re ready to train the next day that that kind of thing I haven’t really bought into yet for whatever reason, maybe it’s just the the cycling in the moment is my numbers time and everything outside is not. But yeah, I think that would be a bit of information overload for me.


Rob Pickels  22:30

You know, I’m really glad that set brought up that concept. And I’m especially glad that it was a rider of his level, because this concept of not destroying yourself during intervals is important for everyone at all levels. And the reason for that is oftentimes we think of the workout just solely for itself. And we never worry about what tomorrow is what later in the week is what next week is. And all of those things become additive. So, you know, forgetting everything else and blowing yourself up today, it’s probably pushing yourself a little bit too hard. All of this talk about homeostasis is really leading to two great topics that we should talk about that are important to this right. And that’s going to be balance and timing and the combination how they work together.


Trevor Connor  23:14

Rob, that was incredibly well said it was almost as if we pause the episode and you wrote that,


Rob Pickels  23:19

except I didn’t read what I wrote, I told you man, if I say it, it flies out of my head, if I write something down, I don’t have to read it. It sticks there. It’s not the trick. It’s the trick, write it down, you should write it down. That’s your balance,


Grant Holicky  23:34

I have a lot of things I gotta write. Now, I have a lot of tricks.


Trevor Connor  23:37

So when you look at all this, when you look at adaptation, when you look at the issues with this more is better concept in the context of homeostasis, our body is trying to stay in homeostasis. This brings up two really important concepts to training, which is any good coach is really thinking about these when they’re building a training plan. And that’s balance and timing, right? Because


Grant Holicky  24:02

otherwise, what we’re doing is we’re just throwing things, you know, we’re just load load load load load. And does that load appropriate in February? Is that load appropriate at the end of the week? Is that load appropriate when we have a race in two weeks? How do we use the stress? Where do we put the body slightly out of balance because if you put it out of balance, too close to a race, it’s not going to get itself back to homeostasis before that race comes in. Or if you do that, too early in the season graded adapts and you’re unbelievably fast. But and this is where my expertise comes into the puzzle. But how long can you mentally keep yourself in that spot where you’re willing to push the body recover, push the body recover all those pieces of the puzzle. So how we do this and where we do this becomes really the art of coaching.


Rob Pickels  24:53

And I think that this balance concept, right? It is applying across the entire annual training plan, right? It doesn’t mean I mean symmetry, it doesn’t mean constant. That’s not what we’re talking about with balance, it doesn’t mean the same volume in the same intensity every single day. Even though that looks very balanced in a chart, I actually love sort of stuff like this, I don’t find beauty in symmetry, so to say, I find beauty in this sort of asymmetrical balance. And if you were to sort of graph out, and I wish that I could show you this in my mind, but you know, maybe on the left side of your annual training plan, there’s so much volume, but so little intensity, right? That is sort of one load. But on the right side, your volume is probably down your intensity is probably up. Even though the graph almost sort of flips, there’s still balance in there. Even though it looks a little asymmetric, if you just take one part.


Trevor Connor  25:43

Another really important thing to understand about balance is we have a lot of balances. So we’ve talked about the balance between stress and recovery, Rob just brought up balance between intensity and going easy. If all you’re ever doing is going hard, that gets you out of balance that starts breaking homeostasis. But if all you ever doing was going easy, you’re also going to be disappointed.


Grant Holicky  26:05

And I think this takes us to the point where we have to look beyond just training, right? We have to look at the rest of our lives as well. We have to get in this place to say, what’s going on with our work life. And this is incredibly important for Masters athletes. And I think this is where people kind of miss the boat. We look at what pros are doing well, yeah, pro goes for a four hour ride, they go home, they eat the recovery shake, they eat a meal, but sit on the couch, take a nap. They do whatever. I come home from a four hour and I’ve got two kids. And I’ve got to record a podcast with you to yokels. And then I’ve got to do this. And I’ve got to do that. So how do we balance all of those pieces of the puzzle? That’s incredibly important. And this brings us to timing to when’s the family vacation coming up? So how do we do the load leading in the family vacation, all of those pieces of the puzzle are incredibly important.


Trevor Connor  26:55

Yeah, and this is a really good place to bring in another clip from Dr. Sam Milan from Episode 205, where he talks about that he was focusing on recovery versus stressors that balanced but broad in life, mental stress is also a stressor. And you have to factor those in and get to this idea that if you have enough stressors in your life, eight hours a week of training can actually push you into overtraining. So let’s hear from him now.


Dr. San Milan  27:22

Yeah, well, as you said, very well, we focus too much, or the right amount of time, right on training and bioenergetics and nutrition, and different training zones, etc. Right. But yeah, I think it’s great not to focus also on recovery, which is an area that many times is overlooked by many people out there. And it’s absolutely key, because that recovery period is we’re going to you’re going to simulate and super compensate. And many of these metabolic stressors are elicited by training, they need to be completed in the recovery phase. But we we have to always or I try to always to keep in mind that training and competition is both physiological and metabolic, in even mental stress on the body, right. And that’s what’s going to elicit multiple responses to improve. But again, you know, without proper recovery, it is not going to be possible to optimize those stressors, elicited by exercise. That’s why recovery, it’s a big deal. And at least you know, overall, this 26 years working with athletes to knee recovery, and monitoring their recovery, as we’re going to speak about recovery is not just going to take a nap or go to leap eight hours, right? There are many more areas that this has been as big as training, to me at least.


Trevor Connor  28:43

So what would you say? I mean, a lot of our listeners obviously are not pros, they’re not training six hours a week and and I’ve heard this from people where they’ll say, I don’t go out and do six hour rides, I don’t train 30 hours a week. I’m just doing one, two hours. So it’s stressful, but it’s not that stressful on my body, my body can handle it. So I don’t need to take recovery days, what would your response to them be?


Dr. San Milan  29:04

Yeah, is like your right eye, the response will be like, you can really get over train and fatigue, even if you train over six hours a week, or seven hours a week. And I do it myself, right? I you know, most of us are very busy with a lot going on. And we try to squeezing time from work or family or multiple things that we might be doing. And we might not be able to do more than eight hours. Right? But it is that our regular activities that might interfere with our training. So, you know, it happens to me that, you know, when I have, for example, a very stressful week or a very busy week, I might go out for an hour and have right and I’m dead. Right and that might be just my second day of the week. And so yeah, so that’s what I knew like well how in the world I’m I’m overtraining or fatigue, right when I’m just doing an hour and a half and last week I only trained three days or four days and I know out over an hour and a half any of the days. So either intuitively you think there’s no way I’m overtraining or fatigued. But yes, you are. Because, you know, like you have so many stressors or so many things in life that interfere with your exercise, that even a small dose of exercise can, can be difficult to overcome.


Rob Pickels  30:19

So this whole topic of balance that we’ve been going through it important thing to remember is that balance is dynamic. It’s not static, it’s not just us standing with our two feet flat on the ground, it’s almost like riding a balance board, right? That’s rolling back and forth underneath you, as you’re swaying, you’re constantly finding that balance point, you’re never standing completely still. But if you keep it sorted within the bounds, you can always pull it back, lean too far, let that board get too far away from you. And suddenly it shoots out from underneath. And that’s a concept that Bennett talked about back in episode 82, when he was talking about needing to push to the edge. And if you go too far, everything goes wrong.


Brent Bookwalter  31:01

Yeah, I think from my experience of applying heavy loads of training to the body, whether it be in training or in racing, is that the immune system is deeply deeply rooted. And in that process, and that response. And you know, without a doubt, there’s this breakdown and vulnerability that I feel like does a cure occur with the immune system. And, and often during those periods of heavy race or training load, it’s like, we’re, I’m really riding that razor wire of being so close to being sick or falling apart. But also, just about in really, really good condition really in top form. And I think the the signals and signs, you know, can be confusing, I think, if I just look at my one of the most recent races, I’ve done this spring and train or Adriatico, that was the first that was without a doubt, you know, the biggest load that I’ve had in my body up to this point in the year. And by the end of the race it if I felt like I was almost getting sick, it was muscle soreness, that was so much more intense. So I was a little achy, my stomach was kind of acidic and hard Bernie not really working right, but didn’t really feel like I was sick. And then, you know, do the travel home, getting the airport exposed myself to who knows what viruses and bacteria on the way home. And then the next day, you know, full blown gastro bug puking and aching, just really a mess. So I think that’s a good example of it. And we see that see that time and time again. And it’s something that needs to be definitely respected in the process. And you know, another reason to have a coach and a pilot and someone that’s going to oversee you and your progression. So you can control the controllables as much as you can during those training phases.


Trevor Connor  32:44

So you’re saying often they go hand in hand, wherever you’re coming on to really good form and you feel those symptoms of being sick? Do you find there’s a line? Do you know when to say okay, I’ve done enough? I don’t I shouldn’t do any more here?


Brent Bookwalter  32:57

Yeah, it’s a fine line. Like I said, it is there is a line. But it’s, oh, it’s blurry. And it’s vague and gray and confusing. I think, you know, most of us as athletes, we’re, we’re committed and we’re focused, and we’re ambitious. And the last thing you want to do is void or stop that progression. It’s almost like an addiction you get, you get into a training cycle. And you’re just sort of, you know, manically just chewing through the training and look into the next day, look into the next day look into the next day. And the worst thing that I can fathom is stopping that progression or having a little hiccup a road bump. And, you know, if I usually if I get a little perspective, from someone outside the situation, they’ll be like, well, of course, like, you know, take rain it back a day, let’s pull it in, take a day easy, what are you going to lose in a day. And logically and methodically, it makes a lot of sense. But the component of us of an athlete that makes us get a lot of times is the same one that helps us or, you know, prohibits us from from letting go and detaching and sort of stopping that. So there’s a line and finding that is a bit of the art, I guess, of training and the art of staying healthy and, and finding that sort of magical peak condition that we’re always looking for.


Trevor Connor  34:07

But you’re saying there’s no magical formula for finding that balance. And it’s sometimes hard for athletes to recognize it because the nature of being a good athlete makes you want to push through it. Is that accurate?


Brent Bookwalter  34:19

Yeah, most definitely. There’s, there’s no, there’s no magic formula. And I don’t believe there’s any training graph number that can tell you that I think like I said that it really is that is the that is sort of the art and the mastery of training in the pursuit of your performance excellence. That’s, that’s something I’ve been doing this for a long time. Now. This is my 12th year racing as a professional and I still don’t have this master. And this is something I’m doing full time every day. It’s it’s part of that pursuit and that that yeah, pursuit of mastery in the training and the preparation and the execution of performance that is just something that has to be continually worked on and home And as best you can.


Rob Pickels  35:07

Listeners, we hope that you have enjoyed today’s conversation on balancing high and low intensity. For more on high intensity training, easy rides and recovery, visit fast Doc labs.com. We offered dozens of articles and videos on training zones, recovery techniques, and an entire deep dive pathway on cycling interval training, take a look at Bastok labs.com.


Trevor Connor  35:37

So this brings us back to something that’s really important for me that I would like to discuss, because I think a lot of people struggle with this. So this is, if you think of one place where people really get into that more is better mentality. It’s that high intensity work that hit work. If I’m just doing two interval sessions a week, that’s good. But if I do for a week, if I do five a week, that’s really, really good. And that’s where I think you’re taking that one side of the scale and just pulling it down and pulling it down. And if you keep doing that, eventually it’s just going to take the whole scale down. So that is why we’re always saying, Yeah, you need that hit work. It’s a really powerful stressor, a single workouts, going to stress that homeostasis. But this is where you need to have that balance, you need to pull the scale down, use some hit work to do that. But then you need that easy writing, then you need that recovery, to let the scale come back up to let the body get back into homeostasis.


Grant Holicky  36:38

Yeah, I think this is a really important piece. Because I mean, all of us in this room are different coaches, right, we’re going to tend towards different things, not a coach, the two of us that are coaches in this room can be the one who likes to


Trevor Connor  36:49

read about this stuff out loud.


Grant Holicky  36:53

So the point here is that, you know, there’s a bunch of different ways to go at this, obviously, you have people that are more sweetspot inclined or a little bit more volume inclined, I happen to be more of an intensity inclined coach is just who I am. But this is where it’s so important to make sure that the recovery days are built in and then as an athlete, having an understanding of what your coach is trying to do. So that if there’s an interval session Tuesday, and then a longer kind of interval style session Wednesday, and you’ve got an easy ride and the schedule on Thursday, you need to go easy. You need to really pay attention to what the limits are. I’ve made jokes a lot people go do I need a power meter? And I said, Yes, you need a power meter. But I want that power meter more for the easy days than what you’re doing on the hard days. Because here’s your ceiling. Right, keep it below that.


Rob Pickels  37:44

Yeah, you know, and I think that this concept grant, like you’re talking about things work within a system because they’re balanced within that system. And, you know, I can think of an example, a few years back, I was working with a top American cyclist who had some success, previously a lot of success. In fact, that’s the best in the country. But they were losing it and scrambling to try to get that back. And they were consulting with a lot of different people and trying to take parts of one person and combine it with parts of a different plan. And it just wasn’t working because it doesn’t work that way. Your high intensity sort of program grant can work when it’s balanced within your system, but tried to take grants high intensity workouts and put them into Trevor’s you know, program. But maybe that’s not balanced. Maybe that doesn’t work anymore. Yeah.


Grant Holicky  38:30

And I think that’s why it’s so important to really understand what your coach is trying to do. And make sure that that fits with what you want to do. And I mean, you’ve got to believe in it, and you’ve got to buy into it. Because then it’s really easy to get on that easy day and just put no pressure on the pedals. Like I always joke that I can’t believe people don’t enjoy easy days. It’s awesome. You’re outside, you’re doing 80 Watts and looking at the mountains roll with it, man.


Trevor Connor  38:56

The biggest feedback I get uneasy days is what is the value of those, I don’t get it. I’m not doing anything stressful. And I agree on an easy ride, you are not stressing homeostasis. So the issue is looking at that out of context. So it’s again talking about these scales. Yes. If all you ever do is go out and do easy one hour rides, you’re not going to be a very fit. Absolutely, absolutely. Let’s think about these scales. You do that high intensity work, you do that big hard work that really stresses, it pushes the one side of the scale down. That easy ride is what helps bring the scale back up. You need that push and pull of the two. And that’s where the easy ride is really valuable. If you’re not doing that hit work. And all you’re doing is easy, right? I agree. You’re not winning any races, you’re not going to get very fit. You have to look at the two together and they are pushing and pulling that scale.


Rob Pickels  39:48

And for clarity. I just want to make sure when you guys are saying easy rides, you’re not talking about three hours of bass, you’re talking about more of an active recovery ride. It’s short, the workload is low. Maybe you could have just sat in the car out instead. That’s what you’re saying with easy? Yeah, absolutely,


Grant Holicky  40:03

absolutely. Like just really barely turning over the pedals. I’ve got guys that’ll go for 90 minutes, and they’ve got a 20 Tss at the end of that 90 minutes. Like that’s impressive. On the other side of the scale, right?


Trevor Connor  40:16

So I love where I have one day you go out, you do a two hour ride to get 120 Tss go out the next day, you do an hour and a half ride and you get the 2025 Tss.


Grant Holicky  40:27

Yeah, so it’s all about this bounce, right, you can’t do too much hit. But you also have to work in recovery.


Trevor Connor  40:35

Yep. And this is a great place to throw in a quote from Ruth, who really talks about exactly what we’re talking about don’t do too much at work. And the value of recovery.


Ruth Winder  40:48

Definitely changes throughout the season. So right now we’re in the offseason, and I’m not really doing any high intensity, which is quite nice. Today, I went for a nice long bike ride and went really slow the whole time. So I didn’t really go very far. But it was still a nice day for it. And then kind of towards racing. Once we get closer to racing, the probably, you know, in the middle of the racing season, you’re getting a lot of your intensity from racing itself. So then outside of that, maybe I do one or two sessions a week kind of thing, which feels like just enough for me.


Trevor Connor  41:14

And are you careful about that? Or would you every time you’re on the bike during the season? Would you be going hard? Or is it important to get those days?



No, it’s very important to get easy days, which took me a while to learn. I think while I was younger, I would always just feel like had to be going really hard whenever I got on my bike. And now in my old age, I have like appreciated my release low rise, like know that it’s okay. Like sometimes you panic that you’re not calling going hard or pushing hard on the pedals all the time. But especially in the race season, you’re always you’re getting so much intensity and racing, that it’s okay to just like continue your pace and just chill a little bit mentally and physically.


Trevor Connor  41:51

So Rob, you raised a really good point earlier about, we are not talking about the three hour ride. So that’s an endurance ride. That’s not a recovery ride. And I do think it’s important to bring up that as another type of balance the hit work, versus those longer slow rides, because they do both hit your aerobic system, they both train and produce adaptations in your aerobic systems. But their stressors are different. They tip the scale differently. And there is a fair amount of research showing that they are additive, that just doing one or the other will bring about some adaptations, but won’t get you to where you want to get to. It’s when you combine those two, that you get that best stressor on homeostasis produced the best adaptations?


Rob Pickels  42:37

Yeah, you know, we always have to go back to that concept of energy systems. Trevor and I, you and I both love that one. And hitting both of those energy systems is really important. I think that people tend to fall into this traditional sort of training method, right, where you stress the anaerobic energy system, maybe twice a week, you get some medium duration rides, and then maybe a long duration ride each week. And that’s it’s very balanced between the two different energy systems, both are getting their due. But you know, me going back to sort of my asymmetric nature, in the preparation period, especially before the season, I love to shake that up a little bit. And maybe in a four week period, you’re doing sort of three on weeks in a recovery week, if you’re doing too high intensity sessions a week for three weeks at six total, I almost like to do a Block Periodization, where that first week is maybe five days out of seven of high intensity. Now because of balance, you can’t do every one as hard as you would have, if you were only doing two a week, you got to dial it back a little bit. Because tomorrow, you’re gonna get kicked in the butt too. But I love to pull all of those to the front of the week, you deplete some glycogen, you really give a big stimulus, but because of balance your remaining weeks, then you’re pulling the intensity out of those, right, and you’re just sort of focusing on base. So even though we’re hitting both of these energy systems, there’s more than one way to sort of balance those out in our training.


Grant Holicky  44:01

Yeah, and that’s, that’s a really cool thing to kind of bring up because this happens naturally. For a lot of high level cyclists with small tours early in the season, right? They have a seven day tour, there’s a ton a load. And then what did they do? And I think this is a misconception, like what do they do when they go right back to training now most of them just get on their bike and kind of noodle for three or four days, they’re gonna still get in time, because otherwise their legs are gonna lock up, but they’re gonna just kind of noodle around. But I want to take that one step further. We’ve talked a lot in this segment about hit and what the intensity does as a stressor. But we also have to touch base on what volume does is stressor and like we’re talking about more is not better. This is the place that I started the opposite off with of what we grew up with in the 80s and 90s was more volume, more volume, more volume, get on your bike and do more. We had these stories of people spending 789 hours a day on the bike. And I mean the stories from Swimming are obnoxious those guys were doing five hours a day in the pool. And it turned up and it worked for a little while. And one of the things that we have to keep in mind too is that volume is also a stressor. And we have to be careful about how we’re using volume as a stressor. Just like you can’t go do with regularity six hit workouts in a week, you also are going to watch yourself when you’re doing four hour day after four hour day after four hour day after four hour day, that’s going to tax you as well.


Trevor Connor  45:32

I take total exception, my six day 40 hour training camp was a brilliant idea. Two months later, when I came out of my overtraining, I was like


Rob Pickels  45:45

yeah, no, yeah, great. You know, this this year, I think demonstrated this concept for me a lot, I had a lot going on a lot of stress, you know, everything and, you know, family, the end of COVID, maybe that was an inaccurate statement. But and dish and dish of COVID. Anyway, we digress, I did almost no intensity from like, October, November until like yesterday. And it has, in some regard kind of destroyed my fitness, right, I ultimately lost so much. Maybe for me, it was the right thing, because of the balance and everything in my life that was going on maybe doing all of that intensity I should have been doing could have pushed me over the edge. So I do think it was the right choice. But man, it ravaged my fitness.


Trevor Connor  46:30

So let’s address timing from again, this concept of homeostasis. And I want to bring up something I’m addressing how the two of you respond to this. But what I believe is, if we want to get to our absolute highest level to our best fitness, we actually have to have a period where we get out of homeostasis a little bit. And we stay there, we put our bodies in a bit of an emergency mode. And and there’s an evolutionary basis behind this and we’re doing a whole lot of work, our body’s going, something’s going on, I’m in danger. So I need to forget about trying to stay perfectly in balance and basically give you that little bit extra so that you can stay alive. So I think of it like Ignace button. And to give you an example, one of the adaptations that we see to high intensity work is an increase in your blood volume. So your body can very quickly increase the blood volume that improves how much blood gets pumped per beat of your heart, such as stroke volume. And that gives you a little more of a an aerobic adaptation. Your body can maintain that for a bit. But it doesn’t like keeping the blood volume high, at some point is going to say, I’ve been out of homeostasis for too long, I need to get back into balance. So you can do that you can sustain it for a little bit. But eventually you’re going to have to pay the piper. So that’s why I think timing is critical. Because if you push this a little bit above homeostasis, so I think of it like hitting that nos button. If you’re doing that in December, you’re going to be struggling by the time the season even starts,


Grant Holicky  48:05

right unless you want to be incredible in December, like what we were talking about earlier is that idea of its work to maintain homeostasis, right. So it’s work for your body and increase the blood volume. It’s got to give something else up somewhere. And it can’t do that forever. But this way, we want to do rode with our cross riders, I want to take across rider and put them in a six day stage race, I want to put them in a block like this where Hey, training is one thing. I can push you and train but you might still be looking at me with one eyebrow cocked and going I’m not going all in today. But if I put you in a race setting, you’re going all in, right so that that’s something we played around with a lot this year and a little bit last year that load and then okay, unload, unload on load, your body went to a whole new place. Like you said with that nos button, it knows it can go there now, and again, we’re anthropomorphizing but like it quote unquote, knows it can go there now. So you got this whole extra gear. So that’s a really cool way to look at it. Like supercharge it for a little bit. But then when are you supercharging? Right. And then how are you coming back to homeostasis after you supercharge it?


Rob Pickels  49:22

Yeah, you know, the other thing to really consider here is the only way that you can surge is if you’re in a good place to begin with. And oftentimes I love to compare things outside of this world because it is a little easier to understand. So if you’re going through your everyday work life and you’re at 75% you’re happy, you’re productive, things are going really well. A big project comes in sure you can surge and you can meet that demand. You can do it well you can be productive, the quality of your work is really high. But if week in and week out, you’re operating at 100% effectiveness and productivity at work anytime you need to surge and get better. It’s not there. Or if you do, it breaks you, right. And so we bring that back into training. If you’re constantly in a surge, you’re not actually in a surge, you’re just over pushing yourself. So a surge only happens when everything is in a good spot. And then you can do the things you need to reach that peak that next level.


Trevor Connor  50:19

Yep. And I think this is a great place to bring in actually a good quote from Tim Cusick from Episode 119, where he talks about this in terms of CTL, which, you know, we’ve discussed ETL, before, and I think it has a great value. But again, this is where timing is really critical. Getting your CTL really high. Everybody thinks that is the goal, I’m going to say with timing, it’s getting your CTL to the right level at the right time. So when we talk about homeostasis, you might be in homeostasis, let’s say a 7080 CTL. If you take it up to 100, that’s that revving it up. That’s that getting the body a little above homeostasis that you can sustain for a little bit of time. So you need to time that CTL. And that’s what Tim really dives into on this quote. So let’s hear from him.


Tim Cusick  51:07

Most of my focus is on the CTL progression, how are they accumulating over time, specifically, I have a system of kinda plateau and overload, you know, people look at periodization of these numbers, you could put that idea into periodization, I think when we’re looking at CTL growing, there’s only so long you can grow CTL, you can keep accumulating training, load and expect improved performance out of an athlete. And there’s only so long you can sit at a CTL plateau and expect an athlete to hold a level of performance. So I think when you start thinking about this idea of training, stress score, a scoring these is some external training load process. It really is about understanding the progression of that training load. That’s the science that’s giving me ability to make better decisions. But I have to color in the content underneath that how we’re gaining that is an art form. I mean, I have some specific techniques, I bet Trevor has some specific techniques to that. For me, you know, when I’m thinking about it, I guess like CTL was not a prescription, you know, and people need to really wrap their heads around that, you can put out some generalized numbers, and I can give you some right. And athlete, once they get in the I don’t know, 70 to 80 range tend to be getting and assuming the training content is good, not perfect, doesn’t have to be perfect, but good, they’re probably going to have a performance improvement in that range, they’ll have another one and I don’t know, 100 to 120 range of CTL, it really depends on the content, what they’re doing. And then for the elite athlete, you might see another around 141 45 and above. So you could put some generalized thinking to that. But that’s not a prescription. That doesn’t mean let me just put an athlete on the bike gain to those levels. Just ride don’t worry about what you’re doing, just gather TSS, and you’re going to be great. That’s just some kind of numbers to shoot for. For me, it really is about building a purposeful training strategy, understanding the ability of the rider and the demands of the event, building content based off that, right. So first you build the workouts, then you understand the week, then you understand the month, the four week cycles, the three week cycles, whatever you using, then once you get a good grip of all that, then for me what I do in planning, then I back so in TSS, and then I’ll tweak that plan to make sure that the training load is plateaued or overloading and the timeframes is that I want them to work. And then when I the training actually occurs, I’m measuring that CTL ATL growth to what I had put within the training plan. So I know that’s a long answer, but that’s how I use it.


Rob Pickels  53:59

You know, Tim is definitely an expert on the training peaks side of things. And I think that this concept of having the right CTL, you know, is important, we’ve been talking about how do you balance the overall training load, right and getting yourself to that good place to surge. But another thing that we really need to be balancing and timing is when we do that high intensity work. And I remember listening to a great quote with Larry waterbase from what was it, Episode 124 where he was talking about Cadel Evans, and how he was avoiding intensity or in an early season training camp, because he understood his body and when he poured that on, he came into form really quickly. He wanted to make sure that he was able to do that being you know who he was at the right time of the season. Let’s listen to Larry, tell us his story.


Larry Warbasse  54:48

I definitely think it’s pretty individual. It’s like I guess now I think back like I remember when I’d be going to the camps with BMC and we’d go and tidel would Just ride, he never do any intervals, he just ride, you know, just, he just ride his own pace, he goes slow up the climbs, you know, let everyone else go do their efforts, whatever, whatever. And he just ride, you know, and I remember being like, how is this guy so good? When he doesn’t do any of the intervals? You know? And, and everyone was like, has the same credit, like, how can canal just not even do any efforts? Like I don’t understand. And I was like, you know, the young guys was like, well, I’ll just ask him, you know, everyone else was too scared to ask him. So I asked him like, a canal? Like, how come? How come you don’t do any of the efforts? Like, why do you just run? He said, Well, you know, like, I know, over the course of the year years, my coach and I have figured out that like, it really takes me a short amount of time to get really fit. And I can only hold that fitness for a certain amount of time. So he said, I’d rather just ride here and wait till it gets closer to my objectives. And that’s when I’ll really start training hard, because I don’t want to be too fit too soon. And then, you know, lose that before my important objective. And I was like, Okay, well, you know, that’s pretty fair and good answer. So, you know, I think it is different from for everyone. And I guess for me, it’s, it’s really hard to say, I guess I’m not as dialed in as someone like he was. So I think everyone’s different, though. And I think pretty much there’s just trial and error, figuring out, you know how it is. But I think if I was an amateur, I wouldn’t even be stressed about having only a month to train before my first races. If I was really, really gunning, then you know, I think two months would be plenty of time, and three months would be awesome, you know, and then from there on, you know, you can just keep going, I think so as long. I think the other important thing, and this is one thing I’ve applied the last couple of years is just to have good breaks in the season too. So if I’m starting to get tired, I’ll just take three to five days totally off the bike won’t touch the bike. And for me, that’s, that’s huge. Because it totally like resets your refresh view, and you really don’t lose like any fitness.


Trevor Connor  57:12

So going back, you said one to two months or three months would be great. Are you talking about? When you start doing your intensity, get ready for races? Are you talking more about the


Larry Warbasse  57:21

writing in general, that’s just starting up. I mean, ideally, you would have like, one to two months to just ride, you know, and then you know, maybe I guess first month ride, second month, do some zone three stuff, third month, do high intensity, I’ll go through these mini cycles over the course of the year. And you can add some high intensity in there just before your first races, but not exactly peak for your first races, you know, just so you can at least compete. And then your really big goals, whatever those are, I guess then have the really full build. Before that. I think the biggest error is just overtraining. You know, I mean, I’ve seen guys do any different kinds of training, like, I’m someone who believes, really like, there’s 1000 ways to skin a cat or whatever the thing is. So I’ve seen guys who never even do over zone three in training, and then they can go to a race and they’re incredible. And then are you see one guy who does massive volume, one guy who does like the least amount of volume you’ve ever seen, and they all somehow perform well. And so I think everyone is different. But I think the one place where I see a lot of people make the same mistakes, is just overtraining, you know, and not taking enough recovery. And like, these guys will just absolutely train the house down and then it gets to the races and then they’re just too tired. And that’s even even, I’ll see guys coming off the offseason, you know, overtrained because they trained so hard in the winter, because they were so motivated to be good. You know, that happens to a lot of guys, or they’ll be flying for the first race or two, and then they just die. And has to add a lot of professionals. And these are guys who have, you know, some of the top coaches in the world. So I think that’s something to be really conscious of just not doing too much.


Grant Holicky  59:17

That’s such a great point about how you need to know individually what you can do and how that works. And you got to be careful about everybody around you. Right? You can’t pour into it. Well, they’re doing a ton of intensity. I’m just gonna jump into that. Where does it work for you? How does it work for you, because understanding that intensity, it comes on quick, and I’ll use it throughout the course of the year. But how I’m going to use that is different in February then how I’m going to use that when we’re prepping somebody to be racing in a month, or racing in a week. And so there might be more repeats. There might be less recovery the day after and might go into a second hit workout it might go go into a base, right? The next day, all of those pieces of the puzzle are really important because that high intensity stuff. I don’t want to use the novice example because you already use that, right? But it’s like caffeine. It’s like caffeine for your training, give you a little caffeine. Go to that next level. You’re ready to go. I’m amped up, I’m ready to go. But we’ve all over caffeinated,


Rob Pickels  1:00:20

um, over caffeinated, right?


Grant Holicky  1:00:22

We’ve been talking about your latte this whole episode. But yeah, we’ve all over caffeinated and gotten that spot where it’s too much. And we’re over the edge. Right? So we’ve been talking about this whole episode. And Siler has got so many great quotes, but he’s got this one thing where he talks about intensity as fresh fruit. And I think he talked about it in Episode 141. It’s quick, but it doesn’t last. So let’s listen to Dr. Siler talk about that, Grant, that was great. Did you write that down, and somebody else wrote it down, but I didn’t read it.


Trevor Connor  1:00:56

Let’s hear from Dr. Sylar and this metaphor of fresh fruit.


Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:01:01

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


Trevor Connor  1:03:21

So I think with these two quotes from both Dr. Sylar and from Larry waterbus, we’re getting at the answer to a question I get asked a lot, which is, why shouldn’t I be doing a ton of high intensity in December, doesn’t that give me a leg up on the season. And this is you have to think both about that balanced side that we were just talking about. And this timing side, if you are doing a ton of high intensity work in December, you’re going to start pushing that edge of the homeostasis, you’re going to start tipping that one side of the scale, and not letting it come back up. And then you’re on a timeline, then you’re on a limit. And all you’re doing is just making sure your season happens really early. Hope there’s some early season races. And then you’re gonna have to hit a rest possibly when you actually think you want to be on race form. And that’s why


Rob Pickels  1:04:12

Yeah, you know, we always need to remember and consider that doesn’t mean no high intensity early in the season. It just means it’s not a focus, right, because again, energy systems, we want to train things we don’t want to forget about them. But if we fast forward to when somebody is peaking, a very common thing with peaking in the two weeks before an event, pull back that volume, increase the high intensity, ramp up that fitness and form really quickly before the event, maintain it for a day or two come back off.


Grant Holicky  1:04:40

And this is where we want to come into that idea of what is our life look like as we go through periods of time. And I’ve said this before on fast talk and I’ll say it again, we’re talking to a lot of masters athletes here we’re talking to a lot of people that are training with full time jobs or with families or with things like that. So when’s the family vacation? What are the kids going to do over spring break? And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that are like, Oh, spring breaks coming up, I’m gonna have 40 hours to train that week. And on the back of my mind, I’m gone. What are your kids going to be doing during that? And then the week after that, well, I didn’t do anything. I don’t know what happened. This kid got sick, this happened, this happened, all these things gone. So balancing your season, yeah, you might want to hit like a beyond form briefly, because you know, you’re gonna come off form with a vacation. So maybe you gotta go find a recent February that you’re gonna go do because you’ve got spring break coming up. And then it’s another build back up. So that timing is different, literally, not just for people’s different race schedules, but for the life schedules. And so we have to figure out that balance and that timing for each individual person


Rob Pickels  1:05:52

grit for your family vacations do you train up for the increase right arm fly casting volume that you suddenly take on, and well,


Grant Holicky  1:06:01

I don’t train my upper body most of the rest of the year. So that’s the thing like load the legs, load the legs, load the legs, and then I’m just gonna go sit in a river, ice the legs for a week, ice the left hand with a beer for a week, and fly fish with the right, it’s perfect. It’s perfect.


Trevor Connor  1:06:16

So I’m actually going to do something I’ve never done on the show before, which is I’m going to talk about an athlete that two of us in this room have coached. So I had this athlete I worked with for several years, who started as a road cyclist and then started doing cross is kind of a fun thing. And has been more and more shifting towards cross to where now that is all he does. That is his focus. Good choice. So I actually said you have hit a level where you need a cross specific coach, and this year handed him off to grant all the years I had coached him he was doing both a road season and across seasons. So a lot of my coaching was just trying to figure out how to get him through a very long season. This year. He’s just doing cross. So grant started working with them. And I noticed in January, you had him doing a ton of functional work. You had him on the bike, he wasn’t doing high volume. And he actually emailed me, he’s like, I don’t get this, I can count the minutes of high intensity work I’ve done in January. And my response to him was, when does your season start? While August like, so why would you be doing high intensity now grant is actually doing a lot of functional, doing a ton of off the bike, work with them a ton of functional work with you to get you healthy to get your body ready. So when the time comes, you can handle the high intensity, he’s going to throw it you


Rob Pickels  1:07:34

will grant your first challenge is to teach him that the cross season doesn’t really start until October


Grant Holicky  1:07:40

doesn’t start until quote unquote, cross whether we’re not going there, we can do a whole episode on that. But yeah, and then, oddly enough, one of the other things that he went to next was to do a bunch of intensity come February and March just to raise his ceilings just to get him into those places where he became a really spiky athlete again, because when he’s a road athlete need to be sustained, you need to be able to do that for a long time. And I like to think we’re in an offseason, we’re gonna be able to recover, I can challenge you, I can tax you a little bit. And I don’t have to worry about an April race. So there’s a whole lot of pieces of this puzzle that go on. And there’s a lot of variables that aren’t necessarily thought of, for who you are and what you want to be able to do.


Trevor Connor  1:08:28

And I think this is a great place to throw in or final quote for the day, which is also a Dr. Seiler quote, where he gets into what you’re talking about, which is the pieces of the puzzle, you have to look at the whole season, you have to look at the whole year, not individual workouts and see how it all fits together. So let’s hear from Dr. Seiler.


Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:08:48

They give us some representative prescriptions. And so it’s really important for me to say there’s nothing magical about any of these and I’m not trying to sell one. So we’ll say well, Steven sales, the four times eight, that’s his, that’s the Sylar intervals or whatever. No, four times eight was one of the models we’ve used, and it turned out seemed to result in good adaptation. But maybe could have been seven times six, or, you know, I’m saying, Hey, we think it’s more to do with the total duration that we’re prescribing that that actually is a constraining factor that helps that we can use this as coaches or, you know, to prescribe and help our athletes be where we want them to be is what’s the total amount of number of minutes that I want them to be working, accumulating, work at this intensity, and then I need to backup now because we get so focused on the individual interval session that we forget the forest here we get so focused on the tree that we forget the forest in the forest is this. Let’s let’s say you train five times a week on average day weekend week out. So that’s about 250 sessions. once per year, if my math is right, plus minus, and let’s say you do an 8020 model, or you say up 20% of my sessions are going to be seriously hard. All right, the nets around 50 Hit sessions each year. And they you may end up doing a few more than that. But a minimum, typical radio listeners are doing 50 to 100 Hard sessions per season or per year, as part of their training, right? So we have to think about is, when we’re prescribing this, we’re trying to prescribe a an interval training prescription base, that gives us the signals that we need over time over these 100 sessions that they may be, without stressing more than necessary. So I always get back to this issue is, is I want to create a signal, I’ve got to live with some stress, yes, we’re gonna stress the system big time. But we don’t need to stress the system more than necessary, then it becomes unsustainable. This is about the big philosophy, this is the big picture. And sometimes we forget this because we get so focused on the individual details of the workout, that maybe are not as important as we think. And we forget the big issue, which is, hey, I need to make sure that these 100 hard workouts I do in a year have some there’s a plan here and that there’s a sustainability built into them. So that I’m, I’m progressing, I’m not biting off more than I can chew. So that is part of the the big picture that needs to really be. For me. That’s the foundation for everything that I’m trying to prescribe. If I’m working with my daughter, who I love dearly, I don’t want her to become overtrained or fall apart. You know, I want what’s best for her.


Trevor Connor  1:11:48

So I think we’re getting to the point where we need to start wrapping up this episode. So let’s take our take home concept, but use it to give some practical recommendations of what all this means and how we feel our listeners should take these concepts and balance and timing and apply it to their training. So who’d like to go first? Alright, well, I gotta get hold on. Rob’s got to write down his answer. Do a little more time there.


Grant Holicky  1:12:14

Rob did okay, great. Anyway, I’ll go ahead. Give me something to think about other than his deaths there. But I, I think a good way to get a little practical advice here is one of the things I tell a lot of my athletes at whatever level they’re at, map out your life first, map out what you want the season to look like first, and then build the training around that. Instead of here’s the idyllic training situation, let me try to fit my life into this. And what I mean by that, hey, man, life might be this big stage race you have in Europe, life might be I’m gonna have a baby born in this month life might be a wedding life might be vacations, it might be all of those things. But those are the bedrock, that’s the stuff that we’re going to work around. That’s the stuff that the timing becomes so important for, if we build this beautiful periodized training plan, and then say, Oh, well, but I gotta go on vacation in March, okay, well, that changes everything. Because the timing changes in the balance changes, or, you know, Wednesdays are a really hard time for me to get three hours in because I have this. Alright, well, that changes the bounce. So map the life out first. And then let’s build the training and upon that, and that’s not just true of somebody who’s got a really busy, that’s true professionals too.


Rob Pickels  1:13:40

For me, it goes back to that dynamic balance concept. Because you know, I keep a balanced board, a rolling balance board in the living room, and my kids, and I love to play on it. And when you’re doing that, you can feel the shift, you know, when you sliding to the right, you know, when you’re sliding to the left. And so I want everybody my practical take home is this, everybody really needs to be cognizant of how they’re feeling of what they’re observing in their training, because you should feel the dynamic balance, you should feel that at times, things are hard, and that at times, things are easy. If you can’t feel the contrast between the two of those, then you’re either going too easy all the time, or you’re going too hard all the time, you’re being too monotonous, right. So feel that shifting back and forth.


Trevor Connor  1:14:24

So I’m going to continue with what Rob was saying, because I loved his analogy of the scale. And that this it is a dynamic scale. And to adapt and to remember what we’re ultimately trying to get as adaptation. To adapt, we need to stress homeostasis. So that’s taking one side of the scale and pushing it down a little bit but think of this scale as it has a very narrow base and if you push too hard, the whole scales gonna fall over. You don’t want to do that. So you want to push down one side of the scale. Then let it come back up. Then push it down again and let it come back up. And whether you are working With the coach, whether you are training yourself whether you have a plan or you make it up as you go, this is how you improve your level. This is how you adapt, push the scale down a little bit, let it come back, push it down again, let it come back and you got to push enough that homeostasis is stressed, but not so much that the whole scale falls over. That’s training in a nutshell.


Rob Pickels  1:15:24

That was another episode of fast talk were great and I tried to fill Chris cases shoes. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talker are those of the individual as always we love your feedback. Join the conversation at forums dot fast talk labs.com to discuss each and every episode. Become a member of the fast talk laboratories at fast talk labs.com/join and become a part of our education and coaching community. For the unbalanced Canadian living in America was in the written part Trevor Connor stop ad lib the work life balance grant colicky I’m the lose my balance on the mountain bike. Rob pickles. Thanks for listening.