Dr. Stephen Seiler Q&A on Durability and High-Intensity Repeatability

Dr. Stephen Seiler answers a variety of endurance sport questions on The Physical Performance Show.

Dr. Stephen Seiler answers questions about durability and high-intensity repeatability after appearing on The Physical Performance Show, an Australian podcast/videocast hosted by Brad Beer. Some of the topics covered:

  • The “lowest tech” tools available
  • How to divide polarized training for multi-sport events
  • Nasal breathing during and outside of training
  • HIIT training for masters athletes with heart conditions
  • Zone training for children
  • The importance of low-intensity workouts
  • Polarized training for rowers

Video Transcript

Stephen Seiler  0:00

Thanks, it’s nice to be back I really enjoy that live stream event but as always there were more great questions than we were able to field at the time so it just seems appropriate to do a little cleanup and try to answer some of those other really good questions.

Brad Beer  0:16

Dr. Stephen Seiler welcome back for some unanswered questions from April’s livestream event, “Durability and High Intensity Repeatability in Endurance Training,” which was attended once again by people worldwide in the endurance sporting space. Coaches, practitioners, and of course athletes. And as we’d expect, questions were exceedingly available time so you’ve graciously offered up your time, your morning there in Norway to answer some of these questions so welcome back and thank you.

Stephen Seiler  0:51

Yeah well thanks it’s raining here so it’s a nice day to be able to sit actually in my home office. And I tell you I had to struggle with, you just sent me these questions and so they’re tough you know they’re, I don’t have perfect answers but I’m gonna do my best.

Brad Beer  1:05

All right well let’s work through them. I was listening back to some of the content that you shared on the live stream and the prior interest-piquing episode of the show, 317, to extensify or intensify. We were claiming it as a worldwide first that “extensify” had been birthed on that show.

Stephen Seiler  1:27

The word, yeah. [Laughs]

Brad Beer  1:31

You know there’s so much in there and you did say you don’t need a Ph.D. in exercise physiology to understand durability. Now the bulk of these questions relate to this topic. You said we know it when we see it, there are athletes that just deteriorate less than others; it can be trained, it’s also a talent. And this first step of developing this durability or robustness as an athlete or an individual is the frequency of training. They were my standout takeaways amongst others from the livestream. Anything you’d add to that quick little rapid fire-out of learnings?

Stephen Seiler  2:09

Yeah for me it kind of boils down to frequency, duration, intensity kind of as a pyramid and when you’re in a flow with your training you should be able to tolerate the frequency that you want to achieve. You know, within your limits everybody has different goals but the frequency should be the first thing that is in violet, meaning if I’ve said I’m going to train five days a week then I want to make sure I’m adjusting my training so that I handle five days a week in a good way. And then I extend, you know that’s the extensified part where some of those sessions get longer.

I want to use duration for what it’s worth to improve durability, to improve adaptations. And then I sprinkle intensity on top as the icing on the cake. It’s important, it makes the cake great but you gotta bake the cake first. And that’s this frequency, duration, and then, you know, the intensity sessions. And if you get that basic kind of hierarchy right, a lot of good things happen.

Brad Beer  3:12

Yeah, fantastic. Right, Dr. Seiler, Jamie asks, “What is the lowest tech approach coaches and athletes can take in applying and monitoring a durability approach? Obviously,” as Jamie comments, “there’s a lot of great tech out there, it’s not always accessible to everyone, and there can often be in some ways some overwhelming amounts of data.” Anything you’d suggest to Jamie?

Stephen Seiler  3:37

Well, the absolute lowest tech is still the brain. You know, it’s the highest tech and the lowest tech at the same time in the sense that great athletes are just really tuned in to their bodies and they listen. You know what I’m saying? It’s one thing to hear the signals and say, “You know, I’m actually pushing a little hard today,” and it’s another thing to do something about it and pull it back. And so that’s number one, the best tool you have is a sensitive, dialed-in perceptual tool.

You know, it can be purely qualitative: “How do I feel?” or it can be that you use something like the Borg scale during workouts and say, “You know what? When I get into the teens then it’s starting to be a little bit too hard on an easy day. You know, I should be in that 10/11/12 space on the Borg scale. I should be really there, you know, and I have a tendency to drift up.” Okay, do something about that.

So that’s the lowest tech I know. Now you can sprinkle other little low-budget tools on top. One is that after a long session you shouldn’t have any appetite suppression. Most people will not have appetite suppression if they’ve really been, you know, in that zone where they’re not triggering a big stress response. So you should be able to go straight to the dinner table. That’s low tech as a kind of an indicator. Another indicator would be that you can breathe maybe through just your nose or you can talk while you’re, you know, it’s truly talking pace. That’s these breathing tests we use.

They’re not perfect in isolation so I’m kind of giving you two or three different low-tech aspects: perception, breathing, appetite after. And if all three of those are in the right direction then you’re kind of triangulating in on saying, “Okay I was, you know, I kept below the stress radar.” And then as you’re getting more durable you’re able to go longer at a given intensity and still check off those same boxes.

Brad Beer  5:50

Absolutely. Perception, breathing, and the appetite. As you said prior on this show, very high-intensity sessions do suppress the appetite and we all know that you don’t feel like eating immediately after one of those. Yet those long, sustained endurance sessions, extensified sessions, they certainly can elicit a big hunger.

Stephen Seiler  6:13

Yeah, you should finish those workouts feeling more empty than, like, full of poison, you know? The high-intensity sessions you feel kind of poisoned, right? Whereas the low-intensity sessions you feel drained, you feel empty.

Brad Beer  6:28

Yeah, wow that’s a nice delineation. Wei asks, “Dr. Seiler, when carrying out low-intensity sessions (cycling), how important is it to consider cadence if wanting to train low-intensity durability? Are there benefits doing them at a higher cadence?

Stephen Seiler  6:46

Yeah it’s a great question. It’s full of folklore in terms of the cycling community as to what they do and you’ll hear different things from different coaches. As far as the evidence base for these different perturbations where you go in and try to change cadence, there’s really no clear evidence for any particular superiority or effect. Like, for example, low-cadence cycling. Sounds good to me, it makes sense that you might go at low cadence to try to change the duty cycle, recruit some of those bit more fast twitch fibers, but in a level where they’re not being over-stimulated, right? But there’s no data to show that that has some specific effect.

So I’m just being honest with you. There’s this kind of U-shaped curve on cadence where high cadences are inefficient, low cadences tend to induce, you know, you’re recruiting fast-twitch fibers, you get more lactate, so the body tends to self-regulate around some efficiency. It’s part efficiency and part not wanting too high of a tension in the muscle, right?

So I’m beating around the bush here but the point of it is we don’t have any specific data. So if it feels good for you, if it feels like you’re expanding a bit your motor skills, you’re able to handle a higher cadence, it eases the pressure on your legs, and switching a little bit back and forth at different cadences I think that’s probably a good thing because it just makes you less dependent on any one specific muscle group or set of muscles. If you can stretch the cadence a bit and still feel good with it then that’s probably going to help you in races.

Brad Beer  8:37

Fantastic. Alex asks, “Question for Dr. Seiler: Recommendations to the weekend warrior to somewhat accurately measure their thresholds for each zone without access to a lab? Maybe access to running watch data and or Zwift, for example.” I know you’ve answered this prior on episodes, but any feedback there for Alex?

Stephen Seiler  8:58

Yeah, I know anything I say here is going to get me in trouble with somebody because there is variation individually, but I think probably the most important threshold to get correct is that first lactate turn point. Because so many athletes have a tendency, recreational athletes have a tendency to push through that and end up doing a lot of work in that kind of middle zone.

So LT1, that first threshold, one, if you’re a recreational athlete, I would say on the Borg scale if you’re starting to move into the teens, you know then that’s a good indicator that you’re passing that scale. We’ve got data on recreational athletes and when they, you know, the LT1 they hit at an average of 12 in running. An average of 12 on the Borg scale. The athletes that were a bit higher, bit more training volume, they were at 13. So, you know, it was about the same for them but maybe they were just a hair higher on the Borg scale in terms of that.

So that’s one you know as an indicator. Again also cardiac drift helps tell you something. If you’re clearly below LT1 and you’re reasonably well-trained, then you should have a flat heart rate at least over an hour, okay? If it’s drifting up already in 30 minutes it’s too high in intensity. You’re not in that low-intensity zone. I feel pretty confident in saying that. So that’s another indicator.

Now when it comes to that second threshold it’s, maybe I would say, you know, heart rate is definitely…if you’re above 90% you’re too high. I mean you’ve passed the threshold, almost in any athlete we see. So it’s somewhere in that, if I’m going to say percentage of heart rate I would say if you’re somewhere at 87-88% is going to be a reasonable guess. That’s where we see a lot, you know, it’s in that 86 to 90 range for heart rate in reasonably well-trained athletes that they’re clearly crossing through LT2. So I’m going to be a bit conservative and say, you know, keep it well shy of 90. Eighty-six, maybe 87, and then tweak it from there. That’s one way to go.

Another way to go is just time based, meaning a steady-state effort. You should be able to do at least 40 minutes, I would say, and ideally maybe an hour. You know, 60-minute, hour of power, hour pace at that kind of, right on that threshold, that second threshold. So that’s a time-based way, is if you can only hold it 20 minutes, that pace or power, you’re probably a bit too high. You’re already past LT2, if that makes sense. So that’s a time-based method, you know, just based on lots of physiological testing and maximum lactate steady-state tests and so forth where we’re just saying if you’re on the part of the power duration curve or pace duration curve that’s in that kind of 40- to 60-minute range, it’s usually pretty close to that second threshold.

Brad Beer  12:29


Stephen Seiler  12:30

So that’s, you know, again there’s no answer here that’s perfect but those are some guidelines.

Brad Beer 12:38

Yeah, no, that’s fantastic. First, LT1 first turning point, you mentioned there the Borg scale from six to 20. If people aren’t familiar with that look that up and you’ll see the associated ranges from very, very light to very intense. Heart rate drift can also give an indication for staying below LT1, and then LT2 potentially remaining well shy of 90% of maximum heart rate. And then also think about the time-based side of that as well, knowing that you should be able to hold up to that threshold for around 60 minutes, the famous Dr. Seiler hour of power.

Stephen Seiler  13:19

Well, I didn’t create that so just don’t blame me, but it’s been around, it’s been around a while.

Brad Beer  13:26

I just don’t know if some of the online apps for smart cycling would be as popular if it was a 60-minute FTP test versus a 20-minute one.

Stephen Seiler  13:36

Yeah that’s the thing, you know? Good old Americans and others have a tendency to, we have a short attention span. “Sixty minutes? How can we pack this down to 20?”

Brad Beer  13:48

[Laughs] It doesn’t sell well. Fantastic.

Jim asks Dr. Seiler, “Does Dr. Seiler have recommendations about nutrition when doing one or two hours in the green zone? Is it okay to skip nutrition during these training sessions?” Obviously we note that your expertise isn’t directly in dietetics but still interested in your thoughts on this one.

Stephen Seiler  14:12

Yeah another way to get me in trouble here. Put me out over in the nutrition zone. But I would basically say, one to two hours, I would not get too worried about nutrition. Don’t be stuffing gels in your mouth and all this stuff on these fairly short, low-intensity workouts. Just drink water ad-lib, you know.

And from a training standpoint that may actually be better from a signaling standpoint because we really want to promote fat oxidation. We don’t want to be presenting the body with lots of glucose during these easy sessions when we don’t need it because we’re going to stop, you know, before there’s any kind of a crisis. So I would say to athletes, just get used to those, you know, just like the bread and water, actually just water and water on those fairly short workouts.

Now the caveat to that is that as you approach races you need to train just the process of drinking, of body management. And so that’s a different issue, that’s a behavioral issue of not necessarily listening to the signals because they don’t come fast enough, and training your brain to drink on a schedule, and things like that. So, don’t get me wrong, drinking and all the nutrition is super important on the longer efforts and the race day, but day in, day out we have a tendency to still do all those things and we don’t need it. And maybe it’s even negative for adaptation because we’re kind of blunting some of the signals we’re trying to generate. So the answer? Water. Just water on the short workouts that are at low intensity.

Brad Beer  16:01

Thanks for sharing on that. Intuitively that seems to make sense as well. Dr. Seiler, Ben asks—and Ben did have the winning question of the livestream, which Polar generously donated one of their brand-new running watches, the Polar Pacer Pro, to Ben for his question. But Ben asks, “In a multi-sport event, in training do we aim for each discipline to be a polarized split: 80/20?”

Stephen Seiler  16:34

That’s a great question. I’d probably say no, although I’m not a triathlon specialist. But my reading of the research, and we got to think about some different things; one, the transfer of training, you know, is one of the things we’re interested in. And there’s pretty good evidence from several people all the way dating back 20 years, way back to 20 years ago that swimming is just a beast unto itself. So there’s essentially no transfer of the swimming work to cycling or running capacity. None. And that kind of makes intuitive sense, to be honest, given that just everything about swimming is so different. There’s pretty good transfer between cycling and running, so some of that cycling volume seems to pay off in running. It doesn’t hurt. And it probably helps a bit and I think it helps explain why we’re seeing some pretty darn good running performances on fairly modest mileage in triathletes.

So that’s one aspect of it: the training transfer. And then then we know that running itself is both critical to the overall performance, especially, you know, in any of these events but particularly the Olympic triathlon distance. So that performance, if anything, needs to be emphasized a bit because you got to hang the first two and you win with the run, as we’ve seen even lately in the Ironman, you know?

So I would probably push some of my harder sessions towards the run if I’m distributing hard sessions unequally. And I think probably I would. And I would over emphasize the run for two reasons: one, because of its importance and two, because the transfer will be good. We know that, you know, running creates a good cardiovascular response and it’s probably going to have a reasonable carryover effect to the cycling. So that’s my take on it is, yeah, I would not be afraid to shift the high intensities load a little bit uh towards running. But you’ve got to find your balance.

Brad Beer  18:43

Oh, that’s interesting. Ben furthers there and comments, “What is an example of intensity distribution given that you can only do 4×8 minutes so many times in a cycle for it to be beneficial?”

Stephen Seiler  18:57

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So everybody loves to call 4×8 like the “Seiler interval session” or whatever, but I never intended to try to say that is the, you know, the interval session. In fact I’m very opposed to that kind of idea of there being any one specific magic formula, so I think it’s, in general, a good idea to mix it up.

I find that four-week cycles are plenty, meaning four weeks in a row of a specific session. I think there’s some benefit to that because you get a short-term…it kind of sharpens you because you know what you did the previous week and you’re in that range and maybe you get a few percent bump and then you back it down, you know, three-week build, one-week comedown. And then you say, “All right now I go to a different workout, I’m trying to achieve the same basic stimulus,” but a lot of it’s the mental aspect of switching it up that is useful. And, you know, you change a little bit the duration/intensity relationship also. Just keeping your body on its toes a little bit I think is good.

And we’ve played around with periodization, with reverse periodization, where you might say, “Do I do longer threshold sessions and then periodize upward towards higher intensity?” Yeah, that’s the traditional model; it works. But the reverse periodization also works, you know? So we haven’t been able to show that there’s these magical differences in that periodization structure as long as you’re getting the minutes of work, the high intensity minutes.

Brad Beer  20:45

As long as you’re getting those minutes, high intensity. Maurice asks, “Can nasal breathing for novice age groupers be taken as an indicator of a change from aerobic to mixed exercise?” You’ve already touched on nasal breathing there earlier.

Stephen Seiler  21:00

Yeah, it’s a fascinating topic and I just read a book called Breath by James Nestor. I’ll give him a little free advertisement here because I am interested in the topic and we’re trying to understand breathing more and from a wearable point of view. I have done nasal breathing myself, two hour sessions, you know, on the bike, and so forth. I find it to be meditative, I find it to be a good kind of approach, but it’s trainable, and you get better. And so in my case I know I can come up over my threshold, my first turn point with nasal breathing.

Now I’ve got a solid nose so that may give me an advantage, but in general the data, what little data we have on nasal breathing does say that it’s, to a certain extent, trainable. Meaning that we can’t say it’s a perfect or even a clear indicator of threshold/non-threshold. Having said that, I do think there’s a lot of good things about it based on the research. Mouth breathing is just terrible for us in general, in the daily life. Sleeping with mouth breathing leads to a lot of issues, sleep disturbances, apnea, and so forth.

So I’ve got a little secret hypothesis that if I do more nose breathing during training, I improve the function of these nasal passages and maybe that helps me sleep better because then I may be in more nose breathing during sleep, which is what I want to be, what we all should want to be doing.

So that’s, for me, an interesting reason to try to do some of my easy sessions just breathing through my nose.

Brad Beer  22:47


Stephen Seiler  22:48

I have not published anything on that, but we’re thinking about it. We’re thinking about doing some kind of a study like that.

Brad Beer  22:56

Well I must connect you with Dr. Dan Robinson who we featured on the show before, our ear, nose, throat specialist who actually operated on my nose to remove an obstruction a year and a half ago. Dan’s doing some early science in the space of correcting nasal obstructions and the effect on exercise abilities. But watch this space. Dr. Seiler, Daniel asks, “How much high-intensity interval training is too much for a 44-year-old masters athlete in terms of heart health?”

Stephen Seiler  23:28

That’s a great question again, well, it’s because it’s right up my alley. I’ve had atrial fibrillation myself, I’ve been shocked out of it twice, you know. So I have it, I feel it, I’m good now. And I have a master’s student that also has atrial fibrillation; it ended his skiing career and he’s doing a lot of work on this. We’ve been testing out a wearable device that seems to be really good for doing EKG in the field.

And in the scope of all of that, what I’ve, you know you study a bit on what’s the etiology, what’s causing this? And there it does seem to be an epidemic of electrical kinds of events, you know, rhythm disturbances. So what I see from the data is that there’s really nothing about intensity, high-intensity work that would seem to be a problem for the heart structurally. I mean you don’t get torn heart muscle, you don’t get things like that. The muscular aspects, the stress on valves and tissue, that doesn’t seem to be the issue because the pressure changes aren’t that big with interval versus not interval.

So if I were guessing, I would guess that what is happening is more related to autonomic nervous system function. You know, now I am just way out on thin ice and guessing, but that seems to be the issue is that when we get in a state as masters athletes of doing too much intensity, meaning probably too frequent intensity, we create some autonomic nervous system stress and the breaks come on and we get into some problems there that may be involved in this transition towards a greater risk of arrhythmias.

So this is speculative for me, but having said all of that I would just say that it seems like two days a week is enough in terms of high-intensity load for masters athletes and in general for a lot of athletes. I mean, two days a week is about what we see with our best skiers and so forth is two days where they’re really pushing. Out of 12 workouts maybe three. They might do a double-hard session or something like that. But for us typical masters athletes I don’t think you need to be hitting it hard more than twice a week. And probably it’s difficult to recover if you do.

Brad Beer  26:16

Interesting and thought-provoking and challenging. Daniel further asks on the other end of the spectrum for his 11-year-old son: “What’s the best method for calculating zones training for an 11-year-old runner?”

Stephen Seiler  26:30

Smiling and grimacing. I mean seriously.

Brad Beer  26:34

Smiling and grimacing?

Stephen Seiler  26:35

Yeah, I would use a two-zone model. They’re either kind of bored but they’re laughing, they’re smiling, that’s easy. They’re in the easy zone, you know? I mean kids cannot hide how they’re feeling so their face is going to be contorting if you’re pushing them too hard. If they’re hurting their face gets red, they twist and they turn. So you just use the face zone, you know, and say all right. Because remember eleven-year-old kids don’t have much in the way of anaerobic capacity at all, so they tend to go from “This feels fun” to “This sucks” really quickly.

So I’m saying all this to tell you, man, just let these kids have fun. Mostly let them, you know, just enjoy. You train the technique and the fitness comes along for the ride at 11 years old. You train just getting out the door, enjoying running, playing with friends, learning how to accelerate, learning how to keep your shoulders down, and all these kinds of things and then just in that process they get some hill training and they get some accelerations and they get some, you know, the fitness comes. And we wait. We wait before we start getting all systematic on this stuff and talking about training zones. I’m just being honest with you.

Brad Beer  27:59

And your triangle probably has good applications here as well: frequency, extensification, duration.

Stephen Seiler  28:09

Yeah, intensity…yeah we’re basically getting these kids used to the idea of training so it’s a transition from playing to training. And that in itself is tough enough at that age, right? And they’re getting into a habit. So you’re helping them form a habit that they find meaningful and then that builds the base for a transition towards something more systematic in maybe four or five years when they’re 15, 16.

Brad Beer  28:44

Dr. Seiler, Elaine asks, “When it comes to the low-intensity workouts, are they, as some perceive, just fillers or are they actually impactful and making a difference?”

Stephen Seiler  28:59

It’s a good question and what I find is that we see clear evidence of a relationship between both performance and physiological adaptations like VO2 max and training volume up to a significant volume. You know, it doesn’t go forever but in runners and cyclists, as they train more, even though the percentage of high-intensity work is low their VO2 max is increasing, their thresholds are getting powers are getting better.

So from that perspective the volume matters, and I think it’s been underappreciated by the masses or by the studies on recreational athletes. That’s what we see from the high performers is that the volume does matter, and it does induce adaptation just to train more, okay?

So that’s part of this answer is no, these are not trash sessions or they’re just transition sessions. They are fundamental to your process, they are part of that pyramid: frequency, duration, intensity. They’re at the base, so if you’re not getting enough volume, you’re not maximizing your potential for adaptation. I’m just saying it as it is.

Now, having said that, yeah, there are times when you’re going to get on the bike and only cycle for an hour, hour and a half, which is kind of a maintenance load for you because your typical long sessions are two hours. And I would call those sessions bridge sessions. We’re maintaining a signal stream to the muscle to maintain adaptations while at the same time staying below the stress radar because we know that tomorrow is a tough session where we’re really going to turn on everything. So I would call that a bridge session. It has a role, it’s maintaining signaling, but we’re being cautious because we want to turn on the engines big time the next day. So we’re constantly balancing these things, but that signaling is always there and it’s not unimportant; it’s part of our process.

Brad Beer  31:18

You did comment before we threw live, talking about the recent, or the weekend’s win at the time of recording, of the counterpart Norwegian triathlete Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt in his first, well any Norwegian’s first outing at the world Ironman triathlon championships. He was sick, had some illness, and still pulled out the winning performance, incredible. And, you know, you’d commented, but yeah there’s years of baking that cake for someone like the Olympic champion Kristen Blummenfelt, so clearly these sessions aren’t just killer sessions.

Dr. Seiler, Stewart asks—rowing coach, Australian-based—“I’m a rowing coach, 16- to 17-year-olds, typically row in season last 18 weeks with the rowers coming in with unfit and also a low technical skillset leading into the main event of the season. Ahead of the river we have five to six competition races each week. Would a hybrid of the 80/20 training model work better in this situation? Hope that makes sense. Cheers. Stewart.”

Stephen Seiler  32:21

Well, what I read in that question is that, in that setting, young athletes, they’re not very technically proficient, they’re not very controlled, you know. Every workout is probably going to edge towards chaos in the sense that they, the most likely scenario is that they’re working too hard. Because they’re working hard because they’re inefficient and, you know, and so forth. And you’ve got a race each week in that build up, which means you’ve got at least one day, the racing day, is tough, although it’s not necessarily a really demanding day but they do push for some minutes really hard and then you’re supposed to have some hard workouts in addition. So this ends up being a really tough management issue.

So obviously one of the things I would do is just really try to get them to understand the value of being able to row well at low cadence, that it does transfer up, and that is hard for kids to get but if they can’t row at 18 well, then they can’t row at 36 well either, for sure. So I would…discipline was what I tried to get across when I was coaching young rowers. And then I might think about saying, well that day that I’m going to kind of waste—that race day, which is kind of a little bit of, it’s a mix, you know, it’s kind of hard but it’s not really a good training day—I might have these kids after their race go to the boathouse and get on the ergometer and do some more quality. So in other words, to really make that day one of the quality days.

And then you only have one other day where you’re going to do some interval type work and try to clean up the schedule a bit, if you know what I’m saying, to try to make it very clear that race day is so tough. This is a tough day and we’re going to even make it tougher. And then we’re going to have one other kind of high-intensity day because they want to go fast so that it’s not hard to get them motivated for those, but the problem is they’re going to try to go fast or hard all the time and then they’re going to be a bit stale and so forth.

So that’s what I would try to do is clean it up and help them mentally think a little bit more “polarized,” mentally, to think, you know, today’s the day we get to go fast, you know?

Brad Beer  34:45

Bring some excitement.

Stephen Seiler  34:47

Yeah! And then they’re holding back, they’re holding back, “Not today guys, not today,” you know? “Tomorrow’s our day, tomorrow we’re going to have seat racing, tomorrow we’re going to kick ass.”

So that’s the way I would try to manipulate the brains of my kids. We even did what we called “Search for Speed” workouts where I would tell, “All right, close your eyes,” you know? And just get them into this idea that certain days were where speed matters, other days we were trying to, you know, it was find zen, and find rhythm, and so forth, and try to get them kind of geared into that.

Brad Beer  35:23

The platitudes of Dr. Seiler: find zen, search for speed, kick ass, the list goes on.

Stephen Seiler 35:29


Brad Beer  35:32

And extensify. And finally, Dr. Seiler, Neil asks two very interesting questions. The first being that Neil comments, “There seems to be some debate as to where Zone 2 lies. Alan Couzens suggests that it is the intensity slightly above the first increase in lactate, whereas Iñigo San Millán suggests he would aim for the zone between first increase in lactate and maximum fat oxidation. Your advice seems to suggest aiming for at or below the lactate increase. Asking in the context of your average recreational athlete; six to 12 hours a week.”

Stephen Seiler  36:09

yeah again boy this is as tough as they get because all of these things these terms that were just introduced you know they are fuzzy even fat max for example is for me a problematic issue because usually we find fat max after you know early after 20 minute warm-up and then you do a little protocol so they really haven’t been going very long and fat oxidation may continue to increase and you know it may be higher later we’ve even seen with runners that we can see in a two-hour run that their fat oxidation is increasing across that time and then even though that’s happening at the end of the two-hour run their lactate is increasing a little bit and that seems like two opposed you know diametrically opposed things that are happening but both are going on better fat oxidation but at the same time now they’re getting fatigued and starting to recruit some of these fast twitch fibers and they get a little bump up in blood lactate so we need to be really clear on this is it’s things are dynamic during these longer sessions that are kind of right around that threshold so having said all of that my I still use the most physiologically traditional approach which is you know this two threshold two turn points lt1 the first little bump in lactate and then lt2 which is a really clear kind of exponential increase from there in the area in between is that threshold region of intensity so for me below LT1 that first turn point that is clearly uh you know at least for those sessions if I’m below LT1 I’m not triggering that big stress response and I’m and fat max is generally at least for us we’ve seen it’s generally in that LT below LT1 region


okay but you know I’m not trying to disparage these other guys and there’s different aspects to how this how this manifests as intensity and duration you know interact and and things get longer so got to keep that in mind fantastic


I use three zones physiologically so zone one below LT1 zone 2 between LT1 and LT2 zone 3 above LT2 and then what happens is you can split zone 1 in that three-zone model and it becomes one two threshold is three and then you can split the third zone in that physiological model and it becomes zone 4, 5


so that’s what we do in Norway and that’s what a lot of others do so these they’re both valid they’re both anchored around the same um physiology just so we’re clear


well that’s great and the final part of Neil’s question uh here is uh in a recent podcast indigo san milan suggested doing a high intensity rep block at the end of a longer easy workout which is different to your thoughts on determining intensity based on the session rather than time in the zone what are your thoughts on this


especially for time constrained athletes and would you consider adding one to two short reps at lt2 or higher at the end of an easy session as being worthwhile or detrimental uh this is going to be one of these it depends kind of thing I get it and I’ve done it to be honest I’ve done a two three hour ride and then jacked it up at the end for five minutes just to kind of I call it just kind of you know get the legs going you know and I find that if I do that for a short enough period just the one push you know and if I and then my heart rate comes back down nicely I don’t feel stressed you know like I’ve talked about get off the bike and still feel like I’m ready to go eat and everything then I’m saying okay I’m gonna I don’t mind doing that every once in a while just to kind of uh blow the soot out as we say in the car you know just kind of push the gas pedal a little bit and cyclists I think will do that before a big race you know you or uh cross-country skiers you know they’ll do a very amputated high-intensity type of session this would be even more amputated just a little push


and as long as you don’t push that too much as long as one five minute doesn’t become two and then three see that’s the slippery slope that I would be concerned about because athletes will tend to err in that direction that they will start packing these easy days with they’ll say well I’m just going to do some a couple of sprints and then I’m going to just do a little 10 minute threshold and then I’ll probably do a five minute well before you know it that easy day is really not easy anymore okay so please don’t do that uh because even from the top athletes they will say that they’ve all been victims of their own of that kind of thinking where they get overreached or start really pushing because they try to squeeze some things into those easy sessions so be careful if you do it all right


and I guess is it a way of at times though helping with this high intensity repeatability like you know like you’ve mentioned uh you know these thousand what pulse spikes at the end of a long stage race for cyclists so is it some way of carrying over that uh adding a few high intensity efforts at the end of a and to be honest what I would do is instead of that I would say make you know make us do some of these I would call them almost fondo type sessions where you intentionally do a more uh unstructured high intensity workout


that the intensity is coming in in different blocks during the two like a three-hour workout let’s say and let’s you know so you’re going to say my Saturday hard workout is actually a long workout but during that session I’m gonna have I’m going to simulate racing and I’m going to put in a climb I’m going to put in some stochastic you know race and chase where I’m having to get on the wheel repeatedly do some surges and I’m going to recover and then I’m going to put in another climb at the end with a hard finish and this is an interval session but it’s more organic


you know I think we get too locked in to say well you know hard sessions have to be highly structured


no they don’t they you know your body doesn’t know that you’re doing four times eight versus six times four your body’s not calculating all this so I find it I love doing nowadays myself doing what I call organic interval sessions you know where I just um basically someone call it fart slick when I or fart league but I push it a bit harder than fart league where I’ll just say all right warm up and then I’m going to have blocks of 10 or 15 maybe even 20 minutes where I’m just hitting on the gas repeatedly and bridging trying to bridge and get on the wheel of another cyclist in Zwift or whatever and then as quick as I recover I do it again and so I’m and so then now I don’t know exactly how long each of these hard bouts will last because that’s what racing is like you know in racing it’s not like well now I have four minutes hard and then I’ll get a two-minute recovery no you have to respond to whatever’s happening in the in the field unless you’re the lead person and then you’re determining that


so I think these kinds of workouts where you spread some of that hard effort and then have an hour of pretty easy writing and then hit it again I think those are great workouts but they’re more organic okay and you have to take them for what they are they are a hard session and you have to manage them in your training as such meaning you give yourself recovery after that gosh that’s uh like that concept organic interval sessions yeah and I got to be honest it also one of the good things about it I find is that you don’t get mentally trapped in this watch chase because you know when you with structured intervals athletes psychologically can easily get damaged if they are five watts under their goal you know right you know I was gonna hold I was gonna do six times four minutes I was gonna hold 360 watts and I only got 350 it was a failure yeah it wasn’t you know it wasn’t a failure it’s just that you have you you’ve got some noise around what is your capacity each day and so forth so with these more organic sessions the you’re just going hard but hard is what you’re good for that day and if it is you know it so you get less mentally to constrained by very specific walk goals now there can be a place for that but if you’re doing that every time you do a hard session that you feel like you’ve just gotta nail the power output exactly you’ll find you’ll end up having quite a few sessions where you don’t think of them as successes and that’s unfortunate because it creates a negative mental kind of spiral that objectivity of the intensity can be a double-edged short heart is what you are good for that day powerful yeah and live with accept it you know because you gotta remember you’re training 300 400 500 times this year right they’re now everyone gonna be a personal record gosh as always Dr. Seiler so generous with your sharings the accrued wisdom over the years and uh the platitudes uh and the maxims that you are a spouse are always uh very memorable and sticky I’ve written down quite a few


well I just make up words as I go now because I’m so old that’s one of the advantages of getting old you just you just start making up words like extensify you I had someone say to me the other day I was thinking about they were doing intervals they didn’t want to fly and die they’d pick that up from one of your prior expert editions so your phrases are out there proliferating the world of endurance sports Dr. Seiler thanks for stopping by uh for answering some of those questions and um and obviously for April’s live stream event thank you thank you have a good day.