Podcast, Training

Best of 2019 on That Triathlon Show | EP#214

 December 30, 2019

By  Mikael Eriksson

Best of 2019 on That Triathlon Show | EP#214

TTS214 - Best of 2019 on That Triathlon Show

We look back at 2019 and listen to some of the very best audio segments from the top-10 interviews of That Triathlon Show this year.

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 03:59 -

  • In endurance sport, because of the ability to measure things outside the lab, things have trended towards a focus on intensity. 
  • As we've understood the impact of intensity, and the specificity at intensity, there's been a focus on "key workouts".

    However, there's really no such thing as a key workout that unlocks the programme/success.
  • I think workload overtime, that chronic training load over time, is a big driver of your success and achieving your potential. 
  • Underpinning that, it's the volume and frequency that has the biggest impact. 
  • I'll take an athlete who primarily trains easy but with relatively high volume or frequency instead of the reverse of that! 
  • We can't escape critical volume over time as a driver of endurance sport. 
  • There are positive impacts of high intensity training and race pace training, but you can only do so much of that. 

    If it's not underpinned by frequent low intensity training over time, you won't have your fundamental aerobic base. 
  • The major error that we all tend towards is overdoing intensity and race pace sessions. 
  • In intuitively seems like these workouts and a focus on race specificity will get you to your goal faster, but it's often not the best way. 
  • There is a tolerance to how much high intensity you can do, and there is a toxicity when you do too much; it makes you ill and has a negative impact.
  • The elites don't necessarily do more intensity or more race specificity.
  • It comes back to how much volume you can do alongside this training. 
  • First you look at how much time you are training in each sport per week, mostly easy to build to total volume.

    Then start to add work like hills, and lower intensity (lower than race pace). You don't need to do a lot over race pace. 
  • It's tempting to do more high intensity sessions and constantly test yourself, but if you are always testing yourself it can compromise your chronic training load.

Episode 175 with Dan Lorang

09:51 - 

  • The priority at the start of the season is on technique.

    Then we work on speed, strength and finally economisation. 
  • During the technique phase the athlete would be getting back into regular training and building the muscular structure to get them ready for the season. 
  • In general we'll be working on oxygen uptake so we have some VO2max sessions. 
  • If you're working on VO2max intervals in the run we'll do hill reps or do speed work on the flats. 
  • Then we have a long period training strength, and strength endurance. 
  • Finally, 8 weeks before the main competition you should use what you've built up and try to make it economic. 
  • There will be some differences from athletes who are naturally stronger, or faster, or struggle with economy, which may mean you shift the phases a little. 
  • I don't necessarily do it from day 1 to race day, but we'll repeat these cycles several times in the preparation for the Ironman. 
  • We'd probably use two 70.3 races in the lead up to the Ironman and do one of these cycles each time. 
  • In the economic phase we do race pace training and sweet spot training.

    To train fat oxidation we do long runs and rides where you teach your body to use the energy from fat acids. 

    It's good to teach the muscles to work for a long time in this intensity zone, but it's also not too stressful on the body. 
  • When we're talking about long distance training, the metabolic impact of race pace training is not as high as that for shorter distances such as Olympic. 
  • The length of the phase changes during the overall season. 

    At the start, the length of each phase is longer. Technique usually starts at 3-4 weeks, speed is 3-4 weeks, strength is 7-8 weeks and economisation also 7-8 weeks. 
  • After the first competition, the length of the phases get shorter. 

    E.g. Technique - 2 weeks; Speed - 2.5 etc. 
  • It could also change if there is a deficit in a specific area - if you have an athlete that has enough speed but not enough economy, you may change the phases. 

Episode 169 with Sebastian Weber

15:54 -

  • FTP (functional threshold power) is the modern power training term for anaerobic threshold. 
  • It's the maximum intensity you can hold without accumulation of lactate, or the fatigue that goes along with that phenomenon. 
  • It's related to your 10km running speed or your 1-hour time trial performance. 
  • Your VO2max and your VLaMax determine approximately 97% of your FTP. 

    This is because your aerobic system defines how much lactate you can combust. Your glycolytic system determines how much lactate you produce. 

    These two combined determine what your FTP is.
  • If you want to increase your FTP, you are better off understanding what your VO2max and/or VLaMax are to decide which you need to work on. 
  • FTP is like how much money you have in your bank account. 

    This can occur by either earning more and spending more, or earning less and spending less. 
  • In endurance sport, people often train to change their FTP or prescribe training programmes without understanding the mechanics behind it. 
  • If you have a high VO2max it will lift up your FTP power.
  • If you have a high VLaMax it will decrease your FTP power.
  • For example, two 75kg athletes can both have an FTP of 300 watts.

    One athlete can have a VO2max of 65 and a VLaMax of 0.3/0.4.

    The other athlete can have a VO2max of 76 and a VLaMax of 0.7. 
  • If you don't know what is behind the FTP, you can't really establish a precise and focused training programme. 

    Decreasing VLaMax and increasing VO2max would require completely different training programmes. 

Episode 181 with Professor John Hawley

23:20 - 

  • For the endurance athlete, there won't be a massive variation from competitive season to off-season.

    The carbohydrate intake may increase as the workouts get more intense closer to a big race, but on the whole the athletes diet is quite stable across the year. 
  • Across a week, there may be deliberate attempts to withhold carbohydrate to enhance fat oxidation. 

    Over the general course of a year, it will remain relatively stable. 
  • Generally athletes will consume 70% of their energy intake from carbs throughout the year. 

    It may drop to 55% on some occasions, and may go as high as 80% in others. 
  • Some studies misuse the term and describe periods of dramatic diet changes for 3-4 weeks, such as a reduction in cards, 
  • When you're not training 20 hours a week and you're in the off season, you probably don't change the composition in your diet that much in terms of percentages, you just lower the energy intake. 
  • In the microcycles there will be subtle changes, but they really are subtle.
  • The swifter, higher, stronger paper we published describes what athletes eat.  

    It was published in Science and was included on the cover of the journal which was a massive breakthrough for sports nutrition. 
  • We discussed in the article some of the practices of elite athletes but I think these practices do apply to the recreational athlete. 
  • If you're burning more calories, you're eating more, but the composition doesn't necessarily change - the principles remain the same.
  • The more you're training the more you may need to rely on sports nutrition drinks, bars and gels. 
  • The elite athlete is different - physiologically they're different but the fuels needed to combust their muscles is the same, it's just the degree the training demands dictate. 
  • If you look at the Kenyan athletes, their carbohydrate dependent, and they are lacking in a lot of the saturated fats you see in Western diets. 

    They're the best long distance runners. They're probably not great just because of their diet but it puts the icing on the cake. 
  • Generally if you're over 50kg now you're now going to be at the startline of a major marathon. 
  • For African athletes their diet is different as they have a lot of meal and maize which looks fairly unpalatable. 

    For the general Western diet the stables are still the stables - bread, yoghurt, pasta, potatoes. 
  • Nutrition tends to go in waves, at the moment there's a push in some articles that eggs are bad for you. There's also been a swing against dairy. 

    Things come and go, but the enduring feature is the carbs are carbs - no matter how you get them in the muscle sees them the same and they'll re-synthesize them to glycogen. 
  • Food differs across countries but most people know what high quality carbs are, and know to stay away from saturated fats. 

    Protein in both animal and vegetable form is pretty good. 
  • You eat what is practical and available for where you are in the world. 

Episode 177 with Stephen Seiler

32:36 - 

  • Rowers compete over 6-7 minutes, so their whole competition is at VO2max or above.

    They are really polarised in their training, they don't do much threshold at all. 
  • Cross country skiers are also very careful in their training - they do a lot of low intensity. 

    They use a 5-zone model and tend to do a lot of zone 4 work. 
  • If you look at triathlon, particularly Ironman, we see the distibution being more pyramidal. 

    It steps down from 80% at low intensity, and maybe 10:10, or 12:8 percent at zone 2 and 3. 
  • It's important to note that we have done experimental work where trained athletes come in a do different sessions: either clearly in zone 1, zone 2 or zone 3. 

    We have then measured their recovery using heart rate variability to see how they recover from this type of work (e.g. 1-hour zone 1, 30 minutes of threshold work, typical intervals session etc). 

    We could not distinguish the recovery between zone 2 and zone 3 - in both cases when they did these harder sessions they had a delayed recovery. 

    Compared to zone 1, where they recovered very quickly. 

    This leads to questioning how different zone 2 and 3 are, and whether we trigger a similar stress response. 
  • We have to keep in mind that the signal for adaptation and the stress that we impose on our body is not just a function of intensity, but it's intensity times duration. 
  • We've found that for HIIT training sessions, we tend to see very good results and a sustainable level of stress by being at the low end of zone 3, or in a 5-zone model in zone 4, instead of zone 5.

    Meaning generally that athletes tend to choose to collect more minutes at 90% of heart rate max, and not go all the way into 95-96% of heart rate max, blood lactate at 10+. 
  • The adaptations seem to occur nicely by collecting 30-40 minutes at 90%, and the recovery comes faster, which is important. 
  • There is some drift that tends to happen in a workout too, do you may start at 88% but end up in the 90's. 
  • Athletes tend to spend time in the transition from zone 2-3, and usually just over on the 3 side. 

    They may collect 60 minutes here - but this would be a very tough session! 

    One of our professional rowers did this kind of session (6x10 minutes) 27 times in the year leading up to a gold medal. It was a standard zone 4 session for him. 
  • More typically, you'd do around 30-40 minutes at this intensity (e.g. 4x8 minutes).

Episode 195 with Matt Fox

40:58 - 

  • Canova's training is in a way polarised, and in a way not - it depends which way you look at it.

    He does prescribe 2-3 very hard workouts in a week, and adds in 1-2 progressive runs.
  • Progressive runs aren't a session but they aren't an easy run. They tend to be 10-25km, starting at an easy pace and progressing to close to anaerobic threshold in the last 10-5km. 
  • In the training programme there also are a lot of 'easy' 40-60 minute runs, so take the progressive runs out and it looks quite polarised!
  • Canova is also good at making sure the athlete listens to their body. 
  • One time when I was in Kenya I spoke with Sondre Moen (previous European marathon record holder). 

    He is trained by Canova and said he would have a rough plan ahead of them but always willing to adjust it depending on how Sondre was feeling. 

    If he woke up and did an easy shake out run of 30-40 minutes at 6am and they had another session planned for 2pm but Sondre didn't feel right, they'd do an easy to moderate run and push the other session forwards. 

    I think that's really important across the board when training for any endurance event. 
  • These athletes have been training so much for so long that they're able to handle 2-3 very hard workouts in a week and 2-3 moderate-hard progressive runs. 

    If you gave that to someone who started running 3 years ago it's a recipe for a stress fracture or tendonitis immediately. 
  • We do try and point out in our articles that this isn't necessarily the best way for everyone, it's just the way the elites are doing it. 

    Canova also points this out a lot when he writes for Just Run. 
  • Canova's philosophy seems to include at least one session a week of intervals faster than anaerobic threshold. 

    It's from what he calls 108-115% of marathon pace. Normally close to 5-10km pace. 

    They may be 400m, 600m, 1km repeats. 
  • That session tends to be on the track, and the total volume can be between 8-12km worth of intervals. 

    I've seen lots of examples of his sessions there doesn't seem to be a staple 2-3.

    I've seen 25x400m, 10x1km, different distance in the session so 5x1km then 10x400m in the same session. 

    The recovery always tends to be 200m jog, often not timed. 

Episode 209 with James Debenham

48:47 -

  • It's important to try and understand how tissue works and responds to training.
  • When training we do not only work the cardiovascular system but also the muscoloskeletal tissues. What's really fascinating is the mechano-transduction.
  • It's the process by which the cells in the tissue respond to training according to the magnitude and the nature of the load.

    How you load them over time will determine whether or not they adapt positively or negatively. So they become stronger or weaker.

    If you overload them by repeatedly loading them without proper recovery they break down.
  • It's all based on protein turnover. Protein is broken down as a result of stimulating events (like workouts).
  • There's also protein synthesis. We are looking for a training stimulus to have this protein synthesis. So after the training stimulus the tissue becomes a bit stronger.
  • The different tissues have a different time frame. As an example, for the achilles tendon after a run, the mechano-transductive process takes about 72 hours depending on how hard you run. 
  • What's important to realize, is that at the end of that period the tissue will be stronger. But in the first 24 hour, the tissue will be weaker. So this can be important for planning certain training sessions.
  • Where this takes 72 hours for tendons, for bones it's more like 5 days and muscles need approximately 2 days.
  • When understanding this process we can look at it in two ways regarding the factors that influence injuries: 'How the tissue is loaded' and 'the ability of that tissue to tolerate load, so how strong that tissue is'. 
  • When it comes to loading, the number one factor is intensity. Certainly when we look to running, this is the biggest factor. We need intensity but we need to manage it.
  • About the load-intensity relation, it's probably exponential. From a practical standpoint it is mediated by fatigue.
  • If you are slightly under-dosed, always leaving a bit in the tank; this is probably the most important factor to avoid injury.
  • The second big factor is volume of training. This can be a risk factor or a protection factor. 
  • It's certainly a risk factor with excessive volume. But when you consistently manage your volume, the volume becomes protective.
  • As opposed to increasing volume heavily over a short period of time. Then volume becomes a risk factor.

Episode 205 with Amber Neben & Tim Cusick

59:47 -

  • One of the mistakes people make is not focusing on time in zone
  • TSS is a score of what you've done, it's not an indicator of anything else. 

    The actual driver of TSS is the workouts, the efforts and energy you tend to expend.
  • For time constrained athletes, during the foundation phase you need to adapt an expansion of time strategy. 
  • Say you start with 45 minutes of tempo Tuesday - most athletes then repeat this session a few times and then they realise they can go longer. 

    But for the time crunched athlete you don't really want to do more than one workout with the same time in zone. 

    The only reason you'd do two is if they really struggled the first time, as soon as they can do it okay you want to progress.
  • This is the same with sweet spot workouts - keep progressing time in zone, not just intensity. 
  • If you only have an 1hr 15, once you can do 3x20, keep tweaking the modality of the rest - can you do 3x20 with 4 minutes rest for example. 

    You don't always need an increase in power, just accept the expansion of time. 

    Your power will go up due to the increase in fitness, but make the driver increasing time in zone. 
  • Raise power once you've reached your maximum time. 
  • This will keep you progressing TSS for similar workouts. 

Episode 186 with Alan Couzens

1:03:55 -

  • There's a paradigm at the moment that is largely bourn out of the TSS obsession that more load = better performance.

    It's important to tear that apart a little, and let people know it's not the load that will lead to performance, it's the right balance of different training and energy systems. 
  • For a lot of athletes, they get in the mindset that if they can't do volume they're going to do intensity, but it shouldn't be an either or. 

    There's the right intensities that are going to each add a certain element to your physiology, and then there's the volume you can do within the context of your greater life. 

    These factors ultimately determine where your fitness reaches. 
  • Stephen Seiler did a good study that spoke to this looking at recreational athletes training 8 hours per week.

    The amount of zone 2 time for the high intensity group went up to 40% of total volume, whereas the low intensity volume only did a small amount in Seiler zone 2. 

    All that extra effort and mid-range sweet sport work that the zone 2 group did, did not equate to any improvement in performance. 
  • Cranking up the intensity doesn't mean you'll have a big performance boost.
  • If you want to go to Kona, the typical yearly training hours is probably 800 hours on average. 

    It is around 16 hours a week, but it'll fluctuate throughout the year - in the early season it may be 10-12 hours, but in the late season there may be some 20+ hour weeks. 
  • I've worked with athletes who are well below though - the proverbial 'get to Kona on 10 hours a week' athletes, but they won the genetic lottery. 

    I've also worked with the other side of the equation - athletes who have had to put in more than 1000 hours a year to get to that level of performance. 

    There is a wide range in training response. 
  • Consistency is key - 16 hours per week doesn't sound too hard but it's about doing this consistently throughout a whole season. 

Episode 176 with Bo Falck Hansen

1:11:35 -

  • VO2max is very important for athletic performance, it sets the ceiling.

    If you have a high VO2max your ability to increase your anaerobic threshold will be much higher. 
  • In most endurance sports, the aim is to have the highest VO2max possible. 
  • The issue is that it starts to decline early - usually around 25 - and it will eventually get to a low value. 
  • There is a 'danger zone' of 20ml of oxygen per minute per kilo, which is where you don't want to reach as it's associated with an increased risk of death and other diseases.

    Ageing athletes are not generally in this zone but their VO2max is still likely to decrease over time. 
  • The rate of decline is very dependent on how you behave.

    If you stop exercising, you will decline more rapidly, which has been examined in longitudinal studies up to 30 years in length. 

    You may be down to the sedentary level within 5-10 years if you stop exercising, even if you're starting with a VO2max of 60. 
  • A normal individual will start with a VO2max of 25ml of oxygen per minute per kilo, and maybe get up to 45. 

    You will probably not reach the danger zone until your 80's. 
  • If you continue with high intensity exercise, studies show your VO2max can remain in the 50's even at 70 years old.
  • The decline will be there whatever you do, but doing hard training can keep the decline slower. 
  • There is an interesting study of a 101 year old French guy who had an oxygen uptake of 30. 

    He wanted to make the world record of 1-hour racing in the velodrome so he went back to training for 2 years - riding 5000km per year. 

    His VO2max increased 13% over this time. Even at the age of 100 you can still do it! 
  • If you are not an elite athlete, you are likely not at the top of your abilities so you can still improve and increase your VO2max! 
  • Very few of us are at our genetic potential, older athletes included. 

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Hi! I'm your host Mikael,

I am a full-time triathlon coach and an ambitious age-group triathlete. My goal is podium at the Finnish national championships within the next few years.

I first started the website Scientific Triathlon in autumn 2015 as a passion project to share my learnings with a larger triathlon audience. Later on, in early 2017 I started the podcast That Triathlon Show. 

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Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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  • Really enjoyed this episode, touching on all the bits I’ve tried to remember over the year. Great work, looking forward to 2020 podcasts and using all this knowledge to put together a training plan for IM Wales.

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