Coaching, Podcast, Training

Training, coaching and podcasting with Mikael Eriksson and Kolie Moore | EP#359

 October 10, 2022

By  Bernardo Gonçalves


Mikael Eriksson & Kolie Moore - That Triathlon Show

This is a conversation between Mikael Eriksson and Kolie Moore (of Empirical Cycling) that originally aired on Kolie's Empirical Cycling Podcast.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Self-doubt in coaching and the coaching mindset
  • Behind the scenes of That Triathlon Show (the why behind it, guests that excited Mikael the most, how he prepares for his episodes, and more)
  • The risk of bias and creating echo chambers in coaching and in podcasting
  • The coach-athlete relationship
  • How Mikael approaches evolving and improving his coaching
  • Managing the training load and managing intensity in triathlon
  • Thoughts on reverse periodisation
  • Training monitoring and prescription
  • Assorted thoughts on the professional scene in short-course and long-course triathlon
  • Assorted listener questions

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Looking back at the past coaching practices

03:39 -

  • The training principles did not change, but we understand many nuances better, and there are more "effectiveness" tricks to improve the quality of my training plans.
  • It is easy to be self-critical as a coach, but it is good to remember how far and hard you worked to improve your services.
  • In this industry, not everyone works hard to improve their understanding because some people do the same thing every year.

Being self-critical as a coach

05:03 -

  • I think this aspect is crucial because it is a task that depends on many other factors and biases.
  • Critical thinking is essential to be a coach and a topic we should learn in school.
  • You will never put your biases aside, but you will be able to question your reasoning.
  • Many coaches think they are the best because their athletes have won everything, so they do not need to learn more.
  • However, self-critical coaches would evaluate performance and what they could have done better.
  • If you do not do it, you won't improve, and someone else will.
  • However, the industry has no evolution because some jobs will go to the same coaches.

Reasons Mikael started the podcast

08:10 -

  • I started the podcast primarily because I wanted to learn what the best coaches are doing. 
  • There are so many nuances you cannot get from reading someone's book, research paper or blog, and the way I learn the most is by talking with someone.

Sorting the information from the podcast

09:31 -

  • I have a rule that I will not jump on anything until one month has passed from talking to someone.
  • I will implement it if I still think it is exciting a month later.
  • That month allows a safeguard to avoid jumping on the "trends".
  • Most often, it is not that someone changes my methods. Training principles stay stable, but the nuances change, so you try to look at them from different perspectives, and you can tweak things slightly.
  • Ideas enter my mind from these conversations, and I will think about them and maybe apply them in practice.
  • At this point, "That Triathlon Show" is more mature, and coaches might have different methodologies but achieve success with athletes.
  • I think people understand now that there is not one correct way, but many different ones.
  • For example, when I interviewed researchers on "Fasted training", I had many e-mails on that specific topic. Still, other research showed that while there were benefits, we did not see performance improvements. On the practical side, coaches realised that "fasted training" could lead to REDs in athletes.
  • So, it is better not to jump on a trend but wait a while until the trend "matures".
  • I read an article on how different biases affect us and how our brains work against us in situations where we have conflicting information.
  • As podcast hosts, we expose ourselves to develop an "internal group of listeners" that could be biased towards specific views.
  • To avoid biases, I do only one weekly episode, where the interviewees express their opinions.
  • As the interviewee talks more, we can avoid developing biased listeners.
  • I might have biases in selecting people, but I try to have a variety of guests as long as I respect their ability to be good coaches/researchers.

Preparing a podcast episode

16:50 -

  • First, I am genuinely curious about what my guests say about specific topics.
  • I do not want to interview someone to present my opinion on a topic.
  • When I interview an academic researcher, I typically read some of their papers and some papers on their area of focus. (which means hours to work to come up with questions)
  • As I interviewed so many coaches, I have a "routine" set of questions I like to ask.
  • I also like to ask guests if there is an area they would like to talk about that would be interesting for the audience.
  • Often, my guests are also podcast listeners.
  • Of course, I also do my due diligence to know something about their background. I ask questions about their specific preparation if these coaches work with high-level athletes.
  • However, I am careful to avoid doing that too much because the success of a coach is not only based on the coach. (What the athlete does might not be a recipe for success)

The value of a good coach in a world-class athlete

20:27 -

  • I think an excellent example of that has been the Norwegian triathletes.
  • However, I do not think their methods would work with every triathlete. I am sure some athletes are as equally talented as they are, but if you put them in that environment, it might not work for them.
  • Coaches can change training methods to make those athletes successful, but having the right coach/athlete relationship is also fundamental.
  • Some athletes might not "click" with specific coaches.
  • For newer coaches, it might not be easy to let go of some athletes, but once they do it, they can find others that can fit better.
  • Most times, our job is to make athletes work less because they have much motivation.
  • I do not fit well with athletes, so I have to be the motivator.
  • Some athletes only need a coach to have that accountability, which is fine. Anything else is not for me.

Having a "big" coaching toolbox

25:50 -

  • My primary training principles are well-established, and we have some "general" tools within the training principles, but most "tools" you only reach when you are having issues or looking for marginal gains.
  • I try to look at the "tools" with some critical thinking.
  • Of course, it isn't easy, and you often do not get it right, but I implement things myself before applying them to my athletes.
  • For example, I have been doing aero testing, working with the Notio (with guidance from an aerodynamicist), and working on a readiness app that evaluates cognitive fatigue, HRV, etc.
  • So, I try to do it before using it with some or all of my athletes.
  • For example, with aero testing, the sensor is suitable. Still, we found that if we have access to an outdoor velodrome (concrete track for cycling), we could aero testing within a 1 % precision with a GPS and a power meter.

Athlete expectations when they reach out to Mikael

29:59 -

  • I try to make transparent what my coaching and Scientific Triathlon methodologies are like as we are pragmatic about it.
  • So, athletes will not have eight sensors on their training rides every day, and we will not write training programs on a fancy AI app.
  • If the athlete is not okay with it, it is okay.
  • I learnt from my mistakes early because I did not apply these training methodologies.

Relationship between coaches/athletes and scientific literature

32:05 -

  • It varies from coach to coach. There is a cultural component, but I feel there is less of a gap in Europe.
  • Coaches tend to know the science and coaching, and there is a framework for how coaches and scientists work together. (it closes the gap)
  • In the triathlon scene, there is a more significant gap, but at the same time, it is not necessarily a bad thing because research is only trying to prove the methods used by successful coaches.
  • A good coach does not need to understand scientific literature deeply. 
  • A good coach has to be curious and open-minded, but that can take different shapes.
  • Coaches might not read much literature but can be specific in their training methodologies.
  • Many researchers miss the critical component of the practice of the "theory".
  • When I interview a researcher, I aim to ask about the applied side of the investigation. At this point, I also express my opinion a bit.
  • I also ask about the limitations of the literature. We might have one researcher with a good study, but we have to understand the field of research behind it.
  • So, there are some ways podcasters and media can do a better job of conveying that information to the audience.

Interviewing world-class coaches and people in the sport

37:22 -

  • There are many coaches I still have not interviewed and that I could reach out to and get to give an interview.
  • For example, Julia Dibens and Tim Kerrison are two coaches I have tried to reach out to and love to interview.
  • On the academic side, people want to come on the podcast.
  • Also, most coaches I wanted to interview had the desire to come to the podcast.
  • The first prominent name I interviewed was Malcolm Brown (coach of the Brownlee brothers). Then, Dan Lorang (coach of Jan Frodeno), Joe Filial and Arild Tveiten (coach of the Norwegians), that developed that program, were the most significant moments of my journey so far.

The motivation of researchers to be interviewed on podcasts

40:26 -

  • For example, Keith Baar and Stephen Seiler are some researchers that have "tons of podcast episodes" with different hosts.
  • I believe these researchers are "popular", so podcasters will reach out to them. I also interviewed Seiler and want him to return to the podcast.
  • Stephen Seiler is a prominent researcher with some good ideas, but he also has a big name in sports science.
  • I have many people that reach out that published books and want to get on the podcast.
  • However, I prefer all of my hosts to be reached out to by me and not the opposite. There might be options where candidates have a good background and do not want to "sell a product."


Managing intensity between sports

44:33 -

  • I think it is one of the crucial questions in triathlon, making it different from running or cycling.
  • You might have more frequent challenging workouts while training for different sports.
  • What I do is, for example, doing the low-intensity training "really easy" to ensure that type of training is not costly because you have more frequent demanding workouts.
  • I do not prescribe much zone 2 training.
  • I manage higher-intensity workouts to keep them more conservative than for a cyclist.
  • I try that athletes feel they could have done more if they wanted to. RPE is around 7-8. If they do 5x8min on the bike, athletes should feel they could do 1-2 more.
  • I also prescribe days when it is only a leisurely swim or a full rest day.
  • In beginner athletes, you do not have so frequent higher-intensity workouts.
  • With advanced athletes, you can have 2-3 hard sessions in each sport per week if you distribute things properly.

Targeting physiological adaptation vs targeting race pace

48:29 -

  • For example, in triathlon, we typically approach swim training as swimmers do. However, that is different from how an endurance athlete trains. The sessions are much more intense, and the work/rest periods are entirely different. Typically, we do swim sets at the "best pace".
  • However, I think that is dangerous for triathletes because I do not want to overburn triathletes.
  • Therefore, I program swimming more like cycling and running.
  • For example, in a traditional endurance swim workout, you break up the swim into intervals because athletes get so bored. However, it can backfire because if you do 40x100m with 10s recoveries, it makes it relatively easy for athletes to swim at a tempo effort and still feels very easy. (your easy and hard swims will tend to be "too hard")
  • What I am doing at the moment is looking at and training swimming a bit differently from tradition. And I am not the only one approaching swimming differently. (break in tradition)
  • For example, concerning marathon training, we know the methods of Kenyan coaches because they shared many of their sessions. You see significant differences if you compare these methodologies with standard training procedures (Vo2max workout in one day, threshold work on the next and a long run on Saturday).
  • Kenyan coaches prescribe much more extensive threshold work with fewer faster workouts than other runners.
  • In Australia, much of the training philosophy comes from a successful generation of runners, so Australian coaches use that methodology to train. And the same things play in different regions.
  • For long-distance events, having a different approach (extensive threshold and race specificity) is a part of my methodology.

Reverse periodisation in triathlon

57:33 -

  • I look more at a gap analysis: where is the athlete now? Where do they need to go? How can we get there and bridge those gaps?º
  • Sometimes, we might have to bring the "special tools" and send athletes to labs for specific tests.
  • If we are building towards a long-distance race, I think reverse periodisation can work. You might have an athlete who needs VO2max training, and it makes sense to do it after preparation.
  • One advantage of this procedure is that they are fresh when doing this block of training. Athletes have to go hard in these types of workouts.
  • I do not think you should always program training like this.
  • Some triathletes do not need that high-intensity training because they have maximised their VO2max development with the training volume.
  • Threshold work also could function as a VO2max development tool because you can combine intensity and volume to bring your VO2max up to a specific level.

Frequency of high-intensity training

1:00:59 -

  • Every year as a coach, I prescribe less and less high-intensity training for long-distance athletes.
  • There will be points at parts of the year where athletes will do one block of VO2max training.
  • You do not need much of that when you work with amateur athletes that are not close to their genetic potential.

Recovery sessions

1:02:25 -

  • I like swimming as a recovery session because you can keep swimming frequency up. Swimming is a technical sport, so you can still benefit from the technical training.
  • Of course, we might reach a point where we are so tired that we cannot swim properly, but even then, you can use equipment to help you swim.
  • Training volume is an essential aspect of their training for more advanced athletes, so I often introduce bike sessions.
  • I never put on a "recovery ride" on a training plan, but it still forms a recovery day if they do an "easy ride". (it can even be a two-hour ride)
  • On a lighter day, you can still do more accessible aerobic training.

Pacing in triathlon

1:04:40 -

  • The best predictor of performance is the performance itself, and we try to understand pacing strategies in cycling by looking at previous efforts in the same position and weather conditions.
  • Moreover, in cycling, the time athletes can hold at a threshold.
  • WT athletes have incredible 20-30min power but suffer in 2-3h.
  • We have other athletes that do not fatigue even though their 20-30min is not high.
  • Before any race, we do race-specific workouts and see how performance will look on race day.
  • If you do it at a late stage in the block, a 5x20min at Ironman pace in a fatigued state, it will reflect what you can do on race day if you are a relatively fast biker. (2h30-3h bike split)
  • Of course, you still must consider the weather (heat and altitude in the pacing strategy).
  • So, you should not follow the general guidelines because they might only be valid for advanced athletes. For example, doing the 70.3 Ironman race at 85 % of your FTP could be possible for a person that does two hours in the bike split compared to one that does three hours.
  • I do not focus much on keeping the power duration models up to date, and implementing FTP protocols with TTE (time-to-exhaustion) is something I have not implemented in my testing.
  • In triathlon, we also have the issue of combining swim, biking and running, so I look less and less at the metrics and more at what the athlete is doing.
  • For example, I might prescribe a 5x20min sweet spot session, and if athletes do the whole session, it will tell a lot about their feeling, but it will also tell a lot about their TTE.
  • While I cannot quantify things with this methodology, I can see that the trend is looking positive and can help us understand what we can do in the race.
  • In the swim and run, analysing what we can do is much more challenging because we do not have the power meter's accuracy.

Aerodynamics in triathlon

1:12:31 -

  • I think triathletes already understand the importance of aerodynamics.
  • On the men's professional side, aerodynamics is well-developed.
  • Even in age groupers, you see many athletes focusing on aerodynamics and much more awareness.
  • I think there will be more development in this area as the tools that we have available improve.
  • The British time trial scene has developed much in the aerodynamic component.
  • In a draft-legal triathlon, much fewer athletes pay attention to aerodynamics, and it makes sense because many athletes are not strong on the bike, so their goal is to ride with the pack.
  • However, for example, the Norwegians have to bridge from the second to the first group because they are not strong swimmers.
  • And to do it, they must be fast in the bike split and focus on aerodynamics.
  • In running, athletes run at 20+ km/h to win, so you have a drafting benefit.
  • Therefore, tactics play a role, and I think athletes could benefit from looking at this aspect more.
  • For example, in the Sprint triathlon scene, two triathletes dominate the season. And the one coming from track athletics is constantly beating the other. One reason could be he is running more time behind the other.
  • He has a good sprint, but things would be different if the others were more tactical.
  • In long-distance triathlons, I think aerodynamics in the run has less impact.

Tactics in triathlon

1:18:53 -

  • The focus on this aspect varies depending on the individual.
  • Most athletes I work with have this in mind, as we discussed it quite often, so there is some self-awareness.
  • Even world-class athletes might not think about tactics in long-distance racing because it is such a long race that you can look at it as a long time trial. However, I think the athletes fighting to win have tactical awareness.

Drafting in long-distance racing

1:20:59 -

  • The Sub.7 and Sub.8 project were good examples of controversy in the triathlon community because some see these projects as something without the "spirit" of triathlon.
  • I think it was a fun event (a show), and they bent the rules much more in that triathlon event.
  • Another example is the hour record in cycling. 
  • It is apparent people want to compare past with present athletes.
  • UCI tries to regulate things (banning the Obree or the superman position) to maintain tradition. 
  • In triathlon, there is also change appearing with so many things developing in triathlon (more investment and the creation of leagues - PTO Tours) where athletes will race in different locations.
  • I am curious to see how this will impact the Asian triathlon view.
  • There are already some triathlon races in Asia (e.g. Japan on short distance triathlon), but not so much on long distance triathlon.
  • In cycling, it would be interesting to see a new race coming in a different location with the same level of importance as the grand tours in Europe.

Ironman Kona vs Olympic Games in triathlon

1:27:32 -

  • In triathlon, I think people focus more on the Olympics than sports like cycling, where winning a Grand Tour might be more important than winning an Olympic gold medal.
  • I see the Olympics as the most prestigious event in sports.
  • The Olympic distance triathlon also offers a view of these extraordinary athletes that run fast after having done the swim and bike splits.
  • However, many long-distance triathletes will be more focused in Kona compared to the Olympics.
  • For me, the athletes with the same opportunity to win two probably would say that winning in the Olympics would be more important than winning in Kona.
  • "If you win a gold medal in the Olympics, you can compare yourself to the other greats of other sports".
  • In cycling, grand tours are more challenging than a one-day race because you need to be on top of the game for 21 days. So, it is more challenging to win grand tours.
  • However, if you need a perfect Olympic race to win, I think it is more challenging to win this event.

Mikael's favourite meme

1:33:32 -

  • I saw one where a cyclist comes in from a ride, and while looking at his watch, he is telling his friend that he rode 120 km at 32 km/h, 197 W and a heart rate of 142 bpm. The friend asked: "Did you have fun?"
  • The cyclist looked at his watch: "It does not say."

Listener questions

1:34:37 -

Do triathletes pee on their bike?

  • Yes, but people do not care.

Tell us more about your training camp in Mallorca.

  • We will have all of our coaches there and 40-50 athletes.
  • It is for all levels, and we have the resources to split athletes into groups of different ability levels.
  • We will many of the famous climbs in Mallorca (e.g. Sa Calobra) and explore the cycling routes that there are on the island.
  • There is an outdoor pool where we will do most of our work in the swim (video and technical consultations) and old-fashioned hard work to prepare for the season.

Why don't triathletes wear socks?

  • It is faster not to put them in transition. Up to Olympic distance triathlons, athletes do not put on socks.
  • If athletes are doing 70.3, athletes could choose one way or another.

Mikael's favourite restaurant in Spain

  • In Mallorca, my favourite is the buffet of the hotel we stay at during the camp.
  • We have a local restaurant in Portugal called "Adega das Gravatas". You will not find many tourists there, and they serve typical large portions and typical Portuguese cuisine.

Differences in training volume for Ironman and Sprint distance

  • At the elite level, the differences are not that significant. Most athletes train at least 20-25h per week. Of course, athletes that train for Ironman might train a bit more.
  • It turns out that you should maximise volume to optimise performance in the Sprint distance triathlon.
  • If you are a beginner only trying to finish, the longer the event, the more critical the training volume becomes.

Tips on running safely for cyclists

  • They have to give it time, especially for well-trained cyclists. Their metabolic and cardiovascular fitness will be much higher than their tissue resilience.
  • Even if you are not a cyclist, cardiovascular and metabolic fitness come much quicker.
  • So, they should progress much slower than average.
  • It will also depend on the athlete's history (running and strength training background)
  • For example, the athlete can try to run 15-20min three times per week to develop that tissue resilience slowly.
  • Running is much more injury prone, so you need to be more careful.
  • Another thing is shoe selection and running analysis. If athletes want to do some run analysis, I do not recommend them to usually because the body adapted to run in a specific form to avoid getting injured.
  • If you are new to running, you might try experimenting with different shoes to understand the best for you.

Training concept Mikael's most disagree with

  • Fasted training is one concept, I would say. I have never seen "fasted training" helping performance.


Bernardo Gonçalves

Bernardo is a Portuguese elite cyclist and co-founder of SpeedEdge Performance, a company focused on optimising cycling and triathlon performance. He writes the shownotes for That Triathlon Show, and also produces social media content for each new episode.

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