LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:
Mikael answers listener questions on the topics of racing and testing.
In this episode you'll learn about:
- Bike position and breathing issues on the run leg of a triathlon
- The biggest gains one can make during race week
- When is it better to race by feel (without data) and vice versa
- Recommended tests for different types of road cycling events
- Testing protocol for comparing running shoes without a lab
- Is Fatmax testing useful?
- Doing road races (running) to get more "test" data
- Swim testing for 70.3 and Ironman
- How and why to test your Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP)
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The impact of bike position on the run
- An aggressive bike position could impact the respiratory system, although it is not the only factor to consider.
- The respiratory system plays a significant role in endurance performance, requiring a considerable energy supply during exercise.
- Any energy utilised by the respiratory system cannot be utilised by the locomotor muscles, affecting overall efficiency.
- Factors such as bike position, including an aggressive aero position or sitting upright, and wearing a wetsuit can influence the economy of the respiratory system.
- Moreover, during prolonged exercise, the respiratory system can experience fatigue, which an aggressive aero position may influence.
- To mitigate potential respiratory system fatigue, it is crucial to incorporate training that simulates race demands.
- Race simulation workouts, including intense cycling with race-specific intensity in the aero position and a run at race pace, can help prepare the respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal systems for the race's demands.
- Adopting a less aggressive bike position is recommended if training fails to alleviate significant respiratory discomfort.
- However, even switching to a less aggressive position, certain measures can still be taken to enhance performance.
- Focusing on proper breathing mechanics, such as diaphragmatic breathing, expanding the rib cage during inhalation, and maintaining a consistent respiratory frequency, can improve respiratory efficiency.
- It is essential to avoid fast and shallow hyperventilation, finding a balance in respiratory rhythm.
- Evidence suggests that various respiratory training methods and devices can enhance endurance performance.
- Two types of devices are commonly used: those providing resistance during inhalation (e.g., PowerBreathe, AeroFit) and devices designed for voluntary isocapnic hyperpnea, which allow breathing without resistance but maintain constant CO2 levels (e.g., Breathe Way Better, SpiroTiger).
- While I haven't personally experienced the effects of these devices, incorporating them as an adjunct to regular training, especially during indoor sessions in the aero position, could challenge and adapt the respiratory system.
- However, delving into the evidence and expert opinions regarding these devices goes beyond the scope of our discussion today.
- Prioritising race simulation training, including challenging bike sessions in an aggressive position and running off the bike, is crucial.
- If breathing issues persist despite such training, consider exploring positional changes on the bike and potentially respiratory-related interventions, such as biomechanical adjustments or respiratory training.
Race week gains
- Regarding race week preparation, there are several key factors to consider.
- Concerning volume and intensity, avoiding excessive training during race week is advisable.
- For longer races, such as Olympic distance and above, a general guideline is to average around one hour or less per training day.
- This may involve shorter workouts, maintaining workout frequency but reducing duration.
- The focus should be on not overdoing both volume and intensity.
- Another potential improvement is sleep. Adequate sleep is crucial for optimal performance.
- Increasing your sleep opportunity by an additional hour per night, especially if you typically sleep on the lower end of the recommended range, can have a significant positive impact. For example, if you normally get seven to seven and a half hours of sleep, aim for 8-8h30 per night during race week.
- Prioritising sleep is easier when training volume is reduced, allowing more time to rest and recover.
- The third point is Nutrition. Carb loading plays an important role in race week preparation.
- It is recommended to engage in carb loading for one to two days before the race.
- While two days of carb loading is generally preferred, one day may be sufficient.
- If opting for a one-day carb load, front-load the carbohydrates earlier in the day rather than later. Be diligent in counting carbohydrates and aim for 10 to 12 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- The advantage of a two-day carb load is that it offers an extra buffer and ensures glycogen stores are adequately replenished.
- Even if the second day falls short, the glycogen stores may still reach full replenishment.
- The first day of the carb load doesn't require front-loading, but front-loading is recommended on the second day, preferably in the morning. The carb intake can range from 8 to 12 grams per kilogram of body weight.
- The Carb sources can help with digestion during this period. Liquid sources of carbs, such as melted extra mixed with fructose and plain Coke, are recommended.
- Simple carbs like rice, jam, and Haribo candies are also suitable. Minimising fibre, lactose, gluten, and fats two days before the race can help prevent gastrointestinal issues.
- Finally, ensure that you have a clean bike. Having a clean and well-maintained bike with a fast drivetrain can result in performance gains. A clean and efficient drivetrain can save around 10 watts.
- The main objective during race week is to avoid making mistakes and overtraining.
- Attention should be given to non-training aspects that can enhance performance and minimise the risk of gastrointestinal issues on race day.
Race by feel
- There are two scenarios where the use of data in pacing strategies should be considered.
- If you frequently start races too fast and fade towards the end, it indicates a flaw in your current plan.
- In this case, if you already use data but are not effectively utilising it, it is crucial to reassess your plan and rely more on it.
- Be strict with following a well-designed pacing strategy, even if you feel good at the beginning of the race.
- Conversely, experimenting with an alternative approach may be worthwhile if you consistently cross the finish line and question whether you pushed yourself to the limit or left something behind.
- If you currently use data and adhere to a successful pacing strategy but still feel room for improvement, try racing without relying heavily on data.
- This approach can help break boundaries and reach new levels by allowing for a less strict strategy or deviating from the pacing plan.
- Whether to use or not use data depends on your personality as an athlete and racer. Some athletes may be comfortable with having data available but not adhering to it strictly, while others may benefit from not using any data at all. Assess your own racing personality to determine which approach suits you best.
- If you currently race by feel and tend to be a cautious pacer but desire a more aggressive strategy, consider using data more extensively in your next race.
- Set a slightly more aggressive pacing plan and commit to sticking with it, even if it feels challenging.
- Observe how you perform throughout the race and evaluate if any adjustments can be made for optimisation.
- Leaving the watch at home and relying solely on feel and competition may be beneficial if you want to achieve a podium finish or a significant personal achievement.
- In high-level races like the world triathlon championships, many athletes don't use watches as the focus is on matching the race pace, competing against others, and using instinct to push through.
- Racing with data and following a conservative plan is generally recommended for beginner athletes.
- This allows beginners to gain race experience and calibrate their feel for pacing. Reflecting on the race afterwards helps identify strengths and areas for improvement.
- Beginners without access to data can still learn to pace by feeling and gradually develop a better sense of their body's capabilities.
- Even if data is available, relying on both data and feel is important for experienced athletes.
- Experienced athletes should be willing to adjust their race plan based on their intuition and how the race unfolds.
- Adapting the plan during the race requires confidence and experience; the outcome will be a valuable learning experience.
- Regardless of the experience level, reflecting on past races helps improve decision-making.
- Analysing what went well and what needs improvement after races enhance the ability to race by feeling and using data effectively in future events.
Testing protocols for different types of events
- I recommend conducting several key tests and incorporating race-specific workouts to assess cycling performance.
- Concerning testing, I use Critical Power Test, for example, doing a three-minute and 20-minute time trial to calculate critical power, reflecting sustainable power output.
- For VO2max testing, I conduct a ramp test or a five-minute time trial to gauge changes in performance related to VO2 max. The idea is not to measure VO2max but to measure how it changes over time.
- Then, you could do a sprint test: a 10- to 20-second all-out effort to measure average, peak power, and speed of power attainment.
- For these tests, I would do them early on after a season break, around November and retest a couple of months later.
- Further testing may not be necessary depending on race schedules, as race data can provide insights into performance metrics.
- In training, we can also test our current level by developing workouts that simulate the demands of specific races.
- Emphasise intensity and structure to replicate race conditions.
- Progressively increase duration, reduce recoveries between efforts or modify the set structure to enhance race-specific preparation.
- Compare performance in these workouts over time to track progress and identify areas of improvement.
- For example, if you prepare criterium events, incorporate repeated high-intensity efforts, gradually extending the set duration and reducing recovery periods between efforts.
- For flat road races with sprint finishes, focus on a long solid ride, including tempo and threshold intervals.
- Integrate race simulation efforts throughout the ride, emphasising high power output in the final few kilometres. And you can also simulate lead-outs or final sprint efforts based on your team role.
- For a hilly road race, the long ride should include race-specific efforts and match the duration of the race or come close to it.
- Towards the end of the ride, instead of a few minutes of hard effort, finish with a longer, challenging climb that simulates the race conditions.
- The climb should be at least 30 minutes or progress from 15 to 30 to 40 minutes for a peak workout.
- Regarding durability testing or fatigue resistance testing, it is optional to perform formal and sterile tests.
- The workouts, such as the road race workouts, already serve as durability tests designed for the goal event.
- Training becomes a form of testing, as you aim to repeat similar workouts or variations in subsequent build-ups for similar events. Therefore, training and testing are intertwined, and the perspective may vary from individual to individual.
- Ultimately, these training strategies aim to prepare for specific events and improve endurance.
- Training becomes a form of testing as you strive to achieve desired performance outcomes.
Self-test heart rate protocol for running shoes
- To conduct a shoe testing protocol, it is important to consider individual differences and the need for a controlled environment.
- The test should ideally be performed on a treadmill, allowing for precise speed control and the ability to account for environmental conditions.
- Consistency in testing is important, so repeating tests on the same treadmill is ideal.
- For comparison, consider testing two pairs of shoes: Nike and Asics.
- Before starting the tests, a thorough warm-up is necessary to raise the heart rate significantly.
- The test speed should correspond to the marathon pace for faster runners or the half marathon pace for slower runners.
- For example, a marathon pace would be suitable if you are a three-hour marathoner.
- During the warm-up, the final five to six minutes should be performed at the testing pace, ensuring that the heart rate responds appropriately and preparing the body for the subsequent tests.
- This helps maintain consistency between each test and reduces significant differences.
- The testing phase involves two tests per pair of shoes, resulting in four tests in total.
- Each test lasts five minutes, with a five-minute recovery period between tests.
- This recovery time allows for shoe changes and ensures a fully recovered heart rate before the next test begins.
- The counterbalanced order of testing, starting with the Nikes, followed by the Asics, repeating the Asics, and concluding with the Nikes, helps account for factors like core temperature and fatigue accumulation.
- The first step is setting the treadmill speed consistently, such as 14 kilometres per hour, representing a three-hour marathon pace.
- Begin the test by running for five minutes with the first pair of shoes, such as the Nikes.
- After the five-minute run, step off the treadmill and recover while switching to the second pair of shoes, such as the Asics.
- Run another five minutes with the second pair of shoes while recording heart rate and other relevant data.
- Step off the treadmill for another five-minute recovery period while keeping the same shoes on.
- Perform a second test with the same pair of shoes, running for five minutes and recording the necessary data.
- Repeat the recovery period and shoe change, returning to the initial pair of shoes (Nikes in this example). Run the final five-minute test with the original pair of shoes while collecting the data.
- Upload the data obtained from the tests and focus on the heart rate during the final two minutes of each five-minute segment.
- Calculate the average heart rate for each shoe by averaging the heart rate numbers obtained in the final two minutes of each test.
- Compare the average heart rates for the shoes. For example, if the Nikes averaged 141 and 142 beats per minute, the average is 141.5. If the Asics averaged 143 and 144 beats per minute, the average is 143.5. In this case, the difference between the averages is two beats per minute.
- A difference of two beats per minute is significant and can influence running performance by saving one to two minutes in a marathon.
- Select the shoe that resulted in the lower heart rate at the identical speed tested, indicating a better choice for the individual.
- Although the gold standard for shoe testing is running economy testing in a lab, this self-test protocol can be effective, especially when comparing two pairs of shoes.
- However, it is crucial to follow the protocol accurately to avoid false results and potential mistakes in the testing process.
- I am unaware of any evidence suggesting anything special about training at Fat Max or in the Fat Max zone.
- A study by Schwindling in 2013 found that fat oxidation was the same across sessions conducted at Fat Max, significantly below Fat Max, and significantly above Fat Max, despite varying power, heart rate, and lactate levels.
- Fat Max, as currently understood, is considered a blunt instrument with limited significance.
- That being said, training in the higher end of zone two or the moderate density domain can have benefits, especially during periods with less intense training to recover from.
- However, I prefer to describe it as endurance plus rather than specifically targeting Fat Max.
- The overall program is crucial for improvement, and no single point should be considered superior.
- Fat Max is often assessed through step tests in labs. Still, the problem with shorter steps is that they do not allow for steady-state measurements, which are required for reliable assessments of parameters like ventilatory thresholds and fat oxidation.
- If Fat Max were important, careful attention would be needed in how it is measured. Lab reports based on ramp tests with short steps may not provide accurate Fat Max values.
- I am confident that if we conducted a study with two groups, where one group engaged in three high-intensity training sessions per week for several weeks, while the other group trained at Fat Max, matching the energy expenditure, the high-intensity group would likely show greater improvements in fat oxidation due to enhanced VO2 max.
- However, this doesn't mean that high-intensity training is superior to improving fat oxidation. It demonstrates that overall endurance improvement, through increased VO2 max, can positively impact fat oxidation.
- No compelling evidence suggests shortcuts, gimmicks, or secrets for maximising fat oxidation. Fat Max naturally increases with improved endurance and fitness achieved by consistent training that includes easy and challenging sessions and proper recovery.
- Therefore, focusing on the overall structure of your training program is crucial, and knowing your Fat Max is unnecessary.
- There are no specific training zones to avoid or grey areas—instead, it's about finding the right balance.
Racing vs Testing
- I completely understand the reluctance to conduct non-race tests, especially when it comes to running.
- From my experience as a coach, running tests can be more challenging for many individuals than cycling and swimming.
- I prescribe minimal run testing, and my advanced athletes rarely engage in running time trials.
- If run testing is performed, it would typically be a lactate test, if available, or a race such as a 5K or 10K.
- However, whether you should race more and test more depends on various factors.
- Racing more is not always necessary. I have coached athletes who last participated in running races or tests a long time ago.
- It's important to remember that workouts themselves serve as a form of testing.
- It indicates progress if you can perform the same workout at an easier Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
- This can be a signal to increase the number of repetitions or aim for a slightly faster pace in future workouts, depending on the nature of the training session.
- In other words, you don't need to rely solely on one-off tests to determine your training paces or assess progress. Your workouts provide valuable information.
- They indicate whether you are improving compared to previous sessions and whether it's appropriate to introduce additional stimuli by increasing repetitions or speed.
- While participating in 5km and 10km races is beneficial and adds value, I also understand that local races can be mentally draining and deplete your focus for triathlon races.
- If participating in these races is challenging for you and affects your mental preparedness, it may be best to prioritise your mental energy for your targeted triathlon races.
- However, if you enjoy these races and find them manageable, I recommend participating in them, especially during winter.
- For beginner athletes or those who haven't developed a strong sense of pacing, I would be more inclined to recommend races to gain experience and understand their capabilities.
- In addition to prescribing workout efforts, I would provide a pace range to help guide their pacing until they become more attuned to their abilities.
- Ultimately, the importance of tests or races as testing depends on your sense of pacing and how well you understand your running ability.
- It should be noted that using races as testing opportunities can be highly beneficial for 5km and 10km races.
- These distances serve as excellent tests and training stimuli since athletes can push themselves harder than in regular workouts while still being able to recover relatively quickly.
- There are several advantages to utilising these races, but the same cannot be said for longer races such as half or full marathons.
- The drawbacks become more significant in these longer distances.
- Therefore, it is important to consider that when referring to running races in this context, I am primarily discussing 5km and 10km races suitable for testing purposes, potentially extending to 10 miles depending on an individual's pace.
- However, this is subject to personal capability and training design.
- Incorporating races into your training can be beneficial as long as the tests or races are manageable.
- Racing provides an opportunity to improve your sense of pace and effort, contributing to your learning curve as an athlete.
- It can be a valuable addition to your training regimen if you enjoy racing.
- Participating in more races can enhance your understanding of your capabilities and provide additional data points to execute your training better.
- Racing can help you improve and optimise your training efforts.
Swim test for Ironman triathletes
- The swimming testing method I use involves a 100-meter, a 400-meter, and a 1900-meter time trial.
- The 1900-meter trial is done on a separate day, while the 100-meter and 400-meter trials are completed together.
- The test suits athletes whose 1900-meter time is around 30 minutes or faster.
- If an athlete's 1900-meter time is closer to 40 minutes, a shorter test, such as a maximum of 1500 meters, may be more appropriate.
- The critical speed test provides a more realistic assessment of sustainable intensity or threshold compared to tests consisting of only short-time trials, such as the popular 400-meter plus 200-meter test.
- It also allows for a better assessment of top-end speed with the shorter 100-meter trial. The 400-meter trial provides a target pace for high-intensity VO2 max swim workouts.
- After experimenting with various setups, I have found this combination of the 100-meter, 400-meter, and 1900-meter tests to be advantageous and preferable to previous methods.
- Calculating critical speed from the three time-trials is a simple process, although online calculators specifically for this test are not readily available.
- It involves converting the pace of each trial to speed in meters per second and plotting the speed against the inverse of time.
- A regression line is created using the data points, and the intercept of the regression line on the y-axis represents the critical speed (CS) in meters per second.
- The CS value is then converted back to pace. Although it may sound complex, the process is straightforward with basic Excel or Google Sheets skills.
- To ensure a proper race-specific workout progression for 70.3 and Ironman athletes, it is recommended to simulate the entire swim in training.
- For a 70.3, one can start with workouts like five sets of 400 meters at a 70.3 pace with a one-minute recovery, gradually building up to a continuous 1900-meter race pace effort.
- Similarly, for a full Ironman, a progression can start with workouts like five sets of 800 meters or four sets of 1000 meters, eventually building up to a continuous 3800 meters.
- During these workouts, pacing and effort should be controlled, and athletes should feel they have more energy left compared to the shorter distance workouts.
- These progressions help dial in effort level, mentally and physically preparing athletes for the swim leg on race day.
- It is important to note that these progressions do not predict race times, as various factors like currents, waves, and water conditions can influence performance in open water.
- However, comparing splits from previous race builds can indicate improvements in fitness and potential for placing higher within one's age group in the swim.
- While swim tests and progressions provide valuable tools, they cannot precisely predict race times.
- Nonetheless, they help athletes gauge their progress, compare their performances from previous race builds, and potentially move up in the swim rankings within their age group.
- It is important to note that training is not solely about doing race-specific workouts or exclusively focusing on high-intensity or easy workouts.
- Training plans incorporate a variety of intensities based on different factors. This can include higher and lower intensities, as well as a mix of various types of workouts.
- However, as the race approaches, typically in the final weeks or months leading up to the event, there is an increased emphasis on race-specific workouts.
- These workouts take priority while still allowing for the inclusion of other types of workouts.
- It is crucial to understand that when discussing these specific workouts, they are highlighted as among the most important ones but not the only key or challenging workouts in a training plan.
Maximum aerobic power
- Maximum aerobic power (MAP) is the maximum sustained power achieved during a graded exercise test, also known as an incremental or ramp test.
- In scientific literature, there is a shift towards using the term W max, representing the maximum work rate achieved in an incremental test.
- However, MAP is still commonly used and understood among athletes and coaches.
- MAP/Wmax is highly correlated with VO2max.
- An improvement in performance during a five-minute test, indicative of an increase in VO2 max, also reflects changes in MAP/Wmax.
- Therefore, measuring MAP/W max can provide insights into changes in VO2 max even when direct VO2 max testing is unavailable.
- MAP/Wmax is considered more interesting than VO2max because it is influenced by aerobic capacity and gross efficiency.
- Gross efficiency refers to how efficiently an athlete converts oxygen consumption into power output.
- Even if an individual has a high VO2max, poor gross efficiency can produce similar power output to someone with a lower VO2max.
- Ultimately, power output is more relevant to performance as it relates to speed, which determines how one progresses from the start line to the finish line.
- Hence, MAP/Wmax is a valuable performance indicator, if not superior to VO2max, as it considers both aerobic capacity and power output critical factors in determining performance.
- The Maximal Aerobic Power is derived from a ramp test or graded exercise test, and it is crucial to understand that the final value obtained from the test depends heavily on the design of the ramp, specifically the slope.
- The slope represents the rate at which intensity increases, such as watts per second or minute. Different protocols with varying slopes can significantly impact the test results.
- For instance, consider two protocols: Protocol 1 increases power by 25 watts every minute, while Protocol 2 increases power by 25 watts every three minutes.
- If an individual's threshold is 300 watts, by the time they reach the 350-watt stage, Protocol 1 would have only spent the previous two minutes at 325 watts and 300 watts.
- However, in Protocol 2, the individual would have spent the preceding six minutes, with three minutes each at 325 and 300 watts. This results in greater fatigue in Protocol 2, leading to lower peak power and a lower stage in the test than in Protocol 1.
- Research has shown that changing the slope of the ramp test can have a significant impact on the achieved MAP or Wmax.
- For example, when transitioning from a steep slope of 50 watts per minute to a shallow slope of eight watts per minute, the duration of the test increased from an average of seven minutes to 30 minutes, and Wmax dropped by 108 watts.
- This highlights the importance of considering the slope when comparing MAP or Wmax results from different testing protocols. Comparisons should only be made when using protocols with the same slope.
- Therefore, selecting a specific testing protocol and sticking to it for consistent and valid comparisons is crucial.
- The actual numerical value obtained from the test is less important than the changes in the number, which are of greater interest when assessing individual progress.
Designing a MAP test
- In lab testing scenarios where VO2max is measured, shorter protocols are often preferred, especially for recreational or less fit athletes.
- This ensures that fatigue does not occur before reaching VO2max. Well-trained athletes can still reach VO2max with longer protocols.
- The protocol length is not a major concern for self-coached athletes who are not comparing Wmax results across different studies.
- There is no need to adhere to a short protocol constraint for individual testing.
- Shorter protocols have the advantage of being quick and causing less fatigue.
- After completing a shorter ramp test, athletes can perform additional workouts or recovery rides. Longer protocols, on the other hand, may hinder post-test training or require more recovery time.
- Submaximal parameters like lactate samples and ventilation may not reach a steady state with one-minute steps in a ramp test.
- Three-minute steps can provide a compromise by allowing a closer approximation of a steady state while still maintaining an adequate ramp slope.
- Since lactate and ventilation are not measured in your case, submaximal variables are not a concern for assessing changes in VO2max through the MAP test.
- The focus for you is primarily on evaluating the impact of your training on VO2max, so the consideration of submaximal variables does not apply.
- One consideration is that longer protocols may be more sensitive in detecting subtle changes in fitness compared to high-slope protocols.
- A shallower slope, such as 15 watts per minute, may be better at picking up small improvements in maximum aerobic power (MAP).
- There is no definitive answer regarding the best protocol, as trade-offs need to be considered, and factors important to the individual must be taken into account.
- The Zwift ramp test, with a slope of 20 watts per minute, is widely used and considered a good protocol for finding MAP or Wmax. Slopes of 20 to 25 watts per minute are commonly seen in scientific literature.
- The suggested protocol of increasing 10 to 15 watts every two minutes has a low slope, resulting in a longer test duration. Shorter protocols, such as the Zwift test with a 25 watts per minute increase, are preferred by some coaches to minimise recovery time and fatigue.
- The choice of protocol depends on the desired outcome. Exit criteria for the test should be minimal, with the main criterion being to pedal until unable to continue.
- Additional criteria, such as a drop in cadence below a certain threshold (e.g., 60 or 70, depending on normal cadence), can be considered. However, the primary focus should be on pushing until reaching the point of physical exhaustion.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
- Effect of Respiratory Muscle Training on Exercise Performance in Healthy Individuals A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis - Illi et al. 2012
- Limited Benefit of Fatmax-Test to Derive Training Prescriptions - Schwindling et al. 2013
- Incremental exercise test design and analysis: implications for performance diagnostics in endurance athletes - Bentley et al. 2007
- Peak power output predicts maximal oxygen uptake and performance time - Hawley & Noakes 1992
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