Podcast, Training

Q&A (supersized holiday edition) | EP#422

 December 25, 2023

By  Bernardo Gonçalves


Q&A David and Mikael -That Triathlon Show

Mikael and David Dhooge answer listener questions in a supersized Q&A edition for the holiday season.

In this episode you'll learn about:

  • Favourite TTS episodes of the year
  • Differences in training between sprint and middle-distance races
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle fibre composition - how to estimate your phenotype
  • When and how to get back into training after illness
  • Pace or heart rate targets for Zone 2 training
  • "Big Days" in Ironman preparation
  • Our proudest athletic achievements, and bucket-list events
  • Threshold-training
  • Combining a training camp with a race
  • Starting and marketing a coaching business

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Favourite That Triathlon Show podcast of the year

03:34 -

Bent Rønnestad Episode:

  • The discussion with Bent Rønnestad significantly impacted my training methodology.
  • I adopted more high-intensity 30/15s, changing my approach from longer VO2 work.

Richard Laidlow Episode:

  • The episode with Richard Laidlow was valuable for the information shared.
  • The insights from Richard Laidlow are reflected in your training methodology for your athletes.

Josephine Perry's Episode:

  • There was mention of an episode, likely with Josephine Perry, focusing on the psychology of athletes.
  • While details are not fully recalled, it emphasised the importance of mental aspects in training.

Dan Lorong's Episode:

  • The episode with Dan Lorang, coach of the male Ironman World Champion, was notable.
  • It provided valuable insights into coaching strategies and athlete performance.

Vasco Villaça and Sophie Coldwell Episodes:

  • Episodes featuring Vasco Villaça and Sophie Caldwell were appreciated for insights into short-course athlete training.
  • These episodes provided a perspective on training and experiences in short-course competitions.

Changed training methodology because of the podcast

07:32 -

  • I often encounter interesting training methodologies, and when I find one that works exceptionally well, I might invite the person behind it onto the podcast. Whether it's an academic or a coach, exchanging ideas is valuable. 
  • I don't immediately change my coaching approach based on one person's input. Instead, hearing multiple perspectives on a particular method gradually takes root in my mind. 
  • I began experimenting with it, and my experiences determined its effectiveness for my athletes. 
  • It's a thoughtful process—considering how a new approach aligns with my training philosophy and finding practical ways to implement it into my coaching schedule. This evolution is an organic and gradual process, not an overnight shift.

Training changes to sprint distance racing

09:26 -

  • I tend to emphasise high-end work and threshold training when preparing for sprint distance races. While I acknowledge the importance of these aspects in 70.3 racing, the specificity shifts as the race date approaches. 
  • For 70.3 races, there's a focus on sub-threshold ranges, aligning with the specific power demands of that distance. In contrast, sprint distance races demand more intensity, especially considering the need for hard surges in draft-legal races.
  • I would likely adopt a different periodisation approach for sprint races, emphasising high-end efforts closer to the race day. 
  • However, based on individual weaknesses, I would still incorporate high-intensity work earlier in the season. 
  • The critical difference lies in the increased emphasis on threshold work and high-end efforts as the race approaches.
  • I agree with the importance of threshold work for sprint distances and would also consider the athlete's VO2 max, which can be a limiting factor. 
  • Additionally, I might allocate more time to swimming, recognising its relative importance in sprint races. For middle-distance races, my focus would shift to LT1, fatigue resistance, efficiency, fueling, and hydration, with the bike and run taking precedence over the swim.
  • Despite the differences in distance, maintaining volume remains crucial, as shorter races still benefit from adequate training volume. 
  • Aligning periodisation with race specificity, especially in the final phases, ensures a well-rounded preparation for sprint and middle-distance races.

Race weight

13:28 -

  • Whether it's about losing or gaining, weight management should be cautiously approached and focused on long-term sustainability. 
  • Rapid changes, especially drastic weight loss, can negatively affect hormones and increase the risk of injuries. 
  • The key is to maintain a steady and gradual process, ensuring a balance between fueling for training sessions and the goal of weight management.
  • It's crucial to prioritise fueling during sessions, pre-session nutrition, and post-session recovery to support overall performance and recovery. Rather than overly fixating on quick weight changes, the emphasis should be on healthy eating with a diverse range of nutrients. 
  • This approach contributes to weight management and helps maintain energy levels during training.
  • Additionally, if someone is already working with a nutritionist, it's essential to trust the professional's process and expertise. 
  • Registered dietitians, in particular, bring a formalised qualification to the table, ensuring higher expertise. 
  • Following the guidance of a qualified nutritionist or dietitian who understands the individual's specific needs and context is often more beneficial than relying solely on generalised advice from sources like podcasts or online platforms.

Muscle fiber composition

17:25 -

  • Determining muscle fibre composition doesn't necessarily require a muscle biopsy. Instead, one can gain valuable insights from their athletic history and performance characteristics. 
  • Engaging in sports predominantly involving fast-twitch muscle activities, such as sprinting, soccer, or handball, can indicate a bias towards fast-twitch fibres. 
  • Additionally, observing performance tendencies, such as excelling in shorter efforts on the bike compared to longer ones, can further suggest a fast-twitch profile.
  • While formal testing like a muscle biopsy might not be practical, a critical power test on the bike can provide a more controlled understanding of an athlete's profile. 
  • This test, including three-minute and 20-minute efforts, helps calculate critical power and anaerobic energy (W'). The W' value can offer insights into an individual's fast-twitch dominance. 
  • Anecdotally, higher W' values, around 25, may indicate a more fast-twitch profile, while values around 15 could suggest a slower-twitch bias.
  • In the literature, a Wingate test involving a 30-second all-out effort on the bike has been correlated with muscle fibre typology. 
  • Monitoring maximum lactate levels after such a test can provide additional information about an individual's muscle fibre composition. Higher lactate values, around 15 or above, might suggest a fast-twitch bias, while lower values, around 6 or 7, may indicate a slower-twitch dominance.
  • Understanding one's muscle fibre composition is essential for tailoring training approaches. While it's acknowledged that triathletes benefit from a balance, leaning towards a more slow-twitch dominance, it's crucial to recognise that altering muscle fibre composition is a gradual process that requires consistent training over time.
  • The emerging research in muscle fibre typology is fascinating, particularly its implications for training adaptations. 
  • Studies have explored how individuals with a faster-twitch dominant profile respond to changes in volume compared to those with a slow-twitch dominance. 
  • Some findings suggest that fast-twitch dominant athletes may not respond as well to increased volume, potentially experiencing non-functional overreaching. In contrast, slow-twitch dominant individuals can better handle elevated volume loads.
  • This area of research holds great promise, especially in sports like football or soccer, where athletes display a broad spectrum of muscle fibre types. 
  • In these sports, understanding how muscle fibre composition correlates with aspects such as injury risk, response to volume, and recovery needs can be crucial. For instance, hamstring injuries have been linked to muscle fibre typology.
  • In the context of triathlon, insights into an athlete's muscle fibre profile can inform training approaches, including tailoring workouts based on individual responses. 
  • Fast-twitch profiles may demonstrate greater fatigue susceptibility but also higher power production capabilities. Recognising these traits allows for a more nuanced and individualised training process, acknowledging differences in resilience to fatigue and optimising performance accordingly.

Winter illness

25:32 -

  • Recovering from illness requires a gradual and cautious approach to returning to training. 
  • When dealing with conditions like the flu or recovering from COVID-19, it's essential to prioritise your health and respect your body's need for recovery. After being sick for a few days or weeks, the temptation to resume training quickly may arise, but resisting that urge is crucial.
  • Especially with illnesses like COVID-19 that may involve heart inflammation, a gradual reintroduction to training is essential. The first-week post-illness should be approached as a gentle reintroduction, focusing on easy endurance work. 
  • Monitoring your heart rate and observing how it responds to shorter, easy runs can be helpful indicators of your body's readiness.
  • Taking it easy, engaging in shorter workouts, and paying attention to your body's signals allow a smooth transition back to regular training. 
  • Considering the body's resource allocation during illness, it's vital to prioritise recovery and rebuilding energy reserves before intensifying workouts. This approach ensures a safer return to training and promotes long-term adaptation and overall well-being.

LT1 target training intensity

29:34 -

  • Heart rate is a highly variable metric, making relying on precise intensity guidance in every situation challenging. While it's beneficial to monitor heart rate, especially concerning LT1 (aerobic threshold) and other physiological thresholds, it's crucial to acknowledge its day-to-day fluctuations. 
  • This variability is not limited to heart rate alone but extends to parameters like pace, making it essential to adopt a holistic approach.
  • In the context of LT1, my coaching strategy emphasises a specific pace paired with a corresponding heart rate. However, I emphasise that these values are not constant and can vary daily. Rather than rigidly sticking to a predefined pace, athletes are encouraged to listen to their bodies. 
  • If running at a designated pace feels excessively challenging, accompanied by heavier breathing and an inability to converse easily, it signals a need for adjustment.
  • To navigate LT1 sessions effectively, I advocate incorporating talk tests and tuning into the feel of the effort. 
  • The aerobic threshold is not a fixed metric; it fluctuates based on factors such as fatigue, recovery status, and external conditions.
  • Therefore, athletes are urged to pay attention to their perceived effort (RPE), allowing for a more intuitive understanding of their body's response.
  • While pace remains crucial, especially in race-specific scenarios, heart rate gains prominence for aerobic runs, particularly in the early training phases. 
  • It provides flexibility, allowing athletes to maintain the desired internal load regardless of terrain or external factors. 
  • I acknowledge the day-to-day variation in heart rate and pace but emphasise that the internal load, indicative of how hard the body works, remains consistent.
  • In prescribing low-intensity runs (zone one, zone two, up to LT1), I prioritise RPE as the primary target, with heart rate as a secondary guide within a specified range. 
  • I completely resonate with the significance of listening to one's body and recognising the variability in heart rate and pace. In a recent threshold run on the treadmill, I encountered a situation where my typical LT2 heart rate of 150 beats per minute was surpassed, reaching 160 and beyond. 
  • Despite the deviation, I adhered rigidly to the planned pace of 3 minutes 40 seconds per kilometre. This mistake left me reflecting on the importance of prioritising heart rate and perceived effort (RPE) over fixed-pace targets.
  •  Acknowledging that sometimes deviations in pace are necessary for optimal performance is crucial, especially when facing challenging conditions that impact heart rate response.
  • I recently experienced a situation where adherence to pace overshadowed the cues from my body. 
  • Despite initially maintaining the designated pace, I later realised the importance of aligning my training intensity with the fluctuating capabilities of my body on a given day. 
  • It is a valuable lesson to prioritise adaptability over strict adherence to predetermined paces, particularly during threshold runs or challenging conditions.
  • RPE emerges as a vital guiding force, allowing athletes to understand their body's responses intimately. 
  • While technology and metrics have their place, running or riding based on feel has a profound value. 
  • The anecdotes from the running boom era further emphasise the potential for remarkable performances by athletes attuned to their bodies, even without the aid of modern technology.

Volume training days

38:30 -

  • I'm all for incorporating big training days, but I don't necessarily agree that they are necessary for successful Ironman preparation. 
  • While they can provide valuable insights into pacing, nutrition, and mental readiness, I don't believe in a rigid formula that dictates a specific duration, such as a two-hour run, as a prerequisite for Ironman's success.
  • In my opinion, the key lies in how you structure these sessions. For instance, a five-hour ride with Ironman-specific efforts followed by a shorter, tempo-focused run can be just as effective in simulating the demands of an Ironman race. It's crucial to customise these sessions based on individual needs and preferences.
  • I share your concern about injury risk, particularly when prescribing two-hour runs regularly. 
  • Safety and injury prevention should always take precedence. For less experienced athletes or those still mastering Ironman logistics, a big day—comprising a one-hour swim, 4.5-hour bike, and one-hour run—can serve as a valuable learning opportunity, addressing factors like pacing, nutrition, and overall race preparedness.
  • I resonate with the observation about the common narrative of feeling great in the initial phase of a run, only for challenges to arise later on. 
  • It underscores the importance of training duration and the quality and specificity of the efforts within those sessions. Newer athletes may benefit significantly from these structured big days. At the same time, more seasoned individuals might find value in other variations, like shorter but more intense bike efforts combined with extended runs.
  • I concur with gradually building up to these big days with progressive overload. It's essential to avoid sudden, drastic increases in training load to prevent overtraining and injuries. 
  • Consistency, adaptability, and a personalised approach to each athlete's unique circumstances should guide the integration of these sessions into their Ironman training.

Transitioning from short to middle-distance triathlon

44:30 -

  • Working Extremes: Short-course athletes often engage in high-intensity training and high-volume work, developing a broad range of aerobic capacities. This versatility in training allows them to adapt more quickly to the demands of longer distances.
  • High Aerobic Capacity: The high aerobic capacity developed through intense training is foundational. As athletes move from short to long courses, they already possess a strong aerobic base, facilitating the transition to more extended and more demanding races.
  • Mental Toughness: The mental fortitude gained from high-intensity training contributes to mental strength. Athletes accustomed to pushing their limits in shorter races may find it psychologically easier to tackle the challenges of longer distances.
  • Experience and Lifetime Training: Athletes who have engaged in triathlon since a young age and progressed through short-course racing have accumulated a lifetime of training experience. This extensive background can provide a significant advantage when transitioning to long course events.
  • Competitiveness and Depth: Short course triathlon is noted for its high competitiveness and depth. The depth of talent in short-course races, with exceptional athletes even beyond the top finishers, contributes to a rigorous competitive environment. While long-course racing showcases elite athletes, the depth might not be as pronounced.

Topic not fully covered in the podcast in 2023

47:41 -

  • Well, when it comes to critical power, it's an essential aspect of my training focus. I am delving into how to effectively utilise critical power and critical velocity in my workouts. 
  • It might not be a specific question, but I've contemplated dedicating a podcast episode to explore different perspectives. 
  • I'd love to hear from various experts and enthusiasts about their strategies and insights on incorporating critical power into training, especially about factors like LT1, LT2, and fatigue threshold.
  • The training nuances around critical power and critical velocity are areas of keen interest for me. Discussing how athletes and coaches integrate these concepts into their training methodologies could offer valuable insights for listeners. 
  • After listening to Craig Kirkwood, the coach of Hayden Wild, in the episode, I ponder a specific question. I wish I had asked about the power Hayden Wild pushed during the 70.3 Melbourne. Given his impressive 156 bike split and his limited time on the time trial bike, it would be fascinating to learn more about the power he was generating. 

30/30 intervals

49:51 -

  • 30-30s or 30-15s are practical training tools, and their application depends on the sport and specific objectives. 
  • In cycling, for VO2 max development, shorter intervals like 30-30 can be beneficial. 
  • You can start with three sets of nine repetitions to progress, ensuring you accumulate around 12 to 20 minutes of VO2 max work. 
  • Over weeks, gradually build up the duration or decrease the recoveries. Alternatively, you might use longer intervals with a one-to-one work-to-rest ratio, like two minutes on or two minutes off.
  • In the running, 30-30s can be employed, especially in a fartlek-style workout, focusing on perceived effort. A two-to-one work-to-rest ratio is preferred when aiming for VO2 max development, typically with shorter intervals like 30-15s.
  • The key is to tailor the structure based on your objectives and adapt over time. For triathletes, using these intervals for VO2 max development and targeting around 20 minutes of total work is a good starting point. 
  • You can progress by increasing the total work duration or adjusting the intensity. Exploring variations like "until exhaustion," sessions can add a challenging twist to your training.
  • With 30-15s, that's my go-to training tool, and I usually stick close to the original protocol of 13 sets of 30-15. Each set totals 9 minutes and 45 seconds. While the original research suggested a shorter rest interval, I give a more extended five minutes for better recovery since these sets are pretty demanding. 
  • The power for the 30-second intervals is set around the athlete's estimated six to eight-minute mean max power. The recovery power isn't just coasting; it's consistently at 50% of the on power. For instance, if the on power is 380 watts, the recovery power is 190 for 15 seconds. 
  • This results in an average of around 320 watts for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, but in a highly variable and challenging manner. I usually perform three sets of this workout.
  • Regarding progression, given the intensity of the workout, it often involves pushing for higher power outputs. I aim to see if I can handle more intensity during each session. 
  • It's undoubtedly a tough workout, but the challenge lies in maintaining a high average power in a stochastic way for 10 minutes, repeated three times.
  • However, I never use 30-15s for running. For running, I prefer 30-30s, more like a fartlek, where the effort is based on perceived exertion, targeting a 5 to 10-km level of intensity. The short recovery of 15 seconds in 30-15s might pose a risk of fatigue and compromise the quality of the run. Each athlete is different, and not everyone may be suitable for this kind of running workout due to the potential risk of injury. 
  • While 30-30 might work well for running, the shorter recovery in 30-15 makes it a bit impractical and fatiguing for quality running sessions.

Things age groupers should not copy from Pros

55:58 -

  • What amateur athletes can learn and adopt from professional athletes is consistency, simplicity in training approaches, and paying attention to fueling during workouts. 
  • Professionals showcase remarkable consistency in their training routines, a critical factor in their success. 
  • Keeping things simple regarding training plans and strategies is also a valuable lesson for amateurs.
  • On the flip side, there are aspects that amateurs should avoid copying from the pros. 
  • The first is the volume of training. Professional athletes often have the luxury of dedicating extensive time to training, which may not be feasible for amateurs with other commitments and responsibilities. 
  • Trying to match their training volume can lead to burnout and overtraining.
  • The second aspect to avoid copying is the intensity of training. Professionals engage in high-intensity workouts as a part of their job, but for amateurs, replicating these intensities may pose a risk of injury or hinder recovery. 
  • It's crucial to tailor the intensity of workouts to individual fitness levels and goals.
  • Additionally, it's important to focus on recovery. While professionals have dedicated time and resources for optimal recovery, amateurs should prioritise recovery efforts within their constraints. Acknowledging the need for recovery and adapting training accordingly is a key takeaway.

Age grouper 3000€ investment in aerodynamics

58:11 -

  • Improving aerodynamics is crucial for enhancing speed and saving energy in triathlon. One recommendation is to consider investing in AeroEdge, which provides quality aerodynamic testing services. This suggestion comes from personal experience and the positive results observed in athletes who have undergone testing with AeroEdge.
  • However, it's essential to clarify that AeroEdge is not directly affiliated with Scientific Triathlon, but the recommendation is based on trust in the founder, Bernardo Gonçalves. Scientific Triathlon athletes have tested with AeroEdge, and the positive outcomes are a testament to the value of aerodynamic testing.
  • Aero testing should be conducted by an expert with the knowledge and experience to achieve accurate results. 
  • Unlike self-education over a weekend, aerodynamics is a complex field that requires expertise. The recommendation is to prioritise quality testing with a trusted professional.
  • While considering testing, the choice between wind tunnel, velodrome, or road testing is crucial. Avoiding wind tunnel testing, which tends to be expensive and may not represent real-world riding conditions accurately, is advised. Instead, opt for road or velodrome testing, or ideally, both, to gather comprehensive insights.
  • Beyond testing, Bernardo suggests focusing on accessories that enhance your position, such as spacer types, reach wedges, TT extensions, elbow pads, saddles, and cranks. 
  • Investing in racing tires is also deemed a valuable upgrade. 
  • Following this, wheels, helmets, and custom-fitted clothing can be considered for further enhancements.
  • Additionally, Bernardo emphasises the importance of a tailored suit for improved aerodynamics. However, the choice of a suit should not compromise swim performance. 
  • Testing different suits in the pool can reveal the impact on swim speed and overall race performance. While aerodynamics is crucial, balancing speed gains and maintaining optimal performance in all disciplines is essential.

My proudest achievements as an athlete

1:03:23 -

  • David: My proudest achievements in triathlon have been reaching some of my personal goals while coaching myself. Securing podium finishes in various races, participating in Hawaii and the Champions, and achieving solid results in local races have been significant milestones for me. 
  • Coaching myself has its challenges, but the ability to adapt daily is a unique advantage.
  • Mikael: As for my goals for personal performance, I continually strive to perform well and secure age group podium finishes. 
  • One notable achievement this summer was clinching the third overall position in the Portuguese Full Distance Championships, completing the race in 8 hours and 48 minutes. Despite not officially receiving the bronze medal for citizenship reasons, I consider it a moral third place.
  • Looking ahead, I have one specific and compelling goal that stands out—I aim to achieve a sub-four-hour time for the half-distance triathlon. 
  • Having previously completed it in 4 hours and 1 minute, reaching the sub-four-hour mark is a strong aspiration for my future performances.

Bucket races to do in the future

1:05:50 -

  • David: I have a race in the Pyrenees mountains that holds a special place in my heart, set for 2024. Ultriman is an extreme race with over 5,000 meters of elevation on the bike and an additional thousand on the mostly road running course, including around 20% light trails. I've already experienced it, and the constant climbing is what I enjoy most. It's a challenging yet rewarding race.
  • Mikael: Typically, I prefer races I can drive to, staying within Portugal and Spain for biking events. However, if there's one triathlon that would make my bucket list and prompt me to fly, it's the Alpe d'Huez triathlon. 
  • The allure of that race appeals to me, although it's uncertain whether I'll participate.
  • Beyond triathlon, I see a wealth of intriguing possibilities. As I potentially shift my focus from triathlon in the future, trail running and swim-run events might become more prominent. 
  • One race that stands out as a bucket list item is the Madeira Island Ultra Trail—a 115-kilometer race with 7,100 meters of elevation. 
  • The breathtaking landscapes of Madeira make it the most beautiful place in the world for me, and participating in such an event would be a remarkable experience.
  • Considering other pursuits, I might delve more into trail running, exploring the mountains without necessarily focusing on races. 
  • The allure lies in the joy of running amidst the scenic beauty of nature.

Threshold training

1:07:54 -

  • I believe the discussion is centred around the physiological responses to threshold training, and in my view, these responses are generally consistent with the broader outcomes of training. There may be some nuanced differences with a focus on high-intensity training, but the fundamental adaptations align with general training principles.
  • In aerobic capacity, threshold training contributes to its improvement, along with enhancements in mitochondrial content and other foundational aspects. 
  • Training, in essence, follows a continuum without abrupt switches between different intensities. The stimulus becomes more potent as intensity increases, but the underlying adaptations remain the same. 
  • Striking a balance between intensity and duration is crucial for optimising overall training effects.
  • Threshold training, firmly rooted in aerobic intensity, involves substantial muscle fibre recruitment. 
  • This aspect, I believe, plays a pivotal role in meeting the highly energetic demands associated with sustained efforts. The emphasis on enhancing muscle fibre recruitment contributes significantly to the effectiveness of threshold training, making it a critical factor in the aerobic adaptations observed.
  • Whether threshold training is conducted in the heavy or severe domain, it leans towards the heavy domain. 
  • The delineation between heavy and severe can be somewhat subjective and depends on how one defines the zones.
  • In prescribing threshold workouts, my philosophy aligns with focusing on an intensity that is up to, but mostly slightly below, what is perceived as the threshold. I acknowledge that the threshold is not a precise point but rather a range. 
  • The objective is to accumulate duration at an intensity considered the highest sustainable level for an extended period. Training slightly above the threshold still targets threshold improvements, but pushing too far above risks quicker fatigue.
  • Philosophically, the emphasis is on heavy domain training for threshold workouts. 
  • However, it's acknowledged that training above the threshold, entering the severe domain, also contributes to threshold improvement. 
  • When prescribing training above threshold, the intensity tends to be higher, resembling more of a VO2 max workout with a more pronounced entry into the severe domain. The distinction lies in the specific training objectives and the balance between heavy and severe domains.

Threshold training intensity

1:13:11 -

  • In the context of critical power testing, a 20-minute test is conducted, providing insights into what would be considered Functional Threshold Power (FTP) in traditional testing methodologies. 
  • However, the term "threshold" varies in interpretation.
  • From one perspective, threshold is synonymous with critical power and falls within the range of LT2 (lactate threshold 2) and critical power. Above critical power, the intensity is considered to be in the severe domain. In this context, threshold training targets the 90 to 95% range of critical power, acknowledging that individualisation may be necessary.
  • On the other hand, the idea is presented that threshold, specifically LT2 training, should occur between LT2 and critical power, and training both above and below this range is emphasised. 
  • The threshold range is proposed to be around 88 to 100% of critical power, with 88-90% associated with LT2.
  • It's noted that training at critical power can be taxing, especially for advanced or fast-twitch-dominant athletes with high critical powers. 
  • Adjustments are recommended, such as training at 85% of critical power for those who find 90% particularly challenging.

Complexities of measuring MLSS and LT2

1:16:57 -

  • Regarding lactate curve shape and testing, I believe consistency in factors like rest, fatigue levels, and nutrition is crucial. While the shape of a lactate curve tends to remain relatively consistent under controlled conditions, the actual blood lactate values can vary significantly when repeating the same lactate step test. 
  • For instance, identifying LT2 might result in a 10-watt difference in power output but could show variations in blood lactate concentration, such as four on one test and five on another.
  • For age groupers and even professionals, I express scepticism about the utility of spot testing blood lactate, especially considering its variability, particularly at higher intensities. 
  • While it might have marginal gains for some, I question its overall usefulness. 
  • Instead, I advocate for relying on heart rate, power, speed, and perceived exertion to establish training zones by using these parameters collectively, adjusting for RPE on the day, and recognising the heart rate and power associated with specific thresholds, a more practical and effective approach can be achieved.
  • Regarding VT1 and VT2 measurements obtained through gas exchange and VO2 max tests, I raise concerns about the limitations of ramp tests, often lasting only three minutes. I argue that not all physiological variables stabilise within this short timeframe, especially at higher intensities. 
  • Consequently, VT1 and VT2 values might reflect previous steps in the ramp test, potentially compromising their accuracy.
  • As for MLSS testing, I acknowledge its theoretical validity but highlight the time-consuming nature of the process, particularly for those who don't already have a close estimate of their MLSS. 
  • For individuals with a relatively accurate knowledge of MLSS, the additional time investment to gain extra precision, such as a mere five to 10 watts, may not be justifiable.

Threshold indicators

1:20:37 -

  • Hitting threshold intensity should translate to a controlled effort with a perceived exertion (RPE) around 7 to 7.5 out of 10. This sensation involves working hard but not experiencing an intense lactate burn. 
  • The effort level should feel sustainable for an extended duration, allowing for the accumulation of significant time at that intensity.
  • In threshold workouts, especially for running, I recommend a progressive approach. 
  • For instance, in a session involving ten sets of 1 kilometre, starting at a half marathon effort provides a sensible baseline. Athletes can then gradually increase the effort level throughout the repetitions. 
  • The goal is to maintain or progress the pace or power throughout the session.
  • Contrary to the common mistake of starting too hard and being unable to sustain the pace, the key is establishing a rhythm that can be sustained or even elevated as the workout progresses. 
  • This ensures the intensity remains within the threshold range without pushing too far into unsustainable efforts. 
  • The feeling associated with threshold work is more of a grinding fatigue, reflecting accumulated energy expenditure and muscle contractions rather than an acute burning sensation. 
  • It's a state of tiredness without excessive suffering.

Threshold intervals

1:22:47 -

  • The approach to threshold work can vary, and different workouts can be effective. I particularly emphasise accumulating time just below LT2, focusing on workouts that allow athletes to spend significant durations at threshold intensity. 
  • This can be achieved through sessions like ten times 4 minutes with short recoveries, creating an environment where the body becomes efficient at utilising lactate aerobically.
  • While I don't heavily rely on hard starts for threshold work, I find over-unders beneficial. These workouts help athletes adapt to lactate accumulation and enhance their ability to use lactate production aerobically. 
  • Over-unders are valuable for race specificity, especially when surges and settling down are common, such as in sprint distance races. 
  • The dynamics of these races often involve spending time just above the threshold before settling back down.
  • Experimentation is key, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. It's crucial to find a balance between effective training and enjoyment. Classic steady-state workouts like ten times 4 minutes are foundational. However, incorporating variety, including over-unders and other race-specific simulations, can be valuable, especially in the race-specific training phase. 
  • Ultimately, the goal is to tailor the workouts to individual preferences and respond to how the athlete feels during and after the sessions.

Training camp before a race

1:26:30 -

  • The decision to participate in a race immediately following a training camp depends on the importance of the race (A, B, or C) and the type of race (e.g., Sprint or Olympic distance vs. Ironman 70.3). For a significant A-race, avoiding the risk of extensive fatigue that comes with a training camp, especially if the camp involves high-volume group workouts, is advisable. 
  • The focus should be on minimising fatigue in preparation for a critical event.
  • However, for less critical B or C races, where the goal is more for fun and experience rather than achieving peak performance, participating in a race shortly after a training camp might be feasible. 
  • It can provide valuable insights into how the body responds under fatigue and serve as a form of fatigue threshold training.
  • The decision-making process involves considering race priorities, goals, and the level of freshness expected. The impact might be more manageable for shorter races like Sprint or Olympic distances, with a training camp preceding them. 
  • It becomes a matter of balancing priorities and understanding that there might be some residual fatigue.
  • The ideal time gap between a training camp and a race is around two weeks, allowing for a gradual taper and sufficient recovery. 
  • This duration allows incorporating activation sessions in the week leading up to the race.
  • However, caution is advised, especially for more critical races or those requiring extensive travel. In such cases, a shorter taper may not be suitable, and it's crucial to prioritise freshness and race readiness over the desire to include a race immediately post-training camp. 
  • Adapting the training camp sessions to accommodate the demands of a subsequent race is crucial. 
  • If you've been planning long rides and other high-volume workouts, adjustments are necessary to prevent excessive fatigue leading into the race. 
  • This is especially true for a 70.3 race, where the cumulative impact of swimming, biking, and running can be significant.
  • For a 70.3 race, modifying the volume, choosing slower group paces, and reducing the training load are sensible adjustments. 
  • This allows the body to recover and perform better in the race. Sprint and Olympic distance races are more manageable in duration, but individual athlete preferences and tolerances should still be considered.
  • Regarding race categorisation, treating the immediate post-training camp race as a C race makes sense, regardless of the race distance. This acknowledges the likelihood of residual fatigue and allows for a more controlled effort. If the race is scheduled two weeks after the training camp, it can be considered a higher-priority A race, as there is sufficient time for a taper and freshening up.

Starting a coaching business

1:32:07 -

  • The idea that there's often another opportunity or another job if things don't work out can be a comforting and motivating factor when deciding to make a career change. 
  • It's a recognition that decisions aren't always irreversible, and there's room for exploration and adjustment.
  • The concept of risk is crucial, as you mentioned. Knowing a safety net or a plan B can provide the courage to take risks and pursue a path that aligns more closely with one's passions and interests. 
  • It's about managing that risk and making informed decisions.
  • Communicating this to friends, family, and oneself is also essential. Making a career change doesn't mean closing all doors behind you; instead, it's opening a new door and seeing where it leads. 
  • Having a supportive environment and understanding that it's not a make-or-break decision for the rest of one's life can alleviate some pressure and encourage individuals to pursue what truly makes them happy.
  • In the context of coaching, where passion for the sport and helping others achieve their goals are central, this mindset can be remarkably empowering.

Promoting a coaching business

1:33:51 -

  • Reflecting on my journey, especially in the earlier stages, I've realised that confidence has played a significant role—not just in myself but, more importantly, in being true to myself. 
  • Over the years, I've become more comfortable just being myself without conforming to certain expectations or trying to project an image that isn't genuinely me. 
  • This authenticity, I believe, is a key factor in attracting the right people to my coaching business.
  • In terms of attracting clients, I've understood that those who resonate with me and what I stand for are more likely to be successful athletes under my guidance. 
  • It's not just about sharing similar values but being like-minded in a way that establishes a natural connection and makes them a good fit for the coaching services.
  • A quote that frequently crosses my mind is that people often overestimate what they can achieve in a year but underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade. 
  • This perspective emphasises the organic growth that occurs when consistent, quality work is put in day after day. Patience and dedication to doing good work, even when immediate results might not be evident, eventually pay off.
  • On lessons learned, I recall a significant experience where I invested a considerable sum—nearly 700 euros—in a Facebook ad campaign for the coaching business, only to see zero leads generated. 
  • While it was a hard-earned lesson, it prompted me to reevaluate the most effective ways to find the right customers. I realised that word of mouth and connections from podcast listeners often lead to more meaningful and long-term coaching relationships. 
  • This taught me the importance of trusting organic growth avenues rather than resorting to methods that compromise authenticity.
  • Despite the temptation to employ strategies that could garner more attention or downloads, I've stayed true to my approach. 
  • I've recognised that although there might be numerous ways to increase podcast visibility, adhering to my authentic self and not compromising the essence of the content is crucial.

Becoming a coach without a formal education

1:37:36 -

  • The issue of having a formal degree in coaching has been a personal struggle, especially when faced with questions from athletes about my qualifications. 
  • Initially, there was a concern about not having the conventional credentials, but over time, I've come to understand that excellence in coaching isn't necessarily determined by a degree. 
  • Mikael and I, for instance, have been able to do good work without following a traditional educational pathway in coaching.
  • Passion plays a crucial role in overcoming this challenge. If you genuinely love what you do and are dedicated to it, you'll naturally try to learn and understand the intricacies of coaching. 
  • While a basic understanding of physiology is essential, it's equally important to grasp the human element—how individuals respond to training and the nuances of human interaction. 
  • Life experience and curiosity become valuable assets in this learning journey.
  • In the coaching realm, being open-minded and curious is essential. Textbooks may provide some foundational knowledge, but accurate understanding often comes from thinking critically and being willing to learn from others. 
  • At Scientific Triathlon, where we have a team of good coaches, the collaborative environment allows for continuous learning from one another. 
  • There's no need to be afraid of acknowledging that others may have more knowledge on certain topics.
  • The point about learning from different coaches extends to my podcast as well. It's not about competition; it's about sharing knowledge and contributing to the collective growth of the coaching community. 
  • Embracing a continuous learning mindset is critical, regardless of background or education. Consistency and patience are vital, especially for those without a formal athletic or coaching background. 
  • The learning process may take longer, but valuable experiences gained elsewhere can be equally beneficial.
  • In my experience, personal background and life experiences play a significant role in shaping the approach to coaching and the type of athletes one is best suited to work with. 
  • For instance, someone who has overcome personal challenges, like transitioning from a smoking background to completing an Ironman, may possess a unique understanding that elite athletes might lack. 
  • This understanding can be precious when coaching individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs.
  • While having personal experiences doesn't dictate who you'll work with forever, it can be a good starting point. 
  • Coaching certification from a national governing body is beneficial to formalise one's coaching education. 
  • It provides valuable insights into aspects such as communication, which might not be immediately apparent but are crucial for effective coaching.
  • Hands-on coaching can offer valuable lessons, even in a different sport. I began coaching kids in soccer at a young age, and the experiences gained in interacting with people, understanding their needs, and adapting coaching approaches were applicable when I transitioned to triathlon coaching.
  • The key advice for aspiring coaches is to learn by doing. Begin coaching friends, even for a nominal fee, to ensure commitment to the process. 
  • Seeking constant feedback and viewing each coaching experience as a learning opportunity is crucial. Coaches should be humble and open-minded and consider the athletes they coach as instrumental in their education.

Worries and stressors of being a coach

1:46:30 -

  • Fear that athletes won't achieve the desired results is a significant concern. 
  • Coaches invest in helping athletes succeed, and when results don't materialise, it can lead to self-reflection and stress. 
  • However, coaches must recognise that success isn't solely their responsibility but a collaborative effort.
  • Another anxiety for coaches and entrepreneurs is the fear of the unknown. Starting a coaching business or any entrepreneurial venture comes with the worry about sustainability. 
  • There's always the uncertainty of how the business will evolve and whether it will endure. The future is unpredictable, and these uncertainties can be a source of anxiety.
  • The constant availability and the lack of actual downtime are significant aspects of coaching that can be both a challenge and a stressor. 
  • The nature of the job means that athletes might need assistance or guidance at any time, including weekends and holidays. 
  • Setting boundaries and balancing personal time and professional commitments becomes crucial.
  • While some coaches may find it stressful to always be "on," others may appreciate the flexibility of structuring their day according to their preferences. 
  • Having systems in place to protect personal time is essential. This might involve designating specific hours for work and others for personal activities or taking planned breaks during the week.
  • Creating strategies to maintain work-life balance is vital for the well-being of both coaches and athletes. For instance, setting aside at least one week a year without coaching-related activities can serve as a way to recharge. 
  • However, as you mentioned, the reality is that emergencies or unexpected situations might still require attention.
  • Communication and understanding within one's personal life, particularly with a significant other or family, are critical. 
  • A career shift to coaching can alter one's daily routine, and ensuring that those close to you understand and support these changes is essential. Proactive communication can help prevent potential conflicts and foster a supportive environment.
  • Finding the right balance between being constantly engaged in coaching responsibilities and taking time for self-care is crucial to sustaining a healthy coaching career. 
  • It's a topic that touches on various aspects, including mental and physical well-being, work-life balance, and the ability to effectively serve athletes.
  • The flexibility that coaching provides is a significant advantage, allowing coaches to structure their day in a way that suits their professional and personal needs. 
  • However, as you mentioned, this flexibility can also lead to challenges in setting clear boundaries and taking breaks from the coaching mindset.
  • Understanding that self-care is beneficial for the coach's well-being and essential for delivering the best possible service to athletes is key. Burnout is a real risk in any profession that demands a high mental and emotional investment. 
  • Coaches must be proactive in implementing strategies that help maintain a healthy balance.
  • Discussing this topic in-depth, exploring various self-care practices, and sharing experiences related to finding balance could be valuable for coaches. 
  • It's an ongoing process of learning what works best for each individual, considering personality type, lifestyle preferences, and specific coaching demands.
  • Addressing questions such as disconnecting during designated breaks, establishing healthy routines, and fostering a supportive environment within the coaching community could be part of the conversation. 
  • It's about fostering a culture that recognises the importance of self-care and acknowledges that coaches, like athletes, need rest and recovery periods to perform at their best in the long run.

Having a bad preparation race before the "A" race

1:54:00 -

  • It's not uncommon for athletes to react strongly to a single race performance, especially if it falls short of expectations. 
  • The emotional response to a race outcome can sometimes lead to the temptation to change the training plan drastically.
  • The advice to believe in the long-term process and resist the urge to overhaul the entire training structure after one challenging race is crucial. 
  • Various factors can influence race performances, and a single event may not fully indicate overall progress or preparedness for the A-race.
  • Performing a thorough analysis of what went well and what didn't and understanding the factors contributing to the outcome is a constructive approach. 
  • It allows for targeted adjustments to be made, addressing specific areas of improvement without compromising the overall training plan.
  • Encouraging athletes to view races as learning experiences, regardless of the outcome, helps foster a growth mindset. Each race provides valuable data that can contribute to refining future strategies and optimising training plans. 
  • By keeping the macrostructure intact and making incremental adaptations, athletes can maintain consistency and build on their progress.
  • This mindset not only benefits performance but also contributes to mental resilience. It helps athletes navigate the inevitable ups and downs of training and racing without becoming discouraged.

The proper time to reflect on races

1:55:55 -

  • Race Reflection:
    • Immediate Reflection: After the race, emotions influence the notes. Taking immediate notes helps capture the emotional aspect of the experience.
    • Delayed Reflection: Waiting a few days to reflect on the race allows for a more analytical perspective. It provides time for emotions to settle, and athletes can approach the analysis with a more evident mindset.
  • Season Reflection:
    • Give it Time: After the season concludes, take some time to step back and engage in activities outside of the triathlon. Allowing a few weeks to pass lets the season experiences sink in and prevents immediate emotional reactions.
    • Analyze What Went Well and Wrong: Reflect on the season's highs and lows, identifying areas of success and areas that need improvement.
    • Use the Insights: The insights gained from the reflection process can be valuable for future seasons. Understanding strengths and weaknesses informs training adjustments and race strategies.
  • Practical Note for Race Day:
    • Record Key Details: On race day, especially for longer races where nutrition is crucial, note essential details like carbohydrate consumption and hydration. These details may be challenging to remember accurately after a few days.
  • No Specific Timeline:
    • There's no right or wrong answer regarding when to reflect on races or the season. The timing can vary based on individual preferences and the need for emotional and analytical perspectives.

Overtraining and weight management

1:59:00 -

  • Evaluate whether the previous weight was healthy or if the weight gain might be beneficial.
  • Consult with a registered dietitian, especially considering the history of overtraining.
  • Prioritize overall health and performance over reaching a specific weight goal.

Planning training with different coaches

2:01:42 -

    • Be cautious about doing too many hard sessions a week, as learned from past experiences.
    • Communicate with coaches about the need for a balanced approach and share long-term training plans.
    • Adjust intensity during group sessions based on personal fatigue levels, potentially dropping down a lane in swimming or taking it easy on certain runs.
    • Consider skipping some sessions if necessary to avoid excessive intensity and prevent fatigue.
  • Individualized Decision-Making:
    • Since the coaches may not communicate with each other, the athlete needs to take individual responsibility for adjusting sessions.
    • Listen to your body; if you are fatigued, opt for easier sessions or skip high-intensity workouts.
    • Balance motivation from group sessions with the need for a well-structured, individualized training plan.
  • Prioritizing Long-Term Goals:
    • Focus on long-term planning and goals rather than being swayed by the enthusiasm of group sessions.
    • Establish a maximum number of hard sessions weekly and adjust the intensity as needed to avoid overtraining.
  • Communication Between Coaches:
    • Encourage coaches to communicate with each other or share access to training data on platforms like TrainingPeaks.
    • Collaboration between coaches can lead to a more cohesive and effective training plan.
  • Self-Management and Decision-Making:
    • In the absence of coach communication, the athlete needs to take charge of managing training intensity.
    • Consider being your coach during group sessions, making adjustments based on personal fatigue and long-term goals.
  • Quality vs. Quantity:
    • Prioritize overall health, especially considering the athlete's history of overtraining.
    • A balance between too many hard sessions and occasionally slower sessions might benefit recovery and prevent overtraining.
  • Adaptability in Training:
    • Be adaptable and willing to modify sessions as needed.
    • If group sessions turn out slower than planned, view it as an opportunity for recovery, especially given past overtraining experiences.
  • Long-Term Health Focus:
    • Emphasize the importance of long-term health over short-term training intensity.
    • Gradually regain confidence in health before pushing for consistently high-quality sessions.
  • Individualized Approach:
    • Tailor training to personal needs, adjusting intensity when necessary to avoid overdoing it.
    • Consider modifying intensity during group sessions or incorporating additional efforts when feeling well.


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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