Rank #1: Fast Talk, ep. 54: Applying the polarized model, with Dr. Stephen Seiler
Our discussion includes:
- Why cycling is an aerobic sport
- What is meant by the two thresholds — LT1 and LT2 — and how to determine yours, both in terms of power and heart rate. Dr. Seiler provides a test protocol to determine LT2, which may sound very similar to Neal Henderson's test that was described in episode 33, “Is FTP dead?”
- Why it's important not to over-estimate LT1 or LT2, and how to use them to determine your zones in a three-zone model.
- The specifics of zone 1 training: how long, how much, how easy? We take a deep dive into what zone 1 training is all about, why it's important to keep those rides easy, and the value of long rides.
- Finally, we discuss the 80-20 principle of the polarized model and how to put it into practice to map out your week.
Rank #2: Fast Talk, ep. 26: Busting cramping's electrolyte myth
So why do you cramp? It all comes down to something called altered neuromuscular control. And how do you stop it? Well, that's where things get even trickier. Listen in to find out.
Rank #3: Fast Talk, ep. 51: Polarizing your training, with Dr. Stephen Seiler
His three-zone model of training is built around two physiological breakpoints. He feels these breakpoints define three physiological zones. Zone 1 is below the aerobic threshold, and what we call easy base training. Zone 2 is between the breakpoints and has many names including no-man's land or sweet spot. The third zone is our high intensity training zone.
Next we'll talk about how, by studying elite athletes, Seiler found a remarkable consistency: Most endurance athletes train about 80 percent of the time in Zone 1, around 15 to 20 percent in Zone 3, and very little in Zone 2. This has become known as polarized training.
We'll also take a deep dive with Dr. Seiler into both Zone 1 and Zone 3 training and how to approach both. A theme will start to emerge, and you'll hear one of the top physiologists in the world repeat it again and again: Keep it simple. That might seem surprising, but the research is clear: Complex intervals and overly detailed training plans may hurt more than they help. Ultimately it may be as simple as accumulating time in the various zones in the right ratios.
Finally, we'll discuss how these principles apply specifically to training. Seiler's research includes Nordic skiers, rowers, runners, and cyclists. So be warned, at times you'll hear some concepts that may be unfamiliar to you. For example, cycling is one of the few places where endurance athletes do five-hour workouts. In other endurance sports, they add volume by doing two-a-days.
Rank #4: Fast Talk, ep. 68: The big picture — the three types of rides you should do
In this episode, we’re talking about the forest. We’re hoping to give you a framework to understand all that scientific detail. And we’re going to keep it simple.
- First, when you take away the complexity, training boils down to three ride types in most training models.
- We’ll give a simple zone system, based on physiology, and explain why that’s important.
- We’ll define the long ride: why it’s important, how to execute it, and why there are no shortcuts.
- We’ll define the high-intensity ride: why less is more with this type of ride and why executing it with quality is so critical. Dr. Seiler actually divides these rides into two categories — threshold rides and high-intensity work. For this podcast, we’re lumping them together, but we will hear from Dr. Seiler about why we shouldn’t neglect threshold work despite the current popularity of one-minute intervals and Tabata work.
- We’ll discuss the recovery ride. Ironically, for most of us, this is the hardest to execute. When we’re time-crunched, we might think that spending an hour spinning easy on the trainer is not time well spent. We’ll discuss why that philosophy is dangerous to take.
- Finally, we’ll talk about some of the exceptions, including sweet spot work and training races.
We’ve included excerpts from Dr. San Millan, once the exercise physiologist for the Garmin-Slipstream WorldTour team, among others. We’ll hear several times from Dr. Stephen Seiler, who is often credited with defining the polarized training model, which developed from his research with some of the best endurance athletes in the world. Dr. John Hawley will address both long rides and high-intensity work. Dr. Hawley has been one of the leading researchers in sports science for several decades and is a big proponent of interval work and carbohydrate feeding, but even he feels there’s a limit. Grant Holicky, formerly of Apex Coaching in Boulder, Colorado, has worked with some of the best cyclists in the world. He sees undirected training, those “sort of hard” rides, as one of the biggest mistakes athletes can make. He’ll explain why. And finally, we’ll hear from legendary coach Joe Friel about sweet spot work and why it does have a place… even though technically it’s not one of our three rides.
Now, to the forest! Let’s make you fast.
Rank #5: Fast Talk, ep. 37: Sugar, wheat, paleo, and performance nutrition
We take on the always-controversial subject of nutrition. Why is it so controversial? First, it’s very personal: Many people, trained or untrained, have strong opinions on the subject, and a lot of heated debate revolves around what is healthy and what is best for performance. We’ve had a few prominent guests on Fast Talk previously, and they’ve given their opinions on the subject. But thus far we have strayed away from revealing our thoughts — until now.
In this podcast we’ll discuss what we think is healthy and what isn't. We’ll talk about what foods to eat, we'll take on the question of wheat, nutrient density, and sugar. Unlike other episodes, in this show Coach Trevor Connor will not only be the co-host, he’ll also be the guest of honor. His research in graduate school focused on many of these topics, and what he’ll share are his educated opinions.
Rank #6: Fast Talk, ep. 65: Debunking supplements, and the positives of beet juice, cocoa, and ketone esters
So much has been promised to us in pill form, it’s created a multi-billion-dollar industry. Those promises carry into enhanced endurance performance. And many athletes have resorted to the morning supplement cocktail believing it will make them better cyclists. But there’s a dark side. Those cocktails can actually hurt performance, certainly affect health, and lead to even darker, ethically-challenged places.
Today, we’re going to talk about supplements and our concerns with them, and then cover a few foods that actually do work.
- We thought about bashing all the supplements that don'’t work, but then realized we only have an hour. So instead, Trevor will read a description of every supplement that does work. That list combined with a discussion of its sources will cover the first three minutes.
- We'll talk about supplements in general and why they can be a big concern.
- And with those concerns in context, we’ll start addressing things that have been proven to help, staring with pickle juice.
- Next on our list is beet root juice which can not only help performance, but has been shown to have health benefits as well.
- Believe it or not, we’re going to talk about chocolate — or more specifically the active ingredient, cocoa flavonoids, which also, surprisingly, have both performance and health benefits.
- That, of course, leads to something that frequently comes up in the sports nutrition literature — chocolate milk. It’s as effective as most recovery mixes. So, the key question is how effective are the mixes?
- Finally, we’ll revisit the ketogenic diet and specifically supplementing with ketone esters.
- Our primary guest today is Ryan Kohler, the manager of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center who holds a masters degree in sports nutrition and exercise science. Ryan has helped Trevor and I with many previous articles and behind-the-scenes work with some of our experiments, shall we call them. We’re excited to finally get him in front of the mic, even if he is a little shy.
In addition, we'll talk with world-renowned coach Joe Friel, author of the definitive book on training, "The Cyclists Training Bible." We asked Joe his opinion about supplementation based on decades of coaching.
We'll also hear from endurance mountain biker Rebecca Rusch and Apex Coaching owner Neal Henderson, the personal coach of world time trial champion Rohan Dennis. They'll each give us their thoughts on supplements and a few things they've found that work.
Rank #7: Fast Talk, ep. 59: Preventing cycling's most common injuries, with Dr. Andy Pruitt
Rank #8: Fast Talk, ep. 25: A deep dive on tires and rolling resistance
Rank #9: Fast Talk, ep. 32: A cyclist's guide to the weight room
Rank #10: Fast Talk, ep. 47: The art and science of peaking
Perhaps it's so elusive because peaking is both a science and an art. What we discovered over the course of this podcast is that the two don't seem to get along with one another. Some of that has to do with the fact that science lays out a very specific four-week plan for peaking, while the art says that it is very individual. Even among those who understand the science, it appears that what they do is different.
We are joined by Colby Pearce, hour record holder, an Olympian, a thinker, a tinkerer, and someone with massive amounts of experience as an athlete. He'll give us six key tips to preparing for a goal event.
Rank #11: Fast Talk, ep. 45: The art of recovery -- how to balance training and rest with metrics
In today’s technology-driven training world, we have easy-to-use tools like power meters to track our performance. But tracking recovery is not so easy. What’s lacking is that one clear metric or tool to tell us when we're fatigued.
In today’s episode, we delve into the question of recovery metrics. First, we'll discuss why the balance between training and recovery plays such an important role in performing at our best. We'll also address the difference between overtraining and functional over-reaching.
Next we'll discuss a recent review comparing subjective metrics to objective metrics of recovery. If you think that a blood test or heart rate measure is necessarily better than answering a few questions every morning about how you feel, think again.
Finally, we'll hear from several coaches and athletes about what they feel works best when it comes to monitoring recovery.
Rank #12: Fast Talk, ep. 33: Is FTP dead?
So, we got a number of top coaches into a room together to hash it out this important question: What is the best way for cyclists to determine their individual training profiles?
Rank #13: Fast Talk, ep. 72: Do we need training zones? With Dr. Andy Coggan, Hunter Allen, and Dr. McGregor
The truth of the matter is that we don’t know what that means when you tell us that. That’s not because we don’t know training science, but because “zone 4” can mean a lot of different things.
One thing is certain: Training zones can have tremendous value. They provide guidance for training and a means of communicating with your coach or teammates.
If you’re a fan of zones, this episode may also challenge you because zones have their limitations. They're not as clear cut as they seem. Which may be why we, and almost all of our guests today, resist even using the term “zones.” What we hope to communicate is that there is no single zone model. That's because there is no perfect model. They all have flaws.
What they are based on – FTP, VO2max, or power-duration – all have their issues. Nor can any model ever fully account for individual variation or even day-to-day variation within each athlete. As our guests will point out, they are rough and they have their limitations.
That being said, if you use a zone model based on your physiology and use it as a guide, not as dogma, it can be a valuable tool. So, today we'll dive into zones, or levels, or ranges, or whatever you want to call them, and talk about:
- What exactly a zone model is, and whether it should be based on power or heart rate
- The value of a zone system as a framework for training and, more importantly, communication
- While there are many zone models based on heart rate, there are actually very few based on power. That’s partially because Dr. Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen came up with a model that’s been the standard. We’ll talk about this model and why it was so important for each zone to have a name and not just a number.
- Dr. Coggan’s Classic zone model has seven zones. We’ll talk about the issues with more or fewer zones, including Dr. Stephen Seiler’s three-zone model, and whether or not it’s based on physiology.
- What a zone model should be based on – most systems create zones that are a percentage of VO2max or FTP or threshold. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each and how, ultimately, both have their limitations.
- Other limitations with zones, including not understanding what “zone 2” means and the fact that just because you’re training in a particular zone doesn’t mean you’re doing the right training – there are other factors including volume.
- Finally, we’ll talk about the iLevels that are discussed in the third edition of Training and Racing with a Power Meter. iLevels are based on an athlete’s individual profile, not just FTP, and address many of the shortcomings we’ll discuss.
Our primary guests today are renowned physiologists and coaches who need no introduction, who are the authors of the aforementioned book, Dr. Andy Coggan, Dr. Stephen McGregor, and a guest you’ve heard from before on Fast Talk, Hunter Allen.
We also talk with local coach Colby Pearce to get his opinion about zones. As a top-level coach figuring out how to best direct his athletes, he had a lot of great insight about zones and their limits.We also talk with Dr. Stephen Seiler, one of the originators of the polarized training concept, to get his take on training zones and why he often promotes a three-zone model. You may be surprised by his answer.
Finally, we'll touch base with Sebastian Weber with INSCYD and a coach to athletes like Tony Martin and Peter Sagan. We ask him his opinion on whether zones should be based on a percentage of VO2max or threshold, but it quickly turns into a more nuanced conversation about the dangers of blindly following zones.
Rank #14: VN pod, ep. 90: Did Lance win or lose? Plus a Sea Otter recap
Later in the show, we bring on tech editor Dan Cavallari to talk about the biggest bike show in North America, Sea Otter Classic. What tech was cool? What trends are growing? And what's the deal with e-bikes? All that and more on this episode.
Rank #15: Fast Talk, ep. 39: The secrets to staying strong as you age with Ned Overend
We first address what the research says, and why even past research painted a much grimmer picture than reality. We’ll explore the science with Dr. Jason Glowney and coach Frank Overton who know how to help masters athletes get the most out of their aging bodies. Don't sweat it, folks — age is just a number!
Rank #16: Fast Talk pod, ep. 34: Become a climber (even if you live in a flat place)
Surprisingly, climbing isn't as simple as dropping a few pounds or spending your days riding in the Rockies. We look at the question from a few angles: First, does dropping weight make you a better climber? The fact is, for the last few decades, winners of the Tour de France, who can climb with the best, aren't the lightest athletes. Why this is has a lot to do with something called allometric scaling. Secondly, we'll discuss whether you need to climb hills to be a climber. Is it really just a question of power-to-weight? Finally, we'll take a closer look at the particulars of climbing, including the effects of grade, cadence, standing vs. staying seated, and the importance of core strength.
We’re joined by a collection of talented riders and coaches: Sepp Kuss, newly signed with the LottoNL-Jumbo WorldTour squad; Dr. Iñigo San Millan, director of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center; as well as fantastic climbers Joe Dombrowski and Ned Overend.
Rank #17: Fast Talk, ep. 66: Demystifying Periodization with Joe Friel
But periodization can also be confusing and, frankly, a little scary. Periodizing your training means diving into a world of new concepts, things like training blocks, mesocycles, and increasing specificity. For those of us with jobs, families, who have to deal with inclement weather, it’s harder to plan ahead, to know on Monday what we might fit in on Friday, let alone how to plan our next four-week transition phase. Looking at it in that context, it’s hard to fault those who just hop on Zwift and start smashing it when they have a rare spare hour.
The question is, does periodization need to be that complicated? And, while it may be a necessity for pros, can it help those of us with only seven or eight hours to train each week?
For answers to those very questions and many more, let’s take a deep dive with the man credited with bringing periodization to cycling back in the 1990s, Joe Friel.
Today we’ll discuss, first,
- What exactly is periodization? The truth is it’s not as complicated and scary as it may sound. At its simplest, it’s just a way of structuring your season to prepare for your target races. Heard about base training in the winter and top-end work in the spring? That's periodization.
- The history of periodization from its first use among Soviet athletes to its introduction to cycling.
- The principles of training, including overload, specificity, reversibility, and individualization. These four concepts are at the core of periodization.
- With the principles as our base, we’ll dive into the different forms of periodization, starting with traditional linear periodization. It’s the oldest and most common form, but that doesn't mean it isn’t effective.
- Next we’ll talk about reverse periodization and why it might not be best for the weekend warrior, even if Chris Froome is doing it.
- Next we’ll talk about non-linear forms of periodization, including undulating periodization and the most recently developed strategy called block periodization.
- Then we’ll finish up with a few tips on how to pick a periodization strategy that’s right for you — assuming you want to use one at all.
Our guest today is legendary coach Joe Friel, who just recently published a new edition of the definitive book on training, The Cyclists Training Bible. The first edition back in the 1990s introduced periodization to cyclists but it only covered traditional periodization. This new edition covers all of the strategies we discuss in this podcast.
We also briefly hear from Sepp Kuss, of the Jumbo-Visma team, who, surprisingly, tried periodization for the first time this season as a WorldTour rider.
Next, we talk with Paulo Saldanha, among other things the coach of Mike Woods of the EF Education First team, who has very unique periodization approaches with both his top pros and the masters athletes he coaches.
Finally, we’ll hear from Colby Pearce, a regular contributor to Fast Talk, who will give his opinion on periodization and how to pick an approach for you.
Rank #18: Fast Talk, ep. 60: Rethinking the science of trainers with Ciaran O'Grady
In this episode, we'll talk about the science and experience of the trainer, including: (1) How riding on a trainer differs from riding on the road, including the experience, our interaction with the bike, the different inertia generated by the trainer, and its impact on our biomechanics. (2) What impact these differences have on our power and heart rate, and why we shouldn't use the same numbers inside and outside. (3) We’ll discuss situations where it’s good to use a trainer—and when it may be even better than riding on the road, such as when we’re doing neuromuscular work. (4) Likewise, we’ll talk about situations where you might want to avoid the trainer. You might know already… a five-hour, mind-numbing ride on the trainer is a sign of incredible dedication. Don't do it again. (5) The game-ification of trainers by tools like Zwift, Trainer Road, and Sufferfest, and how this is changing our perspective on trainers. It can be both good and bad.
When to use rollers rather than a trainer. (6) And, finally, we'll talk about how much time to spend on the trainer, and alternatives even when there's snow outside.
You're going to get a lot of different opinions in this podcast. None of us will go so far as to call the trainer Satan — though at times we'll come close — but you will hear a few guests give convincing evidence that the trainer has benefits you can't get on the road. Ultimately, it's going to be up to you to decide.
Our primary guest today is Ciaran O'Grady who is a new coach and sports scientist at Team Dimension Data. Ciaran just finished his Ph.D. at Kent University with Dr. James Hopker, who conducted some of the definitive research on the biomechanical differences between riding on a trainer and the road.
In addition, we'll talk with:
Retired multi-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson. Having lived in the northeast for most of his life, Tim is very familiar with riding indoors and has a lot of good points to offer from two decades of experience.
Trevor also caught up with Jacob Fraser from Zwift and Kevin Poulton who coaches Matt Hayman and Caleb Ewan, and works with Team Katusha. Kevin used Zwift to coach Matt to his 2016 Paris-Roubaix win and since then has integrated significant trainer time into his athletes' race preparation.
And with that, get your fan ready, dial in your Zwift avatar — make sure you enter your weight correctly in Zwift now, no cheating. Let's make you fast!
Rank #19: Fast Talk pod, ep. 35: How to train in the cold
We speak with Dr. Stephen Cheung, Dr. Inigo San Millan, Trek-Segafredo pro rider Kiel Reijnen, and former cyclocross champion Tim Johnson about the best ways to get fit this winter.
Rank #20: Fast Talk, ep. 61: Do you need a coach? With Neal Henderson and Rebecca Rusch
Our panel today includes coach Neal Henderson, owner of Apex Coaching and current coach of time trial world champion Rohan Dennis, among other elite athletes. Neal has joined us before, on one of our most popular episodes, in fact, Episode 33: Is FTP Dead?
Our other main guest today is the renowned endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, formerly an adventure racer, now a decorated cyclist of mountain bike, gravel, and bike-packing events around the world. Rebecca currently works with CTS coach Dean Golich; for many years she went without a coach. She has a great depth of experience as an athlete and brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation.
In addition to our panel, we have several experts weigh in throughout this episode:
Ciaran O’Grady, a coach and sports scientist with Team Dimension Data, talks with us about the pros and cons of self-coaching versus the accountability that comes from working with a coach.
LottoNL-Jumbo’s Sepp Kuss, winner of this year’s Tour of Utah, reached the WorldTour by being self-coached. We talk about why he did that, and what it’s like now working with the team’s trainers.
We check in with Dean Golich, head performance physiologist at CTS. Dean has worked with an incredible number of top athletes and shares some of his thoughts on how he approaches coaching them.
The legendary Ned Overend continues to crush Cat. 1 riders into his 60s. Despite all of his success, Ned has never had a coach. He explains why.
Finally we talk with Armando Mastracci, who has developed a highly sophisticated training AI system that can help athletes plan their workouts. Armando discusses what parts of coaching a good AI system can replace and what it can’t.