In today’s episode, we’ve invited Rambleur Rising coach and elite gravel racer Kristen Legan to help answer your many insightful questions. To give you a broader range of coaching opinions, Kristen joins Trevor and me to talk about the art of listening to your body, ketogenic diets, glucose transport, and much more. Kristen has a varied and lengthy elite career, first as a swimmer, then pro triathlete, and now a gravel and cyclocross specialist. She’s also a coach to many ultra-endurance athletes. Now, on to your questions. Devin K. in Seattle asks about the clues he should look for when doing a workout, in order to know when to gut it out or bail due to fatigue. Next, Cary B. in the UK wants to know if there is an intensity or duration at which GLUT4 transporters are activated. We discuss why GLUT4 is important for endurance athletes. Coach Connor answers several questions from Daan K. in Amsterdam about the ketogenic diet and episode 46 with Professor Noakes. We’ve received several questions about preparing for events at altitude. If you live at sea level, what is the best way to prepare yourself and train for events at altitude? We dive in. Finally, our gravel guru, Kristen, gives Taylor M. some advice on how to improve her long-haul gravel race tactics and techniques. Let’s make you fast!
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(Please excuse any typos as this transcript is generated automatically through A.I.) Chris Case Welcome, everybody to another episode of fast talk. This is 116. It’s a Q&A episode and it is my pleasure to introduce a second coach to the show today we’ve got Kristin Legan. with us. We were really kind of sick of hearing Trevor answer all the questions. We knew we needed some other voices or perspective, formerly a pro triathlete. Is that how you would describe yourself or Semi-Pro? Kristen Legan Yeah, I mean, I raced professionally, I don’t know if I could consider myself a full-time Pro. I was still working at the time. So yeah, Chris Case yeah. And a longtime coach with Rambleur Rising so I’m gonna let you describe some of your background both as an athlete and coach Kristen Legan Okay, I am just a lifetime athlete. I started as a swimmer swam in college. And then got into triathlon living in Boulder. You just, yeah, no, no, no, I love triathlon, it’s great. But I realized, you know, race professionally for about five years and then realized that I was a terrible runner, and I just didn’t enjoy training running. And so I love cycling and just made that transition over to the bike full time and have since, you know, raced on the road, but then have then moved to the more of the gravel, ultra-endurance kind of thing moving into bike packing. And that’s where my coaching company sits right now. So we coach everything from you know, Iron Man triathletes to, you know, tour divide bikepackers, but it’s certainly in that endurance realm and focuses mostly in the gravel world as well. Chris Case And you’ve done well yourself in some racing. Kristen Legan Yeah, yeah. I’ve been second at Dirty Kanza before podium there a couple of times. That’s kind of my claim to fame. But yeah, it’s you know, I love that scene. It’s a great family and, you know, always happy to be back there. Excellent. Chris Case Well, welcome to the show. Thanks festal Yeah, and just for people that don’t know Kristin used to work with me back at VeloNews maybe three four years ago now Yeah, so you may know her name from there as well Kristen Legan yeah, definitely a gear nerd as well as an editor out there and working on the tech side of things so Trevor Connor we had you on the show many years ago to talk about different tires. Kristen Legan on right It’s been too long forgot forgotten Trevor Connor about that was a really good episode is when I actually went to make one of my athletes listen to because I taught him about tires. And he just went Trevor, you don’t know you’re all wrong because he had some big misconceptions about what are good and he was back in the Union 19 see tubular tires, all that sort of stuff. So I’m like, boy, you know the argument Like, go listen to Kristen, she will tell you better than I can tell you. Excellent. You’ll notice we are now having two coaches for q&a. This was really important to Chris and I, we really like these q&a episodes, we’ve been getting a lot of really good questions that we want to answer. But the one issue we’ve had with it is, it’s just me answering it. And even though I’m gonna try to do my research and bring in some good information, at the end of the day, you’re just getting my opinion, I think the best way to answer questions is to get multiple coaches. People have different backgrounds to come in and address these questions. And I hope as we go through these, that you’re going to get the difference of opinions that I might say something Kristen is going to go No, I actually disagree. Here’s my experience. When you listen to our answers, there often isn’t one answer and that’s why I want this disagreement what’s right for one person isn’t right for another so you should listen to it. different answers to different opinions and try and then see which works for you. So moving ahead, I hope this we’ve had our last q&a, that’s just gonna be me.
The art of coaching, listening to your body, and pushing through hard workouts
Chris Case Let’s get into some questions, shall we? The first one comes from Devin Knickerbocker of Seattle. And it sort of pertains to the art of training listening to your body. And generally, he wants guidance on something we’ve spoken about from time to time on the show. And that is the tactical choice of when to bail on a workout, when to reduce the intensity or the duration of a workout, or when to push through and get it out. So there’s actually a lot to unpack there. Let me start first with his specific question, and then we could get into it. He writes, if you are in quote, gutted out mode, what cues or signals can I use to tell when I’ve done enough because this is not as clear as you might think. For example, I have had times where I had done objectively unsuitable stainable training, but didn’t feel tired on the bike and had no trouble hitting targets or personal bests. Even though as I learned in hindsight, unfortunately, I was worn down and needed a break. I’ve also had times when I felt much worse, after rest weeks, rather than better, it would be great to hear more about that, quote, when to pull the plug decision-making process. What do you guys think? Trevor Connor I’m just gonna start it out with a very broad response of your right. This is not simple. I would even say this knowing when to push when to pull the plug when to back down a little bit is the hardest thing in training. I would say this is the art of training. And this is what separates a very high level experienced cyclist from somebody who’s new to the sport who’s figuring out somebody who’s new. They get a training plan, they’re going to do it regardless of how they feel. It takes a little really experienced athlete to be able to differentiate those very minor feelings and experiences to say yep today it just hurts because it’s supposed to hurt I’m going to push through versus today. It hurts cuz something’s off, it’s time to pull the plug and go home. So don’t feel bad that you’re sitting there going I’m not sure I still get it. Because some people never get it for the best. It takes years and years and years to figure this out. And the overall suggestion I’m going to get is take notes, do these workouts, sometimes you’re going to notice certain sensations and sometimes try pushing through it sometimes not and then see how your body responds over the next few days. And you’re going to start getting the sense of, Oh, I felt that way. I pushed through a workout. That didn’t work for me. So next time I feel that way. I’m not going to do it. And this can get really strange I one of my indicators. I’ve said this before on the show when I’m Starting to overreach. my forearms start to ache. never known another person who’s had this feeling. And I’ve never read a study, but it is my thing. And if I go out and I start doing work and my forearms are aching, I’m like, yep, Chris Case turn around, go. Oh, interesting. How long did it take you to understand that that was a cue? Trevor Connor It was actually for a bit of frustration for me because I’m like, Why the heck of my forearms hurting? And I had no physiological so I spent a while trying to figure out the physiology behind it. Until I finally like that’s not really what matters. What matters is every time I feel this way, I’m pushing, pushing overtraining and pushing overreach. So I might never figure out why but stop. Chris Case Yeah, it doesn’t matter why necessarily, in that case, it just a good indicator, right listen to it. So that’s kind of my Trevor Connor overall but maybe we dive into this and Kristin, what are your thoughts about when to push And when to pull the plug, Kristen Legan well, just to kind of build off of what you’re talking about, I think having a good understanding of, your self and your training is the first place to start. So whether you’re working with a coach or you’re training yourself, knowing, you know, what are your macrocycle? Where are you in your macrocycle? Where are you in even within your weekly cycle of training? And knowing before you get on the bike, what is the purpose of that workout? Sometimes the purpose is to push yourself really hard and kind of dig yourself into that hole and have to come out of it. And so if that’s the case, then that’s a great opportunity to get it out and push through. If you’re in a rest week in the whole goal of that week is to kind of build yourself back up and you’re really struggling out there even just to hit your base, you know, power. That’s a great sign that hey, I need to stop or I need to pull the plug on this. So just having a good feel for why you’re out there and where you’re at, like, what should you be expecting, that’s something to start with when making those decisions. Trevor Connor We actually got an email question that we’re not answering In this episode, but it was similar where an athlete was really pushing for the interval should always just be as hard as you can possibly go. And we replied with a, well, what’s the purpose of the workout? There’s actually interval work where you shouldn’t be going as hard as you should go. You can go, you should be coming home soon, I have more left in the legs. But that wasn’t what it was about. Kristen Legan Yeah, exactly. And, you know, talking about different tells or ways to understand your body, for one thing I work with a lot of athletes is paying attention to your mood, if you’re, you know, just dreading getting onto your bike and you just don’t want to go out for that ride. That’s something that could be a tell for people of, you know, I’m starting to overreach a little bit or I’m just pushing the limit a little bit too much. Because, you know, there’s always days that we don’t want to be on our bike and it’s snowing out or rainy now, and we don’t want to do that. But if you’re really struggling with the motivation, I think that’s a good way to kind of it’s a good time to check in with yourself and see where you’re at. And what you could be doing to reverse that. If I could give one starting point for athletes to be able to figure out when to push their own when not, it’s quality. Whenever I give a an interval workout to my athletes, I always have in the prescription, something that allows them to determine if they are doing the intervals with sufficient quality, I actually give them power targets, less to say, here’s what you’re trying to accomplish more to say if you can’t hit these numbers, you’re probably too fatigued Trevor Connor and you need to go home. Likewise, when I give my athletes Hill repeats, my favorite way to do it as I have them use a starting point and a finishing point. So you do the first interval, if they can’t keep hitting the same time on those intervals. Stop because when you’re fatigued, you can often push out one interval, but then you quickly decline. So if you do the hill repeat and you say let’s say you do eight and a half minutes the first time up, and then the next time up, you’re 850. And then for some reason you push through and the next time you’re 915. You shouldn’t be doing this workout. So you really want to have that consistent time. And that also means be a little bit smart. That also helps athletes control it if you go and crush the first interval.Yes, yeah. Trevor Connor So it’s that keeps you under control, but it’s also that maintaining the quality. So if you’re doing intervals and you can’t, and look, you have good days, you have bad days, you might go out one day and do a banner workout and do all your intervals. It’s 320 watts, which you haven’t seen before. That’s no longer your new standard. That was just a really good workout, Kristen Legan right? Yeah. Trevor Connor So you have that range. But if you’re going out and normally you’re somewhere around 300 watts and you’re struggling just to hit 270 It’s probably time to go. Yeah, that’s a good sign. What other indicators would you would you give? Kristen Legan Well, I think that heart rate is a really good opportunity to this is a good opportunity to look at your heart rate and start to understand how your heart rate changes with those efforts. When we’re feeling bad, sometimes we can get it out and still hit the power numbers but that might not be the right thing that we should be doing that day. So one indicator for me is if you’re doing some shorter efforts or even some longer efforts and you do the effort, you’re hitting the power Okay, you’re not feeling great. But then when you stop and your heart rate doesn’t come back down as quickly as it normally does between during that rest time that’s a good indicator to me that maybe you know, you might need some more rest coming up or you know, if it’s really struggling to come down then that might be time to say okay, this today I just need to go pedal my bike easy. So just I think heart rates important in this whole question because You can kind of fake the power sometimes and just make the numbers happen but it might not be what you know you might not be actually working on the physiological stuff that you want to be because you’re just too tired. Trevor Connor Other things I have been told is my old coach what he liked to do if he wanted to see if an athlete was too fatigued, is he would have them do a couple Sprint’s because the first thing that disappears when you’re starting to overreach is that neuromuscular power. So if you let’s say you do sprints, and you can normally pretty easily hit 1000 watts. And you’re going out, you’re wondering if your legs are not great and you do a quick sprint and you’re barely touching 700 watts. Yeah, yeah. you’re you’re you’re toast. Don’t keep going. Other things I will bring up is I do find shorter intervals are harder to or easier to fake. If you’re fatiguing, believe it or not, even though something like that but it really hurts, you can usually push through them. But sure that 32nd 22nd type interval, longer intervals, or if you’re really hurting and you try to go out and do a 15-minute threshold interval, you’re gonna know pretty quickly. Yeah, it’s hard to peg so be careful and don’t do the, oh, I was gonna do threshold intervals today and I couldn’t hit my normal wattage. So I’ll do some cuz, right and I’m not going to see my fatigue. No, don’t do that. Chris Case should someone faced with this choice faced with a situation where they’re not sure which way to go? Should they err on the side of caution or not? Is it better to skip the workout? If they have some doubt that they should be doing it or should they push through? Basically, if you skip the workout you’re supposed to have on your training program. Is that better because you don’t get the training load Do you thought or push through it and hope that you don’t sort of start going in the other direction and start overreaching? Does that make sense? Trevor Connor So I’ll start this out. And I’m really want to hear what you have to say. But I’m actually going to go back to what Chris was saying right at the start of this is know your purpose. So I will have weeks with my athletes where I want them to fatigue. I want it to be tough. In those cases, if they go out and it’s not feeling great, let’s say they’re doing a training camp and the fourth day of their training camp, and they’re feeling pretty bad. My responses Yeah, suffer push through it. As a matter of fact dive now that swift exists. I love to get my athletes on a training camp on like, the fourth day, I’m like, go into swift and try to survive a race. That’s horrible. really mean but like, a lot of them are doing stage races. I’m like, that’s what the fourth fifth day of a stage race feels like. So you got to do this. Because Yeah, that’s that’s part of the training. If you are doing that every week, something’s wrong. So typical weeks, if you go out, and you’re not feeling great, I am much more for the intervals. Should you shouldn’t be doing intervals every day should be doing intervals, maybe just a couple of times a week. So you want to do more quality. So if you’re going out and you’re not feeling up to it, yeah, you can do the macho, I’m gonna push your own show how tough I am. My response is more. Why not just move it to tomorrow? Get some rest today and do a really high-quality workout tomorrow. Chris Case Yeah. So what I’m hearing is that you are one to err on the side of caution if you will to, in a general sense. Trevor Connor Yes. I’m more the way I look at it is I want the intervals to be as high quality as possible. I would rather see an app I’d rather reschedule or rework an athlete’s week and get that really high-quality interval session then Have them dogmatically follow a plan that you put together on Monday. That was whenever you put together a week plan it’s a guess. You don’t know what night they’re not going to get sleep You don’t know what’s going to happen in their life on Thursday or Friday that’s going to affect their interval work so I’m much more for be flexible with the week but lets you know I would rather say come out of the week go we didn’t follow the original plan, but I got two really good interval sessions and then I followed the plan but boy, that interval session on Thursday, I was dogging it. Kristen Legan Yeah, I definitely agree. Like I tend to err on the side of caution and it’s it’s better. I’d always rather have an athlete be like a little bit undertrained, then just really pushed it over train them. So if that means not doing that, that session that day, and then maybe building up a different day where you just add some extra time on to a long ride or do something else to kind of make up for that later in the week. I think that’s good, but also one thing I talked about with my athletes is that training isn’t just a physiological thing. It’s not just trying to make yourself a stronger athlete. It training is is all you know, it’s working your mind as well and learning how to push through those times when you’re not feeling good on the bike, because you might wake up on race morning, and not feel good. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t perform well. So there is like, again, this is just going back and forth on it depends, right? But there is value in pushing through when you’re not feeling good, and then realizing that you can still make it happen. Trevor Connor And this is where we talked about when is it similar for pros and amateurs and when is it different? And this is one of the places where a differentiated bit when you have a top pro they’re training 25 hours a week. They actually don’t have a lot of opportunities to adjust and for the most part, you talk to any pro they’re gonna tell you look, I’m always Yeah, I am always tired, you know, and they’re doing everything possible to recover so that they can do the next day’s workout. So when I am coaching a pro who’s doing that level of work, it’s a little more of suck it up and do it, buddy. And that’s what racing is like when you are training eight to 10 hours per week, you have that little more flexibility to say, legs aren’t good today, I’m just going to do recovery. Right? And I’ll do the intervals tomorrow, on the whole Chris Case that it’s hard to know I wanted to say a lot of people I don’t know if it’s a lot of people, but it seems like a lot of people have this idea that if they skip a workout, oh my god, it’s the end of the world. I’m going to lose all my fitness. I’m on my back foot. I’m not gonna win a race again. You know, like they overreact to missing a workout or even a week of riding. Maybe they are having to travel for business. Maybe they’ve got a big project at work and they’re eating crappy food all week, and they just don’t feel like getting out on the bike and they don’t Like, oh my god, it’s the end of the world. But it’s really not true. And I don’t know how that plays into this conversation, but maybe if you want to address that you can Trevor Connor hear me mad is a long conversation in itself, but part of what I’m going to, we could certainly go into the whole you know, what declines and how rapidly it declines and I still remember my exercise physiology course, reading the chapter and McArdle, where they talked about this and McArdle had this basically, after four days, you are completely out of shape, type of approach. And what I have learned over the years is is what was in that textbook was a little alarmist and not true actually, you maintain fitness better than that. Part of what I think makes people believe this besides just we tend to all be Taipei’s who wanted Yeah, work and not stop is going back to that whole idea of a peak is part of what a peak is about is just getting those natural painkillers flowing. And we all love that feeling. And one thing that does happen when you take a few days off the bike is those painkillers disappear, Chris Case and you start feeling all those little aches and pains and inflammation a little bit more. So Trevor Connor most athletes, if you’ve been a cyclist for endurance athlete for more than a year, you’ve probably had that experience of, Hey, I was feeling great. Then I took a few days off, and then I felt like crap on the bike. What’s going on? Yeah, I hate that feeling. I lost all my fitness. I don’t want to feel that again. Actually, you didn’t lose all your fitness. Actually, the reality is, at the end of that four days, when you were feeling awful, you were probably stronger than you were when you were feeling good. It’s just the painkillers were gone, right, but it allowed your body to rebuild and adapt. And that’s the problem recovery. When you rebuild and adapt. You’re gonna come out of it actually feeling Little bit lousy. Mm hmm. And then you start doing some work, then the painkillers get flowing again and then you’re strong. So I see a lot of athletes who really plateau because they get their body in this mode of the body’s just trying to keep it together with duct tape and chewing gum, constantly keeping those painkillers flowing. So you go, Well, I feel kind of good, but I’m never that strong, because you’re never actually allowing that recovery and adaptation. Kristen Legan That’s a really good thing to remember for when you’re tapering or resting into an event is that a lot of times people will talk about feeling really sluggish in their taper and they, they get really nervous and they say, Oh, I’m getting out of shape and they start working harder, you know, leading into the race and it’s, it’s just that feeling of that sluggishness and then as long as you can go and do, you know, some openers a couple of days beforehand, just kind of get that, that feeling back, you’re going to be stronger and be able to race much faster, but it’s just it’s kind of counterintuitive. You think you should be feeling better with more rest, Trevor Connor than it actually really is. Rate study looking at Olympians, so Olympians actually meddled and looked at how they tapered for their event. And it was very contrary to what you see in the literature of here’s what we think is the optimal taper because most of the literature talks about really resting right up before the event, but they’re not factoring in that whole painkillers are clearing out, you’re going to feel flat. So I will tell you worst way to taper. Take four days off before your race and then try to race. Yeah, you’re gonna feel awful. So what they saw when they looked at how these Olympians are actually doing it was two weeks before their event is when they took a bunch of days off and really rested. And then the week is a five, six days leading up to the event, they actually didn’t take a single day off. And the whole idea was had the recovery, let the body rebuild two weeks before the event, but then you need that week to get the painkillers flowing again. So you not only are rested and recovered, you’re also feeling really good. Kristen Legan Yeah, exactly. Because I mean, the first week back from arrest week by, you know, you’re maybe feeling a little sluggish Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but by the weekend like, those are some of the best workouts I see. Are those is that like, seven days later, right? Exactly. Trevor Connor When I give an athlete a week off, I’ll have them do their first interval session. And they always are not always, but I often get that I feel really rejected jack did I did that big training camp and it took a week off and I’m not any stronger and it felt awful. I’m like, Wait till the next one. Right. Yeah. And then Few days later, they do their next interval like, wow, that felt great. The numbers are incredible. Right.
GLUT4 transporters and their role in endurance sports
Chris Case Let’s, let’s move on to our next question, shall we? Yep. It is about glute four transporters Trevor, you know, glute four transporters like the back of your hand. So let’s get into carry Blackbird Question, shall we? I think, in fact, before I even ask the question, it’s worth reminding or familiarizing our listeners with what the glute trans glute four transporter is, what it does and why it’s important in endurance training, like cycling, is that something we should get into an overview here? Trevor Connor Okay, so glute four stands for glucose transporter for There are actually many glucose transporters in the body. I think there’s 14 of them. But number four is a really key one, particularly when we’re talking about exercise because it is used in striated muscle cells and in adipose tissue, so it is very important for transporting glucose when we are exercising. So bear in mind, our bodies like to very tightly regulate the level of glucose. In our bloods, all of us have had the experience of a drop in blood sugar. bonking, which, or when you really have it bad, you pretty much have to lie down in the whole world spins and it’s a really unpleasant experience. So that is one of the things that our bodies like to tightly control. The problem is most of the cells in our body like to use glucose and like to take it up. If every cell in our body just had full access to the glucose in our blood, it would quickly get sucked up and we would die. It’s not a good thing. This is why we have 14 of these transporters. So that our body has a remarkable ability to control what can take up glucose at what time good for is not always at should have said this to start. It is not always at the surface of the cells. Most of the time it actually exists inside the cells. I just saw the cell where it can’t transport glucose. It needs something to activate it. So it goes to the surface of the cell and then allows the cell to take sugar, glucose out of the blood. There are two things that activate Gloop, Gloop for one is insulin and the other one is actually muscle contractions. So let’s talk about insulin. Let’s say you eat a big meal. It’s got a lot of carbohydrates in it so your body takes up a whole bunch of sugar. Now you have too high of blood sugar level, and your body likes to tightly control it doesn’t want that so it releases insulin. Insulin gets a lot of these tissues, particularly your muscles, which is a whole lot of the mass in your body. It gets them to send the glute four, to the surface of the cell muscles take up the blood, the sugar out of the blood and gets your blood sugar back to the range it wants to be at. Your muscles then say sent Thank you They take that glucose go don’t need a right now they converted the glycogen and store it. As an athlete, this is really good thing. When you are exercising, Trevor Connor again, your muscles need glucose, particularly your big anaerobic fibers they needed to for glycolysis. So what happens is as your muscles are contracting, I’m gonna try not to go too deep into the physiology. But I think everybody at this point knows what ATP is. That’s actually ultimately, our bodies only usable form of energy, meaning glucose, fat protein are all converted eventually to ATP, or the energy is from glucose fat and protein is stored in ATP and then your body uses ATP for all the processes in the body. When it uses ATP for energy, the ATP becomes a dp And our cells monitor the balance between ATP and ADP. So when ATP starts to drop and ADP starts to go up, which happens when your muscles contract that actually causes glute four to go to this, the surface of the cells and start taking up sugar to start taking up glucose, Chris Case are you following this carry, Trevor Connor I have completely lost everybody. It’s all making sense. This is a good, Chris Case this is a good overview of what we’re talking about here. Trevor Connor So those are the two ways that glute four can get to the surface of the cells. Now also remember, What you don’t want is having insulin flowing and muscle contraction sending the glute four to the surface of the cell, because then you get kind of this hyperdrive of glute four everywhere, then you take up too much glucose, and in sports, it’s referred to as reactive hypoglycemia. So that’s caused if you say 45 minutes Before an event, eat a whole bunch of sugary high carbohydrate foods. And then you hop into your event and start exercising really hard. Now you’re sending glute four to the surface of the muscle cells because of the contractions, you had enough time before the activity to raise insulin levels. So now you’re getting that double whammy and your blood sugar is going to drop. So you want to be careful about eating anything with a lot of sugar and about an hour to 45 minutes before an event if you are somebody who suffers from reactive hypoglycemia. So when we exercise, the insulin response gets blunted. And there’s a reason for that because your muscles are now being really hungry for glucose, they’re going to take up a lot of glucose. So at this point, you don’t want other cells in the body to take up glucose and insulin doesn’t differentiate too much. It basically tells all the cells and all the muscle cells all that adipose tissue, Hey, take up, take him the glucose. So you blunt the insulin and basically say just muscles that are working right now are going to get the glucose. Anything I didn’t cover? Chris Case Well, let me ask Carrie’s question. I think you may have answered it, but it might spur some other questions here or more, more nuanced answer. Alright, so let me ask Carrie’s question. On a recent episode, you spoke about the glute four transporter being quote activated when you exercise. Is there an intensity or duration threshold for this to occur? And if so, does anyone know what it is? Trevor Connor So I did sort of answer that. So remember, I said muscle contraction, causes that change in the balance between ATP and ADP and that then promotes glute four to go to the surface of the cell and take up sugar. So quite frankly, very little activity is going to start that process. It is not an on off switch. It’s not like all of a sudden your muscles go Okay, get that glute four to the surface. Let’s start taking up sugar it is more gradation. So as you go harder and start recruiting more muscle fibers, then you’re going to have more muscle fibers that are getting the higher levels of ADP that are going to promote glute four to the cells. So how do you go, the more promotion of glute four that you’re going to have? Also remember that there is that recruitment principle where if you’re going relatively easy, you’re first just going to recruit slow-twitch muscle fibers. slow-twitch muscle fibers are mostly are they’re they’re Robic. They mostly rely on fat for fuel. They don’t use a lot of glucose so they aren’t going to take up a lot there. They don’t have high needs. It’s as you start going harder than you start recruiting the fast twitch muscle fibers which are very demanding for glucose. They like their glucose they like their anaerobic glycolysis So they are going to start demanding that glucose they’re going to start pumping a lot of glute for to the surface of the cell.
Ketogenic diets and exercise performance
Chris Case Well, that actually leads pretty well into our next question, which has to do with the ketogenic diet. This is a we have a few questions from Don K. Hopefully, I pronounced that correctly. He’s from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He’s referring back to our episode with Professor Noakes that was Episode 46. All about the ketogenic diet. Let’s take these one at a time, shall we? First he asks, at one point in the episode, Professor Noakes recalls a quote about Chris room’s diet and says there is no such thing as a high protein diet. Why not? Why does this episode only make the distinction between high fat and high carb diets? Trevor Connor Let me first just give my bias which is I think there are health benefits to the ketogenic diet in the short Run, especially if you are dealing with things like cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. I would actually encourage people to try a more ketogenic or at least a low carbohydrate approach. As a long term nutritional approach, I do not think it is healthy. It is impossible to get the micronutrients that you need on a ketogenic diet and it is going to lead to issues particularly, and this has been shown in the research long term ketogenic diets lead to bone mineral density loss, so it can basically cause osteoporosis. So I do not encourage anybody to eat a ketogenic diet, long term. So with that said, Why do we only talk about a high carb versus a high-fat diet? There is something called rabbit starvation. Yes, I knew this was for sale. Yeah, he knew Chris Case Rabbit starvation. What a good term. Trevor Connor The name for it comes from Some of the original explorers coming to North America who came to the more northern latitudes were there, they discovered, hey, not a lot of fruits and vegetables around here, we pretty much have to live on animals. And they made the mistake of trying to live on small animals and rabbit starvation. The smaller the animal, the less fat it has, the more it’s just lean protein. And what they discovered was these explorers, even though they felt like they were eating enough, we’re dying. And this is the rabbit starvation. The reason for this is we have a limited capacity to produce urea. So when we break down proteins, we have to produce urea to get rid of that nitrogen. And we can only do so much so there is a limit on how much protein we can eat. Which is anything above about 40% like calorie and remember Protein is high, pretty, pretty high density in terms of calories doesn’t take a lot of lean meat before you are starting to push rabbit starvation. So continuing with giving you this little bit of, of history. So when you were dealing with hunter-gatherer societies, especially ones that lived in very northern or very southern latitudes, they had a couple of options here. One was, so again, they could only eat so much protein. So, two ways to solve that. It was multiple ways to solve that. But really, the two that they look at the most in the research are either dramatically increase your plant consumption, which, if you look at more Ecuadorian societies, people live closer to the equator and lived in warmer latitudes with a lot of plant food that tend to be their solution. So you saw them eating a lot more plants. foods so that they never overeat protein. When you looked at those more polar societies, what they tended to do was focus on large animals, larger the animal, the more fat mass it had, and they would eat the whole animal. So what they would end up doing is eating a very high-fat diet. You never say really high carbohydrate diet. But when you are talking about people at the polls, or sorry, at the more equatorial, they tend to eat a higher carbohydrate diet to keep the protein down. Another really interesting fact is what you saw in analyses of all these hunter-gatherer societies was their consumption of land-based animals is very consistent all the way from the equator to the poles. So what you saw as you got closer to the polls, they less plant food, more fish, which tend to be very high. Fatty, and good healthy fat type food that kind of gets at the, you could only eat so much protein. So you either increased carbohydrate consumption, or you increased fat consumption Chris Case to get those ratios in a good mix, Trevor Connor right? So hence we can really only talk about a high carbohydrate or high-fat diet, you can’t really talk about a high protein diet because if you do that, you’re not going to like the results. Chris Case Second question from Dan. Does a high fat or ketogenic pathway mean that during exercise, athletes lose the ability to produce energy anaerobically because there is no glucose for anaerobic glycolysis? Does the possible lack of anaerobic glycolysis mean that no lactate is produced? Trevor Connor Okay, so this is a complex question, or complex answer. I’m going to try to give you a bit of a simplified answer. To this, remember there are multiple places in the body where we store glycogen. And the two mains places are your muscles. So any of your your striated muscles actually I think all your muscle tissue will store glycogen. Your liver also stores glycogen. And your liver basically stores it to its job is to make sure that it keeps your blood sugar levels high enough. Liver storage isn’t that high, you basically deplete it almost every night when you sleep. So not too hard to deplete it. You go into ketosis when you have depleted your liver glycogen, not when you have depleted all of your glycogen. And the thing that I want to look into and I’m my guess is there probably isn’t research on this because of ethical concerns. My guess as you’ve you depleted your liver glycogen and your muscle glycogen you’re probably going to die. It’s not something you ever want to do. So don’t think when they’re talking about ketosis and depleting your glycogen, we’re talking about all glycogen in the body. One of the things that happens that I did research last night is when you start depleting your liver glycogen in your liver now goes, Okay, I need to start addressing this. I’m depleted. It ramps up both ketone production, and gluconeogenesis, which is production of glucose. Promise, your liver isn’t very good at converting fat and protein to glucose. It’s actually very, very slow. It’s an inefficient process. So it couldn’t keep up with the demands by just converting everything to glucose, so it produces both ketones and glucose. Then what happens is your body kind of goes into this glycogen sparing mode, not so much in the liver more in the muscles. So again, you don’t want to be depleting all glycogen, that’s a bad place to be. So it’s going to start preferentially using fats and using ketone bodies for fuel over glucose. Going back to the question, Does this mean that you no longer do anaerobic glycolysis? My understanding and I would say particularly look at a lot of the research of Dr. Holly, who has a very different opinion from Dr. Noakes and it is quite interested to know them used to do a lot of research together. I think what happens at this point is, again, glycogen is depleted. So your muscles will still do some anaerobic glycolysis. But it’s going to push in the direction of sparing so tried to burn more fat for fuel and what you’ve seen in his recent researches, athletes tend at lower intensity to be just fine. Because they’re really going to rely on ketones and fat and the more aerobic pathways. It’s when you get to the really high intensity all of a sudden you go, Yeah, I just don’t have that in the legs. And that’s again because your body is trying to prevent you from depleting that glycogen in the muscles. So kind of a complex answer, but the short version is No, you haven’t completely depleted that glycogen. No, you are still producing some lactate. But your body is heading in the direction of trying to spare so it’s going to limit your ability to do Chris Case that. Kristen, you’re an athlete that now does really long stuff in the relative to what most people do. You’re you’ve done DK x L, which 350 miles per hour. couple times now you’ve done some other really long stuff. You work with athletes that are also doing this type of stuff. Have you personally experimented with a ketogenic diet? Have you worked with athletes who have experimented with a ketogenic diet and what have they? What have you seen? Kristen Legan Yeah, I personally haven’t. I just know my how my body works. And yeah, I just know that I thrive on a higher carb. Yeah, exactly. Right. Cookies are my jam. Um, no, I just, you know, from years of experience, I just know that that probably wouldn’t work super well for me just how my stomach reacts to you know, high fat high protein diets. Um, but it is actually a really hot topic right now in the endurance world, and especially when you’re talking about like tour divide where you’re out there for, you know, 15 to 25 days and not only that, but you’re you’re going at as you know, more aerobic pace, as well as you have to care. All of the food on your bike for long sections of trail. So if you can just eat, you know, straight up peanut butter or you know, there’s people who carry sticks of butter with them, and that’s a in they, you know, you get a lot of energy out of that it’s maybe not the most appetizing thing to think about while you’re riding your bike. But, um, so I have seen it work. I agree with Trevor that as a long term diet and life choice, I don’t think it’s potentially the most healthiest thing to choose for yourself. But in short stints, I think if you’re if you practice with it enough, and you start to understand how your body reacts to that, I think it can be beneficial, but you just really have to understand what is what kind of pacing Are you going to be doing out there? And how do you how quickly can you recover from harder efforts because as slow as we want to go, you know, there are going to be times where you have to get up And over a hill and you’re going to have to tap into some of that, you know, higher intensity work. So again, it’s just it comes down to every single athlete is going to react differently. So testing it out ahead of time and seeing what works, and then how to, again, how to recover from any kind of spike. Chris Case Dan actually had a final question here that we can touch upon briefly. Does a ketogenic diet induce ketoacidosis in humans? Trevor Connor So really important to understand that ketosis and ketoacidosis are two very different things. ketosis while we can have the discussion about whether that’s healthy in the long run, is still a natural state for the body. To explain ketoacidosis let me just go back to what I said before, which is, don’t think that when you are in ketosis, there is now no longer any glycogen or glucose in your body and you’re completely surviving on fat. It’s not that simple. You still have glycogen stores, your body is still producing glucose, you still have an insulin response. That is not what ketosis is. It’s not that dramatic. ketoacidosis is when it starts getting out of control. So, just kind of interesting. These two questions relate, we were just talking before about glute four and taking up sugar into glucose into the cells. So insulin is designed, it’s released to get blood sugar levels down. When you have very low levels of insulin in your body, or your body can’t respond to insulin, your body thinks, oh, my blood sugar levels are too low. I need to get them up. So it then goes to the liver and says So a couple of things start happening is first your body goes okay, we need to start sparing glucose is there pumping out fat. So we can use that for fuel and then it tells the liver, okay, start producing, get the gluconeogenesis, revved up, start producing glucose start producing ketone bodies, because we need to do everything possible here to spare glucose. Now, again, somebody who’s healthy, you’re never going to see insulin levels get that low. So when you are dealing with something like diabetes, you are now essentially going outside of your body’s normal range for insulin. You are going down you’re either you are at a pathologically low level of insulin, or again, essentially a simulation of that where you’re producing the insulin but your body just can’t respond to it. So your body goes into hyperdrive of start pumping out the ketones start pumping out your rev up that gluconeogenic As in the liver just starts pushing out glucose starts pushing out ketone bodies. And then you see an overly high level of ketone bodies, which can lead to acidosis. Hence the name, because ketones are an acid. Interestingly, the other thing is now you have excess glucose in the blood, which your body’s trying to get rid of your kidneys to deal with that to get rid of that glucose needs to take up a lot of water. And it can actually lead to dehydration and the combination of the acidosis and the dehydration can kill you if you don’t regulate this. But again, that is pathological that is getting outside of your normal levels for insulin, or your body’s response to it. You can’t simulate that. But
How to train for events at altitude if you live at sea level
Chris Case our next question comes from Peter Stewart of Atlanta who sent us this voice memo coach Trevor Connor and Chris, this is Peter from Atlanta. I’m a 40 year old master racer who enjoys vacations at altitude. And we’d like to target some grand fondo gravel or durance mountain bike events and one of these locations, could you cover some tips for training for an altitude event while at lower elevation? And perhaps specifically, if you’ve prepared like you would for a similar event at sea level? How do you transfer that preparation and strategy to elevation when you’re only there for a week or two? Thank you for your insight. Chris Case Kristin, maybe we’ll start with you this time. What do you think here? Kristen Legan I think I can do that. Starting from a more holistic picture. And again, just thinking about the big picture, going into an hour an event at altitude as well prepared and trained as you possibly can is gonna help you out like any other event, you want to just be at the top of your game. But because you’re going to altitude and Your power is going to drop. You again just want your body to be in its best possible shape to be able to deal with that altitude as best as it can be sighs the Chris Case impact Yeah, Kristen Legan exactly. So, you know, continuing to train like you would for any big event, and just focusing on that, but then also thinking about like, what is your race plan and spending maybe more time thinking about that plan ahead of time, then you might if it’s, you know, your local road race that you kind of know those roads and those climbs, you know, thinking of altitude, I always jump to like a Leadville type of event. And so thinking about those specific climbs, how steep they are, what power levels can you actually sustain during those climbs, and then realizing you’re going to be at you know, 10,000 feet, so then lowering that power to accommodate that change in altitude so that when you do get there, and you get really Excited to be in the race, you don’t just go, you know all out to start and then realize you’re gonna have to suffer for a long time to come back from that. So from the start, it’s just making that plan, sitting down and really examining the course and figuring out, you know how to minimize the effects of altitude while you’re there. Chris Case Is there any either rule of thumb or even a chart that says, Okay, I live at zero feet, and I’m going to reset that is on average 8000 feet, so my power will be reduced by x percentage. If not, can you calculate that for us right now, Trevor? Trevor Connor precisely the amount of power that I need to beat you on. How’s that for chart? Chris Case 475 watts for them? Yeah. 27 minutes. Trevor Connor There is no chart and part of the reason there’s no chart and there’s essentially No one rule is because there are different ways that people respond. You can go in one of a couple of different directions. So we can’t make a rule. You know, there’s people who simply don’t respond call Delta do not risk nonresponders. There are people who respond by really upping their aerobic pathways. They’re people who respond by upping their anaerobic pathways, their ability to tolerate that. And then you also see more response on the efficiency side. So it’s made it really hard to study altitude because you get a mix of these people and then you they keep coming out with studies going well, we just can’t really find a rule here. Chris Case Yeah. And we talked about some of those things in a recent q&a episode. I’m curious if there are anything specific you can recommend for a person to do differently, where they’re training where they live at sea level to in order to prepare for the race at altitude. So what about things like hyperbaric chambers? altitude chambers? Is there any reason that people should build one in their garage or use one of these things? Kristen? Kristen Legan Well, I think they’re, they’re pretty unrealistic for the day to day life of, you know, unless you’re a committed athlete that is going to stay home 24 seven for a long time, that you have to spend a significant amount of each day at altitude to start getting those benefits of altitude training. So you’d have to ride your bike inside that garage, you’d have to sleep in that garage, you’d have to eat in that garage. So unless you’re planning to do something drastic like that, I don’t think it’s actually really worth the effort to, you know, get an altitude tent and set it up in your bedroom. Chris Case Anything you’d like to add, Trevor, Trevor Connor I have seen friends experiment with it. Mm hmm. And I’ve seen as many absolutely destroy their season, as I’ve seen it help. Okay, so I’m not a huge fan of it. I just I think you’re gonna say the same thing I don’t think there’s anything different you can do at sea level besides just try to get as fit as you can no Chris Case extra big gear work because you might be grinding more or no nothing. It’s just get get in tip top Trevor Connor shape to go out doing your intervals breathing through a straw Go for it, but Chris Case they do make those masks and you’ve you experimented with those? Kristen Legan No, I’ve seen those. I think they’re definitely interesting. Back when I was swimming, I was a pretty competitive swimmer in high school. And I had an amazing coach here in Colorado and we used to swim with snorkels quite a bit, and he would take half of our snorkel off so it would really restrict the sounds. Don’t want to say too much out there. Trevor Connor What was this guy’s name? But you know, there’s always things that you can try like that. But I agree with Trevor like you’re just you’re asking to ruin your season by doing something silly and isn’t taking yourself to Deep into a hole rather than you know, just focus on getting yourself as fit as possible. And think about getting yourself a well-rounded athlete. So working all the systems, making sure you’re strong, you’re resilient, and you’re, you know, you’re going to go into that race and be more successful than if you change up your life completely. You look at the research, if there’s any recommendation they generally have, it’s the live high trained low, because when you do intervals at altitude, your powers lower you don’t get as high quality and interval. So if you can do it live somewhere that’s high altitude, so you get the physiological response out to do but then go somewhere at a lower altitude and do high-quality intervals. So if you take that recommendation and think about wearing this mask at sea level, well you don’t get the adaptations of living at altitude. But you are making sure that you get the negative side effect of not be able to do your intervals with quality so you are getting the double whammy of Not what you want, as opposed to what you want. So I would think, my personal feelings, that’s a bad approach. Kristen Legan I have a question off of that to see I just I’m curious what your thoughts are. Some reading that I’ve done about this actually comes from Dr. Stacey Sims. And so she talks a little bit about how heat training can somewhat, you know, it’s not, it’s not a true altitude training supplement, but you can help kind of boost red blood cell production. So doing something what she calls permissive dehydration, wherein this is, again, something I would recommend people only do with coach or a doctor and really think about the long term effects of what you’re trying to do here. But you basically go out for a bike ride, you come back, you’re somewhat dehydrated already from just riding, and then you get into a sauna for 30 minutes, no drinking, you don’t do that. And you eventually build up that 30 minutes so you can start shorter. And then so that’s again, that’s just the height. hydrating your body more and more and more. And then over the next three to four or five hours, you gradually rehydrate. So you don’t just go and pound a bunch of water right away. But what that’s trying to do is it signals the blood is going towards your skin during that time in the sauna, to help you sweat and really some of that heat. And so things like your, you know, your other organs are signaling saying, hey, I need blood. And so your body is, you know, spurred to make more blood cells. So you’re in, in a way, you’re increasing that blood production, which is a similar situation that happens when you’re at altitude training in your body starts to make more blood so it can transport oxygen more efficiently. So, you know, this is something that I have not personally tried, and it’s something that I think it makes sense, but I’m a little bit hesitant on like, the whole dehydration thing, again, is what are the negative effects that are going to happen to your body and is that going to negate any Possible change you might get in more blood production. I’m Trevor Connor the same as you have you’re running a risk, if you’re already training really hard and have yourself on the edge, and then you throw in some intentional dehydration. That could be the thing that takes you over the edge. Yeah. Interestingly, before I really got into reading the research and seeing what physiologists were doing, I was very into the What are all these little tricks that you can use, like go and do hill climbs were in a garbage bag to get that, that she still did that actually. Trevor Connor All these all these little tricks that we talked about. And interestingly, as I read more and more of the science, and I’ve seen teams, high-level teams, national teams experiment with all this stuff, the more I have tended towards with all these things. Just train your best build the best engine you can and then let your body deal with the event and the little tricks gimmicks, they are gimmicks that every once a while they work for the most part. Chris Case It’s not worth it. Yeah, we heard we heard from Max chance in his episode trying to get into the sauna right and look at him he’s not any better than he was 10 years ago, or so. He’s not even in the room. I’m sorry, Max. I took it back. But Trevor Connor we thought to make fun. Yeah. Max somewhere actually, right now is just smiling, going. Who? there there was a laugh at my expense. I’m happy. Yeah, that’s true. Very true. So my recommendation is just to train as best you can at sea level, and then come up and deal with the race. And the only things I will point out are if there’s any rules about how we adapt to altitude is that there is a short term adaptation. We’re basically your body just builds your tolerance for anaerobic metabolism, then there is a law where your body goes, Well, you’re not leaving altitude, so I better do a better long term solution. And that’s actually when you’re at your worst. And then you start seeing the long term adaptation. So what do you want to be careful about is arriving not arriving at altitude at a point where you hit your race right at that role. Kristen Legan Yeah, right. Which is like kind of the perfect timing for when you typically show up for a race like a couple of days out, Trevor Connor right? So it’s, yeah, you are right about your worst depending on the person somewhere around four to seven days out. So what they’re actually now recommending to people is either go to altitude several weeks before your event, Chris Case or the day before the day before. Kristen Legan Yeah, as short as you can possibly make it
How to gain huge chunks of time in gravel racing without training any harder
Chris Case Peter, I hope that helps. It wasn’t the maybe the answer you were looking for. We bashed on hyperbaric chambers, all these other things that you were probably hoping to go out and buy or build a new garage, but it doesn’t sound like they’re all that effective. So one of the reasons we also brought Kristen on the show is we got this great question from Taylor in Omaha. she feels like she’s sort of reached her limit when it comes to her training. But she asks, Is there one thing I can do to improve my time at long gravel races? What is it that I can do? So Kristin, in your experience in your coaching business with Rambler rising, what is the advice you offer people in in in in this regard? Kristen Legan Yeah, well, I mean, gallery scene is a huge topic, but um, you know, and there’s there’s plenty of things that we can be doing every day to make ourselves faster and fitter and be able to take some of that time off during our races, but I think the easiest way to do to go faster without actually even having to work harder at all is to minimize your stops during these races. You know, we can be out at dirty Kansa for, you know, some people can go out there for 10 hours, some other people are going to be out there for 20 hours, The more you can minimize how much you stop during those races, you’re going to be able to shed so much time and make yourself a lot faster. Chris Case And you’re talking Sorry to interrupt, but you’re talking not necessarily stopping fewer times, necessarily, but the times that you do stop making it instead of a half an hour of crunching on chips and drinking ginger ale to making it three minutes or somewhere less, right. Kristen Legan Yeah, I mean, there, there’s both sides of that, the better you are eating while you’re writing, so that you don’t have to stop to open your packages or stop to switch your bottles around. That’s the first thing so become comfortable eating while you’re moving. We always say slow miles are better than no miles. So as long as you can just keep rolling along while you’re opening those packages or doing whatever you need to the better. But yeah, I think the biggest time Save is going to be during those checkpoint times. So where you’re, you know, you’re writing in you have to find your support crew or you know, a bag that you’ve dropped or even just a neutral support figuring out like, what drinks they have. And whereas the different food is, the faster you can get through those checkpoints, the faster you’re going to finish the race. Chris Case free time. Yeah. And it can add up to an hour or hours. Yeah, depending on the length of the race, the number of stops, yeah, Kristen Legan so forth. And you know, it’s all about momentum. So if you sit down and you start to relax, it’s gonna be a lot harder to get back up and keep going, especially the later in the race you get. So just keep moving. But the biggest thing I think, is planning ahead of time, and practicing those systems. So you know, whether you’re doing a triathlon and you have your, your transition area, or you’re doing, you know, dirty Kansa and you have your checkpoint areas, going like actually physically going through the process of those checkpoints during a general ride that you do is really important. So take your take You’re stuck out onto a road in the back of your car and do a big lap come through when you’re tired. When you’re not, you know, maybe super fresh and go through the process of what do I do first? What do I do Second, you know, should you refill your water bottles first and then grab your food and then should you loop your chain or, you know, go to the bathroom, whatever that you know, whatever system you create, going through the process of doing that multiple times is going to make it so much easier during the race where you’re already going to be frantic because you’re in a race. There’s a you know, 1000 people around you and you’ve been out riding for however many hours in the hot that you know, your brain doesn’t work super well at that point. So creating those systems and practicing that is going to make that whole situation go a lot faster and a lot smoother. You’re not going to ride off without that sandwich that you’ve you Whoa, yeah. Kristen Legan So that you know, just practicing that and, and then like the last thing on all of that is if it is a situation where you have your support crew out there for you go through that process with your support group and make sure they know what the process is. And also know what, how to gently nudge you to go a little faster or to get out of that checkpoint area. So our swears allowed our swears Chris Case not Kristen Legan exactly like, how do you work? Some people work great. I mean, I don’t think swearing at your support crew or having a positive, my best year dirty Kansa my husband was was pitting for me. And he purposely took all of the chairs out of our little area, and like, open to the cooler. So there was just absolutely no space for me to sit down somewhere, you know, and so it was just thinking through some of that stuff where if you don’t have that opportunity to stop or to slow down that much, you’ll just keep going because you know, my whole just get on my bike can keep rolling. So yeah, I think, stop less. That’s how you can go faster. Chris Case Going back to one of the earlier points you made. And this is something I asked because a lot of us who’ve ridden bikes a lot, it’s an innate thing, we don’t even think about it. Some of the clients you have may be a little newer to the sport. So maybe you’ve had to think about this. How do you ride your bike and eat and drink at the same time without falling off practice? Kristen Legan No, I mean, I think just practicing it from the time you start riding your bike, I mean, we can all be better at you know, can you sit up on your bike with no hands if you need to open something with both hands, and then doing that kind of thing on gravel, doing that thing on gravel when there’s wind, all of these different things you can practice to just become better at it. One of the big things we always tell is just any food that you have planned to eat open those wrappers before you even get on the bike or have them in your checkpoint already open. You know during road races. Same thing doesn’t have to be gravel. Just try and think through try and do less while you’re racing, the less your brain has to focus on taking care of yourself, the more you can focus on going faster. Thanks for joining us today. Kristen. That was fun. Thanks for having me. Trevor Connor It’s good. I haven’t yet hopefully we can get down again. Yeah, for sure. That was another episode of fast talk. As always, we’d love your feedback. Email us at fast talk at fast labs comm or record a voice memo on your phone and send it our way. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. Find us on social media where at real fast labs. The thoughts and opinions expressed on fast talk are those of the individual for Christian league and Coach Trevor Connor and Chris case. Thanks for listening