A Swedish Approach to Athletic Excellence

Link to YouTube

I’ll link my prior writing on NVDP at the end of this piece.

NVDP had a childhood dream of being a great athlete, I had a childhood experience of being a horrible athlete.

Proving right, proving wrong…

Childhood experiences can be powerful motivators!

What’s YOUR motivation? Why start this journey?

My answer “I was born to train.”

Tapping into core motivation enables sustained work.


  • As a coach…
  • As a parent…
  • As a child athlete…
  • As a collegiate athlete…
  • As a world junior champion…

What’s it going to take?

Nils & Johan explain the performance puzzle:

  • The Project: a multiyear journey to the top
  • The Work: a LONG apprenticeship
  • The Block: a multi-month period of increasingly specific focus
  • The Session: one session, repeated, involving the specific requirements of the goal

Project : Work : Block : Session

Nils & Johan speak clearly about these four aspects. Can you?

In order to bring laser focus to the Block and the Session, one needs both: (a) a deep reservoir of aerobic fitness; and (b) plenty of mojo.

Keep the Work phase enjoyable and don’t sweat the pace/power. Base training is about kilojoules. Kilojoules by any means necessary.

The Block phase lasts ~17 weeks – NVDP uses Swedish 5:2 loading implying (at most) 85 days “on” and (at least) 34 days “off”.

Across each Olympic Cycle, there are “85” days that are special. The other days are foundational & recovery.

Intense internal focus => at times, never for long.


Even for Superman, life mostly happens outside the arena

Some nuggets in the podcast:

Threshold Block:

  • early-week longer intervals set the work-rate across the week – recovery is added to preserve a good enough work rate – when work rate cannot be hit, recover
  • seek to gather TIME “fast enough” rather than progressing targets – key attitude for error prevention

Coaching expertise can help quantify “good enough.” NVDP carves most everything else away.

++

Repeat The Week:

  • NVDP knows key sessions, by DAY, inside his 5:2 week
  • There is an early week expectation, and a late week expectation
  • Higher work-rates not always better – experience with bicarb letting him train “beyond the limit” forcing additional recovery the next week – [For me: a reminder to respect natural limits.]

++

The Bike: I suspect we will see more athletes using supplemental cycling for fitness (metabolic, aerobic, threshold) – this would work for both running and swimming – if you are a “large” runner or a swimmer with limited access to pool time… then the bike seems life a useful supplement to your plan.

People are going to figure this out. Might you be one of the people? Athletes lead the process.

Clinicians: before you add “running”… keep the “walking” and add “cycling.”

++

Always watching has a cost.

As NVDP says in the Manifesto… “There is a cost of everything.”

How much of my watching is making my team faster?

Might constant monitoring of The Work be creating a net-negative cost?

There will be times when you need to trust yourself and resist the urge to count.


In our own lives:

  • Project – where do I want to take myself?
  • Work – a long period of enjoying what it takes, with ample recovery
  • Block – 2-4 month focus-periods, every 3-4 years, intense focus, ample recovery
  • Session – what one thing, if you get right, will change everything?

The above approach, with buy in from your family, is VERY sustainable!


Prior NVDP Material


The Flowchart of My Project

The Work is #1 and I’ll be there for a long while.

Sunday Summary 5 June 2022

Top 5 Threads

  1. Howard’s new book on Longevity/Healthspan
  2. Even Super Humans have a lot of time as regular folks
  3. COVID return to play for adults & kids
  4. Don’t adopt a baseline of beatdown!
  5. A simple reminder of consistency as protocol, connected

Workouts & Working Out

High Performance

A Vision Quest of Fatigue

Hilton Head, end of the trip

Archive Saturday is an extract from my diary when I rode across the USA (March to May 2004).

This entry was written after the end of a big block. That morning, I had briefly fallen asleep swimming. Woke up when my head hit the bulkhead!


Barry was a favorite guest. At the time, we were eating out of buckets.

My buddy, Barry, had saddle sores so bad, he used his menthol lip balm for relief.

Never borrow lip balm from a vegan called Barry!

As an elite endurance athlete, there will be days when the best thing that happens is rolling a stick of lip balm onto your balls…

…and those will be some of the greatest days of your life!


There’s tired and there’s “lie down on a tarp, covered in mosquitoes and immediately fall asleep tired”

Here’s the thing about fatigue, at first we panic a little, eventually we accept it, then we find a way to relax and dance with it.


A BIG motivator with my Project (to get back in shape) is being able to do adventures with my son.
This is the morning we decided to swim to North Carolina and run up to road to meet our support vehicle.
Clas “the Baron” Bjorling in the middle & Ben on the right.

From back when the magazine business was a business…

They’d be out of business if we just put JFT on the cover and ran the adverts…

Social media wasn’t a thing in 2004 but the “attention economy” endures.

Be wary of sacrificing the quality of your work to offer novelty to the masses, most of whom will never follow your advice and gain The Knowledge.

The Knowledge doesn’t reside in textbooks, blog posts or podcasts.

Just Keep Training


Sam, me, Barry the Vegan // 8 weeks (and most of the USA) between this photo at the one above.
Fuel the work and don’t be a weight nut!
Always remember, NEVER borrow lip balm from Barry

Monday’s blog will be about A Swedish Approach to Athletic Excellence – it’s about creating a life that puts you in the position to do The Block.

The Block – a period of 4 months where you take yourself to the top.

The first half of my “Block” was swim/bike/run across America – 9 weeks.

The second half was a summer inside Dave Scott’s Team World in Boulder.

Barbarian Days!



gRAAM – Trans USA Day Forty-Eight
camden, tennessee

In the end, we were a bit tired to be much entertainment for Andy, but we left him a couple of souvenirs to show our appreciation of his hospitality.

We didn’t exactly rip out of bed. I managed a weak jog to the pool. The swim was even more lackluster. After 2,000 yards, I nearly fell asleep in the water (not a good sign at all). I managed to squeeze out 3,000 yards, but the last 500 was done in broken 25s at easy pace. Not pretty. I got out of the water and sat in the hot tub for a bit (memories of cracking post-Epic NZ #2).

I shuffled back to Andy’s place, where Baron and I conferenced and agreed that the overall run distance was 5.5K.

We had 180K on the ride agenda and I was starting the day highly whipped. Fortunately, we had tailwinds forecast, but there were a heck of a lot of rollers heading my way. I drank a half litre of gordo-brew, straight-up – nothing happened, not even a ripple in my system.

++++

So what does one think about when riding, totally wasted? Here’s a selection – as you can tell, I wasn’t feelin’ the love the whole way…

Jimi and me – hey, there’s a lot going on in the background of those songs. He’s laughing and joking the whole way through. Kinda like a my training days.

Dolan – Tom “Mr. Swimming” Dolan trained 100+KM per week in the water for an event that lasted four minutes. How could anybody reasonably expect to perform a 8-9 hour TT on a low-volume program?

Track Sessions – Who’s %^&*$#@ idea was that anyhow? I’m blown to bits and for what? …and the guy tells me to eat light at dinner. Man-o-man, isn’t he reading my reports? Eat light?! Bet he’s drinking a beer right now.

Training Regime – OK, you come and sit on my wheel for two weeks and then we’ll talk training protocols. Far easier to talk than to do what it takes. Two weeks in my big ring and counting.

Mr. Andersson – The guy chose the large jersey. I had the medium with me and he waived it off. Then he diss’d my gift on my site? Sponsor management? Dude, you can just mail that jersey back to me and I’ll find another home for it.

Lance – People diss the guy on the pride he has in his preparation. I’m shelled to s&*# and I’m a wee minnow compared to those guys. Everyone trains hard at the top? No way, only a few people truly apply themselves in ANY endeavour. The ability to persist beats ability. But they wish it was the other way. They wish that there was an excuse, any excuse, to avoid personal responsibility.

Scientists & Experts – I bet I couldn’t find one expert to agree with my training today but, I bet I could find a dozen world champions.

Coach – Don’t fool yourself. Coaches don’t make athletes. Athletes make athletes. Structure, motivation, objectivity, belief. The nature of a session? Doesn’t matter. JFT.

Fatigue – We’re looking for a new kind of fatigue out here. Something deeper, a pure fatigue. Not one of those bush league fatigues. A whole new kind of fatigue.

Balm – You know, that balm I put on my nads is probably going to be the highlight of this day. The menthol aspect lasted for at least forty minutes. That was nice. My only action is medication for my bag – all part of the elite triathlete lifestyle. Funny old life I lead. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rights – What am I doing out here? I am exercising my right of self-determination. Perhaps just self-termination.

Tri Mags – It would be pretty thin if you simply put JFT on the cover then ran the adverts. So much time, so much energy, so much money spent on items that have nothing to do with true performance.

I can’t really remember if those were before or after lunch. I do remember that we had 105K on the clock at lunch and my hands were shaking badly on arrival in Bells, TN.

B – I think that we should ride an extra 30K if we feel good.
G – More than 200K?
B – Yes, a good idea?
G – Why not.

So we headed out at 4:30 pm for a second leg of 125K, or so. Somewhere out there I got tired enough to simply relax and resign myself to my fate. Just like the winter storm day. Only this time it was different.

Baron was so shelled that he was pouring water on his head to keep himself from swerving too much. I think we were both beyond caring and feeling – we were simply going to ride until we got to the end or cracked. Neither of us expected to crack, but you can never really be sure.

…perhaps that’s why I did this trip. Because I wanted the knowledge. Yeah, that’s good to know. This could be as close as I’ll be able to come. My personal sixty quarters. Shared with the Baron. The same knowledge but different. I wonder if he understands? He certainly understands but he’d be no more able to explain it then I can. When you have the knowledge you don’t really need to explain it. You just lean back and smile while everyone else hangs at the Mad Hatters Tea Party. Molina has it, sure, but why is he telling me to eat light as well. Is he playing some kind of joke on me? I’m way past simple bean dip fatigue – isn’t he reading these reports. Maybe he’s taking me on the next step. Just keep riding…

…Guess it’s like the quiet power only deeper. If only a few have the knowledge then I wonder why so many of them don’t have the quiet power as well. Perhaps it’s difficult to transfer it across an entire spectrum. Flashes of enlightenment. Wonder how long this will stick with me. Probably be gone tomorrow. But it was nice while it lasted. Keep on riding…

…it’s not the insanity of cities, or the silliness of debate – it’s the total futility of everything. To fight every battle as if it was our last, all the while knowing that it’s really one big joke. A lot of warriors get the first bit but miss the second. Keep on riding…

We rolled into our campsite as darkness fell. Wy asked me a question and I said something along the lines of “I’m OK”. She noted that my reply wasn’t convincing but how to explain without sounding offensive or strange. My own vision-quest exploring the depths of fatigue.

I think we are going to make it, but who’s idea was that track session?

g-man

Caught COVID Part One

Came down with COVID last Tuesday and my network has been great.


LINK to BMJ

At the same time as I was dealing with the fever, my O-sats were getting hammered and that made my thinking REALLY slow, also meant I stopped driving until they rebounded.

I was negative before I was positive – didn’t feel right Tuesday afternoon, tested negative.

Woke Wednesday with a big fever and tanking wellness metrics – clearly positive. If you don’t feel right, then it might take 12-24 hours to see test confirmation of what you feel going on.

I kept hydrating like I was training, put a large glass of water beside my desk and bed (create availability for my O2 deprived brain).

Checking my o-sats has kept me in check! I ordered this pulse ox meter on Amazon

Laying around, with the fever, resulted in back pain – hip flexor stretches offered quick relief

Best Decision: immediately, and publicly, pulling the pin on my May Training

Reminder: just like post-marathon/Ironman…

You are going to FEEL better, before you ARE better.


Sunday Summary 29 May 2022

Top 5 Threads

  1. Training Nutrition Guide
    1. Basics
    2. Workouts
    3. Advanced Workouts
  2. SuperVet Fitness
  3. Got COVID, published May’s training
  4. Split endurance sessions before seeking to stack
  5. BIG thread on sprint training

Working Out

High Performance Habits

Part One of SuperVet Fitness

Step One is improving low-end aerobic function by adding cycling volume under LT1

My return to “proper” endurance training will offer me a chance to demonstrate some things.

It’s whole lot easier to hit modest fitness targets if you have sufficient muscle mass for your goals (Link to Big Slow Day Article)

A lot of athletes see their size as a hinderance to their goals.

I don’t.

If you want to rip bumps in your 60s, sustain impact, run the risk of the occasional crash… a bit of size, combined with a lot strength, will serve you well.

So I’ve moved to my strongest-training weight – which is ~5 lbs above my low-volume sustainable weight.

On my old protocol (outlined here) – being a bit light is fine. However, when my goals require the capacity to fuel meaningful output, my “light weight” slows my recovery.

Let’s be clear: endurance athletes have a “light is right” bias.

Smart athletes know it is better to match your body composition to your goals.

My #1 goal is faster recovery, so:

  • Each week at least two back-to-back recovery days
  • Run my body composition a little heavier
  • Ditch my alarm
  • Use morning HRV to check in before loading
  • Bring back training nutrition

Making The Most of My Time

Many athletes seek to optimize their time by boosting average workout intensity (Sweet Spot, Heavy Domain, Tempo).

I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it work.

Doesn’t work for me.

I’m going Nordic

  • Swedish 5:2 (see below)
  • Norwegian 80:20 (>80% Stamina Focus)

Swedish Periodization (5 days on, 2 days off) means radical recovery and compressed loading:

  • If I finish Day 5 by Noon, then I have ~65 hours until I train again
    • Every week has space for Real Life => sustainable
    • I get a weekly reset
    • My digestion gets a rest – training uptake is fatiguing
  • My Stamina focus is a 2-for-1
    • Train energy uptake (ideas for you)
    • Improve function of my mitochondria
  • My “intense” allocation (<20% total loading) includes my strength training – strength is where I preserve my long-term edge (strength, muscle mass)


Most everybody wants to get faster.

That would be nice… …and I expect it to happen

However, what I actually want is… the capacity to hold my existing submax fitness longer

Which implies…

  • 90% => bottom-up metabolic fitness & train my gut
  • 10% => strength & muscle mass

I’ll keep working and report back

Sunday Summary 15 May 2022

Tweets of the Week (by engagement)

  1. Better to REMOVE one thing than chase the latest thing
  2. Our Pelotons read power -29% to +15% (nested threads)
  3. There is no hurry in Early Base (or anytime, really)
  4. What I did to get Ironman Marathon under 3-hrs
  5. Recap of my 2nd round of Swedish 5:2

Data comes from my Public Dashboard on BlackMagic.So

Family

Workouts & Working Out

High Performance Living

A public forum a lousy place for topics that require 1:1 trust

Setting Up A Lifetime of Winning

May in Boulder

Last Monday, I gave you three things to consider:

  • Face your fear of recovery
  • Consider if you have the muscle mass to achieve your goals
  • Build your capacity for One Big Slow Day

Another way to think about recovery is to invert – give yourself a protocol that you will enjoy regardless of outcome – lack of enjoyment is a sign your approach is unsustainable.

Injury and illness are socially-acceptable ways to manifest a lack of enjoyment.

Work, school, sport… bad luck is less random than it appears.


The best thing I learned about protocol was taught to me by a doctor friend:

Gordo, we don’t heal people. People heal themselves.

The magic isn’t in the protocol, supplement or dogma…

The magic ingredient is YOU!


Step back from all the noise about protocols.

How might we create a lifetime of winning?

  • Consistency
  • Enjoyment

Focus there.


What do we see in every successful person?

  1. Practice often
  2. Devote time
  3. Learn skills

Focus there.


I’ve been reading the literature around SuperElite performance. It gets me fired-up to “practice often, devote time & learn skills” 🙂

However… it strikes me as a lot of narrative wrapped around the complex system of human performance.

The literature lacks self-awareness… despite what you see in the media, you probably do not want to be a Super Elite. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Not our situation to solve.


For the rest of us!

The mental side is what’s going limit.

While we are consistently enjoying the journey…

  • do work
  • take correction

Parents, allocating TIME to have fun while you MODEL these skills is one of the best gifts you can give your kids.

I doesn’t need to be you (but your kids really want you involved).

Teach your kids to be the best version of themselves.


Not better than the rest,
I hope you are the best YOU can be

Sunday Summary 8 May 2022

Workouts & Working Out

True Wealth

Productivity

Even Super Humans Start with One Big Slow Day

This is the way

I’ve been having fun reading NVDP’s training approach (link is to his site).

I felt deep satisfaction seeing an athlete improve on a protocol that was taught to me. Fun to be part of a lineage that extends backwards, and forwards, in time.

A personal confession, there is a twinge of sadness when I read the document. Sadness because I had the passion to do the work, but lacked the courage to recover.

I will teach this to my children, and offer it to you.

Recovery is what truly scares the highly motivated.


Kids have a capacity, and desire, to get very strong at a young age

Where does it all begin?

Skeletal muscle mass – do you have enough muscle to generate the aerobic power for your goals?

Let’s be clear what I’m really talking about => self-starvation risks your ability to be an exceptional athlete.

I lift weights to have aerobic capacity for many tomorrows.

The foundation of wherever you want to take yourself is skeletal muscle mass – very important to get this message through to girls & boys.

Youngsters – ride the natural build up

Oldsters – preserve, and hopefully, build upon your current position


A long slow day to the top of Mt Huron (14,005 ft)

The value of a long slow day

I’m extremely consistent with my aerobic training.

My consistency has resulted in great health, but it has not translated to superior metabolic fitness.

Consistent, moderate aerobic exercise doesn’t translate to superior metabolic fitness.

I do wish it was otherwise!

My lack of metabolic fitness doesn’t impact my body composition, or my life. See my article on training middle aged docs.

Looking forward, metabolics might be a limiter.

Here’s the progression:

  1. At first, moving around all day is tough enough
  2. Next, noodling around, at any speed, for 4-6 hours, is tough enough
  3. Then, maybe we add some jogging, or combine with some cycling
  4. Then, we try to keep easy, constant pressure on our long session

The first time I did 1 to 4… it took me ~5 years

Slow ramp of load.


Know where you are trying to go.

  • NVDP was seeking to break the world record for a 10K skate.
  • I’d like the option to do expeditions with my 15-18 yo son.

The concept of 5s pops up in NVDP’s plan.

  • 5 Days On, 2 Days Off
  • 5x >5,000 kj on the bike
  • 5 days of mind-blowing threshold sessions

The toughest expedition I can imagine can be structured as:

(5x) One Day On, One Day Off => ~5 big days in a two-week block

Thankfully, I don’t need to string 5 days together, like a world champion.

All I need to do is build the capacity to do One Big Slow Day, Rest then repeat.

This was the key lesson of my 20s: the capacity to do one big slow day changed my life.

What is your goal?

Share the journey with people you love.