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.

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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.]

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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.”

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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.