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Athletica.ai Unpacked: Your Training Questions Answered
Episode 1215th February 2024 • The Athlete's Compass • Athletica
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Summary:

Dive deep into the functionality and training philosophy of the Athletica training platform in this engaging episode of the Athletes' Compass Podcast. Hosts Paul Laursen, Paul Warloski and Marjaana Rakai tackle a range of listener questions, shedding light on how Athletica tailors athletic testing, adapts training plans, incorporates rest days, and integrates strength training for endurance athletes. This episode is an essential listen for users of Athletica looking to fully exploit the platform's capabilities to boost their training efficiency and performance.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Optimizing Athletica Testing and Training Adjustments: Discover how Athletica customizes initial and subsequent testing weeks, utilizing specific tests like the FTP for cyclists and the Jack Daniels 5K for runners, to finely tune workout zones to each athlete's current performance levels. Learn about the platform's approach to periodically re-evaluating and adjusting these zones to keep pace with athletes' progress.
  2. Understanding Athletica's Approach to Training and Rest: Gain insights into Athletica's philosophy on consistent training versus rest days. The podcast explores how the platform's algorithms prioritize consistent cell signaling for adaptation, emphasizing the need for athletes to heed their bodies' signals for rest to prevent overtraining and promote sustainable training habits.
  3. Strength Training Integration in Athletica: Uncover the importance of strength training within the Athletica ecosystem, including insights from strength training expert Erin Carson. The episode discusses the conversion of muscle fiber types and the role of strength training in preserving muscle and bone mass, crucial for endurance athletes' overall health and performance.
  4. Personalization and Future Innovations in Athletica: Delve into the future of Athletica, with a sneak peek at upcoming features aimed at enhancing strength training guidance and tracking. The episode emphasizes the value of personalized training plans and responsive adjustments based on performance feedback, highlighting Athletica's commitment to evolving in line with cutting-edge sports science research.

Transcripts

Paul Warloski (:

Hello and welcome to another listener question episode of the Athletes Compass where we navigate training, fitness and health for everyday athletes. This is our second listener question episode where we take questions from the Athletica Forum, from social media and directly from our athletes and turn them over to our experts so we can discuss them. So here's question number one from Carlos Hurtado from El Salvador.

Paul (:

where we navigate training, fitness, and health for everyday athletes. This is our second listening question. So, where we take questions from the online forum, from social media, directly from the...

So here's question number one from Carlos Hurtado from El Salvador. After the initial test week, does the athleticum program other test weeks regularly or does it...

Paul Warloski (:

After the initial test week, does the Athletica program other test weeks regularly or does it automatically adjust zones according to the identified progress being made by the athlete? So how does Athletica read the test program? How often should we be testing?

Paul (:

So, how does athletic?

Well, I'll start with that one, Marjaana if that's okay. I think, yeah, so it's basically, if you onboard onto Athletica, if you're an early user of the program, what automatically gets programmed in is a test week. If you're a cyclist, you're going to get an FTP, functional threshold power test, and

profile test. And these are going to be the key tests that determine your workout zones. And so, and in the running context, including triathletes, you're going to get a Jack Daniels 5K maximal run test. And if you're again a triathlete and you're going to be doing swimming, you're going to do a CSS test, a critical swim speed test, maximal 50 meters, maximal

400 meters time trial. Okay, so all those time trials and all out efforts coordinate a power or pace profile that really pinpoints your capacities as an athlete from the threshold or critical power model. So what is your sustained intensity? And then in general, what is the, you know,

what are the other zones that fall from that? And we generally have a five zone heart rate model and we have a seven zone pace and power model. And we'll be talking about that shortly in subsequent sessions. And yeah, that's what we, you know, you can imagine you'd want to kick off with something like that because that, if you get that data and that knowledge into Athletica relatively soon.

That means that your training sessions are going to be catered to your ability. And that's the key purpose of that testing. Now more to your question, Carlos, like when do those come back? Well, whenever you restart a plan onto a new event, right? So you want to, oh, now it's time to do a marathon or now it's time to do a, you know, a 5K or a triathlon, whatever it may be, whenever you restart your plan.

usually a good time to at least ask, should I do another test? And you have the option, the default is to do that test. Of course you have the option also to not do that test. And for that you simply tick, you know, skip test week. And that's, you know, one of the key questions we get from users is actually, you know, can I have a plan without a test or can I get my test back?

Paul Warloski (:

Thanks for watching!

Paul (:

And it's yes to all of those things, right? So you just have to kind of go back and either click the box that skips that test week if you don't want it, or reset your plan to get that test week. Finally, one other thing I'll just mention on this, and Marjaana I'm sure you probably would have mentioned this too, because you taught me this, and that's if you want to have your test week in, you just have to simply find that test, save it to your library, and then you can...

put it in there whenever you want to retest yourself if you think those zones have gone up. So I'm going to stop there and tell me what I've missed, Paul.

Marjaana Rakai (:

I think you got it.

Paul Warloski (:

I think so too, just to make sure that you were talking about in the settings is that's where the that information where we check the text test box.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Thank you.

Paul (:

That's right. Yeah, yeah. You absolutely in the settings there is where you do that. And then I guess the other thing, the other point that Carlos made is, you know, when will these, when will they be updated? And here's the cool thing about Athletica. So say you go in there and you do a key set, like a, you know, something that's pretty hard, like maybe it was a short interval workout or, you know, some sort of, even if say you do a race and you record that race,

And sometimes that's where you really see your performance displayed, right? And it sits there in your device. And once that device file is uploaded, and if Athletica calculates that you've all of a sudden hit personal bests in terms of your performance, well, it re-updates that. At least it will give you the prompt to say,

oh you hit a new threshold, we would suggest that you accept these, would you like to? And you always have that option to accept or decline the recommendation that it's giving. And in case you're wondering, listeners, what should I accept it or not? Well, if you've done an honest effort with a solid rating of perceived exertion, you

and the number is higher, then you absolutely should accept that recommended change. The reason why we don't just automatically do it is because machines are prone to error. Say, for example, you got in your car and you forgot to turn your stopwatch off, which happens from time to time, right, Marjaana? I see you laughing there.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Hehehehe

Paul (:

So we've all done this, right? We just have a total brain fart and you start, you totally miss that. And you're obviously at that point, you're gonna get an incredibly, Usain Bolt type sustained running pace. It's just completely improbable. And in that case, if you're prompted to change your threshold, you should of course decline it. So these are why we have those safeguards on that. So I'll leave it there.

Marjaana Rakai (:

I'm sorry.

Yeah, sometimes if you haven't run like longer runs or tempo runs, harder runs for a while, then it tends to take some random lower number like, and then, then your load becomes a little bit screwed because, uh, like, I don't know what happened a couple of weeks ago. My 5k TT was.

suddenly a lot slower than it was supposed to be. Um, like it was around 30 minutes per 5k. And then I did an easy run and the load that it, um, calculated was something like hundred something, which was way too much of a load just because my, my threshold and all the intensity zones were now.

not accurate.

Paul (:

That's right, so calculation of your zones is pretty important or the loading is going to be off. You're absolutely right, Marjaana

Marjaana Rakai (:

Yeah. So if you skip the test week, when you start with athletic and you skip the test week, you're like, Oh no, I don't see the point of doing these tests. There's your point. Your, your load will be way too low or way too high for, so we want to do the test week and as you have good training, you can also feel like.

Paul (:

Absolutely.

Marjaana Rakai (:

you need to do the test week again, or some of the tests, not the whole test week necessarily, when bike rides intervals seem too easy, or the target zones seem too easy, then go back and reschedule that test so you can get it updated.

Paul Warloski (:

Good point.

Paul (:

Great advice.

Paul Warloski (:

Yeah, I have noticed that as I am returning to some health after my heart issues, it is adjusting often the Athletica program. So it's been nice, you know, as I gained some fitness back, it has been adjusting quite often in positive. Sometimes it goes backwards and I was like, oh, I don't accept those, of course. I just think I don't want to go backwards.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Yeah, I've experienced those ones too.

Paul Warloski (:

Good. Our second. Yeah, it's like, I don't like that. Our second question from Patrick D123 and my athlete Gabriel, despite my plan being set as a high volume or a mid volume, is it normal that there are no rest days scheduled for at least three weeks? We had a lot of questions or we had several questions on the forum at Athletica about rest days and rest weeks. Paul, could you talk about how

athletic structures, rest weeks and or rest days.

Paul (:

Yes, absolutely. So, you know, the very first thing on this topic that I will mention is that if, you know, for, if you need a rest week or a rest day, then you need to take it very first and foremost. So the reason why you might see less of a rest day structure in there is because one of

that we know enhances your adaptation is something we call the consistency of cell signaling. We all respond, we're all a bunch of cells and our cells and our body, they adapt to this signal or stimulus that you give them. So the more you repeat that stimulus or signal, the more we turn, we change our body. I think we've spoken at...

around previous episodes of the fact that our cells are always turning over in our body. Remember, and again, red blood cells are a classic example. They turn over every 120 days. You get a whole brand new set based on the food they eat. And again, so the body works completely like this. You're a different person than you were six months ago, completely from a makeup sort of side.

And yeah, I mean, Marjaana, you've got a great story about all of that, right? Like you just prove it, right? Like this is the kind of cool thing, right? In terms of like your transformation can be actually quite rapid. So just never forget that. And that's the reason. So the reason we're doing that kind of is because we want that consistent signaling. Now getting that stress just right is just so key. So this is why for many people, they have a hard time getting around

getting the concept in their head where you don't go to exhaustion in a workout. So this is why we have like, we like to have like these smaller bite size pieces of workouts and not these workouts that totally bin you where you have to like, you're just in the bin the next day. We want to remember this concept that the best workout is the next workout or the most important workout is the next workout. And this is why we do these repeated sort of sessions. And again, all with a caveat.

where if you need a rest day, then you need a rest day and you should take it. And this is why you can move, click, drag, do workout wizard, delete, whatever you kind of need to do to get that consistency in your training. But this is what we know works best. We know this works best in professionals and also age groups. And there's a big forum thread. I forget who it was, but someone gave an incredible Lee

very detailed testimony of this exact same concept where he didn't believe this either, but he went through the whole process, did these smaller bite-sized chunks, with great success thereafter. Any follow-ups there, Marjaana?

Marjaana Rakai (:

Um, yeah, I don't, I don't really believe in, uh, period days, days and rest weeks, like the typical three weeks on one week off, um, although it can be easy for people to, you know, schedule something else in their schedule, you know, knowing that, okay, my rest week is coming then, then I can do something else. Um,

And from a female athlete perspective, we all have a cycle. And if we've been paying attention to our menstrual cycle, which I highly recommend either using pen and paper method or using one of the apps out there to track your cycle, you'll start to learn your cycle and the symptoms. Because sometimes we just feel really crappy.

Paul Warloski (:

Thanks for watching!

Marjaana Rakai (:

And then I would definitely recommend taking a few days easy or even days off. Like my cycle, um, day one is horrible. And that's usually when I take a day off. If I'm like the cramps are just, yeah, not fun. So I can't get myself jump on the bike or anything. And that's fine. So usually I take a day or two.

Paul Warloski (:

Hmm.

Marjaana Rakai (:

off depending my symptoms. Um, some women tend to feel, um, like they lack pop, they lack their snappy legs, like the week before. Um, and then just don't push it. Like listen to your body and take a few days easy. But maybe Paul, you can talk to the female.

study if there's been any, you know, findings how women Is it, you know, training? What I'm trying to go here is I guess that the research is not clear on when women should take their rest weeks because we're so also unique and different.

Paul (:

Yes.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Do we have any like fine things from that study yet?

Paul (:

Yeah, I mean, I don't know if we have any findings on that issue per se, but I kind of reflect on, I forget her last name, it's hyphenated, Lauren Semple, I forget the last one, but basically we had her on the training science podcast. She's a big, she's a PhD researcher in this area from McMaster University in Canada. This is her old PhD and what she said on this exact issue that you mentioned, Marjaana is

take those days, those down days. She described it for the guys that are listening and they're still here. She describes it as it's like having the flu. It's basically like you just don't feel, you just kind of feel crappy and that's, you know, if your central nervous system is feeling crappy, then you just got to take some more time off. So that's the first practical message. Just do what you're talking about, Marjaana Onto the study. I presented a little bit of this in

the Endurance Exchange Conference I just got back to in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was presenting some of our data on the, what was it called, basically the menstrual cycle hormones and how they fluctuate relative to heart rate variability. I guess the interesting finding is the potential lowering of heart rate variability, suggesting you're falling more into sympathetic versus...

parasympathetic stress at the time when was it? I believe it was the, I think it's kind of into the luteal phase of the cycle. So you're falling more into the luteal phase. And that's, yeah, so that's after ovulation before menses. So that's kind of typically when you are seeing that increase in sympathetic response.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Mm-hmm.

Yeah.

Paul (:

you know what that means uh... you could be a potentially could you'll start killing things or uh... i'm not i'm not sure with sympathetic stress rising certain see you know rising uh... whatever comes with the sympathetic system fight or flight system fighting and fighting

Marjaana Rakai (:

I'm gonna go.

Yeah, and that's typically when we experience PMS and want to murder everybody.

Paul (:

Well, there you go. So there you go. So there's an association there, higher levels of progesterone, yeah, luteal phase. So that's kind of interesting. What do you do with that, women, in terms of programming? We don't know that yet. This is the very first, we're in the first phase of this, where what we call fishing experiments, where we're just finally getting the insight into testing these kinds of variables in the field.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Mm-hmm.

Paul (:

Just to be clear, this is using the MiraCare fertility tracking app, where women will pee on a little wand stick that gets inserted into a meter that can determine four metabolites, things like estrogen, progesterone, and some other gonadal hormones. So I think, Marjaana you might have been a study participant in that at one point.

Marjaana Rakai (:

I was, but I think my training was, my data was, yeah, my data was more of a detraining than training, but yeah, it was really interesting, interesting study to be part of. But I mean, if your hormones are going all whack the last week before a period starts, then maybe that's a good, you know.

Paul (:

Training in Dubai wasn't good.

Paul Warloski (:

Oh

Marjaana Rakai (:

common sense kind of thing. Just take it easy.

Paul Warloski (:

And that's what I heard in the answers is that, Paul, you initially said in answering the question why, if you need a rest day, if you need a rest week, take it. And the program, Athletica is designed so that there are a lot of small doses. So you don't necessarily need a specific rest day or rest week, but when you do feel like you need it, take it. Is that what I'm hearing?

Paul (:

Absolutely, absolutely, for sure. Yeah, I mean, I think we've spoke at length on many other podcasts. Health has to be first. It's just an unsustainable program otherwise. And if you're doing the train, no pain, no gain training philosophy, it just doesn't work for very long and eventually it'll derail you. So we know that it's just very,

Paul Warloski (:

Mm-hmm.

Paul (:

it's actually it's common sense to me right it's just that consistency of the of the cell signaling that consistent training with consistent health is what makes the biggest gains in your ability to perform if and that's usually what we want to do in Athletica we want to improve our health and that gets displayed to us and our friends when we when we

Paul Warloski (:

Question number three is about the strength options within Athletica. Ashley asks, is there a strength option within Athletica? So I'm going to assume she's on a low volume plan. It's important for me to lift weights besides run, bike, and swim. And Greenbiker asks, what is the right way to record strength training sessions or do they need to be recorded at all?

So we had several questions about the value of doing strength training and how to include more of it in different plans in Athletica. We're going to have an episode about strength training, but Paul, you recently had Erin Carson on the Training Science podcast. She is pretty amazing, but what did you learn from her about the importance of strength training for endurance athletes?

Paul (:

Well, I guess quite a bit, Paul. She is, Erin is quite the legend. Like you name the professional and she seems to coach them, right? So one of the most, you know, talked about triathletes right now, Taylor Nibs, is that her last name? So yeah, she's Taylor's strength trainer. And so yeah, I guess the long and the short of it

we know quite clearly that it benefits you to have, you know, one or two or three training sessions that are strength-based in the week. And if you're not doing at least something in that realm, you're probably missing out on a key component. And maybe it's because, you know, we typically swim, bike, run, and you know, we do that endurance stuff. And you just, at the simple level,

something that's a little bit of a different stimulus. There's a variety of different adaptations that might occur, but the biggest one tends to be this conversion of the fast twitch fibers into more fatigable, or sorry, less fatigable. So they become more resilient with more slow twitch kind of properties.

So it's technically it's the conversion of type 2x fibers to type 2a fibers. And we had Inigo Mujika on the podcast, Training Science podcast, and we went over this as well. And yeah, so it's from, so yes, I guess Paul, you wanna have something in your week. Now, what do you wanna have in there? Well, now again, we're coming back to context, we're coming back to the individual, not everyone,

If you're right off the couch and you've never done strength training before, well, you better start really simple, right? With some simple body weight exercises just to kind of get us going before we rock up to the squat rack and these sorts of things, right? But yeah, you want to develop the motor pattern sort of first of doing these kinds of pushing, pulling, squatting kind of exercises.

And then you want to increase the load that is, and make it different than what you're getting as an endurance athlete when you run, bike and

Marjaana Rakai (:

Absolutely. Yeah, like we're always going linearly forward. And that's what we're really good at. But if we don't do any strength or mobility sideways or rotational, then we, you know, one day brush our teeth or open the door with our foot. And, you know, we get hurt. But like.

Even from a female athlete perspective as well, like strength training is so important, uh, because we start losing muscle mass after 30 and, uh, like I've always enjoyed strength training. So I've been strength training since I was 14 with weight. So it's a few decades now. And I think that's why I'm still improving in endurance because I have the muscle mass that I have. Um.

but not everybody have done strength training and they don't know how to move. They don't know how to lift heavy. So yeah, echoing what you said, Paul, is we need to learn the correct movement patterns before we start loading them with heavier weights. So we can't just take somebody prescribed online, lift heavy five times, five reps, you know, that would be.

Not very smart, yeah.

Paul Warloski (:

Disastrous.

Paul (:

That's right. Yeah. And not just muscle mass we start losing, Marjaana but we also start losing bone mass. And both of these factors are really, really critical. We want to hold on to these as long as we can, as we're all aging moment by moment. And strength training is one of the key factors that also increases our bone mass, because the bones respond by developing the calcium phosphate

Marjaana Rakai (:

bone mess, yeah.

Paul Warloski (:

Yeah.

Paul (:

on them due to the forces that we place on those bones. That's what drives the, remember we talked about earlier, the signaling, right? So the signaling of that heavy force and strain within those bones, well, the bone responds nicely by grabbing more calcium phosphate around the blood. So that's, yeah, that's what kind of does it. Now onto Athletica, we'll see some very simple exercises on there. And that's, you know,

the complaints by some people, well, these are quite simple. And yes, they are. You know, a lot of them are kind of, you know, things like single leg squats, developing plyometrics. Plyometric means like you're kind of, you know, you're landing and you're developing like, you know, when you're sort of dropping down and you're grabbing onto that eccentric kind of...

phase of muscle lengthening and again it's like jumping down off of a box, say for example, that would be an example of a plyometric. And these are just simple so they can be done by just about everyone, but you know, by all means develop these yourself. If you have a classic Garmin watch, we can just hit the strength.

mode and we can record what's actually being done. It's how much that's actually measuring the load is probably not great at this point in time, if we're honest. But there's many really cool devices that are on their way towards

towards impacting us in the future. So I just happen to have one here. This is one of the companies that we're collaborating on creating this. And this is called, this is, you know, this company is called Output. And, you know, basically you would put like this little IMU on us, on our person, we can actually determine, you know, the strain or a measurement actually of some of the forces that are occurring on us in variety of different forms. We can measure our balance.

Paul Warloski (:

Hmm.

Paul (:

I can put this on my squat rack and I can count the number of reps and record the tonnage. So we're working on things like that. We're also collaborating with Matt Jordan, who is one of the world's greatest strength and conditioners. And we're working with him on embedding some of his strength training plans and videos into Athletica. But this is all going to hopefully kind of come out in the next year or so.

These innovations do take a little bit of time, but hang in there with us. And some really special things in the strength and conditioning world are coming to Athletica

Paul Warloski (:

I know I've been for my athletes and for myself, I add a separate workout listing the strength training exercises, the goblet squats, the rows, and I'll add that in as a separate workout, save it to my library and then assign that to my athletes. And then using the plyometric workout from Athletica as essentially a warmup, as a mobility warmup to get everything firing before doing any kind of deadlifts or goblet squats.

And that's been working really well.

Paul (:

And this is, I mean, this is perfect. And this is exactly where, you know, Athletica coaches like Paul and Marjaana are just so awesome at being able to individualize these types of workouts for their clients. So, you know, I can't highly, I can't recommend these two enough if you're out there listening and you need a coach that knows how to use Athletica, please make sure you hit these two up.

Marjaana Rakai (:

Thanks.

Paul Warloski (:

That is all for this week. Thanks for listening and join us next week when we answer a listener question about what happens in our bodies when we train, but more importantly, why understanding how those adaptations work can improve our performance. For Marjaana Rakai and Dr. Paul Larson, I'm Paul Warloski and this has been the Athletes' Compass Podcast. Let's get it right.

Paul (:

Hehehe

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